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his work. Of all preliminary questions, therefore, there is none more anxious for a translator than the metres which he shall adopt; especially since, if his metre is ill-proportioned to that of the original, it will induce him to amplify and weaken. But (Mr. Blackie has truly urged) the Germans, and Germanizers among ourselves, far too hastily infer that we should, in translating, conform strictly to the metres of the original. In literal truth, it is impossible; and the most elaborate attempts have been founded on misconception (we allude, especially, to the pretended dactylic hexameters by which some would Anglify Homer). But, as the Greek dactyls were dactyls of quantity,* and the English dactyls are dactyls of accent, the two are not identical, but at best an analogy ; against which Blackie further urges, what is to us a decisive remark, that the Greek dactylic metre was in common (or duplicate) time, while English dactyls yield generally triplicate time. The one is the measure of a march, the other of a dance; so that, in a fruitless aim at what on the surface looks like the ancient metre, we lose the deeper essence.
Out of this seems to rise the inference that, in all cases, we are to seek for a metre, which, being of suitable compass, possesses also the æsthetic spirit of that which we imitate ; and this, when found, is to be adopted, whether it have or have not closer analogies in the number of syllables, and in the relation of our accentual feet to its musical bars.
In regard to the common measure of the Greek tragedians, it is matter of universal consent that the English blank verse is its proper analogue; and the circumstance is instructive. The consent of which we speak is not founded on metrical or musical theory, but on poetical taste and feeling: at the same time, there is found so much likeness between the two metres, that both are called iambic, though differing as quantity from accent. The unlikeness consists in there being six feet in the Greek, and only five in the English ; and it is notable that, if we here attempt a closer identity, we defeat our object. The English Alexandrine (or six-foot iambic) wants the variety of pause found in both the other metres; and it is decidedly less suited for the translator's purpose. This, we say, is an instructive fact. Meanwhile, the existing consent concerning the appropriate metre in itself implies a conviction that the problem of good translation is a feasible one; and that, if it has hitherto miscarried, our language is not so much to blame as those who applied it unskilfully. In point of fact, the best known translator of these poets—we mean Potter-often has succeeded so
* We are informed, that the only living language in Europe which retains the musical principle of constructing metre by quantity alone, is the Magyar, or Hungarian
well in this part of his task, that, if he were always equal to his best, there would here be no strong call for a new version.
A question of principle, which cannot be stifled, underlies all these attempts. When a close translation sounds tame (which often happens), what is to be done ? Most translators then endeavour to ornament and elevate ; since, if they cast the fault on the original, they do not expect to be believed; or they fear to depreciate their own choice of a task, if they blame their author. Yet, to attain the right theory does not here seem difficult. The best Greek and Latin models of style are very apt to appear to a modern bald and naked-nearly as the Doric and Ionic architecture by the side of our florid Gothic. In many cases, so far from adorning the original with beauties not its own, we must claim of the reader to judge it by another law, and, perhaps, even to remodel his own taste. To endeavour to pass off an ancient classic as a modern, is as unprofitable, and as absurd, as to be ashamed of the simplicity of Greek architecture. We do not say that it is so rich, deep, and magnificent, as its younger rival ; but it is what it is, and must be judged of for itself.
At the same time, it is most necessary to ascertain whether the Greek is likely to have seemed to a Greek at all flat and prosaic. If not, we must ask, wherein was it elevated above prose? By metaphor ? or by rare diction? or by the mere order of words, or composition of the phrase? Should we have neglected any of these points, our translation is not so faithful as we have fancied ; and its flatness is our own defect. And, undoubtedly, herein our language is, in comparison with Greek, so inflexible, that the difficulty is sometimes extreme. The elegant compounds and poetical forms which serve to elevate the Greek style, without even the expenditure of a metaphor, are often by us inimitable; and we are driven to some analogous artifice of diction. Waiving this, there is also a certain sprightliness in the simplicity of native language, hard for the foreigner to hit, which saves it from tameness when it has no high poetry. Imagine the task which a Frenchman would find it to translate Wordsworth's poems ! To have a chance of success, when the original is simple, the translator must have a power of throwing his heart into the same state in which the author wrote ; or, what is akin to this, he must have imbibed the forms of ex. pression familiar to those English poets who have had a spirit very congenial to that of the foreign poet before him. This is, in fact, Mr. Blackie's strength. The idiom of Shakspere breathes through the whole of his dialogue; not merely in the lighter parts, where it might seem a most advantageous aid against tameness, but in the pure and strong Æschylean portions, where we think him often Shaksperian to a fault.
