Page images


"As quietly as if we on the prairies ! We had then reached that pass in New-York, that after one burning, a citizen might really hope to pass the remainder of his night as quietly as if he were on the prairies! And there was that frothy, lumbering, useless machine, called a government, at Albany, within fifty miles of us, as placid, as self-satisfied, as much convinced that this was the greatest people on earth, and itself their illustrious representatives, as if the disturbed counties were so many gardens of Eden, before sin and transgression had become known to it! If it was doing anything in the premises, it was probably calculating the minimum the tenant should pay for the landlord's land, when the latter might be sufficiently worried to part with his estate. Perhaps it was illustrating its notions of liberty, by naming the precise sum that one citizen ought to accept, in order that the covetous longings of another should be satisfied !!"

[ocr errors]


“I agree with you, Hugh,' said my uncle, in reply to a remark of my own; "there is little use in making ourselves unhappy about evils that we cannot help. If we are to be burnt up and stripped of our property, we shall be burnt up and stripped of our property. I have a competency secured in Europe, and we can all live on that, with economy, should the worst come to the worst.'

“ 'It is as strange thing, to hear an American talk of seeking a refuge of any sort in the old world!

“'If matters proceed in the lively manner they have for the last ten years, you'll hear of it often. Hitherto, the rich of Europe have been in then habit of laying by a penny in America against an evil day; but the time will soon come, unless there is a great change, when the rich of America will return the compliment in kind. We are worse off than if we were in a state of nature, in many respects ; having our hands tied by the responsibility that belongs to our position and means, while those who choose to assail us are under a mere nominal restraint.""

Cooper's Receipt for Anti-Rentism is, in substance simply to disfranchise those counties which resist the operation of law. When will our rul-our servants, we mean, be men enough to use so efficacious a remedy?

But our limits compelus to take leave for the present of this most valuable book. We say for the present, for its themes are too momentous to be disposed of so briefly. But one thing we must say in conclusion. The parts of this work which might seem, to the inexperienced reader, the wildest, such as the hints at

emigration, suggestions of repelling force by torce, &c., do not originale with Mr. Cooper. The same thoughts have found a lodgment in many a breast already, though they have never till now found so open an utterance. More than one party of Americans in Europe (albeit it might consist of more than a bachelor uncle and his nephew) has held such a conversation as Hugh and Roger held in Paris. More than one American has given his friends as grim a welcome home as Jack Dunning did the Littlepages.

And finally (for there is room for a few more lines) if any one should blame us for omitting the lesser duties of criticism--for having failed to observe that Mr. Cooper's style is at times incurably wooden, and his sentences frequently read the very opposite of what they mean, and his mottoes occasionally have not the least earthly connection with the subjects of the chapters to which they are prefixed—we have noticed these blemishes and others, as who has not in every novel that Mr. Cooper ever wrote. But at present we are in no frame of mind to carp at the spots on the face of the sun.

If all our authors would write as truthfully as the author of "Indian and Ingin” we should be content to have them all write as clumsily.


American Review, October 1846.

“BELIER, mon ami, commencez par le commencement.” As we are going to write about translations of Homer let us first get a clear idea of what translation, and more particularly poetical translation, is. Some of the popular nations on the subject are indirectly expressed in the following passage, from the writings of an eminent logician :

"A good translation of a poem (though perhaps, strictly speaking, what is so called is rather an imitation) ["and accordingly,” adds the author, in a note, “it should be observed that, as all admit, none but A poet can be qualified to translate a poem”] is read, by one well

* Homer's Illiad. Translated by Munford. Boston: Little & Brown. 1846.

acquainted with the original with equal or even superior pleasure to that which it affords one ignorant of that original, whereas the best translation of a prose work (at least of one not principally valued for beauty of style) will seldom be read by one familiar with the original.” – Whateley's Rhetoric, p. 334.

Under the head "Fallacies" in the Archbishop's Logic is mentioned, (p. 207,) that of indirect assumption; of which there are two or three palpable instances in the above extract. First of all we do most positively deny, from our own experience, that "the best translation of a prose work will seldom be read by one familiar with the original.” We have known men who read with pleasure Hobbes' Thucydides and the Oxford Tacitus, though fairly acquainted with the originals. To be sure a great deal lies in the parenthesis at least of one not principally valued for beauty of style.” A work is usually read either for its style or its matter; and he who reads it for matter alone will usually prefer consulting the original as the safest course, the best translators blundering occasionally. Some, who are intensely fond of original poetry, cannot abide any poetical translations at all; but it would hardly answer to generalize from their case.

