« AnteriorContinuar »
another; as may appear, when he, that understands not the original, reads the verbal traduction of him into Latin prose, than which nothing seems more raving." I then proceeded with his own free version of the second Olympic, composed for the charitable purpose of rationalizing the Theban Eagle.
'Queen of all harmonious things,
Dancing words and speaking strings,
Begin, begin thy noble choice,
And let the hills around reflect the image of thy voice.
Pisa does to Jove belong,
Jove and Pisa claim thy song.
The fair first-fruits of war, th' Olympic games,
Alcides offer'd up to Jove;
Alcides, too, thy strings may move,
But, oh! what man to join with these can worthy prove?
Join Theron boldly to their sacred names;
Theron the next honour claims;
Theron to no man gives place,
Is first in Pisa's and in Virtue's race;
Theron there, and he alone,
Ev'n his own swift forefathers has outgone."
One of the company exclaimed, with the full assent of the rest, that if the original were madder than this, it must be incurably mad." I then translated the ode
21 [But is not this equally delirious, close as it keeps, to the Pindaric images? It is the exordium of the first Pythian, characterized by "lightning energy in an article on Pindar by Mr. Coleridge's late editor. Q. Review, March, 1834.
O thou whom Phoebus and the quire
Of violet tressed Muses own,
Their joint treasure, golden Lyre,
In thy mazes, steep'd, expire
Bolts of ever flowing fire.
from the Greek, and as nearly as possible, word for word; and the impression was, that in the general
Jove's eagle on the sceptre slumbers
Held down with thrilling harmonies.
Surely this is but a brilliant chaos. "Hyacinthine locks" have been kindly received at the bounteous hand of Milton, though no one in this age of the world, quite understands the epithet, or has seen that black or ferrugineous, or " ensanguined flower inscribed with woe;" the ancient hyacinth. The sound is beautiful, and we imagine the sense to be right; but violet tresses look as strangely in our modern eyes as the green locks of the Nereids; for to us the violet is the type of blueness, and we talk of violet eyes but never of violet hair. Then Pindar as little dreamed of presenting to his auditors a moist-backed eagle, by the phrase vyрòv võтov, as we nowadays dream of bringing into view a man with drenched raiment of a peculiar cut when we mention a wet Quaker. And who can suppose that the eagle was lying held down by harmony? That would be an inconvenient posture for a sleeping biped, however convenient for the translator's verse. According to Moore
Slumbering he sits aloft
With ruffling plumes and heaving spine
Quelled by thy potent strain.
It is interesting to compare Cowley's second Olympic of which stanzas iii. v. and vii. are very readable in their way, with Moore's and Cary's translations-to see how the first displays the genius of Cowley, while the others are attempts at adapting Pindar to our language, and are the works of poetical minds rather than of poets. There are very good passages in Mr. Cary's translation, but it strikes me as a fault in his version, that it brings the lyric flow of the Allegro, Penseroso and Lycidas so strongly to mind, that we seem to be reading Milton instead of Pindar, yet feel that we have the mere manner of the one and
movement of the periods, in the form of the connections and transitions, and in the sober majesty of lofty
the bare matter of the other. Those who bring a knowledge of the original to Moore's and Cary's translations, and thus illuminate them with Pindar himself, may enjoy the perusal; to others they must seem, I should think, like water of Helicon bewitched. Cary's Dante, on the other hand, is a noble poem that may be read and admired apart from the Italian.
A prose translation, like that of the Psalms and Prophets, would exhibit more of Pindar to the English reader, or would at least disguise him less than any metrical version of a poet, whose metre is so irrepresentable in a modern tongue, and whose metaphors are so bold, and thickly interlaced, that in order to be well understood they should be rendered into the plainest and most straight-forward language that can be employed. I tried the simple plan thus, but cannot judge whether it will seem tolerable to others,
Golden Lyre, joint possession of Apollo and the Muses with braided hair dusky as violets,
Thee the movements of the choir obey, thou Ruler of Festivity,
Also thou quenchest the pointed thunder-bolt Of everlasting fire; for Jove's Eagle sleeps on the sceptre, his swift wing drooping on each side,
King of Birds,
When o'er his curv'd head thou hast pour'd a dark mist, sweet seal of his eyelids, he slumbering
up the plumes of his back, overcome by thy vibrations. Yea and ev'n impetuous Mars, far away from the bristling spear
Softens his heart with sleep,-and thy shafts soothe the souls of the divinities,
Through the skill of Latona's son, Apollo, and the deep-bosom'd Muses.
Gray and Akenside have each given a modification of this pas sage, the one in the Progress of Poetry, the other in his Hymn to the Naiads. S. C.]
sense, it appeared to them to approach more nearly, than any other poetry they had heard, to the style of our Bible in the prophetic books. The first strophe will suffice as a specimen :
"Ye harp-controlling hymns! (or) ye hymns the sovereigns of harps!
What God? what Hero?
What Man shall we celebrate?
Truly Pisa indeed is of Jove,
But the Olympiad (or the Olympic games) did Hercules establish,
The first-fruits of the spoils of war.
It behoves us now to voice aloud:
The Bulwark of Agrigentum,
The Flower, even him
Who preserves his native city erect and safe."
But are such rhetorical caprices condemnable only for their deviation from the language of real life? and are they by no other means to be precluded, but by the rejection of all distinctions between prose and verse, save that of metre? Surely good sense, and a moderate insight into the constitution of the human mind, would be amply sufficient to prove, that such language and such combinations are the native produce neither of the fancy nor of the imagination; that their operation consists in the excitement of surprise by the juxtaposition and apparent reconciliation of widely different or incompatible things. As when, for instance, the hills are made to reflect the image of a voice. Surely, no unusual taste is requisite to see clearly, that this compulsory juxta-position is not produced by the presentation of impressive or delightful forms to the inward vision, nor by any sympathy with the mo
difying powers with which the genius of the poet had united and inspirited all the objects of his thought; that it is therefore a species of wit, a pure work of the will, and implies a leisure and self-possession both of thought and of feeling, incompatible with the steady fervour of a mind possessed and filled with the grandeur of its subject. To sum up the whole in one sentence. When a poem, or a part of a poem, shall be adduced, which is evidently vicious in the figures and centexture of its style, yet for the condemnation of which no reason can be assigned, except that it differs from the style in which men actually converse, then, and not till then, can I hold this theory to be either plausible, or practicable, or capable of furnishing either rule, guidance, or precaution, that might not, more easily and more safely, as well as more naturally, have been deduced in the author's own mind from considerations of grammar, logic, and the truth and nature of things, confirmed by the authority of works, whose fame is not of one country, nor of one age.
Continuation-Concerning the real object which, it is probable, Mr. Wordsworth had before him in his critical preface-Elucidation and application of this.
IT might appear from some passages in the former part of Mr. Wordsworth's preface, that he meant to confine his theory of style, and the necessity of a close accordance with the actual language of men, to those particular subjects from low and rustic life,