It may be thought a paradox to imagine that Æschylus can ever have been like Wordsworth ; but, if it be considered how large a part of the lyrical songs were helped out by gesture or dancing, as well as by music, the comparison may no longer seem far-fetched. Mr. Blackie has elaborately enforced the doctrine, that Æschylus did not write tragedies, in the modern sense; but lyrical dramas, or sacred operas-in which the dialogue often became secondary; and, in fact, the large mass of the lyrical effusions at once speaks for itself on this head. In a funereal wail, consisting mainly of very short utterances, high poetry is not to be looked for; but utterances of feeling, in which no fresh and active imagination enters, but that only which has been consecrated by old habit. Indeed, in proportion to the excitement, whether of grief, terror, or anger, the purely poetical element declines, and the oratorical rises, though always modified by metrical forms and usages. In any passages where the feelings act acutely and directly, natural and simple forms of speech appear to be essential: nor must the translator here be too fearful of being thought tame; but let him remind the reader how much liveliness was added by music and 'gesticulation.
This peculiarity of all the short interjectional utterances has been vividly realized by Mr. Blackie, who (in spite of the difficulties entailed by rhyme) has been very successful in the dirges both in the · Persians' and in the Seven Chiefs.' We shall dwell a moment on this, as showing that he works better under
than when left too free. In the following lament of the two sisters, Antigone and Ismene, over their two slain brothers, the translator is forced to render line by line. So long as the compulsion continues, he goes on well; but the moment he is set at liberty by the occurrence of a longer sentence, he is tempted to amplify, and injures the work.
• Ant. Wounded, thou didst wound again.
Break out grief! I. Flow tears amain!
Modern poets often say, Thou wert, for Thou wast. Is not this an error ? Ought we not to say only, If thou wert, as, If I were ?
A. Thine own kindred pierced thee thorough.*
I. Deadly to see.
Alas ! alas!
Mighty, mighty is thy power.' In the same spirit it continues for several pages more. We have only to remark, first, that the word deadly ought to be double ; the poet afterwards says deadly (xoa), and there also Mr. Blackie has it; but here he chose to say dadā: and, secondly, that the words in italics in the last speech quoted should all be omitted. It may seem that despotic monarchs will as soon learn to rule wisely, as irresponsible translators not to abuse the opportunity of amplifying. Perhaps, we may venture to add our dislike to the foreign words Mæra, Erinnys, when we have the good English and poetical ones-Fate and Fury,
One other case remains of style so simple, as to seem tame ; namely, when the poet himself intended it. Such appears to us decidedly the case, for instance, with the first speech of OCEAN, in the Prometheus,' where Mr. Blackie has entirely failed, and has become stiff and affected, by trying to elevate what ought to be left flat. Ocean is to us manifestly intended by the poet as the type of a time-server; and although he begins with some grandiloquence, yet his prosaic, selfish, courtly character peeps out; and we see that he is trying to keep up the appearance of friendship and self-devotion, while in fact he is heartless. His words, rendered as closely as we are able, stand thus :
Careering from a goal remote,
Mr. Blackie ordinarily uses thorough to mean through, and to rhyme with sorror. We do not know his pronunciation of it.
For not in vain tongue-blandishment
A friend than OCEAN firmer.' The argumentative tone in which the old god proves that he must sympathize with Prometheus, (also, ioni, be assured that' I sympathize !) is strikingly contrasted with the unaffected outpouring of grief from the nymphs his daughters; and in the result it is clear that he only wants an excuse to withdraw. But here,-if we may deviate from general considerations to a particular drama, -Mr. Blackie appears to us to have overlooked one feature of the Prometheus, namely, that while there is every possible variety of character presented in it, one and all agree in regarding Jupiter as a tyrant. This is to us irreconcilable with Mr. Blackie's theory, who believes such a view to be only accidentally impressed upon us by our having lost the Fire-bringing Prometheus, and the Prometheus Unbound, so as to receive only the view of Jupiter enforced by his enemy. Had the poet intended to represent Jupiter (in this play) as a righteous ruler, we cannot but think that he would have made either Ocean, or at least Mercury, drop some words to this effect. But now, we find Prometheus the betrayed ally of Jupiter,-the Oceanides the tender and brave condolers,
Oceanus the cautious and selfish worshipper of power, Io the wronged maiden, Vulcan the unwilling servant of Jupiter, Might and Force his brutal tools, and Mercury his accomplished minister,-one and all agree in the sentiment, that Jupiter trusts entirely to force, and does not condescend to care about right or reason. The poet does not throw in a single mysterious phrase, such as abound in his other plays, to suggest that in the long run righteousness and wisdom will be found to have been on the side of supreme force. Even superior knowledge is conceded by Mercury to reside in Prometheus, and Jupiter's great rage is excited by his consciousness that Prometheus is master of a secret which he cannot wrest from him. We cannot, in the face of these facts, adopt any other theory than the popular one, which Mr. Blackie thinks superficial. But (perhaps in consequence) he seems to us not rightly to have discerned Ocean's character, and to give a wrong turn to several expressions.
But before laying any further remarks before the reader, it may be well to make some extracts which will enable him to judge of Mr. Blackie's poetical vigour. Hear the description of Tydeus in the Seven Chiefs.
• First at the Proetian portal Tydeus stands,