Essay on the Principles of Translation
Author(s): Tytler, Alexander Fraser
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Nec converti ut Interpres, ſed ut Orator, ſententiis iiſdem et earum formis
tanquam figuris, verbis ad noſtram conſuetudinem aptis.
CIC. DE OPT. GEN. ORAT. 14,
PRINTED FOR T. CADELL;
W. CREECH, Edinburgh.
Deſcription of a good tranſlation. — General rules
flowing from that deſcription, 10
Firſt general rule: A tranſlation ſhould give a
complete tranſcript of the ideas of the original
work. — Knowledge of the language of the original,
and acquaintance with the ſubject. —
Examples of imperfect transfuſion of the ſenſe
of the original — What ought to be the conduct
of a tranſlator where the ſenſe is ambiguous, 15
Whether it is allowable for a tranſlator to add to
or retrench the ideas of the original. — Examples
of the uſe and abuſe of this liberty, 32
Of the freedom allowed in poetical Tranſlation. —
Progreſs of poetical Tranſlation in England. —
B. Jonſon, Holiday, Sandy:, Fanſhaw, Dryden.
— Roſcommon's Eſſay on tranſlated Verſe.
— Pope's Homer, 48
Second general Rule: The ſtyle and manner of
writing in a Tranſlation ſhould be of the ſame
character with that of the Original. — A juſt
Taſte requiſite for the diſcernment of the Characters
of Style and Manner. — Examples of
failure in this particular: — The grave exchanged
for the formal, — the elevated for the bom--
baſt; — the lively for the petulant; — the ſimple
for the childiſh. — Hobbes, L'Eſtrange, Eachard,
Examples of a good Taſte in poetical Tranſlation.
— Bourne's Tranſlations from Mallet and from
Prior. — The Duke de Nivernois from Horace.
Mr Webb from the Anthologia. — Fragments of
the Greek Dramatis by Mr Cumberland. 91
Limitation of the Rule regarding the Imitation
of Style. — This Imitation muſt be regulated by
the Genius of Languages. — The Latin admits
of a greater brevity of Expression than the
Engliſh; as does the French. — The Latin and
Greek allow of greater Inverſions than the
Engliſh, — and admit more freely of Ellipſis, 110.
Whether a Poem can be well tranſlated into
Third General Rule: A tranſlation ſhould have
all the eaſe of original compoſition. — Extreme
difficulty in the obſervance of this rule. — Contraſted
inſtances of ſucceſs and failure, 130
It is leſs difficult to attain the eaſe of original
compoſition in Poetical, than in Proſe Tranflation.
— Lyric Poetry admits of the greateſt liberty
of Tranſlation. — Examples diſtinguiſhing
Paraphraſe from Tranſlation, — from Dryden,
Lowth, Hughes, 146
Of the Tranſlation of idiomatic phraſes. — Examples
from Cotton, Eachard, Sterne. — Injudicious
uſe of idioms in the tranſlation, which
do not correſpond with the age or country of
the original. — Idiomatic phraſes ſometimes incapable
of tranſlation, 159
Difficulty of tranſlating Don Quixote, from its
idiomatic phraſeology. — Of the beſt tranſlations
of that novel. — Compariſon of the tranſlation
by Motteux with that by Smollet, 176.
The genius of the tranſlator ſhould be akin to
that of the original author. — The beſt tranſlators
have ſhone in original compoſition of the
ſame ſpecies with that which they have tranſlated.
— Of Voltaire's tranſlations from Shakeſpeare.
— Of the peculiar character of the wit
of Voltaire. — His tranſlation from Hudibras.
— Excellent anonymous French tranſlation of
Hudibras. — Tranſlation of Rabelais by Urquhart
and Motteux, 224
p. 101. l.9. drammatiſts read dramatifts
p. 122. l.4. ωκετο r. ωχετο
Ibid. 1.7. camp r. army
PRINCIPLES OF TRANSLATION.
THERE is perhaps no department of
literature which has been leſs the object
of cultivation than the Art of Tranſlating.
Even among the ancients, who
ſeem to have had a very juſt idea of its
importance, and who have accordingly
ranked it among the molt uſeful branches
of literary education, we meet with
no attempt to unfold the principles of
this art, or to reduce it to rules. In the
works of Quinctilian, of Cicero, and of
the Younger Pliny, we find many paſſages
which prove that there authors had
made tranſlation their peculiar ſtudy;
and, conſcious themſelves of its utility,
they have ſtrongly recommended the
practice of it, as eſſential towards the
formation both of a good writer and an
accompliſhed orator *. But it is much
* Vertere Græca in Latinum, veteres noſtri oratores
optimum judicabant. Id ſe Lucius Craſſus, in iidis Ciceronis
de oratore libris, dicit factitaſſe. Id Cicero ſuâ
ipſe perſonâ frequentiſſimè præcipit. Quin etiam libros
Platonis atque Xenophontis edidit, hoc genere
tranſlatos. Id Meſſalæ. placuit, multæque ſunt ab co
ſcriptæ ad hunc modum orationes. Quinctil. Inſt. Orat.
Utile imprimis, ut multi præcipiunt, vel ex Græco in
to be regretted, that they who were ſo
eminently well qualified to furniſh
ſtruction in the art itſelf, have contributed
little more to its advancement
than by ſome general recommendations
of its importance. If indeed time had
ſpared to us any complete or finiſhed
ſpecimens of tranſlation from the hand
of thoſe great maſters, it had been ſome
compenſation for the want of actual precepts,
to have been able to have deduced
them ourſelves from thoſe exquiſite
models. But of ancient tranſlations the
fragments that remain are ſo inconſiderable,
and ſo much mutilated, that we
Latinum, vel ex Latino vertere in Græcum: quo genere
exercitationis, proprietas ſplendorque verborum, copia
ſigurarum, vis explicandi, præterea imitatione optimorum,
ſimilia inveniendi facultas paratur: ſimul quæ legentem
fefelliſſent, transferentem fugere non poſſunt.
Plin. l. 7. Ep. 7.
can ſcarcely derive from them any advantage
To the moderns the art of tranſlation
is of greater importance than it was to
the ancients, in the ſame proportion that
the great maſs of ancient and of modern
literature, accumulated up to the preſent
times, bears to the general ſtock of
learning in the moſt enlightened periods
of antiquity. But it is a ſingular conſideration,
that under the daily experience
of the advantages of good tranſlations,
in opening to us all the ſtores of ancient
knowledge, and creating a free intercourſe
of ſcience and of literature between
all modern nations, there ſhould
* There remain of Cicero's tranſlations ſome fragments
of the OEconomics of Xenophon, the Timæus
of Plato, and part of a poetical verſion of the Phenomena
have been ſo little done towards the improvement
of the art itſelf, by inveſtigating
its laws, or unfolding its principles.
Unleſs a very ſhort eſſay, publiſhed
by M. D'Alembert, in his Mélanges
de Litterature, &c. as introductory
to his tranſlations of ſome pieces
of Tacitus, and a few reflections of
the Abbé Batteux, in his Principes de la
Litterature, I know of nothing that has
been written upon the ſubject. The obſervations
of M. D'Alembert, though extremely
judicious, are too general to be
conſidered as rules or even principles of
the art; and the precepts of the Abbé
Batteux are chiefly of a grammatical nature,
and ſeem to have for their ſole object
the aſcertainment of the analogy
that one language bears to another, or
the pointing out of thoſe circumſtances of
conſtruction and arrangement in which
languages either agree with, or differ
from each other. *
WHILE ſuch has been our ignorance
of the principles of this art, it is not at
all wonderful, that amidſt the number
* The rules laid down by Batteux are moreover
chiefly applicable to tranſlation from the Latin into
French, and are deduced from the comparative analogy
of theſe two languages alone. Founding upon this
principle, that the conſtruction of the Latin and French
is very nearly the ſame, and that the latter never deviates
from the former, but where either perſpicuity of
ſenſe or harmony requires, he proceeds to lay down
ſuch rules as the following: That the periods of the
tranſlation ſhould accord in all their parts with thoſe
of the original — that their order, and even their
length, ſhould be the ſame — that all conjunctions
ſhould be ſcrupulouſly preſerved, as being the joints or
articulations of the members — that all adverbs ſhould
be ranged next to the verb, &c. Obſervations of this
nature may inſtruct a Tiro in grammar; but it is evident
they will conduce nothing towards the improvement
of the art of tranſlation.
leſs tranſlations which every day appear,
both of the works of the ancients and
moderns, there ſhould be ſo few that
are poſſeſſed of real merit. The utility of
tranſlations is univerſally felt, and therefore
there is a continual demand for
them. But this very circumſtance has
thrown the practice of tranſlation into
mean and mercenary hands. It is a profeſſion.
which, it is generally believed,
may be exerciſed with a very ſmall portion
of genius or abilities. "It ſeems
"to me," ſays Dryden, "that the true
"reaſon why we have ſo few verſions
"that are tolerable, is, becauſe there
"are ſo few who have all the talents
"requiſite for tranſlation, and that there
"is ſo little praiſe and ſmall encourage"ment
for ſo conſiderable a part of learn"ing."
Pref. to Ovid's Epiſtles.
IT muſt be owned, at the ſame time,
that there have been, and that there are
men of genius among the moderns
who have vindicated the dignity of this
art ſo ill-appreciated, and who have furniſhed
us with excellent tranſlations,
both of the ancient claſſics, and of the
productions of foreign writers of our
own and of former ages. Theſe works
lay open a great field of uſeful criticiſm;
and from them it is certainly poſſible to
draw the principles of that art which
has never yet been methodized, and to
eſtabliſh its rules and precepts. Towards
this purpoſe, even the worſt tranſlations
would have their utility, as in
ſuch a critical exerciſe, it would be equally
neceſſary to illuſtrate defects as
to exemplify perfections.
AN attempt of this kind forms the
ſubject of the following Eſſay, in which
the author ſolicits indulgence, both for
the imperfections of his treatiſe, and
perhaps for ſome errors of opinion. His
apology for the firſt, is, that he does
not pretend to exhauſt the ſubject, or to
treat it in all its amplitude, but only to
point out the general principles of the
art; and for the Iaſt, that in matters
where the ultimate appeal is to Taſte, it
is almoſt impoſſible to be ſecure of the
ſolidity of our opinions, when the criterion
of their truth is ſo very uncertain.
Deſcription of a good Tranſlation. — General
Rules flowing from that Deſcription.
IF it were poſſible accurately to define,
or, perhaps more properly, to
deſcribe what is meant by a good Tranſlation,
it is evident that a conſiderable
progreſs would be made towards eſtabliſhing
the Rules of the Art; for theſe
Rules would flow naturally from that
definition or deſcription. But there is
no ſubject of criticiſm where there has
been ſo much difference of opinion. If
the genius and character of all languages
were the ſane, it would be an eaſy
taſk to tranſlate from one into another;
nor would any thing more be requiſite
on the part of the tranſlator, than fidelity
and attention. But as the genius
and character of languages is confeſſedly
very different, it has hence become a
common opinion, that it is the duty of
a tranſlator to attend only to the ſenſe
and ſpirit of his original, to make himſelf
perfectly maſter of his author's ideas,
and to communicate them in thoſe expreſſions
which he judges to be beſt
ſuited to convey them. It has, on the
other hand, been maintained, that, in
order to conſtitute a perfect tranſlation,
it is not only requiſite that the ideas and
ſentiments of the original author ſhould
be conveyed, but likewiſe his ſtyle and
manner of writing, which, it is ſuppoſed,
cannot be done, without a ſtrict attention
to the arrangement of his ſentences, and
even to their order and conſtruction*. According
to the former idea of tranſlation,
it is allowable to improve and to embelliſh;
according to the latter, it is neceſſary
to preſerve even blemiſhes and defects;
and to theſe muſt likewiſe be ſuperadded
the harſhneſs that muſt attend
every copy in which the artiſt ſcrupulouſly
ſtudies to imitate the minuteſt
lines or traces of his original.
As theſe two opinions form oppoſite
extremes, it is not improbable that the
* Batteux de la Conſtruction Orataire, Par. 2. ch. 4.
point of perfection ſhould be found between
the two. I would therefore 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 original
Now, ſuppoſing this deſcription to be
a juſt one, which I think it is, let us examine
what are the laws of tranſlation
which may be deduced from it.
IT will follow,
I. THAT the Tranſlation ſhould give
a complete tranſcript of the ideas of the
II. THAT the ſtyle and manner of
writing ſhould be of the ſame character
with that of the original.
III. THAT the Tranſlation ſhould have
all the eaſe of original compoſition.
UNDER each of theſe general laws of
tranſlation, are comprehended a variety
of ſubordinate precepts, which I ſhall notice
in their order, and which, as well as
the general laws, I ſhall endeavour to
prove, and to illuſtrate by examples.
Firſt general rule — A tranſlation ſhould
give a complete tranſcript of the ideas of
the original work. — Knowledge of the
language of the original, and acquaintance
with the ſubject. — Examples of imperfect
tranſlation of the ſenſe of the original
— What ought to be the conduct of a
Tranſlator where the ſenſe is ambiguous.
IN order that a tranflator may be enabled
to give a complete tranſcript of
the ideas of the original work, it is indiſpenſably
neceſſary, that he ſhould have
perfect knowledge of the language of
the original, and a competent acquaintance
with the ſubject of which it treats.
If he is deficient in either of theſe requiſites,
he can never be certain of thoroughly
comprehending the ſenſe of his author.
M. Folard is allowed to have been
a great maſter of the art of war. He
undertook to tranſlate Polybius, and to
give a commentary illuſtrating the ancient
Tactic, and the practice of the
Greeks and Romans, in the attack and
defence of fortified places. In this commentary,
he endeavours to ſhew, from the
words of his author, and of other ancient
writers, that the Greek and Roman engineers
knew and practiſed almoſt every operation
known to the moderns; and that in
particular, the mode of approach by parallels
and trenches, was perfectly familiar
to them, and in continual uſe. Unfortunately
M. Folard had but a very ſlender
knowledge of the Greek language,
and was obliged to ſtudy his author
through the medium of a Latin tranſlation,
executed by a Jeſuit who was entirely
ignorant of the art of war. M.
Guiſchardt, a great military genius, and
a thorough maſter of the Greek language,
has ſhewn, that the work of Folard contains
many capital miſrepreſentations of
the ſenſe of his author, in his account of
the moſt important battles and ſieges,
and has demonſtrated, that the complicated
ſyſtem formed by this writer of
the ancient art of war, has no ſupport
from any of the ancient authors fairly
* Memoires militaires de M. Guiſchardt.
BUT a tranſlator, thoroughly maſter
of the language, and competently acquainted
with the ſubject, may yet fail
to give a complete tranſcript of the ideas
of his original author.
M. D'Alembert has favoured the public
with ſome admirable tranſlations
from Tacitus; and it muſt be acknowledged,
that he poſſeſſed every qualification
requiſite for the taſk he undertook.
If, in the courſe of the following obſervations,
I may have occaſion to criticiſe
any part of his writings, or thoſe of other
authors of equal celebrity, I avail myſelf
of the juſt ſentiment of M. Duclos, "On
"peut toujours relever les défauts des
"grands hommes, et peut-être ſont ils
"les ſeuls qui en ſoient dignes, et dont
"la critique ſoit utile." (Duclos, Pref.
de l'Hiſt. de Louis XI.)
TACITUS, in deſcribing the conduct
of Piſo upon the death of Germanicus,
ſays: Piſonem interim apud Coum inſulam
nuncius adſequitur, exceſſiſſe Germanicum;
Tacit. An. lib. 2. c. 75. This paſſage is
thus tranſlated by M. D'Alembert, "Pi"ſon
apprend, dans l'Iſle de Cos, la mort
"de Germanicus." In tranſlating this
paſſage, it is evident that M. D'Alembert
has not given the complete ſenſe of the
original. The ſenſe of Tacitus is, that
Piſo was overtaken on his voyage homeward,
at the Iſle of Cos, by a meſſenger,
who informed him that Germanicus was
dead. According to the French tranſlator,
we underſtand ſimply, that when
Piſo arrived at the Ifle of Cos, he was informed
that Germanicus was dead. We
do not learn from this, that a meſſenger
had followed him on his voyage to bring
him this intelligence. The fact was,
that Piſo purpoſely lingered on his
voyage homeward, expecting this very
meſſenger who here overtook him. But,
by M. D'Alembert's verſion it might
be underſtood, that Germanicus had
died in the iſland of Cos, and that Piſo
was informed of his death by the iſlanders
immediately on his arrival.
AFTER Piſo had received intelligence
of the death of Germanicus, he deliberated
whether to proceed on his voyage
to Rome, or to return immediately to
Syria, and there put himſelf at the head
of the legions. His ſon adviſed the former
meaſure; but his friend Domitius
CeIer argued warmly tor his return to
the province, and urged, that all difficulties
would give way to him, if he
had once the command of the army,
and had increaſed his force by new levies.
At ſi teneat exercitum, augeat vires,
multa quæ provideri non poſſunt in melius
caſura, An. l. 2. c. 77. This M. D'Alembert:
has tranflated, "Mais que s'il fa"voit
ſe rendre redòutable à la tête des
"troupes, le hazard ameneroit des cir"conſtances
heureufes et imprévues."
In the original paſſage, Domitius adviſes
Piſo to adopt two diſtinct meaſures; the
firſt, to obtain the command of the army,
and the ſecond, to increaſe his force
by new levies. Theſe two diftinct meaſures
are confounded together by the
tranſlator, nor is the ſenſe of either of
them accurately given; for from the expreſſion,
"ſe rendre redoubtable à la
"tête des troupes," we may underſtand
that Piſo already had the command of
the troops, and that all that was requiſite,
was to render himſelf formidable in
that nation, which he might do in various
other ways than by increaſing the
TACITUS, ſpeaking of the means by
which Auguſtus obtained an abſolute aſcendency
over all ranks in the ſtate,
ſays, Cùm cæteri nobilium, quanto quis ſervitio
promptior, opibus et bonoribus extollerentur;
An. l. I. c. 2. This D'Alembert has
tranſlated, "Le reſte des nobles trouvoit
"dans les richeſſes et dans les honneurs
"la récompenſe de l'eſclavage." Here
the tranſlator has but half expreſſed the
meaning of his author, which is, that
"the reſt of the nobility were exalted to
"riches and honours, in proportion as
"Auguſtus found in them an aptitude
"and difpofition to fervitude."
CICERO, in a letter to the Proconſul
Philippus, ſays, Quod ſi Romæ te vidiſſem,
coramque gratias egiſſem, quod tibi L. Egnatius
familiariſſimus meus abſens, L. Oppius
præſens curæ fuiſſet. This paſſage is
thus tranſlated by Mr Melrnoth : "If I
"were in Rome, I ſhould have waited
"upon you for this purpoſe in perſon,
"and in order likewiſe to make my ac"knowledgements
to you for your fa"vours
to my friends Egnatius and Op"pius."
Here the ſenſe is not completely
rendered, as there is an omiſſion of
the meaning of the words abſens and præſens.
WHERE the ſenſe of an author is
doubtful, and where more than one
meaning can be given to the ſame paſſage
or expreſſion, (which, by the way,
is always a defect in compoſition), the
tranſlator is called upon to exerciſe his
judgement, and to ſelect that meaning
which is moſt conſonant to the train of
thought in the whole paſſage, or to the
author's uſual mode of thinking, and of
expreſſing himſelf. To imitate the obſcurity
or ambiguity of the original is a
fault; and it is ſtill a greater, to give
more than one meaning, as D'Alembert
has done in the beginning of the Preface
of Tacitus. The original runs thus:
Urbem Romam a principio Reges habuere.
Libertatem et conſulatum L. Brutus inſtituit.
Dictaturæ ad tempus ſumebantur: neque
Deceraviralis poteſtas ultra biennium, neque
Tribunorum militum conſulare jus diu valuit.
The ambiguous ſentence is, Dictaturæ ad
tempus ſumebantur; which may ſignify either
"Dictators were choſen for a limit"ed
time," or " Dictators were choſen
"on particular occaſions or emergen"cies."
D'Alembert ſaw this ambiguity;
but how did he remove the difficulty?
Not by exerciſing his judgement in
determining between the two different
meanings, but by giving them both in his
tranſlation. "On créoit au beſoin des dic"tateurs
paſſagers." Now, this double
ſenſe it was impoſſible that Tacitus ſhould
ever have intended to convey by the
words ad tempus: and between the two
meanings of which the words are ſuſceptible,
a very little critical judgement was
requiſite to decide. I know not that ad
tempus is ever uſed in the ſenſe of "for
"the occaſion, or emergency." If this had
been the author's meaning, he would
probably have uſed either the words ad
occaſionem, or pro re nata. But even allowing
the phraſe to be ſuſceptible of this
meaning *, it is not the meaning which
Tacitus choſe to give it in this paſſage.
That the author meant that the Dictator
was created for a limited time, is, I think,
evident from the ſentence immediately
following, which is connected by the copulative
neque with the preceding: Dictaturæ
ad tempus ſumebantur: neque Decemviralis
poteſtas ultra biennium valuit: "The
* Mr Gordon, who had great critical knowledge of
the Latin language, has tranſlated the words ad tempus
"in preſſing emergencies." This ſenſe is, therefore,
probably warranted by good authorities. But it is evidently
not the ſenſe of the author in this paſſage, as the
context indicates, to which Mr Gordon has not ſufficiently
"office of Dictator was inſtituted for a
"limited time: nor did the power of the
"Decemvirs ſubſiſt beyond two years."
M. D'Alembert's tranſlation of the
concluding ſentence of this chapter is
cenſurable on the ſame account. Tacitus
ſays, Sed veteris populi Romani proſpera
vel adverſa, claris ſcriptoribus memorata
ſunt; temporibuſque Auguſti dicendis non
defuere decora ingenia, donec gliſcente adulatione
deterrerentur. Tiberii, Caiique, et
Claudii, ac Neronis res, florentibus ipſis, ob
metum falſæ: poliquam occiderant, recentibus
odiis compoſitæ ſunt. Inde conſilium
mihi pauca de Auguſto, et extrema tradere:
mox Tiberii principatum, et cetera, ſine ira
et ſtudio, quorum cauſas procul habeo. Thus
tranſlated by D'Alembert: "Des auteurs
"illuſtres ont fait connoitre la gloire et
"les malheurs de l'ancienne republique
"l'hiſtoire même d'Auguſte a été écrite
"par de grands génies, juſqu'aux tems
"ou la neceſſité de flatter les condamna
"au ſilence. La crainte ménagea tant
" qu'ils vécurent, Tibere, Caius, Claude,
"et Néron; des qu'ils ne furent plus, la
"haine toute recente les déchira. J'é"crirai
donc en peu de mots la fin du
"regne d'Auguſte, puis celui de Tibere,
"et les ſuivans; ſans fiel et ſans baſſeſ"ſe:
mon caractere m'en éloigne, et les
"tems m'en diſpenſent." In the laſt
part of this paſſage, the tranſlator has
given two different meanings to the ſame
clauſe, ſine Ira et ſtudio, quorum cauſas procul
habeo, to which the author certainly
meant to annex only one meaning; and
that, as I think, a different one from either
of thoſe expreſſed by the tranſlator.
To be clearly underſtood, I muſt give
my own verſion of the whole paſſage
"The hiſtory of the ancient republic of
"Rome, both in its properous and in
"its adverſe days, has been recorded by
eminent authors: Even the reign of
"Auguſtus has been happily delineated,
"down to thoſe times, when the prevail"ing
ſpirit of adulation put to ſilence
"every ingenuous writer. The annals
"of Tiberius, of Caligula, of Claudius,
"and of Nero, written while they were
"alive, were falſified from terror; as
"were thoſe hiſtories compoſed after
"their death, from hatred to their re"cent
memories. For this reaſon, I
"have reſolved to attempt a ſhort deli"neation
of the latter part of the reign
"of Auguilus; and afterwards that of
"Tiberius, and of the ſucceeding prin"ces;
conſcious of perfect impartiality,
"as, from the remoteneſs of the events,
"I have no motive, either of odium or
"adulation." In the laſt clauſe of this
ſentence, I believe I have given the true
verſion of ſine ira et ſtudio, quorum cauſas
procul habeo: But if this be the true meaning
of the author, M. D'Alembert has given
two different meanings to the ſame ſentence,
and neither of them the true one:
"ſans fiel et ſans baſſeſſe: mon caractere
"m'en éloigne, et les tems m'en diſpen"ſent."
According to the French tranſlator,
the hiſtorian pays a compliment firſt
to his own character, and idly, to the
character of the times; both of which he
makes the pledges of his impartiality: but
it is perfectly clear that Tacitus neither
meant the one compliment nor the other;
but intended ſimply to ſay, that the remoteneſs
of the events which he propoſed
to record, precluded every motive either
of unfavourable prejudice or of adulation.
Whether it is allowable for a tranſlator to
add to or retrench the ideas of the original
— Examples of the uſe and abuſe of
IF it is neceſſary that a tranſlator ſhould
give a complete tranſcript of the ideas
of the original work, it becomes a queſtion,
whether it is allowable in any caſe
to add to the ideas of the original what
may appear to give greater force or illuſtration;
or to take from them what
may ſeem to weaken them from redundancy.
To give a general anſwer to this
queſtion, I would ſay, that this liberty
may be uſed, but with the greateſt caution.
It muſt be further obſerved, that
the ſuperadded idea ſhall have the moſt
neceſſary connection with the original
thought, and actually inereaſe its force.
