« AnteriorContinua »
there appears of ease in it to the reader. Like the cestus of Venus, formed by the happy skill of the Graces, it best exerts its charms, while the artifice of the texture is partly concealed. Dryden, who brought the art of rhyme to great excellence, endeavoured to introduce it on our stage; but nature and taste revolted against an imitation of dialogue, so entirely different from that, in which men discourse. Mr. de Voltaire thus condemns, is perhaps not less happily adapted, than the iambic, to the dramatic offices. It rises gracefully into the sublime; it can slide happily into the familiar; hasten its career if impelled by vehemence of passion; pause in the hesitation of doubt ; appear lingering and languid, in dejection and sorrow; is capable of varying its accent, and adapting its harmony, to the sentiment it should convey, and the passion it would excite, with all the power of musical expression. Even a person, who did not understand our language, would find himself very differently affected, by the following speeches in that metre:
LEAR. Vengeance! plague! death! confusion!.. Fiery ? what fiery quality ? why, Glo'ster, I'd speak with the Duke of Cornwall, and his wife: The king would speak with Cornwall. The dear father Would with his daughter speak, commands her service: Are they inform'd of this ? my breath and blood ! Fiery ? the fiery duke ? tell the hot duke that
I have lived long enough : my way of life
The charm arising from the tones of English blank-verse cannot be felt by a foreigner, who is so far from being acquainted with the pronunciation of our language, that he often mistakes the signification of the most common words; of which there are many remarkable instances in this boasted translation of Julius Cæsar; for Mr.
de Voltaire does not know, for example, that the word course signifies method of proceeding, but imagines it means a course of dishes, or a race. Brutus replies to Cassius's proposal to kill Cæsar:
Our course will seem too bloody, Caius Cassius,
Thus it is translated by Mr. de Voltaire :
BRUTUS. Cette course aux Romains paraitrait trop sanglante ; On nous reprocherait la colêre & l'envie, Si nous coupons la tête, & puis hachons les membres, Car Antoine n'est rien qu'un membre de César.
The following ingenious note is added by the translator. 6. The word course," says he, “ perhaps has an allusion to the Lupercal course. It also signifies a service of dishes at table.”—It is very extraordinary, that a man should set up for a translator, with so
little acquaintance in the language, as not to be able to distinguish whether a word, in a certain period, signifies a race, a service of dishes, or a mode of conduct. In a piece intitled Guillaume de Vadè, and attributed to Mr. de Voltaire, there is a blunder of the same kind. Polonius orders his daughter not to confide in the promises of Hamlet, who being heir to the crown, cannot have liberty of choice in marriage, like a private person. He must not, says the old statesman, carve for himself, as vulgar persons do. The French author translates it, “he must not cut his own victuals ;" and runs on about morsels, as if Hamlet's dinner, not his marriage, had been the subject of debate. The translator knew not that the word carve is often used metaphorically in our language, for a person's framing or fashioning his lot or portion. We say, the lover feeds on hope, , the warrior thirsts for glory: would it be fair to translate, that the lover eats a morsel of hope, and the warrior desires to drink a draught of glory? If such translations are allowed, the works of the most correct auO
apparent, that Mr. de Voltaire depended entirely on the assistance of a dictionary, to enable him to give the most faithful translation that can be, and the only faithful one, in the French language, of any author, ancient or modern.
It is necessary to present to those readers, who do not understand French, the miserable mistakes and galimatias of this dictionary work. :: Brutus, in his soliloquy, meditating on what Cassius had been urging concerning Cæsar, thus expresses his apprehension, that imperial power may change the conduct of the man.
'Tis a common proof,
Thus Mr. Voltaire translates it: