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Art. VII. Essay on the Principles of Translation. The Third Edie

tion, with large Additions and Alterations. 8vo. pp. 436. Price

12s. Longman and Co. 1813. HAVING occasion, a year or two ago, to give our thoughts

upon translations in general, we spoke thus : 'A good translation, according to our notion of the matter, comprizes three things ;--the precise sense of the author, without addition, abridgement, or alteration,-given in his own manner, yet with the air of an original.'' We had then never seen the work before us; yet, assuredly, any one of our readers who had, would think us guilty of gross plagiarism.

I would,' says the author, describe a good translation to be, that, in which the merit of the original work is so completely transfused into another language, as to be as distinctly apprehended, and as strongly felt, by a native of the country to which that language belongs, as it is by those who speak the language of the ori. ginal work. Now, supposing this description to be a just one, which I think it is, let us examine what are the laws of trapslation which may be deduced from it. It will follow,

• 1. That the translation should give a complete transcript of the ideas of the original work.

62. That the style and manner of writing should be of the same character with that of the original.

• 3. That the translation should have all the ease of original composition.' pp. 15, 16.

Of course the present work is in a great measure made up of quotations-instances of good translation, and instances of bad. We shall not attempt to follow the author through all his criticisms and aucupia verborum,' but shall make a few unconnected observations on divers opinions delivered in the course of the work.

The author seems to think (p. 4,), that the paucity of good translations, (which by-the-bye we do not think is so great,) arises from there having been so little done towards the improvement of the art itself, by investigating its laws, or unfold. ing its principles.' We cannot agree with him ; we believe that, in translation, as in all other literary compositions, the critic does not give laws to the poet, the poet points them out to the critic. As nature acts by general laws, which it is the business of the philosopher to investigate, so, in all ages, the poet has written and pleased, and the critic has searched his writings to find out why he has pleased. What was it but the practice of Euripides and Sophocles that pointed out to Aristotle his unities ? and what is it but the practice of our dramatists that teaches us to impugn the authority of Aristotle? When a beauty is presented to us we may feel it, but it requires the powers of the poet to create it. We are humbly of opinion, that we shall not have one good translation the more, for this essay on the principles of translation.'

What then is the use of criticism? Not to.. instruct the writer but the reader ; to point out to bim beauties which his inattention might pass over, to guard him against the dulcia vitia,' the splendid faults, which he might incautiously approve; and thus, hy improving his taste, to increase his pleasures.

Three chapters are employed on the first general rule. In the translation of scientific and historical works, the original must be strictly abided by, or truth may be violated : in poetry a greater latitude must be allowed. i I conceive it,' says Sir Jolan Denham, as quoted by the author, 'a vulgar error in

translating poets, to affect being fidus interpres. Let that

care be with them who deal in matters of fact or matters of ' faith ; but whosoever aims at it in poetry, as he attempts at • what is not required, so shall he never perform what he at"tempts; for it is not his business alone to translate language

into language, but poesie into poesie ; and poesie is of so • subtle a spirit, that in pouring out of one language into ano• ther, it will all evaporate; and if a new spirit is not added in the transfusion, there will remain nothing but a caput mor

tuum.' (pp. 63, 64.) We think, however, that the essayist allows the poetical translator too great a liberty of adding to, or taking from, the ideas of the original. For instance,

We find frequently in Homer, amidst the most striking beauties, some circumstances introduced which diminish the merit of the thought or of the description. In such instances, the good taste of the translator invariably covers the defect of the original, and often converts it into an additional beauty. Thus, in the simile in the beginning of the 3d book, there is one circumstance which offends against good taste.'

• Εύτ' έρεις κορυφήσι Νότος και τέχνην ομίχλης,
Ποιμέσιν έτι φίλην, κλέπτη δε τε νυκτός αμείνω,
Το'σσον τις σ' επιλεύσσει, όσον το επι λάαν έησιν"
Ως άρα των ύπο ποσσί κονίσσαλος ώρνυτ' αελλής

Ερχομένων" μάλα δ'ωκα διέπρησσος πεδίοιο. ." As when the south wind pours a thick cloud upon of the mountains, whose shade is unpleasant to the shepherds, but more commodious to the thief than the night itself, and when the gloom

is so intense, that one cannot see farther than he can throw a • stone: So rose the dust under the feet of the Greeks marching • silently to battle.'

• With what superior taste has the translator heightened this simile, and exchanged the offending circumstance for a beauty. The fault is in the third line ; tdooov sis a' {TIREUOCE, &c. which is a mean idea.' pp. 88, 89. w. Now we think this a very prettily selected circumstance, and very characteristic of the simplicity and rusticity of Homer's

the tops

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times. There is a pleasing image much of the same kind in

di A rocky stream
• Which from the falls came down there spread itself
• Into a quiet lake, to compass

• Had been a two hours pleasureable toil;
• And he who from a well strung bow could send
• His shaft across, had needs a sinewy

arm.' Again :

• An improvement is sometimes very happily made, by substituting hgure and metaphor for simple sentiment; as in the following exam ple, from Mr. Mason's excellent translation of Du Fresnoy's Art of Painting. In the original, the poet, treating of the merits of the antique statues, says:

queis posterior nil protulit ætas Condignum, et non inferius longè, arte modoque. * This is a simple fact, in the perusal of which the reader is struck With nothing else but the truth of the assertion. Mark how in the translation the same truth is conveyed in one of the finest figures of poetry:

with reluctant gaze
To these the genius of succeerting days
Looks dazzled up, and, as their glories spread,

Hides in his mantle his diminish'd head.? pp. 42, 43. This is entirely giving up the manner of the original; for What can be more different than the didactic dryness of DufresHoy, and the bold image of his translator? Towards the end of this part of the work we meet with the most impudent specimen of translation that 'we ever saw; it is of the beginning of Paradise Lost.

