« ZurückWeiter »
his dearest friend, seduce his daughter, and ruin his fortune by the blackest arts of a gambler; if he will then give him satisfaction, and complete the whole by his murder, he is refused admittance into no society, he is caressed and admired by all; he may be called a little wild, and rather too free in his manners, but-he is a man of strict honour.
There is, however, a striking anecdote on record, which shews, that even soldiers do not always agree exactly in their notions of this fascinating quality. At the battle of the Boyne, General Hamilton was taken prisoner, and brought before William the Third. Now Hamilton, after having sworn allegiance to William, and received promotion from him, had deserted his service, and joined his old master, James the Second. When he was brought into William's presence, that monarch asked him, if he thought the Irish would rally and make another charge?" Upon my honour, Sir," said Hamilton, "I believe they will." "Your honour, Sir, your honour," was the king's emphatical reply; and the only notice he condescended to take of his treachery.
Surely then this far-famed principle of action is extolled beyond its deserts. Surely so capricious a motive, so uncertain in its effects, and so varying in its application, cannot be of general utility, or extensively beneficial to society. It reminds me of the Clown's "O Lord, Sir," in Shakespeare; an answer to every question, a cap for every head. Arrived at that thinking and examining time of life, when I am hastily falling" into the sere and yellow leaf," I am no longer" dazzled with the whistling of a name," but rather inclined to inquire into pretensions which seem
so doubtful, and bring them to the certain test of sincerity, soberness, and truth.
If then it be true, that the opinions of men upon this subject differ so materially, and that each person finds that conduct honourable which is agreeable either to his interest, or his usual habits of thinking and acting, surely it will not be easy always to discriminate between true and false honour, unless we can discover an unerring standard by which to try them. Happily for the world there is a standard always at hand, and which will never deceive us—To the law and to the testimony. The passions may mislead, selfinterest bias, judgment deceive, and men, even good men, differ very materially from each other. But there is a rule certain, unvarying, plain, and applicable to . every case.
It came from heaven. No appeal can lie from its decisions; no authority be pleaded against its dictates. There is no action or principle of human life, to which the precepts of the Christian religion cannot be applied. Since the blessings of that light has been given to the world, honour, in its common acceptation, is at best useless; a nomen inane, a brulum fulmen. But it is too often perverted to purposes positively bad; and this may always be known, if the action to which it is applied be tried by the rules of the Gospel. These are the true spear of Ithuriel, touched by which, all vanity, falsehood, and folly, appears in its true light. If this be the true test, I find that a man of honour may embitter my happiness in this life, and deprive me of the hopes of a better; may poison my domestic enjoyments, ruin my fortune, and at last mur. der myself; and that a man who acts upon Christian
principles can do me nothing but good here, and lead me to nothing but good hereafter.
On the Translations of Homer, by Pope and Cowper.
TO THE RUMINATOR.
There are perhaps few persons who either have, or think they have, any talents for poetry, or any car for verse, who have not made some attempts at translation. It seems to be the natural commencement of The versifier's (for I will not say the poet's) career. The plan, the thoughts, the action, even the epithets are ready made; and his greatest difficulty seems to be, to render them faithfully, and to clothe them in elegant and appropriate language. Yet in reality it will be found no light and easy task; and if the numerous translations from the best poets which have appeared in our own language are critically examined, no one, I believe, can be found so perfect as not to be liable to powerful, and even unanswerable objections.
No person can be a judge of the merit of a translation who has not a competent knowledge of the original language. Upon this principle I assume as a datum, that every version which does not keep as close as the vernacular tongue will admit, to the manners, the customs, and the pronunciation of proper
names of the original, is so far faulty and imperfect, however flowing may be its verse, however elegant its language. For although the mere English reader may approve, considering such a work abstractedly upon its own merits, a scholar must be shocked and disgusted by such palpable absurdities.
I was led into these reflections by reading lately some parts of that admirable poem, the Iliad of Pope, concerning which I agree with Johnson, that “it is certainly the noblest version of poetry which the world has ever seen,', Yet surely even a school-boy cannot read it without perceiving, from its deficiencies, redundancies, and in some instances, falsequantities, that Pope was no scholar. Something, no doubt, may and ought to be allowed by way of poetic licence; but surely in a work so copious in notes, no alteration of, or deviation from, the original, ought to have been passed over without an apology.
An inexcusable example, for instance, either of carelessness or freedom, occurs in the offering of the heir of Achilles on the funeral pile of Patroclus, which had been devoted to the river Sperchius. The name of the river-god twice occurs in the same place, and each time the translator makes the second syllable of. it short; contrary, not only to the authority of his original, and of every other ancient poet, but also to himself in another place. In the xvith book, 1. 212, he says properly,
" Divine Sperchius! Jove descended flood I' And yet ventures to assert the same word in book xxiii. V. 175, and 178 differently, “ And sacred grew, to Sperchius' honour'd flood, Sperchius! whose waves in mazy errors lost."
And without deigning to notice it, although there is a pretty long note upon the first of these lines.
The learned and truly classical translator of the Greek tragedians, Potter, has not fallen into the same fault. In his version of Sophocles's Philoctetes he renders the line in which this river is mentioned,
"And to Sperchius, beauteous-rolling stream."
But to my great surprise on consulting Cowper, who was certainly a much better scholar than Pope, he has committed the same error, and writes, without any note or acknowledgment,
"Sacred to Sperchius he had kept unshorn,
Sperchius! in vain, Peleus, my father vow'd."
Concerning the true pronunciation of the word no doubt can exist; it is spelt in Greek with a diphthong, ΣTEPES; and it is found in four places in Homer, in two in Statius, in Sophocles, in Virgil, in Ovid, and in Lucan, with the middle syllable uniformly long.
With respect to Pope's deficiencies and redundancies in his celebrated translation, they are both sufficiently obvious to those who have compared it with the original; but I am tempted to produce one curious instance in which both occur at the same time. In the twenty-first book of the Iliad, after relating the battle of the gods in the plains of Troy, (perhaps the weakest passage in the whole of that noble poem) Diana is represented as making her complaints to Jupiter, who inquires who has so ill treated her. She replies, v. 512 and 513.
Σε μ' αλοχος στυφέλιξε, πατερ, λευκώλενος Ηρη,
That is, literally; "Thy wife, O father, has ill-used