And, on the other hand, that whenever
an idea is cut off by the tranſlator, it muſt
be only ſuch as is an neceſſary, and not
a principal in the clauſe or ſentence.
It muſt likewiſe be confeſſedly redundant,
ſo that its retrenchment ſhall not
impair or weaken the original thought.
Under theſe limitations, a tranſlator may
exerciſe his judgement, and aſſume to
himſelf, in ſo far, the character of an
IT will be allowed, that in the following
inſtance the tranſlator, the elegant
Vincent Bourne, has added a very beautiful
idea, which, while it has a moſt natural
connection with the original thought,
greatly heightens its energy and tenderneſs.
The two following ſtanzas are a
part of the fine ballad of Colin and Lucy,
To-morrow in the church to wed,
Impatient both prepare;
But know, fond maid, and know, falſe man,
That Lucy will be there.
There bear my corſe, ye comrades, bear,
The bridegroom blithe to meet,
He in his wedding-trim ſo gay,
I in my winding-ſheet.
Thus tranſlated by Bourne:
Jungere eras dextræ dextram properatis uterque,
Et tardè interea creditis ire diem.
Credula quin virgo, juvenis quin perfide, uterque
Scite, quod et pacti Lucia teſtis erit.
Exangue, oh! illuc, comites, deterte cadaver,
Qua ſemel, oh! iterum congrediamur, ait;
Veſtibus ornatus ſponſalibus ille, caputque
Ipſa ſepulchrali vincta, pedeſque ſtolâ.
IN this tranſlation, which is altogether
excellent, it is evident, that there is
one moſt beautiful idea ſuperadded by
Bourne, in the line Qua ſemel, oh! &c.;
which wonderfully improves upon the
original thought. In the original, the
ſpeaker, deeply impreſſed with the ſenſe
of her wrongs, has no other idea than
to overwhelm her perjured lover with remorſe
at the moment of his approaching
nuptials. In the tranſlation, amidſt this
prevalent idea, the ſpeaker all at once
gives way to an involuntary burſt of
tenderneſs and affection, "Oh, let us
"meet once more, and for the laſt time!"
Semel, oh! iterum congrediamur, ait. — It was
only a man of exquiſite feeling, who was
capable of thus improving on ſo fine an
CICERO writes thus to Trebatius, Ep.
ad fam. lib. 7. ep. 17. Tanquam enim
ſyngrapham ad Imperatorem, non epiſtolam
attuliſſes, ſic pecunia ablatâ domum redire
properabas: nec tibi in modem veniebat,
eos ipſos qui cum ſyngraphis veniſſent Alexandriam,
nullum adhuc nummum auferre
potuiſſe. The paſſage is thus translated
by Melmoth, b. 2. l. 12. "One would
"have imagined indeed, you had car"ried
a bill of exchange upon Cæſar,
"inſtead of a letter of recommendation:
"As you ſeemed to think you had no"thing
more to do, than to receive your
"money, and to haſten home again.
"But money, my friend, is not ſo ea"ſily
acquired; and I could name ſome
"of our acquaintance, who have been
"obliged to travel as far as Alexandria
"in purſuit of it, without having yet
"been able to obtain even their juſt de"mands."
The expreſſions "money,
"my friend, is not ſo eaſily acquired,"
and "I could name ſome of our ac"quaintance,"
are not to be found in
the original; but they have an obvious
connection with the ideas of the original:
they increaſe their force, while, at
the ſame time, they give eaſe and ſpirit
to the whole paſſage.
I queſtion much if a licence ſo unbounded
as the following is juſtifiable,
on the principle of giving either eaſe or
ſpirit to the original.
IN Lucian's Dialogue Timon, Gnathonides,
after being beaten by Timon,
ſays to him,
Αει φιλοσκώμμων ου γε΄ αλλα πα το συμποσιον ;
ως καινον τι σοι ατμα των νεδιδακτον διθυραμβων κ΅κω
"You were always fond of a joke -
"but where is the banquet? for I have
"brought you a new dithyrambic ſong,
"which I have lately learned."
IN Dryden's Lucian, "tranſlated by
"ſeveral eminent hands," this paſſage
is thus tranflated; "Ah! Lord Sir, I
"ſee you keep up your old merry hu"mour
ſtill; you love dearly to rally
"and break a jeſt. Well, but have you
"got a noble ſupper for us, and plenty
"of delicious inſpiring claret? Hark ye,
"Timon, I've got a virgin-ſong for ye,
"juſt new compoſed, and ſmells of the
"gamut: 'Twill make your heart dance
"within you, old boy. A very pretty
"ſhe-player, I vow to Gad, that I have
"an intereſt in, taught it me this morn"ing."
THERE is both eaſe and ſpirit in this
tranſlation; but the licence which the
tranſlator has aſſumed, of ſuperadding
to the ideas of the original, is beyond all
AN equal degree of judgement is requiſite
when the tranſlator aſſumes the
liberty of retrenching the ideas of the
AFTER the fatal horſe had been admitted
within the walls of Troy, Virgil
thus deſcribes the coming on of that
night which was to witneſs the deſtruction
of the city:
Vertitur interea cælum, et ruit oceano nox,
Involvens umbrâ magnâ terramque polumque,
THE principal effect attributed to the
night in this deſcription, and certainly
the moſt intereſting, is its concealment
of the treachery of the Greeks. Add to
this, the beauty which the picture acquires
from this aſſociation of natural
with moral effects. How inexcuſable
then muſt Mr Dryden appear, who, in
his tranſlation, has ſuppreſſed the Myrmidonumque
Mean time the rapid heav'ns roll'd down the light,
And on the ſhaded ocean ruſh'd the night:
Our men ſecure, &c.
OGILBY, with leſs of the ſpirit of poetry,
has done more juſtice to the original:
Meanwhile night roſe from ſea, whoſe ſpreading
Hides heav'n and earth, and plots the Grecians
MR Pope, in his tranſlation of the
Iliad, has, in the parting ſcene between
Hector an Andromache (vi. 466.) omitted
a particular reſpecting the dreſs of the
nurſe, which he thought an impropriety
in the picture. Homer ſays,
Αξ δό παϊς κολπον έϋζωνοιο τιθηνης
"The boy crying, threw himſelf back
"into the arms of his nurſe, whoſe waiſt
"was elegantly girt." Mr Pope, who
has ſuppreſſed the epithet deſcriptive of
the waſft, has incurred on that account
the cenſure of Mr Melmoth, who ſays,
"he has not touched the picture with
"that delicacy of pencil which graces
"the original, as he has entirely loſt the
"beauty of one of the figures. — Though
"the hero and his fon were deſigned to
"draw our principal attention, Homer
"intended likewiſe that we should caſt
"a glance towards the nurſe." Fitzoſborne's
Letters, l. 43. If this was Homer's
intention, he has, in my opinion,
ſhewn leſs good taſte in this inſtance,
than his tranſlator, who has, I
think, with much propriety, left out the
compliment to the nurſe's waiſt altogether.
And this liberty of the tranſlator
was perfectly allowable; for Homer's epithets
are often nothing more than mere
expletives, or additional deſignations of
his perſons. They are always, it is true,
ſignificant of ſome principal attribute of
the perſon; but they are often applied
by the poet in circumſtances where the
mention of that attribute is quite prepoſterous.
It would ſhew very little judgement
in a tranſlator, who ſhould honour
Patroclus with the epithet of godlike,
while he is blowing the fire to roaſt an
ox; or beſtow on Agamemnon the deſignation
of King of many nations, while
he is helping Ajax to a large piece of the
IT were to be wiſhed that Mr Melmoth,
who is certainly one of the bell of
the English tranflators, had always been
equally fcrupulous in retrenching the ideas
of his author. Cicero thus ſuperſcribes
one of his letters: M.T.C. Terentiæ,
et Pater ſuaviſſimæ filiæ Tulliolæ,
Cicero matri et ſorori S.D. (Ep. Fam.
l. 14. ep. 18.) And another in this manner:
Tullius Terentiæ, et Pater Tulliolæ, duabus
animis ſuis, et Cicero Matri optimæ, ſuaviſſimæ
ſorori. (Lib. 14. ep. 14.) Why are
theſe addreſſes entirely ſunk in the tranſlation,
and a naked title poorly ſubſtituted
for them, "To Terentia and Tullia,"
and "To the ſame?" The addreſſes to
theſe letters give them their higheſt value,
as they mark the warmth of the author's
heart, and the ſtrength of his conjugal
and paternal affections.
IN one of Pliny's Epiſtles, ſpeaking of
Regulus, he ſays, Ut ipſe mihi dixerit quum
conſuleret, quam citò ſeſtertium ſexcenties impleturus
eſſet, inveniſſe ſe exta duplicata, quibus
portendi millies et ducenties habiturum,
(Plin. Ep. l. 2. ep. 20.) Thus tranſlated
by Melmoth, "That he once told me,
"upon conſulting the omens, to know
"how ſoon he ſhould be worth ſixty mil"lions
of ſeſterces, he found them ſo
"favourable to him as to portend that
"he ſhould poſſeſs double that ſum."
Here a material part of the original idea
is omitted; no leſs than that very circumſtance
upon which the omen turned,
viz. that the entrails of the victim were
ANALOGOUS to this liberty of adding
to or retrenching from the ideas of the
original, is the liberty which a tranſlator
may take of correcting what appears to
him a careleſs or inaccurate expreſſion
of the original, where that inaccuracy
ſeems materially to affect the ſenſe. Tacitus
ſays, when Tiberius was entreated
to take upon him the government of the
empire, Ille variè diſſerebat, de magnitudine
imperii, ſuâ modeſtiâ. An. I. 1. Here
the word modeſtia is improperly applied.
The author could not mean to ſay, that
Tiberius diſcourſed to the people about
his own modeſty. He wiſhed that his
diſcourſe ſhould ſeem to proceed from
modeſty; but he did not talk to them
about his modeſty. D'Alembert ſaw this
impropriety, and he has therefore well
tranſlated the paſſage "Il répondit par
"des diſcours généraux ſur ſon peu de
"talent, et ſur la grandeur de l'empire."
Of the freedom allowed in Poetical Trunſlation.
— Progreſs of Poetical tranſIation in
England. — B. Jonſon, Sandys,
Fanſhaw, Dryden. — Roſcommon's Eſſay
on Tranſlated Verſe. — Pope's Homer.
THE liberty of adding or retrenching
is more peculiarly allowable in
poetical than in proſe tranſlations, "I
"conceive it," ſays Sir John Denham, "a
"vulgar error in tranſlating Poets, to af"fect
being fidus interpres. Let that care
"be with them who deal in matters of
"fact or matters of faith; but whoſoe"ver
aims at it in poetry, as he attempts
"what is not required, ſo ſhall he ne"ver
perform what he attempts; for
"it is not his buſineſs alone to tranſlate
"language into language, but poetic into
"poeſie; and poeſie is of ſo ſubtle a ſpi"rit,
that in pouring out of one lan"guage
into another, it will all evapo"rate;
and if a new ſpirit is not added.
"in the transfuſion, there will remain
"nothing but a caput mortuum." Denham's
Preface to the 2d book of Virgil's
In poetical tranſlation, the Engliſh Writers
of the 16th, and the greateſt part of
the 17th century, ſeem to to have had no
other care than (in Denham's phraſe) to
tranſlate language into language, and to
have placed their whole merit in preſenting
a literal and ſervile tranſcript of their
BEN JONSON, in his tranſlation of Horace's
Art of Poetry, has paid no attention
to the judicious precept of the very
poem he was tranſlating.
Nec verbum verbo curabis reddere, fidus
Witneſs the following ſpecimens, which
will ſtrongly illuſtrate Denham's judicious
- Mortalia facta peribunt,
Nedum ſermonum ſtet honos et gratia vivax.
Multa renaſcentur quæ jam cecidere, cadentque
Quæ nunc ſunt in honore vocabula, ſi voter uſus,
Quem penes arbitrium eſt et vis et norma loquendi.
- All mortal deeds
Shall periſh; fo far off it is the ſtate
Or grace of ſpeech ſhould hope a laſting date.
Much phraſe that now is dead ſhall be reviv'd,
And much ſhall die that now is nobly liv'd,
If cuſtom pleaſe, at whoſe dſfpoſng will
The power and rule of ſpeaking reſteth ſtill.
Interdum tamen et vocem Comœdia tollit,
Iratuſque Chremes tumido delitigat ore,
Et Tragicus plerumque dolet ſermone pedeſtri.
Telephus et Peleus, cùm pauper et exul uterque,
Projicit ampullas et ſeſquipedalia verba,
Si curat cor ſpectantis tetigiſſe querela.
Yet ſometime doth the Comedy excite,
Her voice, and angry Chremes chafes outright,
With ſwelling throat, and oft the tragic wight
Complains in humble phraſe. Both Telephus
And Peleus if they ſeek to heart-ſtrike us
That are ſpectators, with their miſery,
When they are poor and baniſh'd, muſt throw by
Their bombard-phraſe, and foot-and-half-foot
words. B. JONSON.
OF the ſame character for rigid fidelity,
is the tranſlation of Juvenal by Holiday,
a writer of great learning, and
even of critical acuteneſs, as the excellent
commentary on his author fully ſhews.
Omnibus in terris quæ ſunt a Gadibus uſque
Auroram et Gangem, pauci dignoſcere poſſunt
Vera bona, atque illis multum diverſa, remotâ
Erroris nebulâ. Quid enim ratione timemus,
Aut cupimus? quid tam dextro pede concipis, ut te
Conatûs non pœniteat, votique peracti.
Evertêre domos totas optantibus ipſis
JUV. SAT. 10.
In all the world which between Cadiz lies
And eaſtern Ganges, few there are ſo wiſe
To know true good from feign'd, without all miſt
Of Error. For by Reaſon's rule what is't
We fear or wiſh? What is't we e'er begun
With foot ſo right, but we diſlik'd it done?
Whole houſes th' eaſie gods have overthrown
At their fond prayers that did the houſes own.
THERE were, however, even in that
age, ſome writers who manifeſted a better
taſte in poetical tranſlation. May, in his
tranſlation of Lucan, and Sandys, in his
Metamorphoſes of Ovid, while they ſtrictly
adhered to the ſenſe of their authors,
and generally rendered line for line, have
given to their verſions both an eaſe of
expreſſion and a harmony of numbers,
which approach them very near to original
compoſition. The reaſon is, they
have diſdained to confine themſelves to a
literal interpretation; but have every
where adapted their expreſſion to the
idiom of the language in which they
There's no Alcyone! none, none! ſhe died
Together with her Ceÿx. Silent be
All ſounds of comfort. Theſe, theſe eyes did ſee
My ſhipwrack't Lord. I knew him; and my hands
Thruſt forth t' have held him: but no mortal bands
Could force his ſtay. A ghoſt! yet manifeſt,
My huſband's ghoſt: which, Oh, but ill expreſs'd
His forme and beautie, late divinely rare!
Now pale and naked, with yet dropping haire:
Here ſtood the miſerable! in this place:
Here, here! (and ſought his aerie ſteps to trace).
SANDY'S OVID, b. II.
Nulla Alcyone, nulla eſt, ait: occidit una
Cum Ceyce ſuo; ſolantia tollite verba:
Naufragus interiit vidi agnovique, manuſque
Ad diſcedentem, cupiens retinere, tetendi.
Umbra fult: ſed et umbra tamen manifeſta virique
Vera mei: non ille quidem, ſi quæris, habebat
Aſſuetos vultus, nec quo prius ore nitebat.
Pallentem, nudumque, et adhuc humente capillo,
Infelix vidi: ſtetit hoc miſerabilis ipſo,
Ecce loco: (et quærit veſtigia ſiqua ſuperſint).
METAM. l. II.
IN the above example, the ſolantia tollite
verba is tranſlated with peculiar felicity,
"Silent be all ſounds of comfort;"
as are theſe words, Nec quo prius ore nitebat,
"Which, oh! but ill expreſs'd his
"forme and beautie." "No mortal
"bands could force his ſtay," has no
strictly correſponding ſentiment in the
original. It is a happy amplification;
which ſhews that Sandys knew what
freedom was allowed to a poetical tranſlator,
and could avail himſelf of it.
FROM the time of Sandys, who publiſhed
his tranſlation of the Metamorphoſes
of Ovid in 1626, there does not
appear to have been much improvement
in the art of tranſlating poetry till the
age of Dryden: for though Sir John
Denham has thought proper to pay a,
high compliment to Fanſhaw on his tranſlation
of the Paſtor Fido, terming him
the inventor of "a new and nobler way"
of tranſlation, we find nothing in that
performance which ſhould intitle it to
more praiſe than the Metamorphoſes by
Sandys and the Pharſalia by May *.
* One of the beſt paſſages of Fanſhaw's tranſlation of
the Paſtor Fido, is the celebrated apoſtrophe to the
Spring, the year's youth, fair mother of new flowers,
New leaves, new loves, drawn by the winged hours,
Thou art return'd; but the felicity
Thou brough'ſt me laſt is not return'd with thee.
Thou art return'd; but nought returns with thee,
Save my loſt joy's regretful memory.
Thou art the ſelf-ſame thing thou wert before,
As fair and jocund: but I am no more
The thing I was, ſo gracious in her ſight,
Who is heaven's maſterpiece and earth's delight.
O bitter ſweets of love! far worſe it is
To loſe than never to have taſted bliſs.
O Primavera gioventu del anno,
Bella madre di fiori,
D'herbe novelle, e di novelli amori:
Tu torni ben, ma teco,
BUT it was to Dryden that poetical
tranſlation owed a complete emancipation
from her fetters; and exulting in her
new liberty, the danger now was, that
ſhe ſhould run into the extreme of licentiouſneſs.
The followers of Dryden ſaw
Non tornano i ſereni
E fortunati dì de le mie gioie!
Tu torni ben, tu torni,
Ma teco altro non Lorna
Che del perduto mio caro teſoro
La rimembranza miſera e dolente.
Tu quella ſe' to quella,
Ch'eri pur dianzi ſi vezzoſa e bella.
Ma non ſon io già quel ch'un tempo fui,
Sì caro a gli occhi altrui.
O dolcezze amariſſime d'amore!
Quanto è più duro perdervi, che mai
Non v'haver ò provate, ò poſſedute!
Paſtor Fido, act 3. ſc. I.
In thoſe parts of the Engliſh verſion which are marked
in Italics, there is ſome attempt towards a freedom
of tranſlation; but it is a freedom of which Sandys had
long before given many happier ſpecimens.
nothing ſo much to be emulated in his
tranſlations as the eaſe of his poetry: Fidelity
was but a ſecondary object, and
tranſlation for a while was conſidered as
ſynonymous with paraphraſe. A judicious
ſpirit of criticiſm was now wanting,
to preſcribe bounds to this increaſing
licence, and to determine to what preciſe
degree a poetical tranſlator might aſſume
to himſelf the character of an original
writer. In that deſign, Roſcommon wrote
his Eſſay on Tranſlated Verſe; in which,
in general, he has ſhewn great critical
judgement; but proceeding, as all reformers,
with rigour, he has, amidſt many
excellent precepts on the ſubject, laid
down one rule, which every true poet
(and ſuch only ſhould attempt to, tranſlate
a poet) muſt conſider as a very prejudicial
reſtraint. After judiciouſly recommending
to the tranſlator, firſt to
poſſeſs himſelf of the ſenſe and meaning
of his author, and then to imitate his
manner and ſtyle, he thus preſcribes
Your author always will the beſt adviſe;
Fall when he falls, and when he riſes, riſe.
FAR from adopting the former part
of this maxim, I conceive it to be the
duty of a poetical tranſlator, never to
ſuffer his original to fall. He muſt
maintain with him a perpetual conteſt
of genius; he muſt attend him in his
higheſt flights, and ſoar, if he can, beyond
him: and when he perceives, at
any time, a diminution of his powers,
when he ſees a drooping wing, he muſt
raiſe him on his own pinions. Homer
has been judged by the beſt critics to
fall at times beneath himſelf, and to offend,
by introducing low images and
puerile alluſions. Yet how admirably is
this defect veiled over, or altogether removed,
by his tranſlator Pope. In the
beginning of the 8th book of the Iliad,
Jupiter is introduced in great majeſty,
calling a council of the gods, and giving
them a ſolemn charge to obſerve a ſtrict
neutrality between the Greeks and Trojans:
΄Ηως μεν κροκόπεπλος έκιδνατο πασαν έπ΄ αίαν·
Ζευς δε θεων αγορην ποιησατο τερπικέραυνος,
'Ακροτάτη κορυφη πολυδειραδος Ούλυμποιο·
Αύτος δέ σφ΄ άγόρευε, δεοί δ΄ αμα παντες ακκον·
"AURORA with her ſaffron robe
"had ſpread returning light upon the
"world, when Jove delighting-in-thun"der
ſummoned a council of the gods
"upon the top of the aſpiring Olym"pus;
and while he thus harangued,
"all the immortals liſtened with deep
"attention." This is a very ſolemn
opening; but the expectation of the
reader is miſerably diſappointed by the
harangue itſelf, of which I ſhall give a
Κέκλυτέ μευ, ωάντες τε δεοί, ωασαί τε δέαιναι,
΅Οφρ΄ ειπω, τά με δυμος ένι ςήδεσσι κελεύει·
Μήτε τις αν δήλεια δεος τόγε, μήτε τις αρσην
Πειράτω διακέρσαι έμος· άλλ΄ αμα παντες
Αινειτ΄, οφρα τάχιςα τελευτήσω τάδε εργα.
΅Ον δ΄ αν έγών άπάνευδε δεων εδέλοντα νοήσω
΄Ελδόντ΄, ή Τρώεσσιν άρηγέμεν, ή Δαναοισι,
Πληγείς ά κατα κόαυον έλευσεται Οϋλυμπόνδε·
Η μιν έλων ρίψω ες Τάρταρον κερόεντα,
Τκλε μάλ΄, ηχι βάδιςον υπο χθονός έςι βέρεθρον,
΅Ενδα σιδήρειαί τε ωύλαι καί χάλκεος αδος,
Τότσον ενερθ άιδεω, οδον αρανός ές΄ απο γαίης
Γνώσετ΄ επειθ΄, οσον είμι δεων κάρτιςος άπάντεον.
Ειδ αγε, ωειρήσασθε δεοί, ινα ειδετε ωάντες,
Σειρκν χρυσείην έξ άρανόθεν κρεμάσαντες·
Πάντες δ΄ έξάπτεσθε δεοί, πασαί τε δέαιναι·
΄Αλλ΄ άκ αν έρύσαιτ΄ έξ άρανόδεν ωεδίονδε
Ζην΄ ϋπατον μήςωρ, άδ΄ εί μάλα ωολλά κάμοιτε.
΄Αλλα οτε δκ καί έγω ωρόφρων έδέλοιμι έρύσσαι,
Αύτή κεν γάιη έπύσαιμ΄, αύτη τε δαλάσοκ·
Σειρην μέν επειτα ωερί ρ΄ίον Ουλύμποιο
Δκσαίμην· τά δέ κ΄ αυτε μετήορα ωάντα γένοιτο.
Τόσσον έγώ ωερί τ΄ είμι δεωρ, ωερί τ΄ ειμ΄ άνθρώπων.
"Hear me, all ye gods and goddeſſ"es,
whilſt I declare to you the dictates
"of my inmoſt heart. Let neither male
"nor female of the gods attempt to con"trovert
what I ſhall ſay; but let all
"ſubmiſſively aſſent, that I may ſpeedily
"accompliſh my undertakings: for who"ever
of you ſhall be found deſcending
"to give aid either to the Trojans or
"Greeks, ſhall return to Olympus ſore"ly
maimed, and in a diſgraceful plight:
"or elſe I will ſeize him, and hurl him
"down to gloomy Tartarus, where there
"is a deep dungeon under the earth,
"with gates of iron, and a pavement of
"braſs, as far below hell, as the earth
"is below the heavens. Then he will
"know how much ſtronger I am than
"all the other gods. But come now,
"and make trial, that ye may all he con"vinced.
Suſpend a golden chain from
"heaven, and hang all by one end of it,
"with your whole weight, gods and
"goddeſſes together: you will never
"pull down from the heaven to the
"earth, Jupiter, the ſupreme counſellor,
"though you ſhould ſtrain with your
"utmoſt force. But when I chuſe to
"pull, I will raiſe you all, with the earth
"and ſea together, and faſtening the
"chain to the top of Olympus, will keep
"you all ſuſpended at it. So much am
"I ſuperior both to gods and men."
IT muſt be owned, that this ſpeech is
far beneath the dignity of the thunderer;
that the braggart vaunting in the beginning
of it is nauſeous; and that a
mean and ludicrous picture is preſented,
by the whole groupe of gods and goddeſſes
pulling at one end of a chain, and
Jupiter at the other. To veil theſe defects
in a tranſlation was difficult; but
to give any degree of dignity to this
ſpeech required certainly moſt uncommon
powers. Yet I am much miſtaken,
if Mr Pope has not done ſo. I shall take
the paſſage from the beginning:
"Aurora now, fair daughter of the dawn,
"Sprinkled with roſy light the dewy lawn,
"When Jove conven'd the ſenate of the ſkies,
"Where high Olympus' cloudy tops ariſe.
"The fire of Gods his awful ſilence broke,
"The heavens attentive, trembled as he ſpoke.
"Celeſtial ſtates, immortal gods! give ear;
"Hear our decree, and reverence what ye hear;
"The fix'd decree, which not all heaven can move;
"Thou, fate! fulfil it; and, ye powers! approve!