But this by the way. Our main quarrel is with the assertions that none but a poet can translate poetry, and that good poetical translation is imitation. The first of these many receive as an axiom. Qualify it, and say that a poet's translation must be superior to that of any other man, and a still greater number will acquiesce in it. Yet we are slow to admit it even in this qualified form. There are, it is true, some strong plausibilities against us. We naturally admit, it may be said, that to translate a prose work well one must write good prose; why should not the same rule hold good in the case of poetry? Then the facts of the case are against us. Great poets are usually great translators. There is Pope, and Byron, and Shelley, and Coleridge, &c. But let us see how these positions will bear examination.

In what sense is a good translator of prose a good prose-writer? Must a man be a great historian to translate Thucydides well? Or a great novelist to translate Balzac well? Hardly. When we say that our translator is a good prose-writer we mean that he has a good prose

style. Correspondingly then, a good translator of poetry must have a good poetic style, i. e. poetic manner; between which and poetic matter there is no necessary connection. Poetry consists in two things, the idea and the expression. Now a man may have great facility of poetic expression, and that even in a foreign tongue, without the power of originating a single poetic idea. There are plenty of young men in England who will paraphrase Burns and Shakspeare into Latin and Greek verses scarcely to be surpassed for elegance by anything in Ovid or Euripides. On the other hand poetic ideas may exist conjointly with a very limited power of poetic expression, as in the case of Miss Barrett. To form a great poet both are required; to form a poet at all the latter alone is insufficient.

Next let us see how many of the best translators of poetry have been poets. And here be it observed, by way of caveat, that as translation is an inferior department of literature, the translations of one who has already acquired a poetical reputation will derive an adventitious celebrity from his original works. They will be read as part of his poetry, and thus become better known than the productions of one who is no poet. E. g. supposing Chapman's Illiad to be better than Pope's still Pope's will always be more generally read, because Pope as a poet was infinitely above Chapman. Coleridge's Wallenstein is universally admired in England and generally praised in Germany. Byron translated very well. Shelley with much spirit, though very inaccurately. Leigh Hunt very well. Wilson particularly well. Pope's imitation of Homer we shall waive considering for the present. Among ourselves Halleck and Longfellow are good translators. Se stands the case against us. * Now for the other side. Old Chapman was no poet.

Neither is “Young Chapman,” the only man who has any idea of putting Æschylus into English verse, and the best Engfish translator of Theocritus (which last commendation, by the way, is no very exalted panegyric). Elton has never been guilty of original poetry, but his Specimens from the Classics are some of the best translations

* For obvious reasons we confine ourselves to English translators

extant. Equally innocent is Carlyle, whose versions of German ballads, extracts from the Niebelungen Lied, &c., are not to be surpassed. Aytoun is a more doubtful case. He is an inexhaustible writer of parodies, and his serious poem, Hermotimus, is a work of much promise. Yet no one would call him a great poet; and no one who has read Blackwood's Anthological articles can help calling him a great translator.

But here our facts may be impugned, and we come to our remaining point of difference with Whateley, the fundamental question, indeed, of all; What is translation ?

Ten years ago we remember, at New Haven, they had a system they called literal translation; which consisted in rendering every separate word by its primitive dictionary meaning, making, in realily, as complete “Dog English” as the oft-quoted verte canem er is “Dog Latino There is extant a Boston translation of the Tusculan Questions on this principle which is well worth borrowing, to see what impracticable jargon may be written with English words. There are also some English attempts upon German philosophical works which are prime specimens of this lingo, particularly Dobson's perversion of

[ocr errors]

+ In support of this assertion we request particular attention to his translation of that noble passage in the Peleus and Thetis of Catullus, beginning

“At parte ex alia florens volitabat Iacchus,” &c.
“But in another part Iacchus, flush'd
With bloom of youth, came flying from above
With choirs of Satyrs and Sileni born
In Indian Nyse: seeking thee he came,
Oh Ariadne! with thy love inflamed.
They, blithe, from every side came revelling on
Distraught with jocund madness; with a burst
Of Bacchic outcries and with tossing heads.
Some shook their ivy-shrouded spears; and some
From hand to hand in wild and fitful feast
Snatch'd a torn heifer's limbs: some girt themselves
With twisted serpents: others bore along
In hollow arks the mysteries of the God,
Mysteries to uninitiated ear
In silence wrapt. On timbrels others smote
With tapering hands, or from smooth orbs of brass
Clank'd shrill a tinkling sound; and many blew
The horn's hoarse blare, and the barbaric pipe
Bray'd harsh upon the ear its dinning tune.”

« PreviousContinue »