Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

No vulgar victim must reward the day
(Such as in races crown the speedy strife);

The prize contended was great Hector's life."-xxii, 173, et seq.

It requires no knowledge of the original to see how vastly superior this is to the version of Lord Derby ; but let the reader who is familiar with Greek, compare both to the language and poetry of Homer, and then say whether his lordship should not feel a little mortified at having undertaken a task which is so evidently above his powers. Thus, he renders gelov “brandishing,” xalxo's" ashen spear;" the simple word van vos (vapor, or exhalation) he calls « clouds of steam,” &c. Sotheby, who in general is more literal than Pope, but more prone to commit serious blunders, and not so poetical, commences the same passage as follows:

“Then firm remained, while tow'ring on his view,
Nigh grim-like Mars, in war, Achilles drew,
And o'er his shoulder vibrated on high
The Pelian lance, that flashed on Hector's eye,
Bright beamed his armor, like the lightning's blaze,

The fire flame, or the sun's ascending rays, &c." Still less suscessful is his lordship in rendering the poet's description of the shield of Achilles. The merest tyro in translating could hardly attempt a rendering of this without giving some idea of the splendor of the original; nor has Lord Derby altogether failed to do so. Had we no other version of that renowned passage but his, and no kuowledge of the original, we should set a high value upon it, the same as we would give almost anything for even an indifferent portrait of the deceased friend who is dear to us, rather than be without any. But we let the reader judge for himself:

“And first a shield be fashion'd, vast and strong,
With rich adornment; circled with a rim,
Threefold, bright-gleaming, whence a silver belt
Depended; of five folds the shield was form'd ;
And on its surface many a rare design
Of curious art his practic'd skill had wrought.
Thereon were figur'd earth, and sky, and sea,
The ever-circling sun, and full-orb'd moon,
And all the signs that crown the vault of Heav'n;
Pleiads, and Hyads, and Orion's might,
And Arctos, call’d the Wain, who wheels on high
His circling course, and on Orion waits,
Sole star that never bathes in th' ocean wave.

And two fair populous towns were sculptur'd there;
In one were marriage, pomp, revelry,
And brides, in gay procession, through the streets,
With blazing torches from their chambers borne,
While frequent rose the hymeneal song.

Youths whirl'd around in joyous dance, with sound
Of flute and harp, and, standing at their doors,
Admiring women on the pageant gaz'd.

Meanwhile a busy throng the forum fill'd :
There, between two, a fierce contention rose,
About a death fine; to the public one
Appeal’d, asserting to have paid the whole;
While one denied that he had aught received.
Both were desirous that before the judge
The issue should be tried ; with noisy shouts
The sev'ral partisans encouraged each.
The heralds still'd the tumult of the crowd:
On polish'd chairs, in solemn circle, sat
The rev'rend elders ; in their hands they held
The loud-voic'd heralds' sceptres; waving these,
They heard th' alternate pleadings; in the midst
Two talents lay of gold, which he should take
Who should before them prove his righteous cause.

-xviii. 538, et seq. For the satisfaction of those unacquainted with the original, we transcribe Pope's version of the same passage, asking those who can conveniently do so to compare the versions of Sotheby and Mumford also with that of his lordship :

" Then first he form'd th' immense and solid shield;
Rich various artifice emblaz'd the field ;
Its utmost verge a threefold circle bound;
A silver chain suspends the massy round;
Five ample plates the broad expanse compose,
And god-like labors on the surface rose.
There shone the image of the master-inind:
There earth, there heav'n, there ocean, he design'd;
Th' unweary'd sun, the moon completely round;
The starry lights that heav'n's high convex crown'd;
The Pleiads, Hyads, with the Northern Team;
And great Orion's more refulgeut beam;
To which, around the axle of the sky,
The Bear revolving points his golden eye,
Still shines exalted on th' ethereal plain,
Nor bathes his blazing forehead in the main.

Two cities radiant on the shield appear,
The image one of peace, and one of war.
Here sacred pomp and genial feast delight,
And solemn dance, and Hymneneal rite!
Along the street the new-made brides are led,
With torches flaming, to the nuptial bed :
The youthful dancers in a circle bound
To the soft flute and cittern's silver sound :
Thro' the fair streets, the matrons in a row
Stand in their porches, and enjoy the show.
There, in the forum swarm a num'rous train,
The subject of debate a townsman slain :
One pleads the fine discharg’rl, which one deny’d,
And bade the public and the laws decide:

[ocr errors]

The witness is produc'd on either hand :
For this, or that, the partial people stand:
Th' appointed heralds still the noisy bands,
And form a ring, with sceptres in their hands;
On seats of stone, within the sacred place,
The rev'rend elders nodded o'er the case;
Alternate, each th' attesting sceptre took,
And, risirig solemn, each his sentence spoke.
Two golden talents lay amidst, in sight,

The prize of him who best adjudg'd the right."

We think it all the more strange that Lord Derby has not done better in this passage, because it does not require poetic talent on the part of the translator so much as a thorough knowledge of the original, and a complete mastery of the descriptive resources of the vernacular. We have had our doubts, since we took up the volumes before us, whether Lord Derby possesses the former qualification, although previously we had always regarded him as an accomplished scholar; but there can be no doubt of his command of the Anglo-Saxon. At all events, if his version be compared with the original, it will be seen that he is wanting in one qualification or the other; and we think it more agreeable, as well as nearer the truth, to conclude that he has forgotten much of his Greek rather than that he has never made himself sufficiently acquainted with the mother tongue; especially as he refrains from making any effort to show, even by implication, that he has a critical knowledge of the Homeric language.