"What God but enters yon forbidden field,
"Who yields aſſiſtance, or but wills to yield,
"Back to the ſkies with ſhame he ſhall be driven,
"Gaſh'd with diſhoneſt wounds, the ſcorn of
"Or far, oh far, from ſteep Olympus thrown,
"Low in the dark Tartarean gulph ſhall groan;
"With burning chains fix'd to the brazen floors,
"And lock'd by hell's inexorable doors;
"As deep beneath th' infernal centre hurl'd,
"As from that centre to th' ethereal world.
"Let him who tempts me dread thoſe dire abodes;
"And know th' Almighty is the God of Gods.
"League all your forces then, ye pow'rs above,
"Join all, and try th' omnipotence of Jove:
"Let down our golden everlaſting chain,
"Whoſe ſtrong embrace holds Heav'n, and Earth,
"Strive all, of mortal and immortal birth,
"To drag, by this, the Thunderer down to earth:
"Ye ſtrive in vain I If I but ſtretch this hand,
"I heave the gods, the ocean, and the land;
"I fix the chain to great Olympus' height,
"And the vaſt world hangs trembling in my fight
"For ſuch I reign, unbounded and above;
"And ſuch are men and Gods, compar'd to Jove!"
IT would be endleſs to point out all
the inſtances in which Mr Pope has improved
both upon the thought and expreſſion
of his original. We find frequently
in Homer, amidſt the moſt ſtriking beauties,
ſome circumſtances introduced which
diminifh 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.
Ευτ΄ ορεος κορυφησι Νοτος κατεχευεν όμιχλην,
Ποιμεσιν ατι φιλεν, καεπτη δε τε νυκτος αμεινω.
Τόσσον τις τ΄ επιλευσσει, οσον τ΄ επι λααν ιησιν·
Ως αρα των υπο ποσσι κονισσαλος ωρνυτ΄ αελλης
Ερχομενων· μαλα δ΄ώκα διεπρησσον πεδίοιο.
"As when the ſouth wind pours a
"thick cloud upon the tops of the
"mountains, whoſe ſhade is unpleaſant
"to the ſhepherds, but more commodi"ous
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 march"ing
filently 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; τοσσον τις επιλενσσει, &c. which is a
mean idea, compared with that which
Mr Pope has ſubſtituted in its ſtead:
"Thus from his ſhaggy wings when Eurus ſheds
"A night of vapours round the mountain-heads,
"Swift-gliding miſts the duſky fields invade,
"To thieves more grateful than the midnight ſhade;
"While ſcarce the ſwains their feeding flocks ſurvey,
"Loſt and confus'd amidſt the thicken'd day:
"So wraps in gath'ring duſt the Grecian train,
"A moving cloud, ſwept on and hid the plain *."
BUT even the higheſt beauties of the
* A ſimilar inſtance of good taſte occurs in the following
tranſlation of an epigram of Martial, where the
original receive additional luſtre from
this admirable tranſlator.
indelicacy of the original is admirably corrected, and the
ſenſe at the ſame time is perfectly preſerved:
Vis fieri liber? mentiris, Maxime, non viis:
Sed fierifi ſi vis, hac ratione potes.
Liber eris, cænare foris ſi, Maxime, nolis:
Veientana tuam ſi domat uva ſitim:
Si ridere potes miſeri Chryſendeta Cinnæ:
Contentus noſtrâ ſi potes eſſe togâ.
Si plebeia Venus gemino tibi vincitur aſſe:
Si tua non rectus tecta ſuhire potes:
Hæc tibi ſi vis eſt, ſi mentis tanta poteſtas,
Liberior Partho vivere rege potes. Mart. lib. 2. ep. 53.
Non, d'etre libre, cher Paulin,
Vous n'avez jamais eu l'envie;
Entre nous, votre train de vie
N'en eſt point du tout Ie chemin.
Il vous faut grand'chere, bon vin,
Grand jeu, nombrcuſe compagnie,
Maitreſſe fringante et jolie,
Et robe du drap Ie plus ſin.
Il faudroit aimer, au contraire,
Vin commun, petit ordinaire,
Habit ſimple, un ou deux amis;
Jamais de jeu, point d'Amarante:
Voyez ſi le parti vous tente,
La liberté n'eſt qu' à ce prix.
A ſtriking example of this kind has
been remarked by Mr Melmoth*. It is
the tranſlation of that picture in the end
of the 8th book of the Iliad, which Euſtathius
eſteemed the fineſt night-piece
that could be found in poetry:
΄Ως δ΄ ότ εν αρανω αστρα φαεινην αμφι σεληνην,
Φαίνετ΄ άριπρεπέα, οτε τ΄ επλετο νήνεμος αιδήρ,,
΄Εκ τ΄ εφανον ωασαι σκοπιαί, και ωρώονες ακροι,
Και νάπαι· άρανοθεν δ΄ αρ ύωερράγη ασωετος αιδήρ,
Πάντα δέ τ΄ ειδεται αςρα· γέγηδε δε τε φρένα ποιμην·
"As when the moon appears in the
"ſerene canopy of the heavens, ſur"rounded
with ſtars, when every breath
"of air is huſh'd, when every hill, eve"ry
valley, and every foreſt, is diſtinct"ly
ſeen; when the ſky appears to open
"to the ſight in all its boundleſs extent;
* Fitzoſborne's Letters, l. 19.
"and when the ſhepherd's heart is de"lighted
within him." How nobly is
this picture raiſed and improved by
"As when the moon, refulgent lamp of night,
"O'er heav'n's clear azure ſpreads her ſacred light:
"When not a breath diſturbs the deep ſerene,
"And not a cloud o'ercaſts the ſolemn ſcene
"Around her throne the vivid planets roll,
"And oar's unnumber'd gild the glowing pole:
"O'er the dark trees a yellower verdure ſhed,
"And tip with ſilver every mountain's head:
"Then ſhine the vales, the rocks in proſpect riſe,
"A flood of glory burſts from all the ſkies:
"The conſcious ſwains rejoicing in the ſight,
"Eye the blue vault, and bleſs the uſeful light."
THESE paſſages from Pope's Homer
afford examples of a tranſlator's improvement
of his original, by a happy amplification
and embelliſhment of his imagery,
or by the judicious correction of defects;
but to fix the preciſe degree to
which this amplification, this embelliſhment,
and this liberty of correction may
extend, requires a great exertion of judgement.
It may be uſeful to remark ſome
inſtances of the want of this judgement.
IT is always a fault when the tranſlator
adds to the ſentiment of the original
author, what does not ſtrictly accord
with his characteriſtic mode of thinking,
or expreſſing himſelf.
Pone ſub curru nimium propinqui
Solis, in terrâ domibus negatâ;
Dulce ridentem Lalagen amabo,
HOR. OD. 22. l. 1.
THUS tranſlated by Roſcommon:
The burning zone, the frozen iſles,
Shall hear me sing of Celia's ſmiles,
All cold, but in her breaſt, I will deſpiſe,
And dare all heat, but that in Celia's eyes.
THE witty ideas in the two laſt lines
are foreign to the original; and the addition
of theſe is quite unjuſtifiable, as they
belong to a quaint ſpecies of wit, of
which the writings of Horace afford no
Obſidere alii telis anguſta viarum
Oppoſiti: ſtat ferri acies mucrone coruſco
Stricta parata neci.
ÆNEIS ii. 322.
THUS tranſlated by Dryden:
To ſeveral polls their parties they divide,
Some block the narrow ſtreets, ſome ſcour the wide:
The bold they kill, th' unwary they ſurpriſe;
Who fights finds death, and death finds him who
OF theſe four lines, there are ſcarcely
more than four words which are warranted
by the original. "Some block
"the narrow ſtreets." Even this is a
faulty tranſlation of obſidere alii telis anguſta
viarum; but it fails on the ſcore of
mutilation, not redundancy. The reſt
of the ideas which compoſe theſe four
lines, are the original property of the
tranſlator; and the antithetical witticiſm
in the concluding line, is far beneath
the chaſte ſimplicity of Virgil.
MR Pope's tranſlation of the following
paſſage of the Iliad, is cenſurable on
the ſame account:
Λαοί μεν φθινυθασι περι πτολιν, αιπυ τε τειχος,
Μαρναμενοι, Iliad, 6. 327.
For thee great Ilion's guardian heroes fall,
Till heaps of dead alone defend the wall.
OF this conceit, of dead men defending
the walls of Troy, Mr Pope has the
Pole merit. The original, with grave
ſimplicity, declares, that the people fell,
fighting before the town, and around
the walls *.
THESE laſt obſervations, though they
principally regard the firſt general rule
of tranſlation, viz. that which enjoins
a complete transfuſion of the ideas and
ſentiments of the original work, have
likewiſe a near connection with the ſecond
general rule, which I ſhall now
proceed to conſider.
* Fitzoſborne's Letters, 43.
Second General Rule: The Style and Manner
of writing in a Tranſlation ſhould
be of the ſame Character with that of the
Original. - A juſt Taſte requiſite for
the diſcernment of the Characters of Style
and Manner. - Examples of failure in
this particular; — The grave exchanged
for the formal; — The elevated for the
bombaſt; — The lively for the petulant; —
The ſimple for the childiſh. — Hobbes,
L'Eſtrange, Echard, &c,
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. A
tranſlator, therefore, muſt apply his attention
to diſcover 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
muſt be equally conſpicuous in the
tranſlation as in the original. If a tranſlator
wants this diſcernment, let him be
ever ſo thoroughly matter of the ſenſe
of his author, he will preſent him
through a diſtorting medium, or exhibit
him often in a garb that is unſuitable to
VIRGIL, in deſcribing the ſhipwreck
of the Trojans, ſays,
Apparent rari nantes in gurgite vaſto.
Which the Abbé des Fontaines thus tranſlates:
"A peine un petit nombre de ceux
"qui montoient le vaiſſeau purent ſe
"ſauver à la nage." Or this tranſlation
Voltaire juſtly remarks, "C'eſt traduire
"Virgile en ſtyle de gazette. Où eſt ce
"vaſte gouffre que peint le poête, gur"gite
vaſto? Où eſt I' apparent rari nan"tes?
Ce n'eſt pas ainſi qu'on doit tra"duire
l'Eneide." Voltaire, Queſt. ſur
l'Encyclop. mot Amplification.
IF we are thus juſtly offended to hear
Virgil ſpeak in the ſtyle of the Evening
Poſt or the Daily Advertiſer, what muſt
we think of the tranſlator, who makes
the ſolemn and ſententious Tacitus expreſs
himſelf in the low cant of the ſreets,
or in the dialect of the waiters of a tavern?
Facile Aſinum et Meſſalam inter Antonium
et Auguſtum bellorumn præmiis refertos:
Thus tranſlated in a verſion of Tacitus by
Mr Dryden ſeveral eminent hands:
"Aſinus and Meſſala, who feather"ed
their neſts well in the civil wars
"'twixt Antony and Auguſtus." Vinolentiam
et libidines uſurpans: "Playing the
"good-fellow." Fruſtra Arminium præſcribi:
"'Trumping up Arminius's title."
Sed Agrippina libertam, nurum anciliam,
alaque eundem in modum muliebriter
fremere: "But Agrippina could not bear
"that a freedwoman ſhould noſe her."
And anotlicr tranſlator ſays, "But Agrip"pina
could not bear that a freedwoman
"ſhould beard her." Of a ſimilar character
with this tranſlation of Tacitus is
a tranſlation of Suctonius by ſeveral gentlemen
of Oxforf *, which abounds with
ſuch elegancies as the following: Seſtio
Gallo, libidinoſo et prodigo ſeni: "Seſtius
"Gallus, a moſt notorious old Sir Jolly."
Jucundiſſimus et omnium borarum amicos:
"His boon companions and ſure cards."
Nullam unquam occaſionem dedit: "'They
"never could pick the leaſt hole in his
THE deſcription of the majeſty of Jupiter,
contained in the following paſſage
of the firſt book of the Iliad, is allowed
to be a true ſpecimen of the ſublime. It
is the archetype from which Phidia ac*
knowledged he had framed his divine
ſculpture of the Olympian Jupiter.
Η, και κυανειησιν εις΄ οφρυαι νευοε Κρονικιν·
Λμταροσιας δ΄ υρα χαιτα επερρωσωντο ανακτος
Κρατος απ΄ αθανατοιο, μεγαν δ΄ ελελδιεν Ολυμπον.
He ſpoke, and awful bends his ſable brows,
:111'11,410o cut hi, told gIvr4 'ha nod,
Shakes his ambroſial curls, and gives the nod,
The ſtamp of fate, and ſanction of the God:
High heaven, with trembling, the dread ſignal took,
And all Olympus to its centre ſhook. Pope.
CERTAINLY Mr Hobbes of Malmſhury
perceived no portion of that sublime
which was felt by Phidias and by Mr.
Pope, when he could thus tranſlate this
Thisſaid, with his black brows he to her nodded,
Wherwith diſplayed were his locks divine;
Olympus ſhook at ſtirring of his godhead,
And Thetis from it jump'd into the brine.
BUT a tranſlator may diſcern the general
character of his author's ſtyle, and
yet fail remarkably in the imitation of it.
Unleſs he is poſſeſſed of the moſt correct
taſte, he will be in continual danger of
preſenting an exaggerated picture or a
caricatura of his original. The diſtinction
between good and bad writing is
often of ſo very ſlender a nature, and
the ſhadowing of difference ſo extremely
delicate, that a very nice perception alone
can at all times define the limits. Thus
in the hands of ſome tranſlators, who
have diſcernment to perceive the general
character of their author's ſtyle, but
want this correctneſs of taſte, the grave
ſtyle of the original becomes heavy and
formal in the tranſlation; the elevated
ſwells into bombaſt, the lively froths up
into the petulant, and the ſimple and
naif degenerates into the childiſh and inſipid.
IN the fourth Oration againſt Catiline,
Cicero, after drawing the moſt ſtriking
picture of the miſeries of his country, on
the ſuppoſition that ſucceſs had crowned
the deſigns of the conſpirators, cloſes the
detail with this grave and ſolemn application:
Quia mihi vehementer hæc videntur miſera
atque miſeranda, idcirca in cos qui ea
perficere voluerunt, me ſeverum, vehementemque
præbeo. Etenim quæro, ſi quis paterfamilias,
liberis ſuis a ſervo interfectis,
uxore occiſa, incenſa domo, ſupplicium de ſervo
quam acerbiſſimum ſumſerit; utrum is
clemens ac miſericors, an inhumaniſſimus et
crudeliſſimus eſſe videatur? Mihi vero importunus
ac ferreus, qui non dolore ac cruciatu
nocentis, ſuun dolorem ac cruciatum
How awkwardly is the dignified gravity
of the original imitated, in the following
heavy, formal, and inſipid verſion.
"Now as to me theſe calamities ap"pear
extremely ſhocking and deplora"ble;
therefore I am extremely keen
"and rigorous in puniſhing thoſe who
"endeavoured to bring them about. For
"let me put the caſe, that a maſter of a
"family had his children butchered, his
"wife murdered, his houſe burnt down
"by a ſlave, yet did not inflict the moſt
"rigorous of puniſhments imaginable
"upon that ſlave : would ſuch a maſter
"appear merciful and compaſſionate, and
"not rather a monſter of cruelty and in"humanity?
To me that man would
"appear to be of a flinty cruel nature,
"who ſhould not endeavour to ſoothe
"his own anguiſh and torment by the
"anguiſh and torment of its guilty
OVID, in deſcribing the fatal ſtorm in
which Ceyx periſhed, ſays:
Undarum incurſu gravis unda, tonitrubus æther
Fluctibus erigitur, cœlumque æquare videtur
An hyperbole, allowable in poetical deſcription;
but which Dryden has exag*
The Orations of M. T. Cicero tranſlated into Engliſh,
with notes hiſtorical and critical. Dublin, 1766.
gerated into the moſt outrageous bombaſt:
Now waves on waves aſcending ſcale the ſkies,
And in the fires above the water fries.
IN the first fcene of the Amphitryo of
Plautus, Sofia thus remarks on the unnſual
length of the night:
Neque ego hac nocte longiorem me vidiſſe cenſeo,
Niſi item unam, verberatus quam pependi perpetem.
Eam quoque, .Ædepol, etiam multo hæc vicit longitudine.
Credo equidem dormire ſolem atque appotum probe.
Mira ſunt, nil invitavit ſeſe in cœna pluſculum.
To which Mercury anſwers:
Ain vero, verbero? Deos eſſe tui ſimiles putas?
Ego Pol te iſtis tuis pro dictis et malefactis, furcifer,
Accipiam, modò ſis veni huc: invenies infortunium.
EACHARD, who ſaw no diſtinction
between the familiar and the vulgar, has
tranſlated this in the true dialect of the
"I think there never was ſuch a long
"night ſince the beginning of the world,
"except that night I had the ſtrappado,
"and rid the wooden horſe till morn"ing;
and, o' my conſcience, that was
"twice as long *. By the mackins, I
"believe Phabus has been playing the
“good-fellow, and 's aſleep too. I'll be
"hang'd if he ben't in for't, and has
"took a little too much o' the creature."
"Mer. Say ye ſo, ſlave? What, treat
"Gods like yourſelves. By Jove, have
"at your doublet, Rogue, for ſcandalum
* Eachard has here miſtaken the author's ſenſe. He
ought to have ſaid, "o' my conſcience, this night is
"twice as long as that was."
"magnatum. Approach then, you'll. ha'
"but ſmall joy here."
"Mer. .Accedam, atque hanc appellabo
"atque ſupparaſitabo patri." Ibid. ſc. 3.
"Mer. I'll to her, and tickle her up
"as my father has done."
"Sofia. Irritabis crabrones." Ibid, a61 2.
"Sofia. You'd as good p—ſs in a bee"hive."
SENECA, though not a chaſte writer,
is remarkable for a courtly dignity of
expreſſion, which, though often united
with eaſe, never deſcends to the mean or
vulgar. L'Eſtrange has preſented him
through a medium of ſuch coarſeneſs,
that he is hardly to be known.
Probatos itaque ſemper lege, et ſiquando
ad alios divertere libuerit, ad priores redi.
- Nihil æque ſanitatem impedit quam remediorum
crebra mutatio, Ep. 2. - "Of
"authors be ſure to make choice of the
"beſt; and, as I ſaid before, ſtick cloſe
"to them; and though you take up
"others by the bye, reſerve ſome ſelect
"ones, however, for your ſtudy and re"treat.
Nothing is more hurtful, in the
"caſe of diſeaſes and wounds, than the
"frequent ſhifting of phyſic and pla"ſters."
Fuit qui diceret, Quid perdis operam?
ille quem quæris elatus, combuſtus eſt. De
benef. lib. 7. c. 21. - "Friend, ſays a
Fellow, you may hammer your heart
"out, for the man you look for is dead."
Cum multa in crudelitatem Piſiftrati conviva
ebrius dixiſſet. De ira, lib. 3. c. II.
"Thraſippus, in his drink, fell foul upon
"the cruelties of Piſiſtratus."
FROM the ſame defect of taſte, the
ſimple and natural manner degenerates
into the childiſh and inſipid.
J'ai perdu tout mon bonheur,
J'ai perdu mon ſerviteur,
Colin me délaiffe.
Helas! il a pu changer!
Je voudrois n' y plus ſonger:
J'y ſonge ſans ceſſe.
ROUSSEAU, Devin de Village.
I've loſt my love, I've loſt my ſwain;
Colin leaves me with diſdain.
Naughty Colin! hateful thought!
To Colinette her Colin's naught.
I will forget him — that I will!
Ah, t'wunt do — I love him ſtill.
Examples of a good taſte in Poetical Tranſlation.
— Bourne's tranſlations from Mallet
and from Prior. — The Duke de Nivernois
from Horace. — Mr Webb from
the Anthologia. — Fragments of the Greek
Dramatiſts by Mr Cumberland.
AFTER theſe examples of faulty
tranſlation, from a defect of taſte
in the tranſlator, or a want of a juſt diſcernment
of his author's ſtylc and manner
of writing, I ſhall now preſent the
reader with ſome ſpecimens of perfect
tranſlation, where the authors have entered
with exquiſite taſte into the manner
of their originals, and have ſucceeded
moſt happily in the imitation of it.
THE firſt is the opening of the beautiful
ballad of William and Margaret, tranſlated
by Vincent Bourne.
When all was wrapt in dark midnight,
And all were faſt aſleep,
In glided Margaret's grimly ghoſt,
And ſtood at William's feet.
Her face was like the April morn,
Clad in a wintry cloud;
And clay-cold was her lily hand.
That held her ſable ſhrowd.
So ſhall the faireſt face appear,
When youth and years are flown;
Such is the robe that Kings muſt wear,
When Death has reſt their crown.
Her bloom was like the ſpringing flower,
That ſips the ſilver dew;
The role was budded in her cheek,
And opening to the view.
But Love had, like the canker-worm,
Conſum'd her early prime;
The roſe grew pale and left her cheek,
She died before her time.
Omnia nox tenebris, tacitâque involverat umbrâ,
Et feſſos homines vinxerat alta quies;
Cùm valvæ patuere, et greſſu illapſa ſilenti,
Thyrſidis ad lectum ſtabat imago Chloes.
Vultus erat, qualis lachrymoſi vultus Aprilis:
Cui dubia hyberno conditur imbre dies;
Quaque ſepulchralem à pedibus collegit amictum,
Candidior nivibus, frigidiorque manus.
Cùmque dies aberunt molles, et laæta juventus,
Gloria pallebit, ſic Cypariſſi tua;
Cùm mors decutiet capiti diademata, regum
Hâc erit in trabeâ conſpiciendus honos.
Forma fuit (dum forma fuit ) naſcentis ad inſtar
Floris, cui cano gemmula rore tumet;
Et Veneres riſere, et ſubrubuere labella,
Subrubet ut teneris purpura prima roſis.
Sed lenta exedit tabes mollemque ruborem,
Et faciles riſus, et juvenile decus;
Et roſa paulatim languens, nudata reliquit
Oſcula; præripuit mors properata Chloen.
THE ſecond is a ſmall poem by Prior
entitled Chloe Hunting, which is likewiſe
tranſlated into Latin by Bourne.
Behind her neck her comely treſſes tied,
Her ivory quiver graceful by her ſide,
A-hunting Chloe went; ſhe loſt her way,
And through the woods uncertain chanc'd to ſtray.
Apollo paſſing by beheld the maid;
And, ſiſter dear, bright Cynthia, turn, he ſaid;
The hunted hind lies cloſe in yonder brake.
Loud Cupid laugh'd, to ſee the God's miſtake:
And laughing cried, learn better, great Divine,
To know thy kindred, and to honour mine.
Rightly advis'd, far hence thy ſiſter ſeek,
Or on Meander's banks, or Latmus' peak.
But in this nymph, my friend, my ſiſter know;
She draws my arrows, and he bends my bow.
Fair Thames ſhe haunts, and every neighbouring
Sacred to ſoft reed's, and gentle Love.
Go with thy Cynthia, hurl the pointed ſpear
At the rough boar, or chace the flying deer:
I, and my Chloe, take a nobler aim;
At human hearts we fling, nor ever miſs the game.
Forte Chloe, pulchros nodo collecta capillos
Poſt collum, pharetrâque latus ſuccincta decorâ,
Venatrix ad ſylvam ibat; cervumque ſecuta
Elapſum viſu, deſerta per avia tendit
Incerta. Errantem nympham conſpexit Apollo,
Et, converte tuos, dixit, mea Cynthia, curſus;
En ibi (monſtravitque manu) tibi cervus anhelat
Occultus dumo, latebriſque moratur in illis.
Improbus hæc audivit amor, lepidumque cachinnum
Attollens, poterantne etiam tua numina falli?
Hinc, quæſo, bone Phœbe, tuam dignoſce ſororem,
Et melius venerare meam. Tua Cynthia longè,
Mændri ad ripas, aut ſummi in vertice Latmi,
Verſatur; noſtra eſt ſoror hæc, noſtra, inquit, amica eſt.
Hæc noſtros promit calamos, arcumque ſonantem
Incurvat, Tamumque colens, placidoſque receſſus
Lucorum, quos alma quies ſacravit amori.
Ite per umbroſos ſaltus, luſtriſque vel aprum
Excutite horrentem ſetis, cervumve fugacem,
Tuque ſororque tua, et directo ſternite ferro:
Nobilior labor, et divis digniſſima cura,
Meque Chloenque manet; nos corda humana ferìmus,
Vibrantes certum vulnus nec inutile telum.
THE third ſpecimen, is a tranſlation
by the Duke de Nivernois, of Horace's
dialogue with Lydia:
Plus heureux qu'un monarque au faite des grandeurs,
J'ai vu ones jours dignes d'envie,
Tranquiles, ils couloient au gré de nos ardeurs:
Vous m'aimiez, charmante Lydie.
Que mes jours étoient beaux, quand des ſoins les
Vous payiez ma flamme ſincére!
Venus me regardoit avec des yeux jaloux;
Chloé n'avoit pas ſçu vous plaire.
Par ſon luth, par ſa voix, organe des amours,
Chloé ſeule me paroit belle:
Si le Deſtin jaloux veut épargner ſes jours,
Je donnerai les miens pour elle.
Le jeune Calaïs, plus beau que les amours,
Plait ſeul à mon ame ravie
Si le Deſtin jaloux veut épargner ſes jours,
Je donnerai deux fois ma vie.
