« FöregåendeFortsätt »
80 much sought after, and the invention of it, as being so useful, should be ascribed to the immortal gods; but the medicine of the soul should neither be the object of inquiry, whilst it was unknown, nor so much improved after its discovery, nor so well received or approved of by some, disagreeable, and looked on with an envious eye by many others? Is it because the soul judges of the pains and disorders of the body, but we do not form any judgment of the soul by the body? Hence it comes that the soul never judgeth of itself, but when that by which itself is judged is in a bad state. Had nature given us faculties for discerning and viewing herself, and could we go through life by keeping our eye on her our best guide, no one certainly would be in want of philosophy or learning. But as it is, she has furnished us only with some few sparks, which we soon so extinguish by bad morals and depraved customs, that the light of nature is quite put out. The seeds of virtue are connatural to our constitutions, and were they suffered to come to maturity, would naturally conduct us to a happy life; but now, as soon as we are born, and received into the world, we are instantly familiarized to all kinds of depravity and wrong opinions; so that we may be said almost to suck in error with our nurse's milk. When we return to our parents, and are put into the hands of tutors and governors, we imbibe so many errors, that truth gives place to falsehood, and nature herself to established opinion. To these we may add the poets, who, on account of the appearance they exhibit of learning and wisdom, are heard, read, and got by heart, and make a deep impression on our minds. But when to these are added the people who are, as it were, one great body of instructors, and the multitude who declare unanimously for vice, then are we altogether overwhelmed with bad opinions, and revolt entirely from nature; so that they seem to deprive us of our best guide, who have ascribed all greatness, worth, and excellence, to honor, and power, and popular glory, which indeed
every excellent man aims at: but whilst he pursues that only true honesty which nature has in view, he finds himself busied in arrant trifles, and in pursuit of no conspicuous form of virtue, but a shadowy representation of glory. For glory is a real and express substance, not a mere shadow. It consists in the united praise of good men, the free voice of those who form true judg. ments of excellent virtue: it is as it were the very echo of virtue, which being generally the attendant on laudable actions, should not be slighted by good men. But popular fame, which would pretend to imitate it, is hasty and inconsiderate, and generally commends wicked and immoral actions, and taints the appearance and beauty of the other, by assuming the resemblance of honesty. By not being able to discover the difference of these, some men, ignorant of real excellence, and in what it consists, have been the destruction of their country, or of themselves. And thus the best men have erred, not so much in their intentions, as by a mistaken conduct.”
The classical reader will perceive that the spirit of the original is, in a manner, totally extinguished in this translation. Indeed, such is the “gentleman's” obscurity in some places, such are his mistakes of his author's meaning in others; such is the meanness, affectation, and impropriety of his language throughout, that it is really matter of surprise to us, how such a work came into print; especially when we take the poetry into the account, which is below all criticism, and even contempt.
In short, the present performance is so totally destitute of every kind of merit, which might serve to qualify our censure, that we cannot avoid concluding with Cicero, upon another occasion: “ Obsecro, abjiciamus ista, et semi-liberi saltem simus; quod assequemur et tacendo et latendo.'*
(For a detail of the very distressing circumstances under which Goldsmith wrote this and the three preceding articles, see Life, vol. i. p. 285.
XII.-MASSEY'S OVID'S FASTI.
[From the Critical Review, 1758. “Ovid's Fasti ; or the Roman
Sacred Calendar. Translated into English Verse, with Explanatory Notes. By William Massey."* 8vo.
It was no bad remark of a celebrated French lady,t that a bad translator was like an ignorant footman, whose blundering messages disgraced his master by the awkwardness of the delivery, and frequently turned compliment into abuse, and politeness into rusticity. We cannot indeed see an ancient elegant writer mangléd and misrepresented by the doers into English, without some degree of indignation ; and are heartily sorry that our poor friend Ovid should send his Sacred Calendar to us by the hands of Mr. William Massey, who, like the valet, seems to have entirely forgot his master's message, and substituted another in its room very unlike it. Mr. Massey observes, in his preface, with great truth, that it is strange that this most elaborate and learned of all Ovid's works should be so much neglected by our English translators; and that it should be so little read or regarded, whilst his Tristia, Epistles, and Metamorphoses, are in almost every schoolboy's hands.
“ All the critics, in general," says he, “ speak of this part of Ovid's writings with a particular applause; yet I know not by what unhappy fate there has not been that use made thereof, which would be more beneficial, in many respects, to young students of the Latin tongue. than any other of this poet's works. For though Pantheons, and other books that treat of the Roman mythology, may be usefully put into the hands of
This anonymous translation, though destitute of every kind of merit, was actually reprinted so recently as 1828.”—See Lowndes's Bibliographer's Manual, vol. i. p. 425.]
* (Many years master of a boarding-school at Wandsworth, in Surrey.) + Madame de la Fayette.
young proficients in the Latin tongue, yet the richest fund of that sort of learning is here to be found in the Fasti. I am not without hopes, therefore, that by thus making this book more familiar and easy, in this dress, to English readers, it will the more readily gain admittance into our public schools; and that those who become better acquainted therewith, will find it an agreeable and instructive companion, well stored with recondite learning. I persuade myself also, that the notes which I have added to my version will be of advantage, not only to the mere English reader, but likewise to such as endeavor to improve themselves in the knowledge of the Roman language.
“ As the Latin proverb says, Jacta est alea ; and my performance must take its chance, as those of other poetic adventurers have done before me. I am very sensible, that I have fallen in many places far below my original; and no wonder, as I had to copy after so fertile and polite a genius as Ovid's; who, as my Lord Orrery, somewhere in Dean Swift's Life, humorously observes, could make an instructive song out of an old almanac.'
“ That my translation is more diffuse, and not brought within the same number of verses contained in my original, is owing to two reasons : firstly, because of the concise and expressive nature of the Latin tongue, which it is very difficult (at least I find it so) to keep to strictly, in our language; and secondly, I took the liberty sometimes to expatiate a little upon my subject, rather than leave it in obscurity, or unintelligible to my English readers, being indifferent whether they may call it translation or paraphrase ; for, in short, I had this one design most particularly in view, that these Roman Fasti might have a way opened for their entrance into our grammar schools.”
What use this translation may be of to grammar schools, we cannot pretend to guess, unless, by way of foil, to give the boys
a higher opinion of the beauty of the original by the deformity of so bad a copy. But let our readers judge of Mr Massey's performance by the following specimen. For the better determination of its merit, we shall subjoin the original of every quotation.
“ The calends of each month throughout the year,
Are under Juno's kind peculiar care ;
Ovid's address to Janus, than which in the original scarcely any thing can be more poetical, is thus familiarized into something much worse than prose by the translator: