Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

- nimble vaulters on the backs of steeds.'

Odys. xviii. 317; . NY 2XUJOČuv EmiCnrogaz. Here, likewise, we should understand, as the translation seems to intimate, that the Trojans are not celebrated for their skill in riding, but tricks of horsemanship. Had the former been in use during this siege, we cannot suppose that so accurate an observer and mannerist as Homer,' would have omitted, or doubtíully alluded to, a circumstance which would have enabled him to have diversified his scenes of battle by a great variety of additional picturesque imagery.

The horses, to continue our digressive subject, which Diomede takes from Eneas, Twict 17 701, and with which he afterwards contends in the chariot-race (Il. xxvi. 377., are conftantly stylcd ( the steeds of Troy' by Mr. Cowper, and

the steeds of Tros' by Mr. Pope, which we consider as their most appropriate term. Their descent from the immortal steeds, given by Jove to Tros, is mentioned in the fifth book. Diomede often boasts of their pedigree, and appears as fond of horses as a Newmarket peer, and eminently knowing in heroic and equestrian genealogy. We shall here drop the subject, lest the reader fhould suspect uş of being deeper in the turf than in Homer; we hope, however, he will excuse us in making a farther remark relative to this spirited hero. "When he attacks Mars and Apollo, the phrase is, Aziwne 100g & ardent as a god. These deities, likewise, use the same expression when complaining of his audacity (II. v. paslim.). According to the common acceptation of the word and act, indeed, ! like a devil' appears to be not only the most literal but most suitable translation ; Mr. Cowper accordingly, when Patroclus makes great devaitation among his enemies, and when he persists in 1torming the walls of Troy, though guarded by Apollo (Il. xvi. 853.), renders the phrase Dæmon-like.! Phenix likewise, when he advises Achilles not to imitate the çxamplc of Meleager, says,

- follow thou
No Dæmon, who would tempt thee to a course

Like his. Il. ix. 748. ". · The idea, however, which the word Dæmon here conveys is not exactly that of Homer. It gives us rather the notion of an evil spirit according to the Christian system: such as Horatio apprehended the ghost of Hamlet's father to be. Plutarch allerts that Homer entertained the idea of a good and bad Demon or Genius attending each individual: but he constantly uses £os and Aaiuw indifferently, as expressive of the same meaning,

When

When Agamemnon in the shades enquires of Ulysses, whether his son Orestes was in Pylos, Orchomenos, or Sparta, he receives this abrupt answer.

Atrides ask not me whether he live,
Or have already died, I nothing know;

Mere words are vanity, and better spared.' Odys. xi. 560. This neither agrees with the tender melancholy they are supposed to experience during this interview, and the tears they Ined dilconsolate' in the next line; nor with the original, which rendered literally is, “Why do you ask me concerning these things ? For I know not whether your son is alive or dead. It is wrong to give vain and groundless information.

Kaxer d'avouedia Bačeır.
Two vulturs are said to prey on the liver of Tityus.

'nor fufficed his hands To fray them thence, Odys. x. 709. .ii What is "fray?' the original word is a TAUUVETŐ, drive them away.

Şimular of the dead.' Odys. xxiv, 14. Images or shadows (Erdwax) would have given a juster idea of the deceased süitors. A limular is a counterfeit: and surely Mr. Cowper would not have us here understand it in the same sense with Falstaff. "To die is to be a counterfeit; for he is but the counterfeit of a man who hath not the life of a man.'

Homer celebrates Achilles for his swiftness, but never styles him, as Mr. Cowper does, the swiftest of the swift.' (11. i. 101.) Nor does that hero call Agamemnon a shameless wolf (XUD TO), nor face of Alint' (usoy' avaldes), in Homer (Il. i. 195-6). Nor, in the line. preceding, is 'vale-darkning' the exact word for oulcsyta. Mountains may be shady without overIhadowing the adjacent valleys.

It would be endless to point out all the little deviations of this kind which occur in Mr. Cowper's translation, and which but for his chief boast of closely adhering to the original, might, in general, be easily excused.

That the language is not always very highly polished must be sufficiently obvious. Mr. Cowper likewise is fully sensible of it; and to obviate uncandid criticism,' declares,

• To those who shall be inclined to tell me hereafter that my diction is often plain and unelevated, I reply beforehand that I know it- that it would be abfurd were it otherwise, and that Ho. mer himself ftands in the same predicament. In fact, it is one

of

Mindrende Ppy poemet it

of his numberless excellencies, and a point in which his judg. ment never fails him, that he is grand and lofty always in the right place, and knows infallibly how to rise and fall with his fubject.'

We may admit this of Homer; but it must also be allowed that, in the tamer parts of his poems, there is a musical Aow, a sonorous cadence, or happy disposition of words, that charms the reader's ear, and renders him insensible to the poverty of the subject. Mr. Cowper's language, though plain, is commonly forcible, the turn of many fentences is truly classical, and his numbers often happily varied : but we generally look in vain for the long majestic march, or liquid flow of harmony, that cheers us amidst scenes which would otherwise but faintly interest the mind. Homer, doubtless, possessed an amazing exu. berance of invention; and his two poems exhibit an infinite variety of description, both as to imagery and character ; but an almost perpetual continuance or renewal of higures august or beautiful, of situations new or striking, is requisite to sustain the dignity or energy of blank verse, when continued through a long fucceffion of pages, so as to gratify the reader's mind, or interest his attention. As this excellence belongs not even to the ori. ginal, it cannot be expected in a close translation. Measured prose, where fidelity is the great object, muft frequently occur, and either Truth or Poetry be thrown into the back-ground. To palliate this evil, where the strength of the sentiment or grandeur of the incident would not support the diction, Mr, Cowper often endeavours, by a classical combination or dissociation, by transposition or inversion, to add some degree of force and vigour to it. Double negatives have taken some root in our poetic soil, by Milton's having transplanted them from the Greek; and would, on that account alone, have been, at least, excusable. They were sometimes, however, used by more ancient poets, In Fletcher's | Mad Lover,' one of the charac. ters says,

• Nor none dare disobey.' Such are the following: Nor Thetis not complied. ..

nor our return From Ades knew not Circe.' Some phrases of a similar kind add grace and dignity to the diction. The inversions sprinkled through the following beautiful lines, heighten greatly their effect. The Trojans prepare to force the Græcian entrenchments; and

'-' while they pressd to pass, they spied a bird Sublime in air, an eagle. Right between

Both

Both hosts he soar'd (the Trojan on his left)
A serpent bearing in his pounces clatch'd
Enormous, dripping blood, but lively still
And mindful of revenge ; for from beneath
The eagle's breast, updarting fierce his head,
Fatt by the throat he struck him; anguilh-fick
The eagle cast him down into the space
Between the hofts, and, clanging loud his plumes,
As the wind bore him, Aoated far away.
Shudder'd the Trojans viewing at cheir feet

The spotted serpent ominous.' Many peculiar arrangements of expression might be selected, perfectly unexceptionable ; but they tend very often to obscurity, sometiines to absurdity. Antenor advises that Helen Haould be restored to Menelaus ;

And hope I none conceive that aught by us. Designed shall prosper, unless so be done.'

• Who hath of late beneath Alcinous' roof : Our king arrived.'- Odys. viii. 15.

• Her snowy arms her darling son around She threw maternal.' Il. v, 363.

From the shores , "Cal!'d of Abydus, famed for fleetest mares, · Democoon.' - Il, iv. 594, What tangled skains are these to unravel ? Again :

.. Had not crest-tolling Hector huge perceiv'd

The havoc.' Il. v, 805. Unless we refer to the original, we know not whether huge' is to be applied to the havoc or to Hector.

- Thou art young; and were myself

Thy father, thou Mouldst be my latest born.' Il. ix. 68. This reads like an ænigma. The original signifies, in regard to years you might be my youngest son.'

- that, by the will of Jove
We may escape, perchance, this death, secure.'

.. .Odys. xii. 254. This sentence is inexplicable. If secure by the will of Jove, there could be no chance of their perishing. There is not, however, a word of security in the original. Hom. xii. 215.

• So I; then ftriding large, the spirit thence Withdrew of swift Æacides, along

The

The hoary mead pacing, with joy elate
That I had blazon'd bright his son's renown.'

Odys. xi. 655. Besides the inversions, we dislike that an “hoary mead' should be substituted for a'. a meadow of asphodel;' an herb usually planted, as the nete tells us, round the tombs of the deceased. Thence it became appropriated by the poets to the shadowy regions. · Blazon'd bright' is not in unison with the fimplicity of the original. · Hom. xi. 536.

..
- his ample cheft (i. e. a lion's)
With gory drops, and his broad cheeks are hung.

Tremendous spectacle. Odyf. xxii. 469. A chest hung with drops of blood, and broad cheeks also, which is the natural construction, must be, indeed, a tremendous spectacle !

pas foremost ran ** Quefting, the hounds.' Odys, xix. 543. in Exclusive of the inversion, our revičwer, in the hunting department, objects to the translation of

Xin iç EvVWYTES xuveç ni savo Spaniels, he says, queft at the fasting or springing of game, but hounds always operi, as in the present circumstance, during the chace.

- nor for all the brave Of my own brothers.' II. vi. 550.' i. e. For all my brave brothers. I The language fuffers more from such distortions to prevent its sinking into profe, than might have been required for the fetters of rhyme, against which Mr. Cowper so elaborately declaims in his Preface. He there, not only pleads guilty' (if we may use the phrase, when he glories in his confession) to a charge that might be urged against him, of his diction's being often plain and unelevated, and of his numbers having now and then an ugly hitch in their gait, ungraceful in itself, and inconvenient to the reader;' but likewise vindicates his, use of them. The truth is, says he, in regard to his limping lines,

that not one of them all escaped me, byt, such as they are, they were all made such with a wilful intention. In poems of 'great length there is no blemish more to be feared than sameness of numbers, and every art is useful by which it may be avoided. A line, rough in itself, 'has yet its recommendations ; iç saves the

car

« AnteriorContinua »