Quoi, ſi mes premiers feux, ranimant leur ardeur,
Etouffoient une amour fatale;
Si, perdant pour jamais tous ſes droits ſur mon cœur,
Chloé vous laiſſoit ſans rivale -
Calaïs eſt charmant: mais je n'aime que vous,
Ingrat, mon cœur vous juſtifie;
Heureuſe également en des liens ſi doux,
De perdre ou de paffer la vie *.
IF any thing is faulty in this excellent
tranſlation, it is the laſt ſtanza, which
* HOR. Donec gratus eram tibi,
Nec quiſquam potior brachia candidæ
Cervici juvenis dabat;
Perſarum vigui rege heatior.
LYD. Donec non aliam magis
Arſiſti, neque erat Lydia poſt Chloen;
Multi Lydia nominis
Romanâ, vigui clarior Iliâ.
HOR. Me nunc Threſſa Chloe regit,
Dulceis docta modos, et citharæ ſciens
Pro qua non metuam mori,
Si parcent animæ fata ſuperſtiti.
LYD. Me torret face mutuâ
Thurini Calais filius Ornithi;
Pro quo bis patiar mori,
Si parcent puero fata ſuperititi.
does not convey the happy petulance,
the procacitas of the original. The
reader may compare with this, the fine
tranſlation of the ſame ode by Biſhop
Atterbury, "Whilſt I was fond, and
"you were kind," which is too well
known to require inſertion.
THE next ſpecimen I ſhall give is the
tranſlation of a beautiful epigram, from.
the Anthologia, which is ſuppoſed by Junius
to be deſcriptive of a painting menHOR.
Quid, ſi priſca redit Venus,
Diductoſque jugo cogit aheneo?
Si flava excutitur Chloe,
Rejectæque patet janua Lydiæ?
LYD. Quamquam ſidere pulchrior
Ille eſt, tu levior cortice, et improbo
Tecum vivere amen, tecum obeam libens.
Hor. l. 3. Od. 9.
tioned by Pliny *, in which, a mother
wounded, and in the agony of death,
is repreſented as giving ſuck to her infant
for the laſt time:
Ελκε τάλαν παρα μητρος ον ακ ετι μαζον άμελξεις,
Ελκυσον ύστατιον ναμα καταφδιμενης.
Ηδη γαρ ξιφέεσσς λιπόπνοος· άλλα τα μητρος
Φιλτρα και εν αϊδη παιδοκομειν εμαθον.
THUS happily tranſlated into Engliſh
by Mr Webb:
Suck, little wretch, while yet thy mother lives,
Suck the laft drop her fainting boſom gives!
* Hujus (viz. Ariidir) pictaura eſt, oppido capto, ad
matris morientis e vulnere mammam adrepens infans; intelligiturque
ſentire mater et timere, ne emortuo lacte ſanguinem
infans lambat. Plin. Nat. Hiſt. l.35. c. 10. — If the
epigram was made on the ſubject of this picture, Pliny's
idea of the expreſſion of the painting is ſomewhat more
refined than that of the epigrammatiſt, though certainly
not ſo natural. As a complicated feeling can never
be clearly expreſſed in painting, it is not improbable
that the ſame picture ſhould have ſuggeſted ideas ſomewhat
different to different obſervers.
She dies: her tenderneſs ſurvives her breath,
And her fond love is provident in death.
To theſe ſpecimens of perfect tranſlation,
in which not only the ideas of the
original are completely transfuſed, but
the manner moſt happily imitated, I
add the following admirable tranſlations
by Mr Cumberland *, of two fragments
from the Greek drammatiſts Timocles
and Diphilus, which are preſerved by
THE firſt of theſe paſſages beautifully
illuſtrates the moral uſes of the tragic
Nay, my good friend, but hear me! I confeſs
Man is the child of ſorrow, and this world,
In which we breathe, hath cares enough to plague us;
* Obſerver, vol. 4. p. 115. and vol. 5. p. 145.
But it hath means withal to ſoothe theſe cares;
And he who meditates on others woes,
Shall in that meditation loſe his own:
Call then the tragic poet to your aid,
Hear hint, and take inftruction from the ſtage:
Let Telephus appear; behold a prince,
A ſpectacle of poverty and pain,
Wretched in both. — And what if you are poor?
Are you a demigod? Are you the ſon
Of Hercules? Begone! Complain no more.
Doth your mind ſtruggle with diſtracting thoughts?
Do your wits wander? Are you mad? Alas!
So was Alcmæon, whilſt the world ador'd
His father as their God. Your eyes are dim;
What then? The eyes of OEdipus were dark,
Totally dark. You mourn a ſon; he's dead;
Turn to the tale of Niobe for comfort,
And match your loſs with hers. You're lame of
Compare it with the foot of Philoctetes,
And make no more complaint. But you are old,
Old and unfortunate; conſult Oëneus;
Hear what a king endur'd, and learn content.
Sum up your miſeries, number up your ſighs,
The tragic ſtage ſhall give you tear for tear,
And waſh out all afflictions but its own *.
* The original of the fragment of Timocles:
Ω ταν, ακασον ην τι σοι μέλλω λέχειν.
Ανδρωπός έςι ζωον έπίπονον φύσει,
Και πολλα λυπηρ΄ ο βίος έν έαυτω φέρει
Παραψυχας ουν φροντίδωρ ανευρατον
Ταυτας. ο γαρ νας των ίδιων λήδεν λαδων
Προς άλλοτριω τε ψυχαγωγηδεις πάδει,
Μεθ΄ ήδονης άπηλδε ωαιδενδείς αμα.
Τας γάρ τραγωδας ωρωτον ει βάλει σκόωει,
Ως ώφελασί παντας. ό μεν γάρ ων πένης
Πτωχότερον άυτα καταμαδων τον Τήλεφον
Γενόμενον, ηδη την πενίαν ραον φέρει.
Ο νοσων δε μανικως, Αλκμαίων΄ εσκεψατο.
Οφδαλμια τις; είσι Φινειδαι τυφλοί.
Τεδνηκε τω παις; η Νιόβη κεκάφικε.
Χωλος τίς έοτι, τον Φιλοκτήτην ορα.
Γέρων τις ατυχει; κατέμαδε τον ΟΙνέα.
Απαντα γαρ ταμειζον η πέωονδέ τις
Ατυχήματ΄ αλλοις γεγονοτ΄ έννοάμενος,
Τας άυτος άυτα συμφορας ραον φέρει.
THE following fragment from Diphilus
conveys a very favourable idea of the
ſpirit of the dialogue, in what has been
termed the New Comedy of the Greeks,
Thus, in the literal verſion of Dalechampius:
Hem amice, nunc auſculta quod dicturus ſum tibi.
Animal naturâ laborioſum homo eſt.
Triſtia vita ſecum aſſert plurima:
Itaque curarum hæc adinvenit ſolatia:
Mentem enim ſuorum malorum oblitam,
Alienorum caſuum reputatio conſolatur,
Indéque fit ea læta, et erudita ad ſapientiam.
Tragicos enim primùm, ſi libet, conſidera,
Quàm proſint omnibus. Qui eget,
Pauperiorem ſe ſuiſſe Telephum
Cùm intelligit, leniùs ſert inopiam.
Inſaniâ qui ægrotat, de Alcmeone is cogitet.
Lippus eſt aliquis, Phinea cæcum is contempletur.
Obiit tibi filius, dolorem levabit exemplum Niobes.
Claudicat quiſpiam, Philocteten is reſpicito.
Miſer eſt ſenex aliquis, in Oeneum is intuetor.
Omnia namque graviora quàm patiatur
Infortunia quivis animadvertens in aliis cùm deprehenderit,
Suas calamitates luget minùs.
or that which was poſterior to the age of
Alexander the Great. Of this period Diphilas
and Menander were among the
moſt ſhining ornaments.
We have a notable good law at Corinth,
Where, if an idle fellow outruns reaſon,
Feaſting and junketting at furious coſt,
The ſumptuary proctor calls upon him,
And thus begins to ſlit him. — You live well,
But have you well to live? You ſquander freely,
Have you the wherewithal? Have you the fund
For theſe outgoings? If you have, go on!
If you have not, we'll ſtop you in good time,
Before you outrun honeſty; for he
Who lives we know not how, muſt live by plunder;
Either he picks a purſe, or robs a houſe,
Or is accomplice with ſome knaviſh gang,
Or thruſts himſelf in crowds, to play th' informer,
And put his perjur'd evidence to ſale:
This a well-order'd city will not ſuffer;
Such vermin we expell. - "And you do wiſely:
"But what is that to me?" — "Why, this it is:
Here we behold you every day at work,
Living, forſooth! not as your neighbours live,
But richly, royally, ye gods! — Why man,
We cannot get a fiſh for love or money,
You ſwallow the whole produce of the ſea:
You've driv'n our citizens to brouze on cabbage;
A ſprig of parſley ſets them all a-fighting,
As at the Iſthmian games: If hare or partridge,
Or but a ſimple thruſh comes to the market,
Quick, at a word, you ſnap him: By the gods!
Hunt Athens through, you ſhall not find a feather
But in your kitchen; and for wine, 'tis gold -
Not to be purchas'd. — We may drink the ditches *.
OF equal merit with theſe two laſt
ſpecimens, are the greateſt part of thoſe
* The original of the fragment of Diphilus:
Τοιατο νόμιμον έςι βέλτις΄ ενθαδε
Κορίνδίαις, ιν΄ έαν τιν΄ όψωναντ΄ άεί
Λαμπρως όρωμεν, τατον άνακρινείν ωόδεν
Ζη, και τί ωοιων. καν μεν άσίαν εχη
Ης άι ωροσοδοι λυασι τ΄ άναλώματα,
tranflations given by Mr Cumberland,
of the fragments of the Greek dramaΕαν
άπολαύειν. ηδε τατον τον βίον.
Εαν δ΄ ύωερ την άοίαν δαπανων τύχη,
Απειπον άυτω τατό μη ποιειν ετι.
Ος αν δε μή πείδητ΄, επέβαλον ζημίαν.
Εάν δε μηδε οτιαν εχωρ ζη ωολυτελως,
Τω δημιω ωαρέδωκαν άυτον. Ηράκλεις.
ΟΥκ ένδέχεται γαρ ζην ανευ κακα τινος
Τατον. συνίης; άλλ΄ άναγκαίως εχει
Ηλοποδυτειν τας νυκτας, η τοιχωρυχειν,
Η των ποιουντων ταυτα κοινωνειν τισιν.
Η συκοφαντειν κατ΄ άγοραν, η μαρτυρειν
Ψευδη, τοιατων εκκαδαίρομεν γενος.
Ορδως γε νή Δί, άλλά δη τί τατ΄ έμοί;
Ορωμεν όψωνανδ΄ έκαςης ήμέρας,
ΟΥχι μετριως βέλτιςέ σ΄, άλλ΄ ύπερηφάνος·
ΟΥχ εςιν ίχδυηρον ύπο σα μεταλαβειν·
Συνηκας ήμων εις ταλάχανα την πόλιν,
Περι των σελινων μαχόμεδ΄ ωσπερ Ισδμίοις·
Λαγώς τις εισεληλυδ΄· ευθυς ηρπακας·
Πέρδικα δ΄ η κιχλην; και νη Δι΄ ακ ετι
Εςιν δί υμας αδε πετομενην ίδειν,
Τον ξενικον οινον έπιτετίμηκας πολύ·
tiſts. The literary world owes to that
ingenious writer a very high obligation,
Thus in the verſion of Dalechampius:
A. Talis iſtic lex eſt, ô vir optime,
Corinthiis: ſi quem obſonantem ſemper
Splendidiùs aſpexerint, ilium ut interrogent
Unde vivat, quidnam agat: quòd ſi facultates illi ſunt
Quarum ad eum ſumptum reditus ſufficiat,
Eo vitæ luxu permittunt frui:
Sin amplius impendat quàm pro re ſua,
Ne id porrò faciat interdicitur.
Si non pareat, mulctâ quidem plectitur.
Si ſumptuosè vivit qui nihil prorſus habet,
Traditur puniendus carniſici. B. Proh Hercules.
A. Quod enim ſcias, fieri minimè poteſt
Ut qui eo eſt ingenio, non vivat improbè: itaque neceſſum.
Vel noctu graſſantem obvios ſpoliare, vel effractarium,
Vel his ſe furibus adjungere ſocium,
Aut delatorem of quadruplatorem eſſe in foro: aut
Teſtari: à talium hominum genere purgatur civitas.
B. Rectè, per Jovem: ſed ad me quid hoc attinet?
A. Nos te videmus obſonantem quotidie
for his excellent view of the progreſs of
the dramatic art among the Greeks, and
for the collection he has made of the
remains of more than fifty of their comic
Haud mediocriter, vir optime, ſed faſtuosè, et magnificè,
Ne piſciculum quidem habere licet cauſsâ tuâ:
Cives noſtros commiſiſti, pugnaturos de oleribus:
De apio dimicamus tanquam in Iſthmiis.
Si lepus aceeſſit, eum extemplo rapis.
Perdicem, or turdum ne volantem quidem
Propter vos, ita me Juppiter amet, nobis jam videre
Peregrini multùm auxiſtis vini pretium.
* It is to be regretted that Mr Cumberland had not
either publiſhed the original fragments along with his
tranſlations, or given ſpecial references to the authors
from whom he took them, and the particular part of
their works where they were to be found. The reader
who wiſhes to compare the tranſlations with the originals,
will have ſome trouble in ſearching for them at
random in the works of Athenæus, Clemens Alexandrinus,
Stobæus, and others.
Limitation of the rule regarding the imitation
of Style. — This imitation muſt
be regulated by the Genius of languages.
— The Latin admits of a greater brevity
of expreſſion than the Engliſh; — As
does the French. — The Latin and Greek
allow greater inverſions than the Engliſh,
— And admit more freely of Ellipſis.
THE rule which enjoins to a tranſlator
the imitation of the ſtyle of
the original author, demands ſeveral limitations.
1. This imitation muſt always be regulated
by the nature or genius of the
languages of the original and of the
THE Latin language admits of a brevity,
which cannot be ſucceſsfully imitated
in the Engliſh.
CICERO thus writes to Trebatius,
(lib. 7. ep. 17.):
In Britanniam te profectum non eſſe gaudeo,
quod et tu labore caruiſti, et ego to de
rebus illis non audiam.
IT is impoſſible to tranſlate this into
Engliſh with equal brevity, and at the
ſame time do complete juſtice to the
ſentiment. Melmoth, therefore, has
ſhown great judgement, in ſacrificing
the imitation of ſtyle to the perfect
transfuſion of the ſenſe. "I am glad
"for my ſake, as well as yours, that
"you did not attend Cæſar into Bri"tain;
as it has not only ſaved you the
"fatigue of a very diſagreeable journey,
"but me likewiſe that of being the per"petual
auditor of your wonderful ex"ploits."
Melm. Cic. Lett. b. 2. 1. l 2.
PLINY to Minutianus, Lib. 3. Ep. 9.
ſays, towards the end of his letter: Temerè
dixi — Succurrit quod præterieram, et
quidem ſerò quanquam prepoſterè reddetur.
Facit hoc Homerus, multique illius
exemplo. Eſt alioqui perdecorum: a me tamen
non ideo fiet. It is no doubt poſſible
to tranſlate this paſſage into Engliſh with
a conciſeneſs almoſt equal to the original.
But in this experiment we muſt ſacrifice
all its eaſe and ſpirit. "I have ſaid this
"raſhly - I recollect an omiſſion — ſome"what
too late indeed. It ſhall now be
"ſupplied, though a little prepoſterouſly.
"Homer does this: and many after his
"example. Beſides, it is not unbeco"ming;
but this is not my reaſon."
Let us mark how Mr Melmoth, by a
happy amplification, has preſerved the
spirit and eaſe, though ſacrificing the
brevity of the original. "But upon re"collection,
I find that I muſt recall
"that laſt word; for I perceive, a little
"too late indeed, that I have omitted a
"material circumſtance. However, I
"will mention it here, though ſomething
"out of its place. In this, I have the
"authority of Homer, and ſeveral other
"great names, to keep me in counte"nance;
and the critics will tell you this
irregular manner has its beauties: but,
"upon my word, it is a beauty I had
"not at all in my view."
AN example of a ſimilar brevity of expreſſion,
which admits of no imitation in
Engliſh, occurs in another letter of Cicero
to Trebatius, Ep. l. 7. 14.
Chryſippus Vettius, Cyri architecti libertus,
fecit, ut te non immemorem putarem mei.
Valde jam lautus es qui gravere literas ad
me dare, homini præſertim domeſtico. Quod
ſi ſcribere oblitus es, minus multi jam te advocato
cauſâ cadent. Sin noſtri oblitus es,
dabo operam ut iſthuc veniam antequam planè
ex animo tuo effluo.
IN tranſlating this paſſage, Mr Melmoth
has ſhewn equal judgement. Without
attempting to imitate the brevity of
the original, which he knew to be impoſſible,
he ſaw that the characteriſing features
of the paſſage were eaſe and vivacity;
and theſe he has very happily
transfuſed into his tranſlation.
"IF it were not for the compliments
"you ſent me by Chryſippus, the freed"man
of Cyrus the architect, I ſhould
"have imagined I no longer poſſeſſed a
"place in your thoughts. But ſurely you
"are become a moſt intolerable fine
"gentleman, that you could not bear
"the fatigue of writing to me, when you
"had the opportunity of doing ſo by a
"man, whom, you know, I look upon
"as one almoſt of my own family. Per"haps,
however, you may have forgot"ten
the uſe of your pen: and ſo much
"the better, let me tell you, for your
"clients, as they will loſe no more cau"ſes
by its blunders. But if it is my"felf
only that has efcaped your remem"brance,
I mutt endeavour to refrefh it
"by a vifit, before I am worn out of
"your memory, beyond all power of re"collection."
THE French language admits of a brevity
of expreſſion more correſponding to
that of the Latin: and of this D'Alembert
has given many happy examples in
his tranſlations from Tacitus.
Quod ſi vita ſuppeditet, principatum divi
Nervæ et imperium Trajani, uberiorem, ſecurioremque
materiam ſenectuti ſepoſui: rarâ
temprum felicitate, ubi ſentire quæ velis, et
quæ ſentias dicere licet, Præf. ad Hiſt."
"Si les dieux m'accordent des jours, je de"ſtine
à l'occupation et à la conſolation
"de ma vieilleſſe, l'hiſtoire intereſſante et
"tranquille de Nerva et de Trajan; tems
"heureux et rares, où l'on eſt libre de
"penſer et de parley."
AND with equal, perhaps ſuperior felicity,
the ſame paſſage is thus tranſlated
by Rouſſeau: "Que s'il me reſte aſſez de
"vie, je reſerve pour ma vieilleſſe la
"riche et paiſible matiere des regnes de
"Nerva et de Trajan: rares et heureux
"tems, où l'on peut penſer librement,
"et dire ce que l'on penſe."
BUT D'Alembert, from too earneſt
a deſire to imitate the conciſeneſs of
his original, has ſometimes left the ſenſe
imperfect. Of this an example occurs
in the paſſage before quoted, An. l. 1.
c. 2. Cum cæteri nobilium, quanto quis ſervitio
promptior, opibus et honoribus extollerentur:
the tranſlator, too ſtudious of
brevity, has not given the complete idea
of his author, "Le reſte des nobles trou"voit
dans les richeſſes et dans les hon"neurs
la récompenſe de l'eſclavage."
Omnium conſenſit capax imperii niſi imperaſſet,
Tac. hiſt. 1. 49. "Digne de l'em"pine
au jugement de tout le monde tant
"qu'il ne regna pas." This is not the
idea of the author; for Tacitus does not
mean to ſay that Galba was judged worthy
of the empire till he attained to it ;
but that all the world would have thought
him worthy of the empire if he had never
attained to it.
2. THE Latin and Greek languages admit
of inverſions which are inconſiſtent
with the genius of the Engliſh.
MR Gordon, injudiciouſly aiming at
an imitation of the Latin conſtruction,
has given a barbarous air to his tranſlation
of Tacitus: "To Pallas, who was
"by Claudius declared to be the devi"fer
of this ſcheme, the ornaments of
"the prætorſhip, and three hundred ſe"venty-five
thouſand crowns, were ad"judged
by Bareas Soranus, conſul de"ſigned,"
An. b. 12. - "Still to be
"ſeen are the Roman ſtandards in the
"German groves, there, by me, hung
"up, An. lib. 1." Naturally violent
"was the ſpirit of Arminius, and now,
"by the captivity of his wife, and by
"the fate of his child, doomed to bon"dage
though yet unborn, enraged
"even to diſtraction, Ibid. But he,
"the more ardent he found the affec"tions
of the ſoldiers, and the greater
"the hatred of his uncle, ſo much the
"more intent upon a deciſive victory,
"weighed with himſelf all the me"thods,"
&c. lb. lib. 2.
THUS, Mr Macpherſon, in his tranſlation
of Homer, (a work otherwiſe valuable,
as containing a moſt perfect transfuſion of
the ſenſe of his author), has generally adopted
an inverted conſtruction, which
incompatible with the genius of the Engliſh
language. "Tlepolemus, the race
"of Hercules, — brave in battle and
"great in arms, nine ſhips led to Troy,
"with magnanimous Rhodians filled.
"Thoſe who dwelt, in Rhodes, diſtin"guiſhed
in nations three, — who held
"Lindus, lalyſſus, and white Camirus,
"beheld him afar. — Their leader in
"arms was Tlepolemus, renowned at the
"ſpear, II. l.2. — The heroes the ſlaughter
"began. — Alexander firſt a warrior
"flew — Through the neck, by the helm
"paſſed the ſteel. — Iphinous, the ſon
"of Dexius, through the ſhoulder he
"pierced — to the earth fell the chief in
"his blood, lb. l. 7. Not unjuſtly we
"Hector admire; matchleſs at launch"ing
the ſpear; to break the line of
"battle, bold, lb. l. 5. Nor for vows
"unpaid rages Apollo; nor ſolemn ſa"crifice
denied," Ib. l. I.
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. Tacitus ſays, Trepida
civitas incuſare Tiberium, for trepida
civitas incepit incuſare Tiberium. We cannot
ſay in Engliſh, "The terrified city
"to blame Tiberius:" And even as
Gordon has tranſlated theſe words, the
ellipſis is too violent for the Engliſh language;
"hence againſt Tiberius many
Εννηαρ μεν ανα ςρατον ωκετο κηλα θεοιο·
Il. 1. I. l. 53.
"FOR nine days the arrows of the
"god were darted through the camp."
The elliptical brevity' of Mr Macpherſon's
tranſlation of this verſe, has no parallel
in the original; nor is it agreeable
to the Engliſh idiom:
"Nine days ruſh the ſhafts of the God."
Whether a Poem can be well tranſlated into
FROM all the preceding obſervations
reſpecting the imitation of ſtyle,
we may derive this precept, That a tranſlator
ought always to figure to himſelf,
in what manner the original author
would have expreſſed himfelf, if he had
written in the language of the tranſlation.
This precept leads to the examination,
and probably to the deciſion, of a queſtion
which has admitted of ſome diſpute,
Whether a poem can be well tranſlated
THERE are certain ſpecies of poetry,
of which the chief merit conſiſts in the
ſweetneſs and melody of the verſification.
Of theſe it is evident, that the
very eſſence muſt periſh in tranſlating
them into proſe. But a great deal of
the beauty of every regular poem, conſiſts
in the melody of its numbers. Senſible
of this truth, many of the proſe
tranſlators of poetry, have attempted to
give a ſort of meaſure to their proſe,
which removes it from the nature of ordinary
language. If this meaſure is uniform,
and its return regular, the compoſition
is no longer proſe, but blank-verſe.
If it is not uniform, and does not regularly
return upon the ear, the compoſition
will be more unharmonious, than if
the meaſure had been entirely neglected.
Of this, Mr Macpherſon's tranſlation of
the Iliad is a ſtrong example.
BUT it is not only by the meaſure
that poetry is diſtinguiſhable from proſe.
It is by the character of its thoughts and
ſentiments, and by the nature of that
language in which they are clothed. A
boldneſs of figures, a luxuriancy of imagery,
a frequent uſe of metaphors, a
quickneſs of tranſition, a liberty of digreſſing;
all theſe are not only allowable
in poetry, but to many ſpecies of it, eſſential.
But they are quite unſuitable to
the character of proſe. When ſeen in a
proſe tranſlation, they appear prepoſterous
and out of place, becauſe they are
never found in an original proſe compoſition.
IN oppoſition to theſe remarks, it may
be urged, that there are examples of
poems originally compoſed in proſe, as
Fenelon's Telemachus. But to this we
anſwer, that Fenelon, in compoſing his
Telemachus, has judiciouſly adopted nothing
more of the characteriſtics of poetry,
than what might ſafely be given to
a proſe compoſition. His good taſte
preſcribed to him certain limits, which
he was under no neceſſity of tranſgreſſing.
But a tranſlator is not left to a ſimilar
freedom of judgement: he muſt
follow the footſteps of his original. Fenelon's
Epic Poem is of a very different
character from the Iliad, the Æneid, or
the Gieruſalemme Liberata. The French
author has, in the conduct of his fable,
seldom tranſgreſſed the bounds of hiſtoric
probability; he has ſparingly indulged
himſelf in the uſe of the Epic machinery;
and there is a chaſtity and ſobriety
even in his language, very different
from the glowing enthuſiaſm that characteriſes
the diction of the poems we
have mentioned: We find nothing in the
Telemaque of the Os magna ſonaturum.
