Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

been :

after himself sounding the depths of all the great philosophies of the world, he has always returned to Plato as to a firstlove. And the book in which he now unfolds Plato to the many, is the result not only of the hours directly spent on it during many years, but it has the interest attaching to the fruit slowly ripened during a life; its motto might have

*Vagliami il lungo studio e il grande amore.' But yet Professor Jowett's sympathy with Plato does not render him a Platonist, in the sense either of resting in the conclusions of Plato, or of drawing mystical deductions from them, as neo-Platonists of all ages have been fond of doing ; it merely enables him to understand and realise Plato, while his deep knowledge of the subsequent thought of mankind enables him to see the limitations of Plato's thought. He gives us no general dissertation on the Platonic philosophy, no systematical arrangement of it. But he puts each several dialogue in itself before us, with an introduction drawing out its meaning into the most lucid and charming light, and containing the most interesting and weighty remarks on subjects that naturally suggest themselves. The result, we may say generally, has been that no ancient philosopher has ever been brought to the comprehension of modern times so fully, so :learly, and with such perfect genuineness as Plato has now been brought to the comprehension of the English reader by Professor Jowett. The book is inscribed by Mr. Jowett · To my former Pupils in Balliol College and in the University of Oxford, who during thirty years have been the best of friends to me, in grateful recognition of their never-failing attachment. This dedication is not only interesting in itself, but it serves to emind us of a peculiar and personal qualification for becoming he expositor of Plato, which the present Master of Balliol lone could claim. Not only has Mr. Jowett a general symathy for Plato's method of treating the questions of philophy, but it is also well known that he is a kindred spirit ith the chief character in the Platonic Dialogues. Probably o one in modern times has given in real life, whether coniously or unconsciously, so close a reproduction, mutatis utandis, of the Platonic Socrates, in his character of an lucator of youth. Nowhere but at a University could such phenomenon now-a-days have presented itself -- the phemenon of a man, with powers of mind far above those genelly thought necessary for a teacher, devoting himself to the velopment and correction of the thought and character of young men, generation after generation, not so much by the teachings of the lecture-room as by friendly intercourse, walks, and conversations, genuine interest in their concerns, sympathetic advice, toleration of their crudities, keen-edged refutation of their absurdities, veiled dialectic and badinage concealing earnestness—all employed with the most singleminded and noble purpose. Such a phenomenon the University of Oxford has during thirty years' witnessed ; and it is in reference to this that we say that there is a peculiar interest in the fact of Professor Jowett inscribing his exposition of the Platonic Socrates to his “former pupils.'

We have now to examine the way in which his task as 3 translator has been executed. Many philosophers are really untranslateable into literary English. . This seems to be the case with Kant and Hegel; at all events in their strictly philosophical writings. And the same might be said of Aristotle

, whose language is not the language of common life or of literature, but stands by itself—a stiff concrete of philosophical terms, each with its own scientific association. Thus Aristotle can never be turned into literary or easily readable English, without too great an alteration of his manner, and without sacrificing in the process much that is essentially Aristotelian. But with Plato the case is different. Plato's philosophical writings are simply the greatest masterpieces of the world has seen. The language is never for a moment that of a cut and dry technology. In the first place, the phraseology of logic and metaphysics had not in Plato's time been settled down into a repertory of fixed terms. And, in the second place, as Plato almost always exhibits philosophy in the process of being worked out in conjunction with unphilosophical personages, so the point of departure in the Dialogues is the ordinary thought of refined and cultivated, but not scholastic, circles. The atmosphere is that of polite Athenian society, and the language is correspondingly natural and unpedantic. Out of this ordinary level, in which the familiarity and domestic meanness of the illustrations used are often striking, Plato rises ever and anon to an elevation of thought and diction which has called forth the admiration of subsequent ages. Shelley, having such passages in his mind, says: 'Plato exhibits the rare union of close and subtle

logic with the Pythian inspiration of poetry, melted by the • splendour and harmony of his periods into one irresistible

stream of musical impressions which hurry the persuasions onward, as in a breathless career. His language is that of • an immortal spirit, rather, than a man. Lord Bacon is,

prose that

- perhaps, the only writer who in these particulars can be com* pared to him ; his imitator, Cicero, sinks in the comparison • into an ape mocking the gestures of a man. In these expressions, however, so characteristic of his own temperament, Shelley recognises only one aspect, and that by no means the predominant aspect, of Plato's writing. He speaks as if Plato were always poetical, earnest, and intense,' whereas Plato is far more often dramatic, ironical, and humorous. It is easy to see that in translatingSymposium,' Shelley mistook Plato's parodies of the fine writing of littérateurs for fine writing pure and simple on the part of Plato himself.

No such mistake is ever made by Professor Jowett, whose greatest strength, as a translator, lies perhaps in his keen appreciation, and his lively reproduction, of the dramatic humour in Plato. Nothing can exceed the riotous good spirits, and therein perfect fidelity to the original, of his translation of * Euthydemus,' in which the characters of two overbearing Sophists, a timid youth, and his straightforward and irascible friend, are played off against one another by the sagacious Socrates, and the fashion of quibbling and making verbal fallacies is turned to ridicule. There is another phase of Plato's Dialogues which Professor Jowett is peculiarly happy in representing, namely, wherever Socrates, with the greatest urbanity and politeness, and at the same time with consummate skill and relentless logic, keeps a rude antagonist in hand, and forces him by degrees to accept conclusions alien from, and higher than, his ordinary point of view. As an instance of this, the conversation with Callicles at the end of Gorgias' may be referred to. But almost any one of the Dialogues might serve as a study of the art of debating in private life; and this quality in them Professor Jowett admirably preserves.

