Imatges de pàgina
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to imply something more than a mere accommodation of phrases; the answer is, that the same use of the same words, may be found in other authors, against which the charge of impropriety would never have been brought, and that therefore the objection is to be treated as no other than a cavil or calumny.

“ In Ælian, Diogenes Sinopenfis is reported to have said, that he fulfilled in himself all the curses of tragedy ; and Olympiodorus, in his Life of Plato, has this expression, that it might be true concerning him, and then cites a line from Homer, which, however applicable to that great philosopher, is not to be con• sidered as an oracle delivered by the poet with a view to the ticular use or accommodation of it by this biographer.

“ It is certain, that several passages in the Grecian poets are cited, or alluded to, in the writings of the New Testament, and many more from the Old, which are not to be considered as prophecies.”

• These are very judicious obfervations of this learned writer, See also Hammond on Matth. i. 22. note (k), and on iv. 15. note (d), where the reader will meet with some things deserving his attention.

“I beg leave to add here, the words of the late Dr. Wall' in the preface to his Critical Notes on the Old Testament, page

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32, &c.

• When St. Matthew, or the rest, do give the history of such and such a thing done by our Saviour in their time, or something done to him, they do frequently accommodate some saying, or some passage of the Old Testament to such an action or such a behaviour of his ; this, not always as a prophecy, or a proof of the thing then done, (for to what purpose should one prove by prophecy, a thing that he fees now done?) but very often as a similitude or illustration ; and in no other way

than as a preacher now may compare or apply some paffage of Scripture which bears a resemblance to the thing he is speaking of: Suppose some atheistical man do now write a book, and a Christian in answer to it, or in abhorrence of the things said in it, do cite that saying of David, The fool batb said in bis heart, there is na God; this may be done, and the citation may be apt and useful, without supposing that David had in his prospect this particular

Some citations, I say, are such; used by an apostle, only for illustration.” These observations, in my opinion, are perfealy right.

* It is generally believed, that St. Matthew wrote his gospel for the use of Jewish converts to Christianity ; 'and by some it is also bcleved, that it was published originally in Hebrew. It is çertain, however, that he refers very often to Jewith customs,

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and makes use of the terms and phrases of the Jewish theology: This method was peculiarly suited to the genius and dispositions of the Jewish people. St. Paul did the fame ; particularly, in his Epistle to the Hebrews.

· These considerations will greatly help us to account for St. Matthew's frequent allusions to ancient prophecies : he was writing to persons who were accustomed to that manner of illustrating subjects.

• It is certain that there are citations from the Old Testament, in this Evangelist, which must be understood as accommodations or illustrations ; may not chap. i. 22, 23. be of the same kind ? The same reasons, I presume, that will justify an accom'modation in one passage, will justify it in another. perhaps be said, that this must not be done but upon the utmost necessity. I answer, this seems to be the case here ; for I think that the prophet had no reference to the Meffiah ; and that the Evangelist only alludes to this paffage in Isaiah, because it was remarkably suitable to the matter which he was relating.

• Accommodated senses we may expect to meet with, especially, in those parts of the New Testament which were written for the use of Jewish believers ; but even there they are to be considered as mere argumenta ad hominem; as a kind of illustration and embellishment; and not as proofs of any thing.

• These are my present sentiments of this difficult passage. My design is not to weaken, but to strengthen the evidences of Christianity, by giving up what appears to me indefensible. The Gospel of Jesus, I apprehend, is too firmly established to be Shaken by the greatest efforts of its enemies.

· There are many prophecies recorded in the Old Testament, which were fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, and in him alone : but it would be highly injurious to the religion of Christ, to.attempt a defence of it, by an application of passages to him, which do not appear to be intended for him.?

Though this writer contends for an interpretation which per. haps inay not be agreeable to the notions of some theologists, yet he proposes his sentiments with fo much modesty, candor, and good-fense, that his dissertation cannot fail of meeting with a favourable reception from those who are friends to rational criticism and free enquiry. We are entirely of his opinion with regard to the usual method of collecting suspicious evidences in defence of Christianity : they invalidate the cause they are brought to defend ; or, as we faid on a former occasion, they are like heaps of rubbish thrown up against a citadel, by way of security, which only serve to harbour the enemy, and injure the beauty and grandeur of a building which without them is impregnable...

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*

VI. The Thebaid of Statius, translated into English Verse, with Notes

and Observations, and a Dissertation upon ihe Whole' by way of Preface.

2 vols. 8vo. · Pri 10s. Fletcher. Hatever pretensions our neighbours imay have to contest

the superiority of this nation in the other provinces of literature, yet in the particular department of poetical tranda. tion the pre-eminence is indisputably ours. Whilit our most formidable rivals, the French, are tamely contented with prose versions of the most famous poets of antiquity, our language can boast translations of Homer, Virgil, Horace, and Pindar, executed with a degree of elegance and spirit to which the Italians but approach, and to which all other nations of Europe are strangers.

