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of Protestantism (cold and negative, sceptical as it is) ought to be abolished amongst us.
Into which scale of the political balance the weight of the upholders and votaries of the system we have been considering would naturally be thrown, can scarcely be a matter of doubt. But the Tract writers have not contented themselves with a general opposition to those principles in whose strength mankind are pressing forward towards justice and freedom. The specific objects, social and political, for which men in our days are struggling so earnestly, are denounced not as idle and valueless, not as dangerous or simply hurtful, but as the very snares and devices of the devil for the rain of human souls. +
" Far be it from us to be seduced with the fair promises in which Satan is sure to hide his poison! Do you think he is so unskilful in his craft as to ask you, openly and plainly, to join him in his warfare against the truth? No; he offers you baits to tempt you. He promises you civil liberty; he promises you equality; he promises you trade and wealth ; he promises you a remission of taxes ; he promises you reform. This is the way in which he conceals from you the kind of work to which he is putting you. He tempts you to rail against your rulers and superiors ; he does so himself
, and induces you to imitate him, or he promises you illumination ; he offers you knowledge, science, philosophy, enlargement of mind ; he scoffs at times gone by; he scoffs at every institution which reveres them; he prompts you what to say, and then listens to you, and praises you, and encourages you; he bids you mount aloft ; he shows you how to become as gods; then he laughs and jokes with you, and gets intimate with you ; he takes your hand, and gets his fingers between yours, and grasps them, and then you are his.”
On this very extraordinary and characteristic passage no single word of comment can be needed. Accordingly we find that every where, in conversation, in writing, in the pulpit, express denunciation, or more artfully suggested condemnation, is pronounced against the whole Liberal party in England. The “ Quarterly Review," so long the steady supporter of all that is irrational and outworn in political theory, has taken up the congenial task of combating for the new doctrines; and the only statesman who has ventured to maintain, in a published and acknowledged work, the most extravagant pretensions of the Anglican Catholicism was actually selected to hold office in the short-lived ministry of Sir R. Peel. There is then, in the very heart of the Conservative body, fixed and implanted, a Catholicism differing only in guise and semblance from that of Rome; its supporters are the guardians of those very springs from which the waters of Conservatism have so long and constantly flowed forth over England; they are men who strive then with all the warmth of enthusiasm and the steady effectiveness of combined labour. From the centre the whole mass is gradually fermenting and leavening. When such facts are seen and recognised by all men who care to observe the state and tendency of society amongst us, how shall we sufficiently wonder at the weakness of those who have felt, or the dishonesty of those who have feigned, an apprehension of the advance and restoration of the Roman faith in England as a consequence of the triumph of the Liberal party; who have dared to denounce in a Reform ministry a union, purely and evidently political, with the upholders of the principles which are in their own body fixed and inherent, and daily extending themselves; and who, for the base purpose of again raising the false and hypocritical cry of “ No Popery," have deemed no time or occasion so fitting, as when they might hope thereby to impede the efforts and diminish the popularity of a government, which, for the first time in the history of Britain, is striving to perform towards Catholic Ireland the works, so long and fatally deferred, of justice and mercy.
