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run divisions on the ground-work, as he pleases. Such is Mr. Cowley's practice in turning two Odes of Pindar, and one of Horace, into English.
Concerning the first of these methods, our master Horace has given us this caution :
Nec verbum verbo curabis reddere fidus
as the Earl of Roscommon has excellently rendered it. Too faithfully is, indeed, pedantically: it is a faith, like that which proceeds from fuperftition, blind and zealous. Take it in the expression of Sir John Denham to Sir Richard Fanshaw, on his verfion of the Pastor Fido ;
That servile path thou nobly dost decline,
It is almost impossible to translate verbally, and well, at the same time; for the Latin (a most severe and compendious language) often expresses that in one word, which either the barbarity, or the narrowness, of modern tongues cannot supply in more. It is frequent also that the conceit is couched in some expression, which will be lost in English.
Atque iidem venti vela fidemque ferent,
What Poet of our nation is so happy as to express this thought literally in English, and to strike wit, or almost sense, 'out of it?
In short, the verbal copier is incumbered with so many difficulties at once, that he can never disintangle himself from all. He is to consider, at the same time, the thought of his author, and his words, and to find out the counterpart to each in another language; and, besides this, he is to confine himself to the compass of numbers, and the Llavery of rhyme. It is much like dancing on ropes with fettered legs : a man can shun a fall by using caution; but the gracefulness of motion is not to be expected : and when we have said the best of it, it is but a foolish task ; for no fober man would put himself into a danger for the applause of escaping without breaking his neck. We see Ben Jonson could not avoid obscurity in his literal translation of Horace, attempted in the same compass of lines: nay Horace himself could scarce have done it to a Greek Poet:
Brevis elle laboro, obscurus fio :
either perfpicuity or gracefulness will frequently be wanting. Horace has, indeed, avoided both these rocks in his translation of the three first lines of Homer's Odyfley, which he has contracted into two.
Dic mihi, mula, virum, captæ poft tempora Trojæ
But then the sufferings of Ulysses, which are a confiderable part of that sentence, are omitted :
ΓΟς μάλα πολλά πλάχθη :] The consideration of these difficulties, in a servile, literal, translation, not long since made two of our famous wits, Sir John Denham, and Mr. Cowley, to contrive another way of turning authors into our tongue, called, by the latter of them, Imitation.As they were friends, I suppose they communicated their thoughts on this subject to each other; and, therefore, their reasons for it are little different. Though the practice of one is much more moderate. I take imitation of an author, in their sense, to be an endeavour of a later Poet to write like one; who has written before him, on the same subject : that is, not to translate his words, or to be confined to his sense, but only to set him as a pattern, and to write, as he supposes that author would have done, had he lived in our age, and in our country. Yet I dare not say that either of them have carried this libertine way of rendering authors (as Mr. Cowley calls it) so far as my
definition reaches. For in the Pindaric Odes, the customs and ceremonies of ancient Greece are still preserved. But I know not what mischief may arise hereafter from the example of such an innovation, when writers of unequal parts to him shall imitate fo bold an undertaking. To add and to diminish what we please, which is the way avowed by him, ought only to be granted to Mr. Cowley, and that too only in his translation of Pindar; because he alone was able to make him amends, by giving him
better of his own, whenever he refused his author's thoughts. Pindar is generally known to be a dark writer, to want connexion, (I mean as to our understanding) to foar out of fight, and leave his reader at a gaze. So wild and ungovernable a Poet cannot be translated literally; his genius is too strong to bear a chain, and, Samson-like, he shakes it off. A genius so elevated and unconfined as Mr. Cowley's was but necessary to make Pindar speak English, and that was to be performed by no other way than imitation. But if Virgil, or Ovid, or any regular intelligible authors be thus used, it is no longer to be called their work, when neither the thoughts nor words are drawn from the original : but instead of them there is foinething new produced, which is almost the creation of another hand. By this way, it is true, fomewhat that is excellent may be invented, perhaps more excellent than the first design; though Virgil must be still excepted, when that perhaps takes place. Yet he who is inquisitive to know an author's thoughts, will be disappointed in his expectation. And it is not always that a man will be contented to have a prefent made bim, when he expects the payment of a debt. To state it fairly : imitation of an author is the most advantageous way for a translator to shew himself, but the greatest wrong which can be done to the memory and reputation of the dead. Sir John Denham (who advised more liberty than he took himself) gives his reason for his innovation, in his admirable preface before the tranflation of the second Æneid. Poetry is of so subtle a spirit, that, in pouring out of one language into another, it will all · evaporate; and, if a new spirit be not added in the transfusion, there will remain nothing but a Caput Mortuum.” I confess this argument holds good against a literal translation ; but who defends it? Imitation and verbal version are, in my opinion, the two extremes, which ought to be avoided : and therefore, when I have proposed the mean betwixt them, it will be seen how far his argument will reach.
No man is capable of translating Poetry, who, besides a genius to that art, is not a master both of his author's language, and of his own : nor muft we understand the language only of the Poet, but his particular turn of thoughts and expression, which are the characters that distinguish, and as it were individuate him from all other writers. When we are come thus far, it is time to look into ourselves, to conform our genius to his, to give his thought either the same turn, if our tongue will bear it, or, if not, to vary but the dress, not to alter or destroy the substance. The like care must be taken of the more outward ornaments, the words. When they appear (which is but feldom) literally graceful, it were an injury to the author that they thould be changed: but since every language is so full of its own proprieties, that what is beautiful in one, is often barbarous, nay sometimes nonsense, in another, it would be unreasonable to limit a translator to the narrow compass of his author's words. It is enough if he choose out some expression which does not visjate the sense. I suppose he may stretch his chain to such a latitude; but, by innovation of thoughts, methinks, he breaks it. By this