THE difficulty of tranſlating poetry
into proſe, is different in its degree, according
to the nature or ſpecies of the
poem. Didactic poetry, of which the
principal merit conſiſts in the detail of a
regular ſyſtem, or in rational precepts
which flow from each other in a connected
train of thought, will evidently ſuffer
leaſt by being transfuſed into proſe.
But every didactic poet judiciouſly enriches
his work with ſuch ornaments as
are not ſtrictly attached to his ſubject.
In a proſe tranſlation of ſuch a poem, all
that is ſirictly ſyſtematic or preceptive
may be transfuſed with propriety; all the
reſt, which belongs to embelliſhment,
will be found impertinent and out of
BUT there are certain ſpecies of poetry,
of the merits of which it will be found
impoſſible to convey the ſmalleſt idea in
a proſe tranſlation. Such is Lyric poetry,
where a greater degree of irregularity of
thought, and a more unreſtrained exuberance
of fancy, is allowable than in any
other ſpecies of compoſition. To attempt,
therefore, a tranſlation of a lyric poem into
proſe, is the moſt abſurd of all undertakings;
for thoſe very characters of the original
which are eſſential to it, and which
conſtitute its higheſt beauties, if transferred
to a proſe tranſlation, become unpardonable
blemiſhes. The excurſive range
of the ſentiments, and the play of fancy,
which we admire in the original, degenerate
in the tranſlation into mere raving
WE may certainly, from the foregoing
obſervations, conclude, that it is impoſſible
to do complete juſtice to any ſpecies
of poetical compoſition in a proſe
tranſlation; in other words, that none
but a poet can tranſlate a poet.
Third General Rule — A Tranſlation ſhould
have all the Eaſe of Original Compoſition.
— Extreme difficulty in the obſervance of
this Rule. — Contraſted Inſtances of Succeſs
IT remains now that we conſider the
third general law of tranſlation.
IN order that the merit of the original
work may be ſo completely transfuſed as
to produce its full effect, it is neceſſary,
not only that the tranſlation ſhould contain
a perfect tranſcript of the ſentiments
of the original, and preſent likewiſe a
reſemblance of its style and manner;
but, That the tranſlation ſhould have all
the eaſe of original compoſition.
WHEN we conſider thoſe reſtraints
within which a tranſlator finds himſelf
neceſſarily confined, with regard to the
ſentiments and manner of his original,
it will ſoon appear that this laſt requiſite
includes the moſt difficult part of his
taſk *. To one who walks in trammels,
it is not eaſy to exhibit an air of grace
* "Quand il s'agit de repréſentet' dans une autre lan"gue
les choſes, les penées, les expreſſions, les tours,
"les tons d'un ouvrage; Ies choſes telles qu'elles ſont,
"ſans rien ajouter, ni retrancher, ni dépIacer; les penand
freedom. It is difficult, even for a
capital painter, to preſerve in a copy of
"ſées dans leurs couleurs, leurs degrés, leurs nuances;
"les tours, qui donnent le feu, l'eſprit, et la vie au diſ"cours;
les expreſſions naturelles, figurées, fortes,
"riches, gracicuſes, délicates, &c. le tout d'après un
"modele qui commande durement, et qui veut qu'on
"lui obéiſſe d'un air aiſé; il faut, ſinon autant de gé"nie,
du moins autant de gout pour bien traduire, quo
"pour compoſer. Peutêtre même en faut it davantage.
"L'auteur qui compote, conduit ſeulement par une
"ſorte d'inſlinct toujours libre, et par ſa matiere qui
"lui préſente des idées, qu'il peut accepter ou rejet"ter
à ſon gré, eſt maitre abſolu de ſes penſées et
"de ſes expreſſions: ſi la penſée ne lui convient
"pas, ou ſi l'expreſſion ne convient pas à la penſée,
"il peut rejetter l'une et I'autre; quæ deſperat tractata
"niteſcere poſſe, relinquit. Le traducteur n'eſt maitre
"de rien; il eſt obligé de ſuivre partout ſon auteur, et
"de ſe plier à toutes ſes variations avec une ſoupleſſe
"infinie. Qu'on en juge par la variété des tons qui ſe
"trouvent néceſſairement dans un même ſujet, et à plus
"forte raiſon dans un même genre. - Quelle idée
"donc ne doit-on pas avoir d'une traduction faite avec
Batteux de la conſtruction Oratoire, Par. 2.
a picture all the eaſe and ſpirit of the original;
yet the painter employs preciſely
the ſame colours, and has no other care
than faithfully to imitate the touch and
manner of the picture that is before him:
if the original is eaſy and graceful, the
copy will have the ſame qualities, in proportion
as the imitation is juſt and perfect.
The tranſlator's taſk is very different:
He uſes not the ſame colours with
the original, but is required to give his
picture the ſame force and effect. He is
not allowed to copy the touches of the
original, yet is required, by touches of
his own, to produce a perfect reſemblance.
The more he ſtudies a ſcrupulous imitation,
the leſs his copy will reflect the eaſe
and ſpirit of the original. How then
ſhall a tranſlator accompliſh this difficult
union of eaſe with fidelity? To uſe a
bold expreſſion, he muſt adopt the very
ſoul of his author, which muſt ſpeak
through his own organs.
LET us proceed to exemplify this third
rule of tranſlation, which regards the attainment
of eaſe of ſtyle, by inſtances
both of ſucceſs and failure.
THE familiar ſtyle of epiſtolary correſpondence
is rarely attainable even in
original compoſition. It conſiſts in a delicate
medium between the perfect freedom
of ordinary converſation and the
regularity of written diſſertation or narrative.
It is extremely difficult to attain
this delicate medium in a tranſlation;
becauſe the writer has neither a freedom
of choice in the ſentiments, nor in the
mode of expreſſing them. Mr Melmoth
appears to me to be a great model in this
reſpect. His Tranſlations of the Epiſtles
of Cicero and of Pliny have all the eaſe
of the originals, while they preſent in
general a very faithful tranſcript of his
"Surely, my friend, your couriers are
"a ſet of the moſt unconſcionable fellows.
"Not that they have given me any parti"cular
offence; but as they never bring
"me a letter when they arrive here, is it
"fair, they ſhould always preſs me for
"one when they return?" Melmoth, Cic.
Ep. 10. 20.
Præpoſteros habes tabellarios; etſi me quidem
non offendunt. Sed tamen cum a me
diſcedunt, flagitant litteras, cum ad me veniunt,
nullas afferunt. Cic. Ep. 1. l. 15. ep. 17.
"Is it not more worthy of your
"mighty ambition, to be blended with
"your learned brethren at Rome, than
"to ſtand the ſole great wonder of wiſ"dom
amidſt a parcel of paltry provin"cials?"
Melmoth, Cic. Ep. 2. 23.
Velim — ibi malls eſſe ubi aliquo numero ſis,
quam iſthic ubi ſolus ſapere videare, Cic.
Epiſt. l. i. ep. 10.
"In ſhort, I plainly perceive your
"finances are in no flouriſhing ſituation,
"and I expect to hear the ſame account
"of all your neighbours; ſo that fa"mine,
my friend, moſt formidable fa"mine,
muſt be your fate, if you do
"not provide againſt it in due time.
"And ſince you have been reduced to
"ſell your horſe, e'en mount your mule,
"(the only animal, it ſeems, belonging
"to you, which you have not yet ſacri"ficed
to your table), and convey yourſelf
"immediately to Rome. To encourage
"you to do ſo, you ſhall be honoured
"with a chair and cuſhion next to
"mine, and ſit the ſecond great peda"gogue
in my celebrated ſchool." Melmoth,
Cic. Ep. 8. 22.
Video te bona perdidiſſe: ſpero idem iſthuc
familiares tuos. Actm igitur de te eſt,
niſi provides. Potes mulo iſto quem tibi reliquum
dicis eſſe (quando cantherium comediſti)
Romam pervehi. Sella tibi erit in
ludo, tanquam hypodidaſcalo; proxima eam
pulvinus ſequetur. Cic. Ep. l. 9. Ep. 18.
"ARE you not a pleaſant mortal, to
"queſtion me concerning the fate of
"thoſe eſtates you mention, when Bal"bus
had juſt before been paying you a
"viſit?" Melmoth, Cic. Ep. 8. 24.
Non tu homo ridiculus es, qui aim Balbus
noſter apud to fuerit, ex me quæras quid
de iſtis municipiis et agris futurum putem?
Cic. Ep. 9. 17.
"And now I have raiſed your expec"tations
of this piece, I doubt you will
"be diſappointed when it comes to your
"hands. In the meanwhile, however,
"you may expect it, as ſomething that
"will pleaſe you: And who knows but it
"may?" Plin. Ep. 8. 3.
Erexi expectationem tuam; quam vereor
ne deſtituat oratio in manus ſumpta. Interim
tamen, tanquam placituram, et fortaſſe
placebit, expecta. Plin. Ep. 8. 3.
"I conſent to undertake the cauſe
"which you ſo earneſtly recommend to
"me; but as glorious and honourable as
"it may be, I will not be your counſel
"without a fee. Is it poſſible, you will
"ſay, that my friend Pliny ſhould be ſo
"mercenary? In truth it is; and I inſiſt
"upon a reward, which will do me
"more honour than the moſt diſinte"reſted
patronage." Plin. Ep. 6. 23.
Impenſe petis ut agam cauſam pertinentem
ad curam tuam, pulchram alioquin et famo.
ſam. Faciam, ſed non gratis. Qui fieri
poteſt (inquis) ut non gratis tu? Poteſt:
exigam enim mercedem honeſtiorem gratuito
patrocinio. Plin. Ep. 8. 3.
To theſe examples of the eaſe of epiſtolary
correſpondence, I add a paſſage
from one of the orations of Cicero,
which is yet in a ſtrain of greater familiarity:
"A certain mechanic — What's
"his name? — Oh, I'm obliged to you for
"helping me to it: Yes, I mean Polycle"tus."
Artificem — quemnam? Recte admones.
Polycletum eſſe ducebant. Cicero, Orat. 2.
IN the preceding inſtances from Mr
Melmoth, the words of the Engliſh
tranſlation which are marked in Italics,
are thoſe which, in my opinion, give it
the eaſe of original compoſition.
BUT while a tranſlator thus endeavours
to transfuſe into his work all the eaſe of
the original, the moſt correct tafte is requake
to prevent that eaſe from degenerating
into licentiouſneſs. I have
given ſome examples of the want of this
taſte in treating of the imitation of ſtyle
and manner. The moſt licentious of all
tranſlators was Mr Thomas Brown, of facetious
memory, in whoſe tranſlations
from Lucian we have the moſt perfect
eaſe; but it is the eaſe of Billingſgate and
of Wapping. I ſhall contraſt a few paſſages
of his tranſlation of this author, with
thoſe of another tranſlator, who has given
a faithful tranſcript of the ſenſe of his
author, but from an over-ſcrupulous fidelity
has failed a little in point of eaſe.
GNATHON. "What now! Timon, do
"you ſtrike me? Bear witneſs, Hercules!
"O me, O me! But I will call you into
"the Areopagus for this. TIMON, Stay
"a little only, and you may bring me
"in guilty of murder *." Franklin's
GNATHON: "Confound him! what
"a blow he has given me! What's this
"for, old Touchwood? Bear witneſs,
"Hercules, that he has ſruck me. I
"warrant you, I ſhall make you repent
"of this blow. I'll indite you upon an
"action of the caſe, and bring you co"ram
nobis for an aſſault and battery."
TIMON. "Do, thou confounded law"pimp,
do; but if thou ſtay'ſt one mi"nute
longer, I'll beat thee to pap. I'll
* ΓΝ· Τι τατο; παιεις ω Τιμων; μαρτυρομαι· ω
Ηρακλεις· ιου, ιου. Προκαλαμαι σε τραυματος εις Αρειον
παγον· Τιμ. Και μεν αν γε μακρον επιβραδυνης, φονον ταχα
προκεκληση με.. Lucian, Timon.
"make thy bones rattle in thee, like
"three blue beans in a blue bladder.
"Go, ſtinkard, or elſe I ſhall make you
"alter your action, and get me indicted
"for manſlaughter." Timon Tranſ. by
Brown, in Dryden's Lucian.
"ON the whole, a moſt perfect cha"racter;
we ſhall ſee preſently, with all
"his modeſty, what a bawling he will
"make." Franklin's Lucian, Timon *.
"In fine, he's a perſon that knows the
"world better than any one, and is ex"tremely
well acquainted with the
"whole Encyclopædia of villany; a true
"elaborate finiſhed raſcal, and for all, he
* Και ολως πανσοφον τι χρημα, και πανταχοθεν ακριβες,
και ποικιλως εντελες· οιμωξεται τοιγαραν ακ εις μακραν
χρηστος ων. Lucian,
"appears ſo demure now, that you'd
"think butter would not melt in his
"mouth; yet I ſhall ſoon make him open
"his pipes, and roar like a perſecuted
"bear." Dryden's Lucian, Timon.
"HE changes his name, and inſtead
"of Byrria, Dromo, or Tibius, now takes
"the name of Megacles, or Megabyzus,
"or Protarchus, leaving the reſt of the
"expectants gaping and looking at one
"another in ſilent ſorrow." Franklin's
Lucian, Timon *.
"STRAIGHT he changes his name, ſo
"that the raſcal, who the moment be*
Αντι τα τεως Πυρρια, η Δρομωνος, η Τιβια,
Μεγακλης, Μεγαβυζος, η Πρωταρχος μετονομασθεις,
τας ματην κεχηνοτας εκεινας εις αλληλας αποβλεποντας
καταλιπων, &c. Lucian, Timon.
"fore had no other title about the houſe,
"but, you ſon of a whore, you bulk-be--
"gotten cur, you ſcoundrel, muſt now
"be called his worſhip, his excellency,
"and the Lord knows what. The
"on't is, that this muſhroom puts all
"theſe fellows noſes out of joint," &c.
Dryden's Lucian, Timon.
FROM theſe contraſted ſpecimens we
may decide, that the one tranſlation of
Lucian fails perhaps as much on the
ſcore of reſtraint, as the other on that of
licentiouſneſs. The preceding examples
from Melmoth point out, in my opinion,
the juſt medium of free and ſpirited tranſlation,
for the attainment of which the
moſt correct taſte is requiſite.
It is leſs difficult to attain the eaſe of original
compoſition in Poetical, than in Proſe
tranſlation. — Lyric poetry admits of the
greateſt liberty of tranſlation. — Examples
diſtinguiſhing Paraphraſe from Tranſlation,
— from Dryden, Lowth, Hughes.
IT may perhaps appear paradoxical to aſſerrt,
that it is leſs difficult to give to a
poetical tranſlation all the eaſe of original
compoſition, than to give the ſame degree
of eaſe to a proſe tranſlation. Yet
the truth of this aſſertion will be readily
admitted, if aſſent is given to that obſervation,
which I before endeavoured to
illuſtrate, viz. That a ſuperior degree of
liberty is allowed to a poetical tranſlator in
amplifying, retrenching from, and embelliſhing
his original, than to a proſe
tranſlator. For without ſome portion of
this liberty, there can be no eaſe of compoſition;
and where the greateſt liberty
is allowable, there that caſe will be moſt
apparent, as it is leſs difficult to attain to
FOR the ſame reaſon, among the different
ſpecies of poetical compoſition,
the lyric is that which allows of the
greateſt liberty in tranſlation; as a freedom
both of thought and expreſſion is
agreeable to its character. Yet even in
this, which is the freeſt of all ſpecies of
tranſlation, we muſt guard againſt licentiouſneſs;
and perhaps the more ſo, that
we are apt to perſuade ourſelves that the
leſs caution is neceſſary. The difficulty
indeed is, where ſo much freedom is allowed,
to define what is to be accounted
licentiouſneſs in poetical tranſlation. A
moderate liberty of amplifying and retrenching
the ideas of the original, has
been granted to the tranſlator of proſe;
but is it allowable, even to the tranſlator
of a lyric poem, to add new images
and new thoughts to thoſe of the
original, or to enforce the ſentiments by
illuſtrations which are not in the original?
As the limits between free tranſlation
and paraphraſe are more eaſily
perceived than they can be well defined,
inſtead of giving a general anſwer to
this queſtion, I think it ſafer to give my
opinion upon particular examples.
DR Lowth has adapted to the preſent
times, and addreſſed to his own countrymen,
a very noble imitation of the 6th
ode of the 3d book of Horace: Delicta
majorum immeritus lues, &c. The greateſt
part of this compoſition is of the nature
of parody; but in the verſion of the following
ſtanza there is perhaps but a
ſlight exceſs of that liberty which may
be allowed to the tranſlator of a lyric
Motus doceri gaudet Ionicos
Matura virgo, et ſingitur artubus
Jam nunc, et inceftos amores
De tenero meditatur ungui.
The ripening maid is vers'd in every dangerous art,
That ill adorns the form, while it corrupts the heart;
Practis'd to dreſs, to dance, to play,
In wanton maſk to lead the way,
To move the pliant limbs, to roll the luring eye;
With Folly's gayeſt partizans to vie
In empty noiſe and vain expence;
To celebrate with flaunting air
The midnight revels of the fair ;
Studious of every praiſe, but virtue, truth, and ſenſe.
HERE the tranſlator has ſuperadded
no new images or illuſtrations; but he
has, in two parts of the ſtanza, given a
moral application which is not in the original:
"That ill adorns the form, while
"it corrupts the heart;" and "Studious
"of every praife, but virtue, truth, and
"fenfe." Thefe moral lines are unqueſtionably
a very high improvement of the
original; but they ſeem to me to tranſgreſs,
though indeed very ſlightly, the
liberty allowed to a poetical tranſlator.
IN that fine tranſlation by Dryden, of
the 29th ode of the 3d book of Horace,
which upon the whole is paraphraſtical,
the verſion of the two following ſtanzas
has no more licence than what is juſtifiable:
Fortuna ſævo læta negotio, et
Ludum inſolentem ludere pertinax,
Tranſmutat incertos honores,
Nunc mihi, nunc alii benigna.
Laudo manentem: ſi celeres quatit
Pennas, reſigno qua dedit: et mea
Virtute me involvo, probamque
Pauperiem ſine dote quæro.
Fortune, who with malicious joy
Does man, her ſlave, oppreſs,
Proud of her office to deſtroy,
Is ſeldom pleas'd to bleſs.
Still various, and inconſtant ſtill,
But with an inclination to be ill,
Promotes, degrades, delights in ſtrife,
And makes a lottery of life.
I can enjoy her while ſhe's kind;
But when ſhe dances in the wind,
And ſhakes her wings, and will not ſtay,
I puff the proſtitute away:
The little or the much ſhe gave is quietly reſign'd,
Content with poverty, my ſoul I arm,
And Virtue, though in rags, will keep me warm.
IN the following poem by Mr Hughes,,
which the author has intitled an imitation
of the 6th ode of the 2d book of
Horace, the greateſt part of the compoſition
is a juſt and excellent tranſlation,
while the reſt is a free paraphraſe
or commentary on the original. I ſhall
mark in Italics, all that I conſider as paraphraſtical:
the reſt is a juſt tranſlation,
in which the writer has aſſumed no
more liberty, than was neceſſary to give
the poem the eaſy air of an original compoſition,
Indulgent Quiet! Pow'r ſerene,
Mother of Peace, and Joy, and Love,
O ſay, thou calm, propitious Queen,
Say, in what ſolitary grove,
Within what hollow rock, or winding cell,
By human eyes unſeen,
Like ſome retreated Druid doſt thou dwell?
And why, illuſive Goddeſs! why,
When we thy manſion would ſurround,
Why doſt thou lead us through enchanted ground,
To mock our vain reſearch, and from our wiſhes fly?
The wand'ring ſailors, pale with fear,
For thee the gods implore,
When the tempeſtuous ſea runs high,
And when through all the dark, benighted ſky,
No friendly moon or ſtars appear,
To guide their ſteerage to the ſhore:
For thee the weary ſoldier prays,
Furious in fight the ſons of Thrace,
And Medes, that wear majeſtic by their ſide
A full-charg'd quiver's decent pride,
Gladly with thee would paſs inglorious days,
Renounce the warrior's tempting praiſe,
And buy thee, if thou might'ſt be ſold,
With gems, and purple veils, and ſtores of plunder'd
But neither boundleſs wealth, nor guards that wait
Around the Conſul's honour'd gate,
Nor antichambers with attendants fill'd,
The mind's unhappy tumults can abate,
Or baniſh ſullen cares, that fly
Acroſs the gilded rooms of ſtate,
And their foul neſts like ſwallows build
Cloſe to the palace-roofs and tow'rs that pierce the ſky:"
Much Ieſs will Nature's modeſt wants ſupply:
And happier lives the homely twain,
Who in ſome cottage, far from noiſe,
His few paternal goods enjoys;
Nor knows the ſordid luſt of gain,
Nor with Fear's tormenting pain
His hovering ſleeps deſtroys.
Vain man! that in a narrow ſpace
At endleſs game projects the daring ſpear!
For ſhort is life's uncertain race;
Then why, capricious mortal! why
Doſt thou for happineſs repair
To diſtant climates and a foreign air?
Fool! from thyſelf thou canſt not fly,
Thyſelf the ſource of all thy care :
So flies the wounded ſtag, provok'd with pain,
Bounds o'er the ſpacious downs in vain;
The feather'd torment ſticks within his ſide,
And from the ſmarting wound a purple tide
Marks all his way with blood, and dies the graſſy plain.
But ſwifter far is execrable Care
Than ſtags, or winds, that through the ſkies
Thick-driving ſnows and gather'd tempeſts bear;
Purſuing Care the ſailing ſhip out-flies,
Climbs the tall veſſel's painted ſides;
Nor leaves arm'd ſquadrons in the field,
But with the marching horſeman rides,
And dwells alike in courts and camps, and makes
all places yield.
Then, ſince no ſtate's completely bleſt.
Let's learn the bitter to allay
With gentle mirth, and, wiſely gay,
Enjoy at leaſt the preſent day,
And leave to Fate the reſt.
Nor with vain fear of ills to come
Anticipate th' appointed doom.
Soon did Achilles quit the ſtage;
The hero fell by ſudden death;
While Tithon to a tedious, waſting age
Drew his protracted breath.
And thus, old partial Time, my friend,
Perhaps unaſk'd, to worthleſs me
Thoſe hours of lengthen'd life may lend,
Which he'll refuſe to thee.
Thee ſhining wealth, and plenteous joys ſurround,
And all thy fruitful fields around
Unnumber'd herds of cattle ſtray;
Thy harneſs'd deeds with ſprightly voice,
Make neighbouring vales and hills rejoice,
While ſmoothly thy gay chariot flies o'er the ſwift--
To me the ſtars with leſs profuſion kind,
An humble fortune have aſſign'd,
And no untuneful Lyric vein,
But a ſincere contented mind
That can the vile, malignant crowd diſdain *.
* Otium divos rogat in patenti
Prenſus Ægeo, ſimul atra nubes
Condidit Lunam, neque certa fulgent
Otium bello furioſa Thrace,
Otium Medi pharetrâ decori,
Groſphe, non gemmis, neque purpurâ venale,
Non enim gazæ, neque Conſularis
Summovet lictor miſeros tumultus
Mentis, et curas laqueata circum
Vivitur parvo bene, cui paternum
Splendet in mensâ tenui ſalinum:
Nec leves ſomnos Timor aut Cupido
Quid brevi fortes jaculamur ævo
Multa? quid terras alio calentes
Sole mutamus? Patriæ quis exul,
Se quoqae fugit?
Scandit æratas vitioſa naves
Cura, nec turmas equitum relinquit,
Ocyor cervis, et agente nimbos
Lætus in præſens animus, quod ultra eſt
Oderit curare; et amara lento
Temperat riſu. Nihil eſt ab omni
Abſtulit clarum cita mors Achillem
Longa Tithonum minuit ſenectus:
Et mihi forſan, tibi quod negârit,
Te greges centum, Siculæque circum
Mugiunt vaccæ: tibi tollit hinnitum
Apta quadrigis equa: te bis Afro
Veſtiunt lanæ: mihi parva rura, et
Spiritum Graiæ tenuem Camœnæ
Parca non mendax dedit, et malignum
Hor. Od. 2. 16.
Of the tranſlation of idiomatic phraſes. —
Examples from Cotton, Eachard, Sterne.
— Injudicious uſe of idioms in the tranſlation,
which do not correſpond with the
age or country of the original. — Idiomatic
phraſes ſometimes incapable of tranſlation.
WHILE a tranſlator endeavours to
give to his work all the eaſe of
original compoſition, the chief difficulty
he has to encounter will be found in
the tranſlation of idioms, or thoſe turns
of expreſſion which do not belong to univerſal
grammar, but of which every language
has its own, that are excluſively
proper to it. It will be eaſily underſtood,
that when I ſpeak of the difficulty of
tranſlating idioms, I do not mean thoſe
general modes of arrangement or conſtruction
which regulate a whole language,
and which may not be common
to it with other tongues: As, for example,
the placing the adjective always
before the ſubſtantive in Engliſh, which
in French and in Latin is moſt commonly
placed after it; the uſe of the participle
in Engliſh, where the preſent tenſe is
uſed in other languages; as he is writing,
ſcribit, il écrit; the uſe of the prepoſition
to before the infinitive in Engliſh,
where the French uſe the prepoſition
de or of. Theſe, which may be termed
the general idioms of a language, are
ſoon underſtood, and are exchanged for
parallel idioms with the utmoſt eaſe.
