Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

My soul shall from my body be divorc'd;
Those dogs which I myself have bred,
Fed at my table, guardians of my gate,
Shall lap my blood, and overgorg'd shall lie
Ev'n on my threshold. That the young shall fall
Victim to Mars, beneath a foeman's spear,
Is only natural; and if he fall
With honor, though he die, yet glorious he !
But when the hoary head, and hoary beard,
And naked corpse to rav’ning dogs are giv'n,

No sadder sight can wretched mortal see.”-xxii., 38-90.

It will be seen that, although this is much better, as we have said, than any of his lordship’s descriptions, it is far inferior to Pope's version, and we may add that it is far less faithful to the original :

" He strikes his reverend head, now white with age;
He lifts his wither'd arms; obtests the skies ;
He calls his much-lov'd son with feeble cries.
The son, resolv'd Achilles' force to dare,
Full at the Scæan gates expects the war;.
While the sad father on the rampart stands
And thus adjures him with extended hands :
Ah, stay not, stay not! guardless and alone;
Hector! my lov'd, my dearest, bravest son !
Methinks already I behold thee slain,
Apd stretched beneath that fury of the plain.
Implaceable Achilles! might'st thou be
To all the gods no dearer than to me!
Thee, vultures wild should scatter round the shore,
And bloody dogs grow fiercer from thy gore.
How many valiant sons I late enjoy'd,
Valiant in vain! by thy curst arm destroy'd :
Or, worse than slaughter'd, sold in distant isles
To shameful bondage and unworthy toils.
Two, while I speak, my eyes in vain explore,
Two from one mother sprung, my Polydore,
And, lov'd Lycaon; now perhaps no more !
Oh! if in yonder hostile camp they live,
What heaps of gold, what treasures would I give ?
(Their grandsire's wealth, by right of birth their own li.
Consign'd his daughter with Lelegia's throne)
But if (which heav'n forbid) already lost,
All pale they wander on the Stygian coast;
What sorrows then must their sad mother know,
What anguish I ? unutterable woe!
Yet less that anguish, less to her, to me,
Less to all Troy, if not depriv'd of thee.
Yet shun Achilles ! enter the wall;
And spare thyself, thy father, spare us all!
Save thy dear life; or if a soul so brave
Neglect that thought, thy dearer glory save.
Pity, while yet I live, those silver hairs,
While yet thy father feels the woes he bears,
Yet curs'd with sense! a wretch whom, in his rage

[ocr errors]

(All trembling on the verge of helpless age),
Great Jove has plac'd, sad spectacle of pain !
The bitter dregs of fortune's cup to drain ;
To fill with scenes of death his closing eyes,
And number all his days by miseries !
My heroes slain, my bridal bed o’erturn'd
My daughters ravish'd, and my city burn'd,
My bleeding infants dásh'd against the floor;
These I have yet to see, perhaps yet more !
Perhaps even I, reserved by angry Fate,
The last sad relic of my ruin'd state
(Dire pomp of sovereign wretchedness!) must fall,
And stain the pavement of my regal hall;
Where famished dogs, late guardians of my door,
Shall lick their mangled master's spatter'd gore.
Yet for my sons I thank ye, gods! 'twas well;
Well have they perish'd, for in fight they fell.
Who dies in youth and vigor dies the best
Struck through with wounds, all honest on the breast;
But when the Fates, in fulness of their rage,
Spurn the hoar head of unresisting age,
In dust the reverend lineaments deform,
And pour to dogs the life-blood scarcely warm.
This, this is misery! the last, the worst,

That man can feel; man fated to be curst!”

We will now transcribe his lordship's version of one of the Homeric speeches, selecting the deliberative kind as that in which he is most successful himself as a parliamentary orator. The best specimens in the Iliad are the orations of Ulysses, Phønix, and Ajax, when sent by Agamemnon as ambassadors to Achilles for the purpose of moving the latter to a reconciliation with the former. Each of the three ambassadors makes a speech to Achilles, and receives a reply from the hero. No three orations ever delivered on the same subject are more unlike; yet it is difficult to say which is the best; which is constructed with most art; which is most persuasive; or which is best calculated to disarm resentment. Not a superfluous expression is made by any of the ambassadors ; rot one which the circumstances do not seem to require. Nor is there anything omitted, the use of which the most accomplished orator might suggest as arising from any of the circumstances under which the embassy was sent, or as likely to prove so effectual, as what has been given by the poet. Because Ulysses has more wisdom than either Phænix or Ajax, he not only speaks first, but also at greatest length; he introduces a large variety of arguments, each arranged with the skill of an accomplished artist, and yet without the least appearance of art. "First, he compliments Achilles; then reminds him, as it were incidentally, of former agreeable scenes in the tent of Agamemnon ; then of his slaughtered countrymen; then of the danger that threatens the whole army of the Greeks; then of the advice of his father Peleus; then of the regret of Agamemnon for having offended him, and of his wish to make all reparation in his power, &c.' After the ambassadors have partaken of the hospitalities of the hero, Ulysses addresses him as follows:

To thee I drink,
Achilles! nobly is thy table spread,
As heretofore in Agamemnon's tent,
So now in thine; abundant is the feast :
But not the pleasures of the banquet now
We have in hand : impending o'er our arms
Grave cause of fear, illustrious chief, we see;
Grave doubts, to save, or see destroy'd our ships,
If thon, great warrior, put not forth thy might.
For close beside the ships and wall are camp'd
The haughty Trojans and renown*d allies :
Their watch-fires frequent burn throughout the camp;
And loud their boast that naught shall stay their hands
Until our dark-ribb'd ships be made their prey.
Jove too for them, with fav'ring augury
Sends forth his lightning; boastful of his strength,
And firmly trusting in the aid of Jove,
Hector, resistless, rages; naught he fears
Or God or man, with martial fury fir’d.
He prays, impatient, for th' approach of morn;
Then, breaking through the lofty sterns, resolv'd
To the devouring flames to give the ships,
And slay the crews, bewilder'd in the smoke.
And much my mind misgives me, lest the gods
His threats fưlfil, and we be fated here
To perish, far from Argos' grassy plains.
Up, then! if in their last extremity
Thy spirit inclines, though late, to save the Greeks
Sore press'd by Trojan arms: lest thou thyself
Hereafter feel remorse; the evil done
Is past all cure; then thou reflect betimes
How from the Greeks to ward the day of doom.
Dear friend, remember now thy father's words,
The aged Peleus, when to Atreus' so
He sent thee forth from Phthia, how he said,
‘My son, the boon of strength, if so they will,
Juno or Pallas þave the power to give ;
But thou thyself thy haughty spirit must curb,
For better far is gentle courtesy :
And cease from angry strife, that so the Greeks
The more may honor thee, both young and old.'
Such were the words thine aged father spoke,
Which thou hast now forgotten; yet, ev'n now,
Pause for awhile, and let thine anger cool;
And noble gifts, so thou thy wrath remit,
From Agamemnon shalt thou bear away.
Listen to me, while I recount the gifts
Which in his tent he pledg'd him to bestow."-ix., 267-314,

[ocr errors]

This, as we have said, is a very good speech in Lord Derby's version, although his lordship has allowed the poetry to evaporate. The address of Ulysses does not end here; be now proceeds to describe the splendid gifts which Agamemnon is anxious to bestow on Achilles, and his lordship has no faculty for poetical description. Even the beautiful Lesbians make but a sorry figure at his hands, thus :

“Sev'n women too, well skill'd in household cares,
Lesbians, whom he selected for himself,
That day thou captur'dst Lesbos' goodly isle,

In beauty far surpassing all their sex. There is no poetry in this ; let us compare with it the four lines of Pope :

“Seven lovely captives of the Lesbian line,

Skilled in each art, unmatch'd in form divine,
The same he chose for more than vulgar charms

When Lesbos sank beneath thy conquering arms." But it is in the pathetic his lordship fails most. In proof of this we refer any intelligent reader to his attempts in this department; no matter what form they assume, whether that of a speech or discussion. Compare his rendering of the celebrated appeal of Andromache to Hector, the speech of Patroclus to Achilles, or that of Priam to the same hero, with the versions of Pope of the same. We transcribe as a specimen the lamentation of Briseis for Patroclus, subjoining Pope's rendering of the same:

“Patroclus, dearly lov'd of this sad heart !
When last I left this tent, I left thee full
Of lusty life; returning now, I find
Only thy lifeless corpse, thou Prince of men!
So sorrow still, on sorrow heap'd I bear.
The husband of my youth, to whom my sire
And honor'd mother gave ine, I beheld
Slain with the sword before the city walls :
Three brothers, whom with me one mother bore,
My dearly lov'd ones, all were doom'd to death :
Nor wouldst thou, when Achilles, swift of foot,
My husband slew, and royal Mynes' town
In ruin laid, allow my tears to flow;
But thou wouldst make me (such was still thy speech)
The wedded wife of Peleus' godlike son:
Thou wouldst to Phthia bear me in thy ship,
And there, thyself, amid the Myrmidons,
Wouldst give my marriage feast; then unconsol'd,

I weep thy death, my ever-gentle friend !” In this there is little pathos-scarcely any of the tenderness of the original. It is otherwise with Pope's version.

1

Perhaps no other passage we could have selected would give a more correct idea of the difference between a true poet and one who is no poet, as a translator of Homer, although almost any of the other pathetic speeches to which we have alluded lay a deeper and more enduring hold on our sympathies.

“Ah youth for ever dear, for ever kind,
Oace tender friend of my distracted mind!
I left thee fresh in life, in beauty gay ;
Now find thee cold, inanimated clay!
What woes my wretched race of life attend ?
Sorrows on sorrows, never doom'd to end!
The first lov'd comfort of my virgin bed
Before these eyes in fata! battle bled :
My three. brave brothers in one mournful day,
All trod the dark, irremeable way:
Thy friendly hand uprear'd me from the plain ;
And dry'd my sorrows for a husband slain ;
Achilles' care you promis'd I should prove,
The first, the dearest partner of his love;
That rites divine should ratify the band,
And make me empress in his native land.
Accept these grateful tears! for theệ they flow,

For thee, that ever felt another's woe!"–11., xix., 303-320. But we find that our space is exhausted, and can give no more specimens. We would, however, advise the reader to extend his examination; for, if he would not profit much by reading his lordship's version, but rather run the risk of being led by it to form a false estimate of Homer's style, he would lose nothing in this way for which he would not be fully indemnified in comparing the different versions with each other. He would, at least, be able to form an idea of the structure of the Iliad, and the marvellous variety of its materials. At first sight thiş might seem an easy task, but there are few more difficult; although the most thoughtless cannot read Homer without finding beauties in every page, no poet is understood by 80 small a number. Thus, for example, the wrath of Achilles seems an absurd thing to the casual observer as the subject of a poem ; but there is a deep moral in it, namely, that concord among governors is the preservation of states, and that discord is the ruin of them. Even the episodes contribute to develop this idea ; and how full of beauty the most incredible of them are at the same time! still more forcibly does that remark apply to the allegorical fables ; such, for example, as Discord cast out of heaven to earth ;(*) Love alluring and extinguishing Honor;t Prudence restraining Pas

o xix., 93.

† ü., 460.

« VorigeDoorgaan »