It is only fair to consider the general effect, and the whole, in Professor Jowett's translation, before looking at the parts ; because we cannot help believing that it has been his own method, as a translator, to think of the whole, that is of the spirit of Plato's writing, first, and to endeavour before all things to give a general impression of this. We think that this method must be the correct one, especially in making a translation which is meant for English readers; and not for scholars holding the Greek in one hand, and comparing it word for word with the English. Professor Jowett had to give an equivalent for smart and lively Greek conversations. Had he adopted the method of verbal renderings, with an eye merely to each separate clause as it came, the result would have been that the whole would have been heavy and unreadable. In

many respects the genius of the ancient Greek and of the English languages are different. English is more rough, abrupt, and elliptical ; while in the Greek the sentences are smoothly connected together by particles indicating the course of thought. On the other hand, English has its own turns, and in some cases is more explicit than the equivalent Greek. Professor Jowett had all this to attend to, and in writing for English readers above all to write readable English. In this he has succeeded perfectly, and in the general manner of his renderings we have hardly anything to complain of. If in this respect he has a fault, it is that he has occasionally a little overdone what he legitimately aimed at. In making the dialogue lively, he has occasionally made it a little too smart; and in the compression which he has used, he seems to us to have occasionally made Plato a little too curt, and to have sacrificed sometimes, when he might have preserved, the stately rhythm of the original. Professor Jowett appears to conceive of translation as the art of giving analogous impressions. To produce an analogous impression he would not hesitate to make a long sentence short, or a short sentence long, or to entirely invert the order of clauses in a sentence. Nay, further, he would depart from the letter of the original altogether, and substitute for a literal translation of the Greek some catch-word of modern times, which is strongly suggested to his own mind, and which appears to him calculated to produce in the reader's mind an impression analogous to what the Greek text would have produced on the mind of an ancient Greek. Following out his method in this direction, he inclines to substitute for the words of Plato not only the conventional phrases of modern society, but also those stock phrases of English literature which have become household words among us. Professor Jowett's own style of writing has always been what we might call a loaded' style—that is, rather over rich in literary allusion, and in the use of those

"Jewels five-words-long
That on the stretch'd forefinger of all Time

Sparkle for ever. And it comes quite naturally to him to employ the same style in translating Plato; he renders Plato into such English as he himself would use in writing-English not all fresh coined in his own mint, but ever and anon containing pieces as it were previously current, having been coined in the mints of the great masters of English poetry and prose. The result is, that to some extent a medley of styles is produced. On the one hand, we find the extremest modern colloquialisms used to represent Plato (such phrases, for instance, as and no mis* take '); on the other hand, when, as often happens, the style of Shakspeare, and of the authorised version of the Bible, are resorted to, then an archaic phraseology makes its appearance. Professor Jowett's foible in this work seems to have been to train Plato to copy the Bible, as Lord Strangford was said to have taught the Lusian bard to copy Moore.' Thus, in * Phædrus,' 243, E, we have a pupdv (briny), translated gall 6 and vinegar,' in obvious allusion to Psalm lxix. 22; in ‘Sym“posium,' 197, D, we have Love described as “making men to be of one mind at a banquet,' in reference to Psalm lxviii. 6, (Prayerbook version); in Phædo,' 66, C, we find the sentence και γάρ πολέμους και στάσεις και μάχας ουδέν άλλο παρέχει ή το σώμα και αί τούτου επιθυμίαι, rendered, “For whence come wars and fighting, and factions ? Whence but from the body and the lusts of the body?' in which the only point observable is the form of the sentence—chosen apparently to remind us of St. James Ep. iv. 1.

One of the little devices which Professor Jowett employs to give a Scriptural colouring to the phraseology of Plato, is the frequent use of the archaic form, such an one,' instead of the modern such a one;' if, indeed, the phrase at all can be said to be in ordinary modern use.

We confess that we do not see the advantage of turning the sentences of Plato so as to make them remind people of passages in the Bible. The allusive parts of Professor Jowett's translations grow out of, but are something different from, his method of analogous impressions, and are less justifiable. If the method of analogous impressions be accepted (and we think it fairly may be) as the legitimate mode of conveying the sense of an ancient Greek writer to the minds of English readers, then it becomes a matter of taste to settle within what limits it shall be used, how far a mixture of various styles may be allowed, and what amount of departure from the literal text may be permitted. As a crucial instance, we would ask, is, or is not, the following use of an analogous impression permissible? In 'Protagoras,' 328, E, Professor Jowett writes :- Protagoras ended, and in my ear

“So charming left his voice, that I the while

Thought him still speaking; still stood fixed to hear." The Greek is in plain prose, Πρωταγόρας μεν τοσαύτα και τοιαύτα επιδειξάμενος απεπαύσατο του λόγου. Και εγώ επί μεν πολύν χρόνον κεκαλημένος έτι προς αυτόν έβλεπον ώς έρούντά τι, imovuôv å koúelv. But yet the quotation of which Professor

« VorigeDoorgaan »