SHELLEY'S TRANSLATION OF “THE BANQUET” OF
PLATO. If the weaker radiance of reflected light were not lost and swallowed up in the blaze of his own proper fame as an original poet, the unrivalled excellence of Shelley as a translator would be more universally felt and acknowledged. There are in fact no translations in our own or any language, to be compared to those of “The Cyclops," the “Hymn to Mercury,” the “ Scenes from Faust,” and the “Magico Prodigioso,” which are printed in the collection of Shelley's poems. Scarcely can they be called translations — they are in fact re-creations, the offspring of a genius enamoured of the beauty of the divine originals, and reproducing them with all the life and spirit of fresh creations, and at the same time a fidelity far higher than any thing which can be attained to by mere rule and literal exactness - a fidelity, indeed, of the spirit, and not of the letter - a truthfulness, which results from the entire harmony into which the translator has brought his mind, with the mind and inspired mood, which dictated the original work. Shelley himself has said, “It were as wise to cast a violet into a crucible, that you might discover the formal principle of its colour and odour, as seek to transfuse from one language into another, the creations of a poet.” This is true, and at the ame time untrue. It is true as far as relates to a mere literal translation — to an attempt of the logical and apprehensive faculty, to reproduce a poem, by reproducing in a different language, the elements and ideas of which it is composed. Not more vain would be the attempt of the chemist, to reproduce the bloom of the rose or odour of the violet, by reuniting the atoms of oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon, into which he has analysed the flower. And yet there is such a thing as true translation, as Shelley himself has proved to us. The poet — whose glorious faculty it is to identify himself with all excellence, to pour forth and
merge his own individuality, in the infinite, eternal idea, of truth and beauty, which beams under varying aspect from every tree and flower, from every cloud, and mountain, and lake, —can enter also, never doubt it, into the very inmost soul and spirit of the same truth and beauty, bodied forth in the immortal works of a brother poet, of another age and different language. If, then, by the mingled charm of words and rhythm, he can reproduce the first, and make the hearts of men to vibrate in unison, what hinders but that with the other also, he should effect the same miracle? What hinders but that his verse should mirror, now the quaint and joyous naïveté, the fulness and freshness of life, the flashes of glorious godlike beauty of a Homer's Hymn, - now the romantic voluptuous tenderness, the very soul of passion, music, and love, breathing in the Love Chorus of a Calderon, — and now the dramatic power, the keen insight, and wide-ranging Shaksperian imagination of à Witches' Scene from Faust — as truly, as the might and terror, the beauty and grandeur, of the outward universe? What hinders, do we say ? — nay, is not this what Shelley has done?
Feeling, as we have long done, the unrivalled excellence of Shelley's poetical translations, it was not without extreme interest that we heard, that his wife was about to give to the world his translation of “ The Symposium of Plato.” If ever man was marked out by nature and education, for the task of “unsphering the lofty spirit of Plato," and rendering the most delightful of Greek writers, accessible to the English reader, Shelley was
Gifted by nature with the same passionate love of the good and beautiful, the same subtle and idealising intellect, the same lofty heroic soul his metaphysical studies, his favourite pursuits and speculations, and his intimate acquaintance with the language, art, and literature of ancient Greece, drew still closer the links of sympathy, between his spirit and that of the immortal Athenian. How ardently he admired, and how thoroughly he had imbued himself with, the divine spirit of the great founder of ideal philosophy, was also to the lovers of his poetry no secret. We looked forward, therefore, confidently to a translation which should surpass, or, if that were not possible, at least equal, those exquisite productions of his, in the same line, to which we have already alluded.
Our expectations have not been disappointed. The translation is, as far as we are able to judge, absolutely perfect. “The Banquet” of Plato stands before us, life-like, fresh, and vivid, with all the chaste Attic elegance, the charming unstudied simplicity, the musical rhythm, and sweet natural harmony of the original Greek. Perfectly, as in the unbroken surface of a crystal mirror, every turn of thought and mood of feeling, is imaged to us in a style, which reflects with equal happiness the glowing inspiration of passionate eloquence, the Pythian enthusiam of poetry, the subtle disquisitions of refined logic, and the familiar phrases of common conversation : nay, more, the very idiom and rhythm, and almost the very sound and twang the melodious light-flowing Attic, seem, by some rare alchemy, to be born anew in the sentences of the English version. Those who have never enjoyed the advantage of studying among the monastic halls and academic groves of Isis or of Cam, and to whom the very characters of the Greek alphabet are as a sealed hieroglyphic, need not despair, if they can bring a lively imagination and heart open to all beauty, to the task, of understanding more of the true spirit of Plato, and of the art, philosophy, and social life of Athens in the days of her glory, than many a learned philologist and erudite professor. Let them read this translation with loving faith, and, as a commentary on it
, study the forms of deathless beauty, which embody in the pure marble, the spirit of all that is most beautiful in the poetry, the literature, and religion of ancient Greece, and we will promise them they will obtain a deeper insight, than is to be derived from grammars and lexicons.