• Primævi cano furta patris, furtumque secutæ

fata necis, labes ubi prima notavit
Quotquot Adamæo genitos de sanguine vidit
Phoebus ad Hesperias ab Eoo cardine metas;
Quos procul auriconiis Paradisi depulit hortis.

Dira cupido 'attavům, raptique injuria pomi,' &c. &c. p. 106. This is, indeed, as the critic observes, an example of every thing that is vicious and offensive in poetical translation.'--We cannot pass from this part without fitst observing the author's taste in harmonies. After quoting the lines,

• A little gliding stream, which Xanthus was,
Unknown he past--and in the lofty grass
Securely trodea Phrygian straight forbid
Him 'tread on Hector's dust with ruins hid,

The stone retain'd no sacred memory' p. 71. he says, 'He must be greatly deficient in a musical ear, who does not prefer the varied harmony of the above lives to the

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uniform return of sound, and chiming measure, &c. We must be 'excused here, if we venture to doubt whether the de·ficiency in a musical ear' does not in this instance rest with the author More inharmonious rhyme than the above stiff and stunted lines we are not acquainted with.

The four next chapters.explain and enforce the second general rule.

* Next in importance to a faithful transfusion of the sense and - meaning of an author, is an assimilation of the style and manner of writing in the translation to that of the original. This requisite of a good translation, though but secondary in importance, is more difficult to be attained than the former; for the qualities requisite for justly discerning and happily imitating the various characters of style and manner, are much more rare than the ability of simply understanding an author's sense. A good translator must be able to discover at once the true character of his author's style. He must ascertain with precision to what class it belongs; whether to that of the grave, the elevated, the easy, the lively, the florid and ornamented, or the simple and unaffected; and these characteristic qualities he must have the capacity of rendering equally conspicuous in the translation as in the original. If a translator fail in this discernment, and want this capacity, let him be ever so thoroughly master of the

sense of his author, he will present him through a distorting medium, for exhibit him often in a garb that is unsuitable to his character.' Pp. 109, 110

.; In chapter the seventh are given the limitations of the rule regarding the imitation of style.'

1. This imitation must always be regulated by the nature of the genius of the languages of the original and of the translation. The Greek language, from the frequency and familiarity of ellipsis, allows a conciseness of expression which is scarcely attainable in any other tongue, and perhaps least of all in the English' pp. 177, 178.

* 2. The Latin and Greek languages admit of inversions which are inconsistent with the genius of the English. p. 196.

3. The 'English language is not incapable of an elliptical mode of expression"; but it does not admit of it to the same degree as the Latin?. p. 198.

These distinctions seem not very scientifically made, nor will the reader very easily discover, from the terins used by the author, the difierence between the first and third limitations. Particular ellipses and inversions are appropriate to particular languages : and the man who should use them in another, who should translate Trepida civitas incusare Tiberium,' into *the terrified city to blame Tiberius, (p. 198,) or give us in a version of Homer such sentences as these, 'The heroes the * slaughter began.-Alexander first a warrior slew—Through

the neck, by the behin passed the steel. --Iphinous, the son of • Dexius, through the shoulder he pierced to the earth fell the

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chief in his blood,' (p. 198)-wonld not so properly he said to translate.ill, as to write his own mother-tongue ill. There is a brevity, however, proceeding from the author, not from the language ; such is that of Tacitus and Sallust,-- whether laudable or not is nothing to the present purpose; if it be given up, the manner of the author is not preserved. Tacitus, writes thus :

• Mihi quanto plura recentium, seu veterum revolvo, tanto magis ludibria rerum mortalium cunctis in negotiis obversantur ; quippe fama, spe, veneratione potius omnes destinabantur imperio, quam quem futurum principem fortuna in occulto tenebat. p. 185. And the following translation is praised by the essayist:

Upon an occasion like this, it is impossible not to pause for a moment, to make a reflection that naturally rises out of the subject. When we review what has been doing in the world, is it not evi. dent, that in all transactions, whether of ancient or of modern date, some strange caprice of fortune turns all human wisdom to a jest? In the juncture before us, Claudius figured so little on the stage of public business, that there was scarcé a man in Rome, who did not seem, by the voice of fame and the wishes of the people, designed for the sovereign power, rather than the very person, whom fatę, in that instant, cherished in obscurity, to make him, at a future period, master of the Roman world.' p. 186.

But how unlike is this to Tacitus ! Indeed a little further on the author seems intirely to give up the imitation of the manner of the original. Speaking of Mr. Stewart, the translator of Sallust, he says,

• Observing in general a very strict fidelity to the sense of his original, he saw at once the fruitlessness of any attempt to imitate the abrupt and sententious manner, together with those other prominent characteristics of the style of Sallust, which, although the natural partiality to his author has led him to vindicate and even to panegyrise, he well knew the utter impossibility of transferring to a language widely different in its structure and idiomis from that of the original. This attempt, therefore, he has with great judgment altogether abandoned; limiting himself to the correct expression of the sense of his author, in pure and eloquent language, possessing all the ease of original composition. pp. 198, 199.

But where, it will be asked, is the necessity of thus abridging by the manner of the original? In the first place, à modest person will not always think it very easy to substitute a better. The conciseness of Tacitus has à force, which a translator will in vain think of giving by an accumulation of the most forcible expressions. In the next place, the peculiarities of an aythor's manner are so nearly allied to those of his matter,-modes of thinking and modes of expression are so much akin,—that it is hardly possible to give the sense of an author fairly in any way but his own

The simplicity of Homer's heroes sometimes looks ridiculous in the splendour of Pope's - translation. And

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