But in this progress towards excellence, frequent impediments have occurred. It was a long time before our writers could perceive, that with the words of the original author his phraseology was to be altered ; and that an elegance of one language can only be represented by a corresponding elegance of another. Of all our numerous translators who flourished before the reign of Charles the second, Fairfax and Fanshaw are the only two who seem to have formed a right idea of translation, and endeavoured with the sense of their author to transfuse his spirit. Perhaps the other numerous writers in this most useful branch of literature imagined, that what pleased in the language of the original would please in any representation ; not considering, that the most pleasing and natural images, when divested of harmony of numbers and elegance of expression, have seldom any thing else in them to attract our admiration. Of this, however, they did not think, or if they did, they might have found themselves unable to act up to their own knowledge; and therefore they attempted by fidelity and precision to atone for the want of the necessary requisites of poetical embellishment. When much is done, much still remains to be done ; and these verbal translators are rather to be praised for perfisting in the path pointed out to them by their predecessors, than censured for leaving it to be cleared from obstruction by the industry of future essayists. †

* The reader who is versed in these matters may be surprised that Harrington is not mentioned; but the truth is, that his merit chiefly lies in his versification, and even in that he did not always apply the same care.

+ This is not to be admitted as a general excuse for the particular improprieties of all our more early translators, and especially of those who wrote when our language had received na

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But at the Restoration the system hitherto adopted underwent a total alteration. The wits of that period, among other restraints, broke through those of literal translation ; but as improvement is frequently attended with some, peculiar inconve. niences, it is not to be wondered if licentiousness was looked upon as freedom. Hence arose paraphrastic version ; a manner of rendering the meaning of an author more tolerable than verbal translation, because more pleasing, but perhaps not less hurtful to his genuine fenfe. Though men of little learning, they had enough to comprehend the general meaning of the author upon which they were employed, and enabled, by a gay imagination, and the improving state of our language, to atone for their many and great deficiencies : they were read with pleasure ; and literal translation, in a short time, disappeared. We must not, however, think that all were equally addicted to the licentiousness of paraphrase ; there were not wanting some, who were impowered by genius and learning to deal more faithfully with their author ; who, acquainted with the force and elegance of both languages, were not driven to the mean fubterfuge of rendering his general meaning, without exhibiting his particular excellencies. Dryden's version of the Æneid, with all its faults, is still a noble work. We may venture to pronounce, that it is more like an original than Pope's trunflation of the Iliad.

But translation had not, as yet, reached perfection ; for our language was capable of higher graces, and a more polished expression than even Dryden had bestowed upon it a nor did long time elapse before it received these improvements. He who is little attentive to the novelty of his sentiments, has the greater opportunity to consult the graces of his diction. The Poet who comes after many of his successful predeceffors, will find the stores of composition in a manner occupied, and himself precluded from all hopes of appearing as an original, by small improvements. If they could not attain elegance, they might have avoided barbarity; and though incapable of communicating pleasure, they were not obliged to excite disgust. Considering Hobbes as a good writer in prose, his translations of the Iliad and Odyssey are wholly inexcusable. Every schoolboy is acquainted with Homer's description of Jupiter's nod, in the first book of the Iliad. Will the reader, believe us when we affure him, that the following lines were seriously intended by Hobbes as a version of that description ?

“ This faid, with his black brows he to her nodded,

Wherewith displayed were his locks divine ;
Olympus fhook at stirring of the Godhead,
And Thetis from it jumpt into the brine."
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numbers who were themselves obliged to support the character in every inethod by which novelty may be attained, and by exhibitions of nature in her most unusual appearances. From things, therefore, he goes to sounds, and from conceiving strongly, he turns his thoughts to expressing elegantly; till, at length, the whole solicitude is not so much to say things that have never been said before, as to express those beft that have been said the oftenefit. * This poet was Pope ; for, as we are informed, he earnestly set himself, while young, to comply with that advice by which he was told, that of all the requisites of a good poet, correetness alone was left him unoccupied, and that by cultivating it he might hope to attain eminence. Thus formed, by nature and inclination, to give our expression all the elegance, and our verse all the harmony they were capable of receiving, translation attained in him to a degree of perfection which his successors have only endeavoured to approach. But as we shall have occasion to speak of his particular excellencies hereafter, we fhall say no more of him at present, but proceed to some confideration of Mr. Lewis and his author, after apologizing to the reader for detaining him so long in these remarks upon our Englih translators in general.

To obviate any imputation uponi Mr. Lewis's judgment for “ chusing Statius,” which may arise from Pope's apology for the same choice, we must obferve, that in doing this Pope merely added one voice to the general clamour. It is not known who first propagated the notion of Statius's extravagance and false sublime ; but this we know, there are always plenty of humble admirers who hang upon the lips of some literary dictator, ever ready to adopt his notions and publish his decifions. His observations are struck upon, and rebound from one caxcomb to another, till what was the opinion of one becomes the firm creed of the maný; and the opposing voice of the learned and ingenious is either lost in the popular clamour, or, to avoid an imputation upon their taste, they themselves are glad to join the cry. This probably was the case of Statius, Some author of eminence took it into his head to say he was a turbulent and a noily writer ; and this either in affectation of fingularity, or in corroboration of an argument. The opinion of one or two or more great men should never be suffered to anticipate our judgment of any writer, and Mr. Lewis did right in saying, Statius is a much better poet than he is generally imagined to be.

* Pope's words in a letter to Walh.

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