It is for the benefit chiefly of such a class of readers, that we propose here, with the aid furnished us by Shelley's inimitable translation, to give some outline and idea of this celebrated composition - the most beautiful
and perfect of the works, of one of the greatest geniuses whom the world has seen. “The Banquet” of Plato, is the account of an entertainment supposed to have been given by Agathon, the poet, in his house at Athens, on the occasion of his gaining the prize of tragedy at the games of Bacchus; at which Socrates, Aristophanes, Alcibiades, and other celebrated characters, are present. The account is supposed to be given by Apollodorus, a pupil of Socrates, many years after it had taken place, to a companion who was curious to hear it. Although in the form of narration, it is, in fact, rather a drama, - for so, as Shelley well observes, the lively distinction of character, and the various and well-wrought circumstances of the story, almost entitle it to be called. Indeed, according to modern ideas, it is by many degrees the most dramatic composition of antiquity that we possess; the professed dramas of Æschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, beautiful as they are as poems, and perfect as works of art, containing nothing half so dramatic, in the Shaksperian sense of the word, no such touches of life and nature, and vivid delineation of individual character, as we find in this work of Plato.
The story begins, or, as we may say, the first scene opens, with Aristodemus hailing Socrates in the street, and inquiring whither he is going so gaily dressed. Socrates replies, that he is going to sup at Agathon's, and proposes to Aristodemus to come along with him. Aristodemus, after some little demur about going uninvited, consents; Socrates promising to think of some excuse as they walk along.
" It happened, however, that, as they walked, Socrates, engaged in some deep contemplation, slackened his pace, and, observing Aristodemus waiting for him, he desired him to go , before. When Aristodemus arrived at Agathon's house he found the door open, and it
occurred somewhat comically that a slave met him at the vestibule, and conducted him where he found the guests already reclined. As soon as Agathon saw him,
"• You arrive just in time to sup with us, Aristodemus,' he said ; ' if you have any other purpose in your visit, defer it to a better opportunity. I was looking for you yesterday, to invite you to be of our party : I could not find you any where. But how is it you do not bring Socrates with you?'
“ But he, turning round, and not seeing Socrates behind him, said to Agathon, 'I just came hither in his company, being invited by him to sup with you.'
“ • You did well,' replied Agathon, to come ; but where is Socrates ?' . He just now came hither behind me: I myself wonder where he can be.'
" Go and look, boy,' said Agathon,ʻand bring Socrates in ; meanwhile, you, Aristodemus, recline there, near Eryximachus.'
" And he bade a slave wash his feet, that he might recline. Another slave, meanwhile, brought word that Socrates had retired into a neighbouring vestibule, where he stood, and, in spite of his message, refused to come in.
«. What absurdity you talk, cried Agathon ; call him, and do not leave him till he comes.
« * Leave him alone, by all means, cried Aristodemus ; 'it is customary with him sometimes to retire in this way, and stand wherever it may chance. He will come presently, I do not doubt : do not disturb him.'
"Well, be it as you will,' said Agathon : 'as it is, you, boys, bring supper for the rest.'
“ After this they began supper, but Socrates did not come in. Agathon ordered him to be called, but Aristodemus perpetually forbade it. At last he came in, much about the middle of supper, not having delayed so long as was his custom. Agathon (who happened to be reclining at the end of the table, and alone) said, as he entered, 'Come hither, Socrates, and sit down by me so that, by the mere touch of one so wise as you are, I may enjoy the fruit of your meditations in the vestibule ; for I well know, you would not have departed till you had discovered and secured it.””
What a lively picture does this little sketch give, of the tone of refined society at Athens, and the habits and daily life of her famous wits, poets, philosophers, and statesmen! The whole scene rises before us as if it had occurred yesterday. How often at a Cambridge supper-party have we witnessed the same incident, of a guest bringing a friend with him uninvited, and seen the host receive him with the graceful urbanity, and almost the very words, of an Agathon! How characteristic of the polished and accomplished gentleman, is his ready assurance, that he was looking for Aristodemus yesterday, to invite him to the party, but could not find him! And Socrates, also, with his fit of absence, which almost costs him his supper. Does Plato intend this for a piece of sly humour, at the expense of his master? or was it really a habit of his to indulge in these untimely fits of meditation, beneath vestibules and in the king's highway?
