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To pass Ismenus' wave, before the sacrifice
To catch the trumpet's blare.'
• No blows I fear from the trim dress of war,
In base things cowardly, in high virtue bold.' The messenger afterwards describes Polynices, which occasions the following burst from his brother :
O god-detested, god-bemadded race !
Or in thy bloom of youth, or in the gathering
Bring me my spear and shield, hauberk and greaves.'
•Good friends, whoso hath knowledge of mishap,
Fair children.' We selected these passages, only because we knew them to be noble and beautiful in the original; and we think they will suffice to exhibit the raciness, richness, and Shaksperian vigour of Mr. Blackie's common dialect.
are tempted to adduce (again at random) a fine passage from the Agamemnon, where Clytæmnestra hypocritically welcomes her husband home, and in over-wrought language publicly tells her fondness for him.
• Men, citizens, ye reverend Argive senators,
Mine own self-suffered woes I tell. While he
Myself the while
These passages, we trust, will excite a desire to make fuller acquaintance with Mr. Blackie's volumes; but we must proceed to speak on a characteristic feature in them. That Mr. Blackie is a deep scholar, in the Porsonian sense of the word, we certainly will not undertake to assert; indeed we suspect he a little underrates the importance of a good text; his tendency is to seize the general thought of a sentence, and care too little for details. But if there be any deficiency on this head, it is more than atoned for by the great zeal and learning with which he has mastered, or at least striven after, a higher sort of criticism ; which aims, on the one hand, to reproduce to the imagination the whole feeling which animated intelligent Greek auditors and spectators; on the other, to set forth the conception which filled and guided the author's mind in writing. Besides a Preface of some interest to all scholars, his first volume has a preliminary essay on the genius and character of the Greek tragedy, in which we admire the freshness of feeling with which he handles a hackneyed subject. This is followed by a life of Æschylus. But, besides, each play has its own Introduction, generally rather elaborate, but what is far better, always bearing the stamp of an original and thoughtful mind. Nor has Mr. Blackie, with all his admiration for Æschylus, any of that fanaticism which refuses to acknowledge his faults.* So healthy a love of truth seems to pervade his pages, as to give double weight to his eulogies ; indeed, the reader is impressed all through with the sense that the translator never tires of his author. The same sprightliness pervades every page of the book; the same unabated effort to penetrate to his author's heart is seen in the most corrupt and puzzling, as in the clearest passages. In some sense, indeed, Mr. Blackie may seem to revel in the corrupt choruses, because they allow most freedom to his own original writing; and this, we imagine, is his weak point as a translator. It is dangerous for such a one to have much power of invention; for it needs a proportionably higher control over the propensity to enlarge and invent. But we must proceed to speak more in detail concerning the choruses, not only because they are so large a part of the dramas, but because hitherto the attempts at translating them have been on the whole undoubtedly failures, and also because Mr. Blackie has exerted himself so peculiarly and often so successfully upon them.
Some notice is first demanded by the anapæstic systems. These Mr. Blackie has expressed by a trochaic metre, with an occasional rhyme. We confess that to us occasional rhymes are vexatious, by exciting expectation which is perpetually disappointed; and we prefer no rhymes to very rare and uncertain
As a favourable specimen we exhibit the following from the 'Furies':
• Deftly, deftly weave the dance !
* We do not acquiesce in his censure of the undecided behaviour of the Chorus in the Agamemnon. The poet seems to us to have represented them as divinely paralyzed, as indeed all hearers of Cassandra were. Hence they are more and more gloomy in their songs, in spite of the happy exterior of events. The gloom increases and becomes more perplexing, until the murder is complete. (Since writing thus, we find Potter to say much the same.]
The first five lines deviate too far from the form of the original to please us; we cannot see what is gained by it; but we at present confine our remark to the metre. Mr. Blackie informs us (and we are persuaded by him), that the anapæsts of the tragedians were in march-time, and therefore ought not to be translated by English anapæsts, which are triple time.
But we think this is equally an objection to the English trochees, which are too tripping a metre,-a dance, rather than a march. It is remarkable that Aristotle says this very thing of the Greek trochee (it is kopồakıkúrepov '), but as this is only an analogy, we appeal to Milton, who in writing,
• Come, and trip it as you go,
On the light fantastic toe,' certainly thought he was using a tripping metre. To us it appears that the English anapæsts may be a minuet, but the trochees are liable to be a jig. Surely the inference to be drawn from our author's doctrine is, that the four foot iambic is our proper representative of the Greek anapæstic. Lastly, Mr. Blackie appears to us most undesirably to reverse the endings in the common anapæsts, and in their closing line. In Greek, Latin, or English, the ending is generally characteristic of a metre; and we would carefully retain the position of the closing accent or ictus. For instance, in the Agamemnon, we would translate in the opening anapæsts, thus :
* And when the foliage now is seár,
And as a daydream doating.'
Mr. Blackie sometimes rhymes, even in the systems which represent anapæsts, as we have said. In the opening of the * Persians,' he surprises us by having not only rhyme, but an English anapæstic measure! What is more, it is very effective and spirited, we wish we had space to quote much :
• We are the Persian watchmen old,