But let us compare a word or two of his with the corresponding words in the original, and see whether the former convey the same ideas as those so clearly and eloquently expressed by the latter, for we hold that it is important that this fact should be known. Independently of the injury done to the cause of sound literature, and consequently to the public taste, by misrepresenting the ideas of a great writer to those who have no means of ascertaining the truth, it is well known that there is scarcely any literary institution, however high its standard of learning,, or however vigilant and faithful are its professors, whose students do not use translations to a greater or less extent in preparing their classicat exercises. We do not, indeed, think that many will consull his lordship's translation for this purpose, except his personal friends and admirers; but a few will make use of every work of the kind for which a printer and publisher have been found, no matter how.

Now, let us suppose that a student takes up Derby's description of the shield of Achilles, as a means of helping him to understand that of Homer. He goes to the first line we have copied and finds that uéya is represented by “ vast,” and otißapov by “strong;" whereas one simply means “large” or “ immense," and the other "solid," the corresponding Latin terms being magnum and solidium respectively Still worse is the second line, in which the sonorous and graphic Homeric expression távtoOE d'aidállov is represented by “ with rich adornment;" "circled with a rim," in the same line, is all we have for nepż d' ävtvya.

If we pass on to another paragraph, we shall find pretty much the same state of things ; as, for example where the beautiful and graphic expression, Hέλιόν τ' ακάμάντα (the unwearied sun) is rendered by " the ever-circling sun.” In describing the contention in the forum, Lord Derby announces the cause as “ about a death fine,” without giving the reader the least intimation of the important fact that a man has been slain, which is clearly and prominently set forth in the original by the words ανδρος αποθoιμένου. . No argument is necessary to show that " about a death” might mean the death of a horse, a cat, or a dog, which would be a somewhat different thing from the death of a

man.

Much as Pope is censured for his want of fidelity to the original, he never makes so important an omission as this ; it will be seen, from the passage we have transcribed above from his version, that he gives the subject of debate as "a townsman slain.” We have had the curiosity to turn to Mumford's version to see whether his lordship has taken him for his guide in this case, as he seems to have done in others, and we find that the resemblance between the Virginian democrat and the ex-premier of England is, as usual, very close; but the former is undoubtedly nearer to the original than the latter, since, if he also omits to give the term man, he uses that of “murder" instead of " death," as follows:

" But in the forum swarm'd a busy crowd,
Two men contended there; one claimed a fine
For murder due; the other solemnly

Averr'd, before the people, all was paid.” We give one more famous passage from the twentysecond book, that in which the venerable Priam tries to dissuade his son Hector from engaging the terrible Achilles, whom he sees advancing furiously, eager for his blood. Strictly speaking, this is not a speech, but a conversational VOL. XI.-NO. XXII.

2

appeal ; but his lordship has fine conversational as well as oratorical powers ; accordingly he succeeds much better in this passage than in any one we have yet copied, and yet not so well as he does in some of the formal orations in the ninth book. . If he had rendered all as well as this passage, none would have been obetter pleased than we, or more ready to render him all the credit that was due him. The poet first describes, in his own inimitable way, the sight Achilles presented to Priam, and then proceeds to describe its effect. The following is Lord Derby's version :

" Then wept the sage
The old man groan'd aloud, and lifting high
His hands, he beat his head, and with loud voice
Callid on his son, imploring; he, unmov'd,
Held post before the gates, awaiting there
Achilles' fierce encounter; him, his sire,
With hands outstretch'd and piteous tone, address'd :
· Hector, my son, await not here alone
That warrior's charge, lest thou to fate succumb,
Beneath Pelides' arm, thy better far!
Accurs'd be he! would that th' immortal gods
So favour'd him as [ ! then should his corpse
Soon to the vultures and the dogs be giv'n !
(So should my heart a load of arguish lose,)
By whom am I of many sons bereav'd,
Many and brave, whom he has slain or sold
To distant isles in slav'ry; and e'en now,
Within the city wall I look in vain
For two, Lycaon brave, and Polydore,
My gallant sons by fair' Laothoë :
If haply yet they live with brass and gold
Their ransom shall be paid: good store of these
We can command; for with his daughter fair
A wealthy dow'ry aged Atles gave.
But to the viewless shades should they have gone,
Deep were their mother's sorrow and my own;
But of the gen'ral public, well I know
Far lighter were the grief, than if they heard
That thou had'st fall’n beneath Achilles' hand.
Then enter now, my son, the city gates,
And of the women and the men of Troy
Be still the guardian ; nor to Peieus' son,
With thine own life immortal glory give.
Look on me with pity ; me, on whom,
Ev'n on the threshold of mine age, hath Jove
A bitter' burthen cast, condemn’d to see
My sons destroy'd, my daughters dragg'd away
In servile bonds; our chamber's sanctity
Invaded ; and our babes by hostile hands
Dash'd to the ground; and by ferocious Greeks
Enslav'd the widows of my slaughter'd sons.
On me at last the rav'ning dogs shall feed,
When by some foeman's hand, by sword or lance,

.

« VorigeDoorgaan »