“After Socrates and the rest had finished supper, and had reclined back on their couches, and the libations had been poured forth, and they had sung hymns to the god, and all other rites which are customary had been performed, they turned to drinking."
Somewhat different these ceremonies of an Athenian supper, are they not, from those of a Yankee boarding-house, where each guest bolts his victuals and bolts out of the room in a space of the average duration of about three minutes and a quarter ! Observe how music and song are interwoven, and
the rites of their graceful mythology blended, with the common and familiar occurrences of their daily life. However much we may surpass them in science, in luxury, and in wealth, let us acknowledge that in taste and in the science of social life we are still little better than barbarians.
After supper is concluded, the question is mooted “whether they are to drink for drunkenness or for pleasure ;” and Aristophanes, Agathon, and two or three others of the hardest drinkers, having not quite recovered from the effects of a thorough " drenching” on the preceding night, it is decided that no one shall be compelled to drink more than he pleases. Eryximachus thereupon starts a proposal, that, by way of seasoning their cups, and making the evening pass pleasantly, every one shall in his turn set forth the praises of Love with as much eloquence as he can command. Socrates and the rest of the party agree; and Phædrus, who reclines the first in order, is pitched upon to begin.
Here commence the discourses on Love, to which the little drama of the supper is obviously intended by Plato as an introduction - or, rather say, a setting of chased gold, in which, like a skilful jeweller, he encloses the jewel of his subtle and transcendent philosophy. The speeches, however, have a double character; they are at the same time beautiful and eloquent expositions of his own peculiar views and philosophical speculations, and dramatic representations, most skilfully and successfully executed, of the different characters into whose mouth they are put. It is in the latter point of view chiefly that they are so interesting. Full of serene and lofty beauty, and bright with occasional flashes of inspiration, as the philosophical passages are, it must be acknowledged that they have only too much affinity, with the word-splitting, dialectic subtilties of the scholastic era, and are in the main little better than gorgeous unsubstantial palaces of empty air. More than once, indeed, in reading them, we have been reminded of the Occams and Aquinases, and subtle doctors of the middle ages; with this difference, however,—that in Plato, however airy and unsubstantial the argument, however subtle and even sophistical the logic, the whole is interpenetrated with beauty, and lives and glows, if not with the life of science, with the more genial and immortal life of genius and poetry.
In other respects, also, the discourses on Love are highly interesting, from the light they throw on the spirit of art, religion, and philosophy in Greece, and the insight they give into the turn of thought, the peculiar views and feelings, and, in a word, the stuff, of which the mind of an educated Athenian of the days of Socrates, was composed.
Phædrus is the first speaker : he praises Love as the first-born of things, after Chaos and the broad-bosomed Earth, and as the source of our greatest happiness, and of all beautiful and honourable actions.
“ There is none so worthless," he says, " whom Love cannot impel, as it were by a divine inspiration, towards virtue, even so that he may, through this inspiration, become equal to one who might naturally be more excellent,” a truth in support of which he brings many instances from the works of the poets.
Pausanias succeeds him, and begins his speech by distinguishing between the nature of two different Loves. The passage is so illustrative of the peculiar spirit of Greek art, and of the gunny, poetical fictions of their mythology, that we quote it entire:
“We all know that Venus is never without Love ; and if Venus were one, Love would be one ; but since there are two Venuses, of necessity also must there be two Loves: for assuredly are there two Venuses, - one, the eldest, the daughter of Uranus, born without a mother, whom we call the Uranian ; the other, younger, the daughter of Jupiter and Dione, whom we call the Pandemian. Of necessity must there also be two Loves, the Uranian and Pandemian companions of these goddesses. The Love which attends upon Venus Pandemos