With regard to theſe a tranſlator can
never err, unleſs through affectation or
choice. For example, in tranſlating the
French phraſe, Il profita d'un avis, he
may chooſe faſhionably to ſay, in violation
of the Engliſh conſtruction, he
profited of an advice; or, under the ſanction
of poetical licence, he may chooſe
to engraft the idiom of one language into
another, as Mr Macpherſon has done,
where he ſays, "Him to the ſtrength of
"Hercules, the lovely Aſtyochea bore;"
Ον τεκεν Αστυοχεια, βιη Ηρακληειη· Il. lib. 2. l. 165.
But it is not with regard to ſuch idiomatic
conſtructions, that a tranſlator
will ever find himſelf under any difficulty.
It is in the tranſlation of thoſe particular
idiomatic phraſes of which every
language has its own collection; phraſes
which are generally of a familiar nature,
and which occur moſt commonly in converſation,
or in that ſpecies of writing
which approaches to the eaſe of converſation.
THE tranſlation is perfect, when the
tranſlator finds in his own language an
idiomatic phraſe correſponding to that
of the original. Montaigne (Eſſ: 1. I.
c. 29.) ſays of Gallio, "Lequel ayant
"été envoyé en exil en l'Iſle de Leſbos,
"on fut averti à Rome qu'il s'y donnoit
"du bon temps, et que ce qu'on lui
"avoit enjoins pour peine, lui tournoit
"à commodité." The difficulty of
tranſlating this ſentence, lies in the idiomatic
phraſe, "qu'il s'y donnoit du bon
"temps." Cotton finding a parallel idiom
in Engliſh, has tranſlated the paſſage
with becoming eaſe and ſpirit: "As
"it happened to one Gallio, who having
"been ſent an exile to the iſle of Leſbos,
"news was not long after brought to
"Rome, that he there lived as merry as
"the day was long; and that what had
"been enjoined him for a penance, turn"ed
out to his greateſt pleaſure and ſa"tisfaction."
Thus, in another paſſage
of the ſame author, (Eſſais, 1. I. c. 29.)
"Si j'euſſe cté chef de part, j'euſſe prins
"autre voye plus naturelle." Had I rul'd
"the roaſt, I ſhould have taken another
"and more natural courſe." So likewiſe,
(Eſſ. l. I. c. 25.) "Mais d'y enfoncer plus
"avant, et de m'étre rongé Ies angles à
"l'etude d'Ariſtote, monarche de la doc"trine
moderne." "But, to dive farther
"than that, and to have cudgell'd my brains
"in the ſtudy of Ariſtotle, the monarch of
"all modern learning." So, in the following
paſſages from Terence, tranſlated
by Eachard: "Credo omnibus pedibuſquo
"obnixè omnia facturum." Andr. Act. I.
"I know he'll be at it tooth and nail."
Herus, quantum audio, uxore excidit, And.
Act. 2. "For aught I perceive, my poor
"maſter may go whiſtle for a wife."
IT is not perhaps poſſible to produce a
happier inſtance of tranſlation by correſponding
idioms, than Sterne has given
in the tranſlation of Slawkenbergius's
Tale. "Nihil me pœnitet hujus naſi,"
"quoth Pamphagus; that is, my noſe has
"been the making of me." Nec eſt cur pæniteat;
"that is, How the deuce ſhould
"ſuch a noſe fail?" Triſtram Shandy,
vol. 3. ch. 7. Miles peregrini in faciem
ſuſpexit. Dî boni, nova forma naſi! "The
"centinel look'd up into the ſtranger's
"face. — Never ſaw ſuch a noſe in his
As there is nothing which ſo much
conduces both to the eaſe and ſpirit of
compoſition, as a happy uſe of idiomatic
phraſes, there is nothing which a tranſlator,
who has a moderate command of his
own language, is ſo apt to carry to a licentious
extreme. Eachard, whoſe tranſlations
of Terence and of Plautus have,
upon the whole, much merit, is extremely
cenſurable for his intemperate uſe of
idiomatic phraſes. In the firſt act of the
Andria, Davus thus ſpeaks to himſelf:
Enimvero, Dave, nihil loci eſt ſegnitiæ neque ſocordiæ
Quantum intellexi ſenis ſententiam de nuptiis:
Quæ ſi non aſtu providentur, me aut herum peſſundabunt,
Necquid agam certum eſt, Pamphilumne adjutem an
Terent. Andr. Act. I. Sc. 4,
THE tranſlation of this paſſage by Eachard,
exhibits a ſtrain of vulgar petulance,
which is very oppoſite to the chaſtened
ſimplicity of the original.
"WHY, ſeriouſly, poor Davy, 'tis high
"time to beſtir thy ſtumps, and to leave
"of dozing; at leaſt, if a body may
"gueſs at the old man's meaning by his
"mumping. If theſe brains do not help
"me out at a dead lift, to pot goes Pil"garlick,
or his maſter, for certain:
"and, hang me for a dog, if I know
"which ſide to take; whether to help
"my young maſter, or make fair with
IN the uſe of idiomatic phraſes, a tranſlator
frequently forgets both the country
of his original author, and the age in
which he wrote; and while he makes a
Greek or a Roman ſpeak French or Enggliſh,
he unwittingly puts into his mouth
alluſions to the manners of modern France
or England. This, to uſe a phrafe borrowed
from painting, may be termed an
offence againſt the coſtume. Cicero in his
oration for Archias, ſays, "Perſona quæ
"propter otium et ſtudium minime in judi"ciis
periculiſque verſata eſt." M. Patru
has tranſlated this, "Un homme que ſes
"études et ſes livres ont eloigné du com"merce
du Palais." The Palais, or the
Old Palace of the kings of France, it is
true, is the place where the parliament
of Paris and the chief courts of juſtice
were aſſembled for the deciſion of cauſes;
but it is juſt as abſurd to make Cicero talk
of his haranguing in the Palais, as it would
be, of his pleading in Weſtminſter-Hall.
In this reſpect, Eachard is moſt notoriouſly
faulty: We find in every page of his
tranſlations of Terence and Plautus, the
moſt incongruous jumble of ancient and
of modern manners. He talks of the
"Lord Chief Juſtice of Athens," Fam
tu autem nobis Præturam geris? Pl. Epid.
act. I. ſc. 1 and ſays, "I will find him
"to Bridewell with his ſkin ſtripped over
"his cars," Hominem irrigatum plagis
piſtori dabo. Ibid. ſc. 3. "I muſt expect
"to beat hemp in Bridewell all the days
"of my life." Molendum mihi eſt uſque
in piſtrino, Ter. Phormio, act. 2. "He
"looks as grave as an alderman," Triſtis
ſeveritas ineſt in vultû, Ibid. Andria, act
5. — The ſame author makes the ancient
heathen Romans and Greeks, ſwear Britiſh
and Chriſtian oaths; ſuch as, "Fore
"George, Blood and ounds, Gadzook"ers,
'Sbuddikins, By the Lord Harry!"
They are likewiſe well read in the books
both of the Old and New Teſtament
"Good b'ye, Sir Solomon," ſays Gripus
to Trachalion, Salve, Thales! Pl. Rudens,
act 4. ſc. 3.; and Sofia thus vouches
his own identity to Mercury, "By Jove
"I am he, and 'tis as true as the goſpel,"
Per Jovem juro, med eſſe, neque me falſum
dicere, Pl. Amphit. act 1. ſc. 1 *. The
* The modern air of the following ſentence is, however,
not diſpleaſing: Antipho aſks Cherea, where he
ſame ancients, in Mr Eachard's tranſlation,
are familiarly acquainted with the
modern invention of gunpowder; "Had
"we but a mortar now to play upon
"them under the covert way, one bomb
"would make them ſcamper," Fundam
tibi nunc nimis vellem dari, ut tu illos procul
hinc ex oculto cæderes, facerent fugam,
Ter. Eun. act 4. And as their ſoldiers
ſwear and fight, ſo they muſt needs
drink like the moderns: "This god
"can't afford one brandy-ſhop in all
his dominions," Ne Thermopolium quidem
ullum ille inſtruit, Pl. Rud. act 2.
fc. 9. In the ſame comedy, Plautus,
who wrote 180 years before Chriſt, alludes
to the battle of La Hogue, fought
has beſpoke ſupper; he anfwers, Apud libertum Diſcum,
"At Diſcus the freedman's." Eachard, with a happy
familiarity, ſays, " At old Harry Platter's. Ter. Eun.
act 3. ſc. 5.
A. D. 1692. "I'll be as great as a king,"
ſays Gripus, "I'll have a Royal Sun * for
"pleaſure, like the King of France, and
"ſail about from port to port," Navibus
magnis mercaturam faciam, Pl. Rud. act 4.
A tranſlator will often meet with idiomatic
phraſes in the original author, to
which no correſponding idiom can be
found in the language of the tranſlation.
As a literal tranflation of ſuch phraſes
cannot be tolerated, the only refource is,
to expreſs the ſenſe in plain and eaſy
language. Cicero, in one of his letters
to Papirius Patus, ſays, "Veni igitur, ſi
"vires, et diſce jam προλεγομενας quas quæ*
Alluding to the French Admiral's ſhip, called Le
Soleil Royal, beaten and diſabled by Ruſſell.
"ris; etſi ſus Minervam," Ep. ad Fam. 9.
18. The idiomatic phraſe ſi vires, is
capable of a perfect tranſlation by a correſponding
idiom; but that which occurs
in the latter part of the ſentence,
etſi ſus Minervam, can neither be tranſlated
by a correſponding idiom, nor yet
literally. Mr Melmoth has thus happily
expreſſed the ſenſe of the whole paſſage:
"If you have any ſpirit then, fly
"hither, and learn from our elegant
"bills of fare how to refine your own;
"though, to do your talents juſtice,
"this is a ſort of knowledge in which
"you are much ſuperior to your inſtruc"tors."
— Pliny, in one of his epiſtles to
Calviſius, thus addreſſes him, Aſſem para,et
accipe auream fabulam: fabulas immo:
nam me priorum nova admonuit, lib. 2.
ep. 20. To this expreſſion aſſem para, &c.
whicn is a proverbial mode of ſpeech,
we have nothing that correſponds in
Engliſh. To tranſlate the phraſe literally
would have a poor effect: "Give
"me a penny, and take a golden ſtory,
"or a ſtory worth gold." Mr Melmoth
has given the ſenſe in eaſy language:
"Are you inclined to hear a ſtory? or,
"if you pleaſe, two or three? for one
"brings to my mind another."
BUT this reſource of tranſlating the
idiomatic phraſe into eaſy language muſt
fail, where the merit of the paſſage to
be tranſlated actually lies in that expreſſion
which is idiomatical. This will
often occur in epigrams, many of which
are therefore incapable of tranſlation:
Thus, in the following epigram the
point of wit lies in an idiomatic phraſe,
and is loſt in every other language where
the ſame preciſe idiom does not occur:
On the wretched imitations of the Diable Boiteux
of Le Sage:
Le Diable Boiteux eſt aimable;
Le Sage y triomphe aujourdhui;
Tout ce qu' on a fait après lui
N'a pas valu le Diable.
We ſay in Engliſh, "'Tis not worth a
"fig;" or, "'tis not worth a farthing;"
but we cannot ſay, as the French do,
"'Tis not worth the devil;" and therefore
the epigram cannot be tranſlated into
SOMEWHAT of the ſame nature are
the following lines of Marot; in his
Epitre au Roi, where the merit lies in
the ludicrous naiveté of the laſt line,
which is idiomatical, and has no ſtrictly
correſponding expreſſion in Engliſh:
J'avois un jour un valet de Gaſcogne,
Gourmand, yvrogne, et aſſure menteur,
Pipeur, larron, jureur, blaſphemateur,
Sentant la hart de cent pas à la ronde:
Au demeurant le meilleur filz du monde.
ALTHOUGH we have idioms in Engliſh
that are nearly ſimilar to this, we
have none which has the ſame naiveté,
and therefore no juſtice can be done to
this paſſage by any Engliſh tranſlation.
Difficulty of tranſlating Don Quixote, from
its idiomatic Phraſeology. — Of the beſt
Tranſlations of that Novel. — Compariſon
of the Tranſlation by Motteux with that
THERE is perhaps no book to which
it is more difficult to do perfect juſtice
in a tranſlation than the Don Quixote
of Cervantes. This difficulty ariſes from
the extreme frequency of its idiomatic
phraſes. As the Spaniſh language is in
itſelf highly idiomatical, even the narrative
part of the book is on that account
difficult; but the colloquial part is ſtudiouſly
filled with idioms, as one of the
principal characters continually expreſſes
himſelf in proverbs. Of this work there
have been many Engliſh tranflations, executed,
as may be ſuppoſed, with various
degrees of merit. The two beſt of theſe,
in my opinion, are the tranſlations of
Motteux and Smollet, both of them writers
eminently well qualified for the taſk
they undertook. It will not be foreign
to the purpoſe of this Eſſay, if I ſhall
here make a ſhort comparative eſtimate
of the merit of theſe tranſlations *.
* The tranſlation publiſhed by Motteux bears, in
the title-page, that it is the work of ſeveral hands; but
as of theſe Mr Motteux was the principal, and reviſed
and corrected the parts that were tranſlated by others,
which indeed we have no means of diſcriminating from
his own, I ſhall, in the following compariſon, ſpeak of
him as the author of the whole work.
Smollet inherited from nature a ſtrong
ſenſe of ridicule, a great fund of original
humour, and a happy verſatility of talent,
by which he could accommodate
his ſtyle to almoſt every ſpccies of writing.
He could adopt alternately the ſolemn,
the lively, the ſarcaſtic, the burleſque,
and the vulgar. To theſe qualifications
he joined an inventive genius,
and a vigorous imagination. As he poſſeſſed
talents equal to the compoſition of
original works of the ſame ſpecies with the
novel of Cervantes; ſo it is not perhaps
poſſible to conceive a writer more completely
qualified to give a perfect tranſlation
of that novel.
Motteux, with no great abilities as an
original writer, appears to me to have
been endowed with a ſtrong perception
of the ridiculous in human character; a
juſt diſcernment of the weakneſſes and
follies of mankind. He ſeems likewiſe to
have had a great command of the various
ſtyles which are accommodated to the
expreſſion both of grave burleſque, and
of low humour. Inferior to Smollet in
inventive genius, he ſeems to have equalled
him in every quality which was eſſentially
requiſite to a tranſlator of Don
Quixote. It may therefore be ſuppoſed,
that the conteſt between them will be
nearly equal, and the queſtion of preference
very difficult to be decided. It
would have been ſo, had Smollet confided
in his own ſtrength, and beſtowed
on his taſk that time and labour which
the length and difficulty of the work required
but Smollet too often wrote in
ſuch circumſtances, that diſpatch was his
primary object. He found various Engliſh
tranſlations at hand, which he judged
might ſave him the labour of a new compoſition.
Jarvis could give him faithfully
the ſenſe of his author; and it was
neceſſary, only to poliſh his aſperities,
and lighten his heavy and aukward phraſeology.
To contend w ith Motteux, Smollet
found it neceſſary to aſſume the armour
of Jarvis. This author had purpoſely
avoided, through the whole of his
work, the ſmalleſt coincidence of expreſſion
with Motteux, whom, with equal
preſumption and injuſtice, he accuſes in
his preface of having "taken his verſion
"wholly from the French *." We find,
* The only French tranſlation of Don Quixote I have
ever ſeen, is that to which in ſubjoined a continuation of
the Knight's adventures, in two ſupplemental volumes,
by Le Sage. This tranſlation has undergone numbertherefore,
both in the tranſlation of Jarvis
and in that of Smollet, which is litleſs
editions, and is therefore, I preſume, the beſt;
perhaps indeed the only one, except a very old verlion,
which is mentioned in the preface, as being quite literal,
and very antiquated in its ſtyle. It is therefore to be
preſumed, that when Jarvis accuſes Motteux of having
taken his verſion entirely from the French, he refers to
that tranſlation above mentioned to which Le Sage
has given a ſupplement. If this be the caſe, we may
confidently affirm, that Jarvis has done Motteux the
greateſt injuſtice. On comparing his tranſlation with
the French, there is a diſcrepancy ſo abſolute and univerſal,
that there does not ariſe the ſmalleſt ſuſpicion
that he had ever ſeen that verſion. Let any paſſage be
compared ad apperturam libri; as, for example, the following
"De ſimples huttes tenoient lieu de maiſons, et de pa"lais
aux habitants de la terre; les arbres ſe defaiſant
"d'eax-memes de leurs écorces, leur fourniſſoient de
"quoi couvrir leurs cabanes, et ſe garantir de l'intem"périe
"The tough and ſtrenuous cork-trees did of them"ſelves,
and without other art than their native libera"lity,
diſmiſs and impart their broad, light bark, which
"ſerved to cover thoſe lowly huts, propped up with
tle elſe than an improved edition of the
former, that there is a ſtudied rejection
"rough-hewn ſtakes, that were firſt built as a ſhelter
"againſt the inclemencies of the air." Motteux.
"La beaute n'étoit point un avantage dangereux
"aux jeunes filles; elles alloient librement partout, eta"lant
ſans artifice et ſans deſſein tous les préſents que
"leur avoit fait la Nature, ſans ſe cacher davantage,
"qu' autant que l'honnêteté commune à tous les ſiecles
"l'a toujours demandé."
"Then was the time, when innocent beautiful young
"ſheperdeſſes went tripping over the hilIs and vales,
"their lovely hair ſometimes plaited, ſometimes looſe
"and flowing, clad in no other veſtment but what was
"neceſſary to cover decently what modeſty would al"ways
have concealed." Motteux.
It will not, I believe, be aſſerted that this verſion of
Motteux hears any traces of being copied from the
French, which is quite licentious and paraphraſtical.
But when we ſubjoin the original, we ſhall perceive,
that he has given a very juſt and eaſy tranſlation of the
Los valientes alcornoques deſpedian de sí, ſin otro artificio
que el de ſu corteſia, ſus anchas y livianas cortezas, ſin
of the phraſeology of Motteux. Now,
Motteux, though he has frequently aſſumed
too great a licence, both in adding
to and retrenching from the ideas of
his original, has upon the whole a very
high degree of merit as a tranſlator. In
the adoption of correſponding idioms he
has been eminently fortunate, and, as in
theſe there is no great latitude, he has
in general preoccupied the appropriated
phraſes; ſo that a. ſucceeding tranſlator,
who proceeded on the rule of invariably
rejecting his phraſeology, muſt have, in
general, altered for the worſe. Such, I
que ſe commençaron á cubrir las caſas, ſobre ruſticas eſtacas
ſuſtentadas, no mas que para defenſa de las inclemencias
ENTONCES sí, que andaban las ſimples y hermoſas zagalejas
de vale en vale, y de otero en otero, en trenza y en
cabello, ſin mas veſtidos as aquellos que eran meneſter para
cubrir honeſtamente lo que la honeſtidad quiere.
have ſaid, was the rule laid down by Jarvis,
and by his copiſt and improver, Smollet,
who by thus abſurdly rejecting what
his own judgement and taſte muſt have
approved, has produced it compoſition
decidedly inferior, on the whole, to that
of Motteux. While I juſtify the opinion
I have now given, by comparing ſeveral
paſſages of both tranſlations, I ſhall readily
allow full credit to the performance
of Smollet, where-ever I find that there
is a real ſuperiority to the work of his
AFTER Don Quixote's unfortunate
encounter with the Yangueſian carriers,
in which the Knight, Sancho, and Rozinante,
were all moſt grievouſly mauled,
his faithful ſquire lays his maſter acroſs
his aſs, and conducts him to the neareſt
inn, where a miſerable bed is made up
for him in a garret. Cervantes then proceeds
En eſta maldita coma ſe accoſtó Don
Quixote: y luego la ventera y ſu hija le
emplaſtáron de arriba abaxo, alumbrandoles
Maritornes: que aſi ſe llamaba la Aſturiana.
Y como al vizmalle, vieſe la ventera tan acardenalado
á partes á Don Quixote, dixo
que aquello mas parecian golpes que caida.
No fuéron golpes, dixo Sancho, ſino que la
pena tenia muchos picos y tropezones, y que
cada uno habia hecho ſu cardinal, y tambien
le dixo: haga vueſtra merced, ſenora, de
manera que queden algunas eſtopas, que no
faltará quien las haya meneſter, que tambien
me duclen á mí un poco los lomos. Deſa manera,
reſpondió la ventera, tambien debiſtes
deos de caer? No caí, dico Sancho Panza,
ſino que del ſobreſalto que tome de ver caer
á mi amo, de tal manera me duele á mi el
cuerpo, que me parece que me ban dado mil
Tranſlation by Motteux.
"IN this ungracious bed was the
"Knight laid to reſt his belaboured car"caſe;
and preſently the hoſteſs and her
"daughter anointed and plaſtered him
"all over, while Maritornes, (for that
"was the name of the Aſturian wench),
"held the candle. The hoſteſs, while
"the greaſed him, wondering to ſee him
"ſo bruiſed all over, I fancy, ſaid ſhe,
"thoſe bumps look much more like a
"dry beating than a fall. 'Twas no
"dry beating, miſtreſs, I promiſe you,
"quoth Sancho; but the rock had I
"know not how many cragged ends
"and knobs, and every one of them
"gave my maſter a token of its kind"neſs.
And by the way, forſooth, con"tinued
he, I beſeech you ſave a little
"of that ſame tow and ointment for and
"too, for I don't know what's the mat"ter
with my back, but I fancy I ſtand
"mainly in want of a little greaſing
"too. What, I ſuppoſe you fell too,
"quoth the landlady. Not I, quoth
"Sancho, but the very fright that I
"took to ſee my maſter tumble down
"the rock, has ſo wrought upon my
"body, that I am as ſore as if I had
"been ſadly mawled."
Tranſlation by Smollet.
"IN this wretched bed Don Quixote
"having laid himſelf down, was anoint"ed
from head to foot by the good wo"man
and her daughter, while Mari"tornes
(that was the Aſturian's name)
"ſtood hard by, holding a light. The
"landlady, in the courſe of her applica"tion,
perceiving the Knight's whole
"body black and blue, obſerved, that
"thoſe marks ſeemed rather the effects
"of drubbing than of a fall; but San"cho
affirmed ſhe was miſtaken, and
"that the marks in queſtion were occa"ſioned
by the knobs and corners of the
"rocks among which he fell. And now,
"I think of it, ſaid he, pray, Madam,
"manage matters ſo as to leave a little
"of your ointment, for it will be needed,
"I'll aſſure you: my own loins are none
"of the ſoundeſt at preſent. What, did
"you fall too, ſaid ſhe? I can't ſay I did,
"anſwered the ſquire; but I was ſo in"fected
by ſeeing my maſter tumble,
"that my whole body akes, as much as
"if I had been cudgelled without mer"cy."
OF theſe two tranſlations, it will hardly
be denied that Motteux's is both eaſier
in point of ſtyle, and conveys more
forcibly the humour of the dialogue in
the original. A few contraſted phraſes
will ſhew clearly the ſuperiority of the
Motteux. "In this ungracious bed
"was the Knight laid to reſt his bela"boured
SmoIlet. "In this wretched bed Don
"Quixote having laid himſelf down."
Motteux. "While Maritornes (for
"that was the name of the Aſturian
"wench) held the candle."
Smollet. "While Maritornes (that was
"the Aſturian's name) ſtood hard by,
"holding a light."
Motteux. "The hoſteſs, while ſhe
Smollet. "The landlady, in the courſe
"of her application."
Motteux. "I fancy, ſaid ſhe, thoſe
"bumps look much more like a dry
"beating than a fall."
Smollet. "Obſerved, that thoſe marks
"ſeemed rather the effect of drubbing
"than of a fall."
Motteux. "'Twas no dry beating, mi"ſtreſs,
I promiſe you, quoth Sancho."
Smollet. "But Sancho affirmed ſhe
"was in a miſtake."
Motteux. "And, by the way, for"ſooth,
continued he, I beſeech you ſave
"a little of that ſame tow and ointment
"for me; for I don't know what's the
"matter with my back, but I fancy I
"ſtand mainly in need of a little grea"ſing
Smollet. "And now, I think of it,
"ſaid he, pray, Madam, manage matters
"ſo as to leave a little of your ointment,
"for it will be needed, I'll aſſure you:
"my own loins are none of the ſoundeſt
Motteux. "What, I ſuppoſe you fell
"too, quoth the landlady? Not I, quoth
"Sancho, but the very fright," &c.
Smollet. "What, did you fall too,
"ſaid ſhe? I can't ſay I did, anſwered
"the ſquire; but I was ſo infected, &c.
THERE is not only more eaſe of expreſſion
and force of humour in Motteux's
tranſlation of the above paſſages
than in Smollet's, but greater fidelity to
the original. In one part, no fueron golpes,
Smollet has improperly changed the
firſt perſon for the third, or the colloquial
ſtyle for the narrative, which materially
weakens the ſpirit of the paſſage.
Cada uno habia hecho ſu cardenal is moſt
happily tranſlated by Motteux, "every
"one of them gave him a token of its
"kindneſs;" but in Smollet's verſion,
this ſpirited clauſe of the ſentence evaporates
altogether. — Algunas eſtopas is more
faithfully rendered by Motteùx than by
Smollet. In the latter part of the paſſage,
when the hoſteſs jeeringly ſays to
Sancho, Deſa manera tambien debiſtes vos
de caer? the ſquire, impatient to wipe
off that ſly inſinuation againſt the veracity
of his ſtory, haſtily anſwers, No cai.
To this Motteux has done ample juſtice,
"Not I, quoth Sancho." But Smollet,
inſtead of the arch effrontery which the
author meant to mark by this anſwer,
gives a tame apologetic air to the ſquire's
reply, "I can't ſay I did, anſwered the
"ſquire." Don Quix. par. 1. cap. 16.
DON Quixote and Sancho, travelling
in the night through a deſert valley, have
their ears aſſailed at once by a combination
of the moſt horrible ſounds, the roaring
of cataracts, clanking of chains, and loud
ſtrokes repeated at regular intervals; all
which perſuade the Knight, that his courage
is immediately to be tried in a moſt:
perilous adventure. Under this impreſſion,
he felicitates himſelf on the immortal
renown he is about to acquire, and,
brandiſhing his lance, thus addreſſes
Sancho, whoſe joints are quaking with
Aſi que aprieta un poco las cinchas a Rocinante,
y quédate a Dios, y aſperame aqui
haſta tres dias, no mas, en los quales ſi no
volviere, puedes tú volverte á nueſtra aldea,
y deſde alli, por hacerme merced y buena
obra, irás al Toboſo , donde dirás al incomparable
ſenora mia Dulcinea, que ſu cautivo
caballero murió por acometer coſas, que le
hicieſen digno de poder llamarſe ſuyo. Don
Quix. par. 1. cap. 20.
Tranſlation by Motteux.
"COME, girth Rozinantc ſtraiter,
"and then Providence protect thee:
"Thou may'ſt ſtay for me here; but if
"I do not return in three days, go back
"to our village, and from thence, for
"my ſake, to Toboſo, where thou ſhalt
"ſay to my incomparable lady Dulcinea,
"that her faithful knight fell a ſacrifice
"to love and honour, while he attempt"ed
things that might have made him
"worthy to be called her adorer?"
Tranſlation by Smollet.
"THEREFORE ſtraiten Rozinante's
"girth, recommend thyſelf to God, and
"wait for me in this place, three days
"at fartheſt ; within which time if I
"come not back, thou mayeſt return to
"our village, and, as the laſt favour
"and ſervice clone to me, go from
"thence to Toboſo, and inform my in"comparable
miſtreſs Dulcinea, that
"her captive knight died in attempting
"things that might render him wor"thy
to be called her lover."
ON comparing theſe two tranſlations,
that of Smollet appears to me to have
better preſerved the ludicrous ſolemnity
of the original. This is particularly obſervable
in the beginning of the ſentence,
where there is a moſt humorous aſſſociation
of two counſels very oppoſite in
their nature, the recommending himſelf
to God, and girding Rozinante. In
the requeſt, "and as the laſt favour and
"ſervice done to me, go from thence to
"Toboſo;" the tranſlations of Smollet
and Motteux are, perhaps, nearly equal
in point of ſolemnity, but the ſimplicity
of the original is better preſerved by
SANCHO, after endeavouring in vain
to diſſuade his maſter from engaging in
* Perhaps a parody was here intended of the famous
epitaph of Simonides, on the brave Spartans who fell
Ω ξειν, αγγειλον Λακεδαιμονιοις, οτι τηδε
Κειμεθα τοις κεινων ρημασι πειθομενοι·
"O ſtranger, carry back the news to Lacedemon,
"that we died here to prove our obedience to her
"laws." This, it will he obſerved, may be tranſlated,
or at leaſt cloſely imitated, in the very words of Cervantes;
diras — que ſu caballero murió por acometer coſas
que le hicieſen digno de poder llamarſe ſuyo.
this perilous adventure, takes advantage
of the darkneſs to tie Rozinante's legs together,
and thus to prevent him from
ſtirring from the ſpot; which being
done, to divert the Knight's impatience
under this ſuppoſed enchantment, he
proceeds to tell him, in his uſual ſtrain
of ruſtic buffoonery, a long ſtory of a
cock and a bull, which thus begins:
"Eraſe que ſe era, el bien que vinicre
"para todos ſea, y el mal para quien lo
"fuere á buſcar; y advierta vueſtra
"merced, ſenor mio, que el principio que
"los antiguos dieron a ſus conſejas, no fue
"así como quiera, que fue una ſentencia de
"Caton Zonzorino Romano que dice, y el
"mal para quien lo fueré á buſcar." Ibid.
IN this paſſage, the chief difficulties
that occur to the tranſlator are, firſt, the
beginning, which ſeems to be a cuſtomary
prologue to a nurſery-tale among
the Spaniards, which muſt therefore be
tranſlated by a correſponding phraſeology
in Engliſh; and ſecondly, the blunder
of Caton Zonzorino. Both theſe are, I
think, moſt happily hit off by Motteux.
"In the days of yore, when it was as it
"was, good betide us all, and evil to
"him that evil ſeeks. And here, Sir,
"you are to take notice, that they of old
"did not begin their tales in an ordina"ry
way; for 'twas a ſaying of a wiſe
"man, whom they call'd Cato the Ro"man
Tonſor, that ſaid, Evil to him that
"evil ſeeks." Smollet thus tranſlates the
paffage: "There was, ſo there was; the
"good that ſhall fall betide us all; and
"he that ſeeks evil may meet with the
"devil. Your worſhip may take notice,
"that the beginning of ancient tales is
"not juſt what came into the head of
"the teller: no, they always began with
"ſome ſaying of Cato, the cenſor of
"Rome, like this, of "He that ſeeks
"evil may meet with the devil."
THE beginning of the ſtory, thus tranſlated,
has neither any meaning in itſelf,
nor does it reſemble the uſual preface of
a fooliſh tale. Inſtead of Caton Zonzorino,
a blunder which apologiſes for the mention
of Cato by ſuch an ignorant clown
as Sancho, we find the blunder rectified
by Smollet, and Cato dignified with his
proper epithet of the Cenſor. This is a
manifeſt impropriety in the laſt tranſlator,
for which no other cauſe can be aſſigned,
than that his predeceſſor had preoccupied
the blunder of Cato the Tonſor,
which, though not a tranſlation of Zonzorino,
(the purblind), was yet a very
IN the courſe of the ſame cock-and--
bull ſtory, Sancho thus proceeds: "Aſi
que, yendo dias y viniendo dias, el diablo
que no duerme y que todo lo anaſca, hizo de
manera, que el amor que el paſtor tenia á ſu
paſtora ſe volvieſe en omecillo y mala voluntad,
y la cauſa fué ſegun malas lenguas, una
cierta cantidad de zelillos que ella le dió, tales
que paſaban de la raya, y llegaban á lo
vedado, y fue tanto lo que el paſtor la aborreció
de alli adelante, que por no verla ſe
quiſo auſentar de aquella tierra, é irſe donde
ſus ojos no la vieſen jamas: la Toralva, que
ſe vió defdenada del Lope, luego le quiſo bien
mas que nunca le habia querido. Ibid.
Tranſlation by Motteux.
"WELL, but, as you know, days come
"and go, and time and ſtraw makes
"medlars ripe; ſo it happened, that af"ter
ſeveral days coming and going, the
"devil, who ſeldom lies dead in a ditch,
"but will have a finger in every pye, ſo
"brought it about, that the ſhepherd
"fell out with his ſweetheart, inſomuch
"that the love he bore her turned into
"dudgeon and ill-will; and the cauſe
"was, by report of ſome miſchievous
"tale-carriers, that bore no good-will to
"either party, for that the ſhepherd
"thought her no better than ſhe ſhould
"be, a little looſe i' the hilts, &c *.
* One expreſſion is omitted which is a little too
"Thereupon being grievous in the dumps
"about it, and now bitterly hating hers
"he e'en reſolved to leave that country
"to get out of her ſight: for now, as
"every dog has his dav, the wench per"ceiving
he came no longer a ſuitering
"to her, but rather toſs'd his noſe at her
"and ſhunn'd her, ſhe began to love him,
"and doat upon him like any thing."
I believe it will be allowed, that the
above tranſlation not only conveys the
complete ſenſe and ſpirit of the original,
but that it greatly improves upon its humour.
When Smollet came to tranſlate
this paſſage, he muſt have ſeverely felt
the hardſhip of that law he had impoſed
on himſelf, of invariably rejecting the
expreſſions of Motteux; who had in this
inſtance been eminently fortunate. It
will not therefore ſurpriſe us, if we find
the new tranſlator to have here failed as
remarkably as his predeceſſor has ſucceeded.
Tranſlation by Smollet.
"AND ſo, in proceſs of time, the de"vil,
who never ſleeps, but wants to have
"a finger in every pye, managed matters
"in ſuch a manner, that the ſhepherd's
"love for the ſhepherdeſs was turned
"into malice and deadly hate: and the
"cauſe, according to evil tongues, was
"a certain quantity of ſmall jealouſies
"ſhe gave him, exceeding all bounds of
"meaſure. And ſuch was the abhor"rence
the ſhepherd conceived for her,
"that, in order to avoid the ſight of her,
"he reſolved to abſent himſelf from his
"own country, and go where he ſhould
"never ſet eyes on her again. Toralvo
"finding herſelf deſpiſed by Lope, be"gan
to love him more than ever."
SMOLLET, conſcious that in the above
paſſage Motteux had given the beſt poſſible
free tranſlation, and that he had
ſupplanted him in the choice of correſponding
idioms, ſeems to have piqued
himſelf on a rigid adherence to the very
letter of his original. The only Engliſh
idiom, being a plagiariſm from Motteux,
"wants to have a finger in every pye,"
ſeems to have been adopted from abſolute
neceſſity: the Spaniſh phraſe would
not bear a literal verſion, and no other
idiom was to be found but that which
Motteux had preoccupied.
FROM an inflexible adherence to the
ſame law, of invariably rejecting the
phraſeology of Motteux, we find in every
page of this new tranſlation numberleſs
changes for the worſe:
Se que no mira de mal ojo á la mochacha.
"I have obſerved he calls a ſheep's
"eye at the wench." Motteux.
"I can perceive he has no diſlike to
"the girl." Smollet.
Tereſa me puſieron en el bautiſmo, nombre
mondo y eſcueto, ſin anadiduras, ni cortopizas,
ni arrequives de Dones ni Donas.
"I was chriſtened plain Tereſa, with"out
any fiddle-faddle, or addition of
"Madam, or Your Ladyſhip." Motteux.
"Terefa was I chriftened, a bare and
"ſimple name, without the addition,
"garniture, and embroidery of Don or
Sigue to cuento, Sancho.
"Go on with thy ſtory, Sancho."
"Follow thy ſtory, Sancho." Smollet.
Yo confieſo que he andado algo riſueno en
"I confeſs I carried the jeſt too far."
"I ſee I have exceeded a little in my
De mis vinas vengo, no ſe nada, no ſoy
amigo de ſaber vidas agenas.
"I never thruſt my noſe into other
"men's porridge; it's no bread and but"ter
of mine: Every man for himſelf,
"and God for us all, ſay I." Motteux.
"I prune my own vine, and I know
"nothing about thine. I never meddle
"with other people's concerns." Smollet.
Y advierta que ya tengo edad para dar
conſejos. Quien bien tiene, y mai eſcoge,
por bien que ſe enoja, no ſe venga.
"Come, Maſter, I have hair enough
"in my beard to make a counſellor: he
"that will not when he may, when he
"will he ſhall have nay." Motteux.
"Take notice that I am of an age to
"give good counſels. He that hath good
"in his view, and yet will not evil eſchew,
"his folly deſerveth to rue." Smollet.
Rather than adopt the correſponding proverb
given by Motteux, Smollet chuſes,
in this inſtance, and in many others, to
make a proverb for himſelf, by giving a
literal verſion of the original in a ſort of
Vive Roque, que es la ſenora nueſtra ama
mas ligera que an alcotan, y que puede enſenar
al mas dieſtro Cordobes o Mexicano.
"By the Lord Harry, quoth Sancho,
"our Lady Miſtreſs is as nimble as an
"eel. Let me be hang'd, if I don't
"think ſhe might teach the beſt jockey
"in Cordova or Mexico to mount a"horſeback."
"By St Roque, cried Sancho, my La"dy
Miſtreſs is as light as a hawk*, and
"can teach the moſt dexterous horſeman
"to ride." Smollet.
THE chapter which treats of the puppet-ſhow,
is well tranſlated both by Motteux
and Smollet. But the diſcourſe
of the boy who explains the ſtory of the
piece, in Motteux's tranſlation, appears
somewhat more conſonant to the phraſeology
commonly uſed on ſuch occaſions:
Now, gentlemen, in the next place,
"mark that perſonage that peeps out
"there with a crown on his head, and a
"ſceptre in his hand: That's the Empe"ror
Charlemain. — Mind how the Em*
Mas ligera que un alcotan is more literally tranſlated
by Smollet than by Motteux; but if Smollet piqued
himſelf on fidelity, why was Codobes o Mexicano omitted?
"peror turns his back upon him. —
"Don't you ſee that Moor; — hear what
"a ſmack he gives on her ſweet lips, —
"and ſee how ſhe ſpits, and wipes her
"mouth with her white ſmock-ſleeve.
"See how ſhe takes on, and tears her
"hair for very madneſs, as if it was to
"blame for this affront. — Now mind
"what a din and hurly-burly there is."
Motteux. This jargon appears to me to
be more characteriſtic of the ſpeaker than
the following: "And that perſonage who
"now appears with a crown on his head
"and a ſceptre in his hand, is the Empe"ror
Charlemagne. — Behold how the
"Emperor turns about and walks off —
"Don't you ſee that Moor; — Now mind
"how he prints a kiſs in the very middle
"of her lips, and with what eagerneſs
"ſhe ſpits, and wipes them with the
"ſleeve of her ſhift, lamenting aloud,
"and tearing for anger her beautiful
"hair, as if it had been guilty of the
IN the ſame ſcene of the puppet-ſhow,
the ſcraps of the old Mooriſh ballad are
* Smollet has here miſtaken the ſenſe of the original
como ſi ellos tuvieran la culpa del maleficio: She did not
blame the hair for being guilty of the tranſgreſſion or
offence, but for being the cauſe of the Moor's tranſgreſſion,
or, as Motteux has properly tranſlated it,
"this affront." In another part of the ſame chapter,
Smollet has likewiſe miſtaken the ſenſe of the original.
When the boy remarks, that the Moors don't obſerve
much form or ceremony in their judicial trials, Don
Quixote contradicts him, and tells him there muſt always
be a regular proceſs and examination of evidence
to prove matters of fact, "para ſacar una verdad en
"limpio, meneſter ſon muchas pruebas y repruebas." Smollet
applies this obſervation of the Knight to the boy's
long-winded ſtory, and tranſlates the paſſage, "There
"is not ſo much proof and counter proof required to
"bring truth to light." In both theſe paſſages Smollet
has departed from his prototype, Jarvis.
tranſlated by Motteux with a correſponding
naïveté of expreſſion, which it ſeems
to me impoſſible to exceed:
Jugando eſta á las tablas Don Gayféros,
Que ya de Meliſendra eſtá olvidado.
"Now Gayferos the live-long day,
"Oh, errant ſhame! at draughts doth play;
"And, as at court moſt huſbands do,
"Forgets his lady fair and true. Motteux.
"Now Gayferos at tables playing,
"Of Meliſendra thinks no more." Smollet.
Caballero, ſi á Francia ides,
Par Gayféros preguntad.
"Quoth Meliſendra, if perchance,
"Sir Traveller, you go for France,
"For pity's ſake, aſk, when you're there,
"For Gayferos, my huſband dear." Motteux.
" Sir Knight, if you to France do go,
"For Gayferos inquire." Smollet.
How miſerably does the new tranſlator
ſink in the above compariſon! Yet
Smollet was a good poet, and moſt of
the verſe tranſlations interſperſed through
this work are executed with ability. It
is on this head that Motteux has aſſumed
to himſelf the greateſt licence. He has
very preſumptiouſly mutilated the poetry
of Cervantes, by leaving out many
entire ſtanzas from the larger compoſitions,
and ſuppreſſing ſome of the ſmaller
altogether: Yet the tranſlation of thoſe
parts which he has retained, is poſſeſſed
of much poetical merit; and in particular,
thoſe verſes which are of a graver
call, are, in my opinion, ſuperior to
thoſe of his rival. The ſong in the firſt
volume, which in the original is intitled
Cancion de Grisóſtomo, and which Motteux
has intitled, The Deſpairing Lover, is
greatly abridged by the ſuppreſſion of
more than one half of the ſtanzas in the
original; but the tranſlation, ſo far as it
goes, is highly poetical. The tranſlation
of this ſong by Smollet, though inferior.
as a poem, is, perhaps, more valuable
on the whole, becauſe more complete.
There is, however, only a ſingle paſſage
in which he maintains with Motteux a
conteſt which is nearly equal:
O thou, whoſe cruelty and hate,
The tortures of my breaſt proclaim,
Behold, how willingly to fate
I offer this devoted frame.
If thou, when I am paſt all pain,
Shouldſt think my fall deſerves a tear,
Let not one ſingle drop diſtain
Thoſe eyes, ſo killing and ſo clear.
No! rather let thy mirth diſplay
The joys that in thy boſom flow:
Ah! need I bid that heart be gay,
Which always triumph'd in my woe. Smollet.
IT will be allowed that there is much
merit in theſe lines, and that the laſt
stanza in particular is eminently beautiful
and delicate. Yet there is in my opinion
an equal vein of poetry, and more
paffion, in the correſponding verſes of
O thou, by whoſe deſtructive hate
I'm hurry'd to this doleful fate,
When I'm no more, thy pity ſpare!
I dread thy tears; oh, ſpare them then —
But, oh! I rave, I was too vain —_
My death can never coſt a tear! Motteux.
IN the ſong of Cardenio, there is a
happy combination of tenderneſs of expreſſion
with ingenious thought; the
verſification is likewiſe of a peculiar
ſtructure, the ſecond line forming an
echo to the firſt. This ſong has been
tranſlated in a correſponding meaſure
both by Motteux and Smollet; but by
the latter with far inferior merit.
CANCION DE CARDENIO.
Quien menoſcaba mis bienes?
Y quien aumenta mis duelos?
Y quien prueba mi paciencia?
De eſe modo en mì dolencia
Ningun remedio ſe alcanza
Pues me matan la eſperanza
Deſdenes, Zelos y Auſencia.
Quien me cauſa eſte dolor?
Y quien mi gloria repuna?
Y quien conſiente mi duelo?
De eſe modo yo rezelo,
Morir deſte mal extrano
Pues ſe aunan en mì dano
Amor, Fortuna y el Cielo.
Quien mejorará mi ſuerte
Y el bien de amor, quiets le alcanza?
Y ſus males quien los cura?
De eſe modo no es cordura
Querer curar la paſion;
Quando los remedios ſon
Muerte, Mudanza, y Locura.
CARDENIO's SONG, by MOTTEUX,
What makes me languiſh and complain?
O, 'tis Diſdain!
What yet more fiercely tortures me?
How have I my patience loft?
By Abſence croſt.
Then Hope, farewell, there's no relief;
I ſink beneath oppreſſing grief;
Nor can a wretch, without deſpair,
Scorn, Jealouſy, and Abſence, bear.
What in my breaſt this anguiſh drove?
Who could ſuch mighty ills create?
Blind Fortune's hate,
What cruel powers my fate approve?
The Powers above.
Then let me bear, and ceaſe to moan;
'Tis glorious thus to be undone:
When there invade, who dares oppoſe?
Heaven, Love, and Fortune are my foes.
Where ſhall I find a ſpeedy cure,
Oh! Death is ſure,
No milder means to ſet me free?
Can nothing elſe my pains aſſuage?
What, die or change? Lucinda loſe?
O let me rather madneſs chuſe!
But judge, ye gods, what we endure,
When death or madneſs are a cure!
IN the laſt four lines, Motteux has
uſed more liberty with the thought of
the original than is allowable for a tranſlator.
It muſt be owned, however, that
he has much improved it.
CARDENIO's SONG, by SMOLLET.
Ah! what inſpires my woful ſtrain?
Ah! what augments my miſery?
Or ſay what hath my patience worn?
An abſent lover's ſcorn!
The torments then that I endure
No mortal remedy can cure:
For every languid hope is ſlain
By Abſence, Jealouſy, Diſdain.
From Love, my unrelenting foe,
Theſe ſorrows flow:
My infant glory's overthrown
By Fortune's frown.
Confirm'd in this my wretched ſtate
By the decrees of fate,
In death alone I hope releaſe
From this compounded dire diſeaſe,
Whoſe cruel pangs to aggravate,
Fortune and Love conſpire with Fate!
Ah! what will mitigate my doom?
The ſilent tomb.
Ah! what retrieve departed joy?
Or ſay, can ought but frenzy bear
This tempeſt of deſpair!
All other efforts then are vain
To cure this foul-tormenting pain,
That owns no other remedy
Than madnefs, death, inconſtancy.
"The torments then that I endure -
"no mortal remedy can cure." Who
ever heard of a mortal remedy? or who
could expect to be cured by it? In the
next line, the epithet of languid is injudiciouſly
given to Hope in this place; for
a languid or a languiſhing hope was already
dying, and needed not ſo powerful a
hoſt of murderers to ſlay it, as Abſence,
Jealouſy, and Diſdain. — In ſhort, the latter
tranſlation appears to me to be on the
whole of much inferior merit to the former.
I have remarked, that Motteux
excels his rival chiefly in the tranſlation
of thoſe poems that are of a graver caſt.
But perhaps he is cenſurable for having
thrown too much gravity into the poems
that are interſperſed in this work, as
Smollet is blameable on the oppoſite account,
of having given them too much
the air of burleſque. In the ſong which
Don Quixote compoſed while he was doing
penance in the Sierra-Morena, beginning
Arboles, Yerbas y Plantas, every ſtanza
of which ends with Del Toboſo, the
author intended, that the compoſition
ſhould be quite characteriſtic of its author,
a ludicrous compound of gravity
and abſurdity. In the tranſlation of Motteux
there is perhaps too much gravity;
but Smollet has rendered the compoſition
altogether burleſque. The ſame remark
is applicable to the ſong of Antonio, beginning
Yo sé, Olalla, Que me adoras, and
to many of the other poems,
ON the whole, I am inclined to think,
that the verſion of Motteux is by far the
beſt we have yet ſeen of the Novel of
Cervantes; and that if corrected in its licentious
abbreviations and enlargements,
and in ſome other particulars which I
have noticed in the courſe of this compariſon,
we ſhould have nothing to deſire
ſuperior to it in the way of tranſlation.
The Genius of the Tranſlator ſhould be akin
to that of the original Author. — The
Tranſlators have ſhone in original Compoſition
of the ſame Species with that
which they have tranſlated. — Of Voltaire's
Tranſlations from Shakeſpeare. —
Of the peculiar Character of the Wit of
Voltaire. — His Tranſlation from Hudibras.
— Excellent anonymous French Tranſlation
of Hudibras. — Tranſlation of Rabelais
by Urquhart and Motteux.
FROM the conſideration of thoſe general
rules of tranſlation which
in the foregoing eſſay I have endeavoured
to illuſtrate, it will appear no
unnatural concluſion to aſſert, that he only
is perfectly accompliſhed for the duty
of a tranſlator who poſſeſſes a genius akin
to that of the original author. I do
not mean to carry this propoſition ſo far
as to affirm, that in order to give a perfect
tranſlation of the works of Cicero, a
man muſt actually be as great an orator, or
inherit the ſame extent of philoſophical
genius; but he muſt have a mind capable
of diſcerning the full merits of his original,
of attending with an acute perception
to the whole of his reaſoning, and
of entering with warmth and energy of
feeling into all the beauties of his compoſition.
Thus we ſhall obſerve invariably,
that the beſt tranſlators have been
thoſe writers who have compoſed original
works of the ſame ſpecies with thoſe
which they have tranſlated. The mutilated
verſion which yet remains to us of
the Timæus of Plato tranſlated by Cicero,
is a maſterly compoſition, which, in the
opinion of the beſt judges, rivals the merit
of the original. A ſimilar commendation
cannot be beſtowed on thoſe fragments
of the Phænomena of Aratus tranſlated
into verſe by the ſame author; for
Cicero's poetical talents were not remarkable:
but who can entertain a doubt,
that had time ſpared to us his verſions
of the orations of Demoſthenes and Æſchines,
we ſhould have found them poſſeſſed
of the moſt tranſcendent merit?
WE have obſerved, in the preceding
part of this eſſay, that poetical tranſlation
is leſs ſubjected to reſtraint than proſe
tranſlation, and allows more of the freedom
of original compoſition. It will
hence follow, that to exerciſe this freedom
with propriety, a tranſlator muſt
have the talent of original compoſition
in poetry; and therefore, that in this
ſpecies of tranſlation, the poſſeſſion of a
genius akin to that of his author, is
more eſſentially neceſſary than in any
other. We know the remark of Denham,
that the ſubtle ſpirit of poeſy evaporates
entirely in the transfuſion from
one language into another, and that unleſs
a new, or an original ſpirit, is infuſed
by the tranſlator himſelf, there will
remain nothing but a caput mortuum. The
beſt tranſlators of poetry, therefore, have
been thoſe who have approved their talents
in original poetical compoſition.
Dryden, Pope, Addiſon, Rowe, Tickell,
Pitt, Warton, Maſon, and Murphy, rank
equally high in the lift of original poets,
as in that of the tranſlators of poetry.
BUT as poetical compoſition is various
in its kind, and the characters of the different
ſpecies of poetry are extremely diſinct,
and often oppoſite in their nature,
it is very evident that the poſſeſſion of
talents adequate to one ſpecies of tranſlation,
as to one ſpecies of original poetry,
will not infer the capacity of excelling
in other ſpecies of which the character
is different. Still further, it may be
obſerved, that as there are certain ſpecies
of poetical compoſition, as, for example,
the dramatic, which, though of the ſame
general character in all nations, will take
a ſtrong tincture of difference from the
manners of a country, or the peculiar
genius of a people; ſo it will be found,
that a poet, eminent as an original author
in his own country, may fail remarkably
in attempting to convey, by a
tranſlation, an idea of the merits of a
foreign work which is tinctured by the
national genius of the country which
produced it. Of this we have a ſtriking
example in thoſe tranſlations from Shakeſpeare
by Voltaire; in which the French
poet, great himſelf in dramatical compoſition,
intended to convey to his countrymen
a juſt idea of our moſt celebrated author
in the ſame department. But Shakeſpeare
and Voltaire, though perhaps akin
to each other in ſome of the great features
of the mind, were widely diſtinguiſhed
even by nature, in the characters of their
poetical genius; and this natural diſtinction
was ſtill more ſenſibly encreaſed by
the general tone of manners, the hue and
faſhion of thought of their reſpective
countries. Voltaire, in his eſſay ſur la
Tragédie Angloiſe, has choſen the famous
ſoliloquy in the tragedy of Hamlet, "To
"be, or not to be," as one of thoſe ſtriking
paſſages which beſt exemplify the genius
of Shakeſpeare, and which, in the words
of the French author, demandent grace
pour touter ſes fautes. It may therefore
be preſumed, that the tranſlator in this
inſtance endeavoured, as far as lay in his
power, not only to adopt the ſpirit of
his author, but to repreſent him as favourably
as poſſible to his countrymen.
Yet, how wonderfully has he metamorphoſed,
how miſerably disfigured him!
In the original, we have the perfect picture
of a mind deeply agitated, giving
vent to its feelings in broken ſtarts of
utterance, and in language which plainly
indicates, that the ſpeaker is reaſoning
ſolely with his own mind, and not with
any auditor. In the tranſlation, we have
a formal and connected harangue, in
which it would appear, that the author,
offended with the abrupt manner of the
original, and judging thoſe irregular
ſtarts of expreſſion to be unſuitable to
that preciſion which is required in abſtract
reaſoning, has corrected, as he
thought, thoſe defects of the original,
and given union, ſtrength, and preciſion,
to this philoſophical argument.
Demeure, it faut choiſir, et paſſer à l'inſtant
De la vie à la mort, ou de l'être au néant.
Dieux juſtes, s'il en eſt, éclairez mon courage.
Faut-il viellir courbé ſous la main qui m'outrage,
Supporter, ou finir mon malheur et mon ſort?
Que ſuis-je? qui m'arrête? et qu' eſt ce que la
C'eſt la fin de nos maux, c'eſt mon unique azile;
Après de longs tranſports, c'eſt un ſommeil tranquile.
On s'endort et tout meurt; mais un affreux reveil,
Doit ſuccéder peutêtre aux douceurs du ſommeil.
On nous menace; on dit que cette courte vie
De tourmens éternels eſt auſſitôt ſuivie.
O mort! moment fatale! affreuſe éternité!
Tout cœur à ton ſeul nom ſe glace épouvanté
Eh! qui pourrait ſans toi ſupporter cette vie?
De nos prêtres menteurs bénir l'hypocriſie?
Dune indigne maitreſſe encenſer les erreurs?
Ramper ſous un miniſtre, adorer ſes hauteurs?
Et montrer les langueurs de ſon âme abattue,
A des amis ingrats qui detournent la vue?
La mort ſerait trop douce en ces extrémites.
Mais le ſcrupule parle, et nous crie, arrêtez.
Il défend à nos mains cet heureux homicide,
Et d'un héros guerrier, fait un Chrétien timide *.
* To be, or not to be, that is the queſtion:-
Whether 'tis better in the mind to ſuffer
The ſlings and arrows of outrageous fortune;
Or to take arms againſt a ſea of troubles,
BESIDES the general fault already noticed,
of ſubſtituting formal and connected
reaſoning, to the deſultory range
And by oppoſing end them? To die; — to ſleep;
No more? — And by a ſleep, to ſay we end
The heart-ache, and the thouſand natural ſhocks
That fleſh is heir to; — 'tis a conſummation
Devoutly to be wiſh'd. To die; — to ſleep; -
To ſleep! perchance to dream; — ay, there's the rub;
For in that ſleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have ſhuffled off this mortal coil,
Muſt give us pauſe: There's the reſpect,
That makes calamity of ſo long life:
For who would bear the whips and ſcorns of time,
The oppreſſor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of deſpiſed love, the law's delay,
The inſolence of office, and the ſpurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himſelf might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To groan and ſweat under a weary life;
But that the dread of ſomething after death —
That undiſcover'd country, from whoſe bourn
No traveller returns — puzzles the will;
And makes us rather bear thoſe ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conſcience does make cowards of us all, &c.
Hamlet, act 3. ſc. 1.
of thought and abrupt tranſitions of the
original, Voltaire has in this paſſage, by
the looſeneſs of his paraphraſe, allowed
ſome of the moſt ſtriking beauties, both
of the thought and expreſſion, entirely
to eſcape; while he has ſuperadded, with
unpardonable licence, ſeveral ideas of his
own, not only unconnected with the original,
but diſſonant to the general tenor
of the ſpeaker's thoughts. Adopting Voltaire's
own ſtyle of criticiſm on the tranſlations
of the Abbé des Fontaines, we
may aſk him, "Where do we find in
"this tranſlation of Hamlet's ſoliloquy
"The ſlings and arrows of outrageous fortune —
"To take arms againſt a ſea of trouble —
" The heart-ache, and the thouſand natural ſhocks
"That fleſh is heir to —
— "Perchance to dream; ay, there's the rub —
"The whips and ſcorns of time —
"The law's delay, the inſolence of office —
"The ſpurns — that patient merit from th' unwor"thy
"That undiſcover'd country, from whoſe bourn
"No traveller returns — ?"
CAN Voltaire, who has omitted in this
ſhort paſſage all the above ſtriking peculiarities
of thought and expreſſion, be
ſaid to have given a tranſlation from
BUT in return for what he has retrenched
from his author, he has made a liberal
addition of ſeveral new and original
ideas of his own. Hamlet, whoſe
character in Shakeſpeare exhibits the
ſtrongeſt impreſſions of religion, who
feels theſe impreſſions even to a degree
of ſuperſtition; which influences his condud
in the moſt important exigences,
and renders him weak and irreſolute,
appears in Mr Voltaire's tranſlation a
thorough ſceptic and freethinker. In
the courſe of a few lines, he expreſſes
his doubt of the exiſtence of a God; he
treats the prieſts as liars and hypocrites,
and the Chriſtian religion as a ſyſtem
which debaſes human nature, and makes
a coward of a hero:
Dieux juſtes! S'il en eſt —
De nos prêtres menteurs bénir l'hypocriſie—
Et d'un heros guerrier, fait un Chrêtien timide—
Now, who gave Mr Voltaire a right
thus to tranſmute the pious and ſuperſtitious
Hamlet into a modern philoſophe
and Eſprit fort? Whether the French
author meant by this tranſmutation to
convey to his countrymen a favourable
idea of our Engliſh bard, we cannot pretend
to ſay; but we may at leaſt affirm,
that he has not conveyed a juſt one *.
BUT what has prevented the tranſlator,
who profeſſes that he vviſhed to
give a juſt idea of the merits of his original,
from accompliſhing what he wiſhed?
Not ignorance of the language; for
Voltaire, though no great critic in the
Engliſh tongue, had yet a competent
knowledge of it; and the change he has
put upon the reader was not involuntary,
or the effect of ignorance. Neither
was it the want of genius, or of poetical
talents; for Voltaire is certainly one of
* Other ideas ſuperadded by the tranſlator, are,
Que ſuis-je — Qui m'arrête? —
On nous menace, on dit que cette courte vie, &c.
— Affreuſe éternité,
Tout cœur à ton ſeul nom ſe glace epouvanté —
A des amis ingrats qui detournent la vue —
the beſt poets, and one of the greateſt
ornaments of the drama. But it was
the original difference of his genius and
that of Shakeſpeare, increaſed by the general
oppoſition of the national character
of the French and Engliſh. His mind,
accuſtomed to connect all ideas of dramatic
ſublimity or beauty with regular
deſign and perfect ſymmetry of compoſition,
could not appretiate this union
of the great and beautiful with irregularity
of ſtructure and partial diſproportion.
He was capable indeed of diſcerning
ſome features of majeſty in this coloſſal
ſtatue; but the rudeneſs of the parts,
and the want of poliſh in the whole figure,
prevailed over the general impreſſion
of its grandeur, and preſented it altogether
to his eye as a monſtrous production.
THE genius of Voltaire was more akin
to that of Dryden, of Waller, of Addiſon,
and of Pope, than to that of Shakeſpeare:
he has therefore ſucceeded much
better in the tranſlations he has given of
particular paſſages from theſe poets, than
in thoſe he has attempted from our great
mailer of the drama.
VOLTAIRE poſſeſſed a large ſhare of
wit; but it is of a ſpecies peculiar to
himſelf, and which I think has never yet
been analyſed. It appears to me to be
the reſult of acute philoſophical talents,
a ſtrong ſpirit of ſatire, and a moſt brilliant
imagination. As all wit conſiſts in
unexpected combinations, the ſingular
union of a philoſophic thought with a
lively fancy, which is a very uncommon
aſſociation, ſeems in general to be
the baſis of the wit of Voltaire. It is of a
very different ſpecies from that wit which
is aſſociated with humour, which is exerciſed
in preſenting odd, extravagant, but
natural views of human character, and
which forms the eſſence of ludicrous
compoſition. The novels of Voltaire have
no other ſcope than to illuſtrate certain
philoſophical doctrines, or to expoſe certain
philoſophical errors; they are not
pictures of life or of manners; and the
perſons which figure in them are pure
creatures of the imagination, fictitious
beings, who have nothing of nature in
their compoſition, and who neither act
nor reaſon like the ordinary race of men.
Voltaire, then, with a great deal of wit,
ſeems to have had no talent for humorous
compoſition. Now if ſuch is the
character of his original genius, we may
preſume, that he was not capable of juſtly
appreciating in the compoſitions of
others what he did not poſſeſs himſelf.
We may likewiſe fairly conclude, that he
ſhould fail in attempting to convey by a
tranſlation a juſt idea of the merits of a
work, of which one of the main ingredients
is that quality in which he was
himſelf deficient. Of this I proceed to
give a ſtrong example.
IN the poem of Hudibras, we have a
remarkable combination of Wit with
Humour; nor is it eaſy to ſay which of
theſe qualities chiefly predominates in the
compoſition. A proof that humour forms
a moſt capital ingredient is, that the inimitable
Hogarth has told the whole ſtory
of the poem in a ſeries of characteriſtic
prints: now painting is completely adequate
to the repreſentation of humour,
but can convey no idea of wit. Of this
ſingular poem, Voltaire has attempted to
give a ſpecimen to his countrymen by a
tranſlation; but in this experiment he
ſays he has found it neceſſary to concentrate
the firſt four hundred lines into
little more than eighty of the tranſlation
*. The truth is, that, either inſenſible
of that part of the merit of the original,
or conſcious of his own inability
to give a juſt idea of it, he has left out
all that conſtitutes the humour of the
painting, and attached himſelf ſolely to
the wit of the compoſition. In the ori*
Pour faire connoitre l'eſprit de ce poëme, unique
en ſon genre, il faut retrancher les trois quarts de tout
paſſage qu'on veut traduire; car ce Butler ne finit jamais.
J'ai donc réduit a environ quatre-vingt vers
les quatre cent premiers vers d'Hudibras, pour éviter la
prolixité. Mel. Philoſ. par Voltaire, Oeuv. tom. 15.
ginal, we have a deſcription of the figure,
dreſs, and accoutrements of Sir Hudibras,
which is highly humorous, and
which conveys to the imagination as
complete a picture as is given by the characteriſtic
etchings of Hogarth. In the
tranſlation of Voltaire, all that we learn
of thoſe particulars which paint the hero,
is, that he wore muſtachios, and rode
with a pair of piſtols.
EVEN the wit of the original, in paſſing
through the alembic of Voltaire,
has changed in a great meaſure its nature,
and aſſimilated itſelf to that which
is peculiar to the tranſlator. The wit of
Butler is more concentrated, more pointed,
and is announced in fewer words,
than the wit of Voltaire. The tranſlator,
therefore, though he pretends to have
abridged four hundred verſes into eighty,
has in truth effected this by the retrenchment
of the wit of his original, and not
by the concentration of it: for when we
compare any particular paſſage or point,
we find there is more diffuſion in the
tranſlation than in the original. Thus,
The difference was ſo ſmall, his brain
Outweigh'd his rage but half a grain;
Which made ſome take him for a tool
That knaves do work with, call'd a fool.
Taus amplified by Voltaire, and at
the ſame time imperfectly tranſlated.
Mais malgré ſa grande eloquence,
Et ſon merite, et ſa prudence,
Il paſſas chez quelques ſavans
Pour être un de ces inſtrumens
Dont les fripons avec adreſſe
Savent uſer ſans dire mot,
Et qu' ils tournent avec ſoupleſſe;
Cet inſtrument s' appelle un ſot.
Thus likewiſe the famous ſimile of
Taliacotius, loſes, by the amplification
of the tranſlator, a great portion of its
So learned Taliacotius from
The brawny part of porter's bum
Cut ſupplemental noſes, which
Would laſt as long as parent breech;
But, when the date of nock was out,
Off dropt the ſympathetic ſnout.
Grand Eſculape d'Etrurie,
Répara tous les nez perdus
Par une nouvelle induſtrie:
Il vous prenoit adroitement
Un morceau du cu d'un pauvre homme,
L'appliquoit au nez proprement;
Enfin il arrivait qu' en ſomme,
Tout juſte à la mort du prêteur
Tombait le nez de l'emprunteur,
Et ſouvent dans la meme bière,
Par juſtice et par bon accord,
On remettait au gré du mort
Le nez auprès de ſon derriere.
IT will be allowed, that notwithſtanding
the ſupplemental witticiſm of the
tranſlator, contained in the laſt four
lines, the ſimile loſes, upon the whole,
very greatly by its diffuſion. The following
anonymous Latin verſion of this
ſimile is poſſeſſed of much higher merit,
as, with equal brevity of expreſſion, it
conveys the whole ſpirit of the original.
Sic adſcititios naſos de clune toroſi
Vectoris doctâ ſecuit Talicotius arte,
Qui potuere parem durando æquare parentem:
At poſtquam fato clunis computruit, ipſum
Unâ ſympathicum cœpit tabeſcere roſtrum.
WITH theſe tranſlations may be compared
the following, which is taken from
a complete verſion of the poem of Hudibras,
a very remarkable work, with the
merits of which (as the book is leſs
known than it deferves to be) I am glad
to have this opportunity of making the
Engliſh reader acquainted:
Ainſi Talicot d'une feſſe
Savoit tailler avec addreſſe
Nez tous neufs, qui ne riſquoient rien
Taut que It cul ſe portoit bien;
Mais ſi Ie cul perdoit la vie,
Le nez tomboit par ſympathie.
IN one circumſtance of this paſſage,
no tranſlation can come up to the original:
it is in that additional pleaſantry
which reſults from the ſtructure of the
verſes, the firſt line ending moſt unexpectedly
with a prepoſition, and the third
with a pronoun, both which are the
rhyming ſyllables in the two couplets:
So learned Taliacotius from, &c.
Cut ſupplemental noſes, which, &c.
It was evidently impoſſible to imitate
this in a tranſlation; but ſetting this circumſtance
aſide, the merit of the latter
French verſion ſeems to me to approach
very near to that of the original.
THE author of this tranſlation of the
poem of Hudibras, evidently a man of
ſuperior abilities, appears to have been
endowed with an uncommon ſhare of
modeſty. He preſents his work to the
public with the utmoſt diſſidence; and,
in a ſhort preface, humbly deprecates its
cenſure for the preſumption that may be
imputed to him, in attempting that
which the celebrated Voltaire had declared
to be one of the moſt difficult of
taſks. Yet this taſk he has executed in
a very maſterly manner. A few ſpecimens
will ſhew the high merit of this
work, and clearly evince, that the tranſlator
poſſeſſed that eſſential requiſite for his
undertaking, a kindred genius with that
of his great original.
THE religion of Hudibras is thus deſcribed
For his religion, it was fit
To match his learning and his wit:
'Twas Preſbyterian true blue;
For he was of that ſtubborn crew
Of errant ſaints, whom all men grant
To be the true church-militant:
Such as do build their faith upon
The holy text of pike and gun;
Decide all controverſies by
And prove their doctrine orthodox,
By apoſtolic blows and knocks. Canto 1.
Sa rêligion au genie
Et ſçavoir ótoit aſſortie;
Il étoit franc Preſbyterien,
Et de ſa ſecte le ſoutien,
Secte, qui juſtement ſe vante
D' être l' Egliſe militante;
Qui de ſa foi vous rend raiſon
Par la bouche de ſon canon,
Dont lc boulet et feu terrible
Montre bien qu'elle eſt infallible,
Et ſa doctrine prouve à tous
Orthodoxe, à force de coups.
IN the following paſſage, the arch ratiocination
of the original is happily rivalled
in the tranſlation:
For Hudibras wore but one ſpur,
As wiſely knowing could he ſtir.
To active trot one ſide of 's horſe,
The other would not hang an a—ſe.
Car Htulibras avec raiſon
Ne ſe chauſſoit qu'un óperon,
Ayant preuve démonſtrative
Qu'un coté rnarchant, l'autre arrive.
THE language of Sir Hudibras is deſcribed
as a ſtrange jargon, compounded
of Engliſh, Greek, and Latin,
Which made ſome think when he did gabble,
They'd heard three labourers of Babel,
Or Cerberus himſelf pronounce
A leaſh of languages at once.
IT was difficult to do juſtice in the
tranſlation to the metaphor of Cerberus,
by tranſlating leaſh of languages: This,
however, is very happily effected by a
Ce qui pouvoit bien faire accroire
Quand il parloit à l'auditoire,
D'entendre encore le bruit mortel
De trois ouvriers de Babel,
Ou Cerbere aux ames errantes
Japper trois langues différentes.
THE wit of the following paſſage
completely transfuſed perhaps, even
heightened in the tranſlation:
For he by geometric ſcale
Could take the ſize of pots of ale;
Reſolve by ſines and tangents ſtraight
If bread or butter wanted weight;
And wiſely tell what hour o'th' day
The clock does ſtrike, by algebra.
En geometre raſſiné
Un pot de bierre il eut jaugé;
Par tangente et ſinus ſur l'heure
Trouvé le poids de pain ou beurre,
Et par algebre eut dit auſſi
A quelle heure il ſonne midi.
THE laſt ſpecimen I ſhall give from
this work, is Hudibras's conſultation
with the lawyer, in which the Knight
propoſes to proſecute Sidrophel in an
action of battery:
Quoth he, there is one Sidrophet
Whom I have cudgelI'd — "Very"—
And now he brags t'have beaten me. —
"Better and better ſtill, quoth he."—
And vows to ſtick me to the wall
Where'er he meets me — "Beſt of
'Tis true, the knave has taken's oath
That I robb'd him — "Well done, in troth." —
When h' has confeſs'd he ſtole my cloak,
And pick'd my fob, and what he took,
Which was the cattle that made me bang him
And take any goods again — "Marry, hang him."
—"Sir," quoth the lawyer, "not to flatter ye,
"You have as good and fair a battery
"As heart can wiſh, and need not ſhame
"The proudeſt man alive to claim:
"For if they've us'd you as you ſay;
"Marry, quoth I, God give you joy :
"I would it were my caſe, I'd give
"More than I'll ſay, or you believe."
Il eſt, dit-il, de par le monde
Un Sidrophel, que Dieu confonde,
Que j'ai roſsé des mieux. — "Fort bien" —
Et maintenant il dit, le chien,
Qu'il m'a battu. — "Bien mieux encore —
Et jure, aſin qu'on ne l'ignore,
Que s'il me trouve il me tuera —
"Le meilleur de tout le voila" —
II eſt vrai que ce misérable
A fait ſerment au préalable
Que moi je l'ai dévalisé —
"C'eſt fort bien fait, en verité" —
Tandis que lui-meme il confeſſe,
Qu'il m'a volé dans une preſſe
Mon manteau, mon gouſſet vuidé;
Et c'eſt pourquoi je l'ai roſsé;
Puis mes effets j'ai ſçu reprendre —
"Oui da," dit-il, "il faut le pendre." —
— Dit l'avocat, "ſans flatterie,
"Vous avez, Monſieur, batterie
"Auſſi bonne qu'on puiſſe avoir;
"Vous devez vous en prévaloir.
"S'ils vous ont traité de la ſorte,
"Comme votre recit le porte,
"Je vous en fais mon compliment;
"Je voudrois pour bien de l'argent,
"Et plus que vous ne ſauriez croire,
"Qu'il m'arrivât pareille hiſtoire."
THESE ſpecimens are ſufficient to
ſhew how completely this tranſlator has
entered into the ſpirit of his original,
and has thus ſucceeded in conveying a
very perfect idea to his countrymen of
one of thoſe works which are moſt ſtrongly
tinctured with the peculiarities of national
character, and which therefore
required a ſingular coincidence of the
talents of the tranſlator with thoſe of the
IF the Engliſh can boaſt of any parallel
to this, in a verſion from the
French, where the tranſlator has given
equal proof of a kindred genius to that
of his original, and has as ſucceſsfully
accompliſhed a taſk of equal difficulty,
it is in the tranflation of Rabelais, begun
by Sir Thomas Urquhart, and finiſhed
by Mr Motteux, and laſtly, reviſed
and corrected. by Mr Ozell. The
difficulty of tranſlating this work, ariſes
leſs from its obſolete ſtyle, than from a
phraſeology peculiar to the author,
which he ſeems to have purpoſely rendered
obſcure, in order to conceal that
ſatire which he levels both againſt the civil
government and the. eccleſiaſtical policy
of his country. Such is the ſtudied
obſcurity of this ſatire, that but a very
few of the moſt learned and acute among
his own countrymen have profeſſed to
underſtand Rabelais in the original.
The hiſtory of the Engliſh tranſlation
of this work, is in itſelf a proof of its
very high merit. The three firſt books
were tranſlated by Sir Thomas Urquhart,
but only two of them were publiſhed in
his lifetime. Mr Motteux, a Frenchman
by birth, but whoſe long reſidence
in England had given him
an equal command of both languages,
republiſhed the work of Urquhart,
and added the remaining three books
tranſlated by himſelf. In this publication
he allows the excellence of
the work of his predeceſſor, whom he
declares to have been a complete maſter
of the French language, and to have poſſeſſed
both learning and fancy equal to
the taſk he undertook. He adds, that he
has preſerved in his tranſlation "the
"very ſtyle and air of his original;" and
finally, "that the Engliſh readers may
"now underſtand that author better in
"their own tongue, than many of the
"French can do in theirs." The work
thus completed in Engliſh, was taken up
by Mr Ozell, a perſon of conſiderable literary
abilities, and who poſſeſſed an uncommon
knowledge both of the ancient and
modern languages. Of the merits of the
tranſlation none could be a better judge,
and to theſe he has given the ſtrongeſt
teſtimony, by adopting it entirely in his
new edition, and limiting his own undertaking
ſolely to the correction of the
text of Urquhart and Motteux, to which
he has added a tranſlation of the notes
of M. Du Chat, who ſpent, as Mr Ozell
informs us, forty years in compoſing
annotations on the original work. The
Engliſh verſion of Rabelais thus improved,
may be conſidered, in its preſent
form, as one of the moſt perfect ſpecimens
of the art of tranſlation. The beſt
critics in both languages have borne teſtimony
to its faithful transfuſion of the
ſenſe, and happy imitation of the ſtyle
of the original; and every Engliſh reader
will acknowledge, that it poſſeſſes all
the eaſe of original compoſition. If I
have forborne to illuſtrate any of the
rules or precepts of the preceding Eſſay
from this work, my reaſons were, that
obſcurity I have already noticed, which
rendered it lefs fit for the purpoſe of
fuch illuſtration, and that ſtrong tincture
of licentiouſneſs which characteriſes
the whole work.
Cite this Document
Essay on the Principles of Translation. 2022. In The Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved May 2022, from http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/cmsw/document/?documentid=4.
"Essay on the Principles of Translation." The Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2022. Web. May 2022. http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/cmsw/document/?documentid=4.
The Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing, s.v., "Essay on the Principles of Translation," accessed May 2022, http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/cmsw/document/?documentid=4.
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The Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing. 2022. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/cmsw/.
Essay on the Principles of Translation
|Title||Essay on the Principles of Translation|
|Year of publication||1791|
Author information: Tytler, Alexander Fraser
|AKA||Lord Woodhouselee, Alexander Tytler|
|Year of birth||1747|
|Place of birth||Edinburgh, Scotland|
|Locations where resident||Edinburgh|
|Other languages spoken||Italian, Spanish, German, French|