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But then the fufferings of Ulyffes, which are a confiderable part of that fentence, are omitted:
[Ὃς μάλα πολλὰ πυλάχθη : ]
The confideration of thefe difficulties, in a fervile, literal, tranflation, not long fince 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 fuppofe they communicated their thoughts on this fubject 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 fenfe, to be an endeavour of a later Poet to write like one, who has written before him, on the fame subject: that is, not to tranflate his words, or to be confined to his fenfe, but only to fet him as a pattern, and to write, as he fuppofes 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) fo far as my definition reaches. For in the Pindaric Odes, the cuftoms and ceremonies of ancient Greece are ftill preferved. But I know not what mifchief may arife hereafter from the example of fuch an innovation, when writers of unequal parts to him fhall 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 tranflation of Pindar; because he alone was able to make him amends, by giving him better of his own, whenever he refufed 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 tranflated literally; his genius is too ftrong to bear a chain, and Samfon-like he fhakes it off. A genius fo elevated and unconfined as Mr. Cowley's was but neceflary to make Pindar fpeak 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 ufed, 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 fomething new produced, which is almoft 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 ftill excepted, when that perhaps takes place. Yet he who is inquifi
tive to know an author's thoughts, will be difpappointed in his expectation. And it is not always that a man will be contented to have a prefent made him, when he expects the payment of a debt. To state it fairly: imitation of an author is the most advantageous way for a tranflator to fhew himself, but the greateft 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 reafon for his innovation, in his admirable preface before the trnflation of the fecond Æneid. "Poetry is of fo fubtle 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 transfufion, there will remain nothing but a Caput Mortuum." I confefs this argument holds good against a literal translation; but who defends it? Imitation and verbal verfion are in my opinion the two extremes, which ought to be avoided: and therefore, when I have propofed the mean betwixt them, it will be feen how far his argument will reach.
No man is capable of tranflating Poetry, who, befides a genius to that art, is not a mafter 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 expreffion, 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 fame turn, if our tongue will bear it, or, if not, to vary but the dress, not to alter or destroy the fubftance. 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 fhould be changed: but fince every language is fo full of its own proprieties, that what is beautiful in one, is often barbarous, nay fometimes nonfenfe in another, it would be unreafonable to limit a tranflator to the narrow compafs of his author's words. It is enough if he choose out fome expreffion which does not vitiate the fenfe. I fuppofe he may ftretch his chain to fuch a latitude; but, by innovation of thoughts, methinks, he breaks it. By this means the spirit of an author may be transfufed, and yet not loft and thus it is plain, that the reafon alledged by Sir John Denham has no farther force than to expreffion : for thought, if it be tranflated truly, cannot be loft in another language; but the words that convey it to our apprehenfion (which are the image and ornament of that thought) may be fo ill chofen, as to make it appear in an unhandfome dress, and
rob it of its native luftre. There is, therefore, a liberty to be allowed for the expreffion; neither is it neceflary that words and lines fhould be confined to the measure of their original. The fenfe of an author, generally fpeaking, is to be facred and inviolable. If the fancy of Ovid be luxuriant, it is his character to be fo; and if I retrench it, he is no longer Ovid. It will be replied, that he receives advantage by this lopping of his fuperfluous branches; but I rejoin, that a tranflator has no fuch right. When a painter copies from the life, I fuppofe he has no privilege to alter features, and lineaments, under pretence that his picture will look better: perhaps the face, which he has drawn, would be more exact, if the eyes or nofe were altered; but it is his business to make it refemble the original. In two cafes only there may a feeming difficulty arife; that is, if the thought be notoriously trivial, or dishonest: but the fame answer will ferve for both, that then they ought not to be translated: Et qua Defperes tractata nitefcere poffe, relinquas.
Thus I have ventured to give my opinion on this fubject against the authority of two great men, but I hope without offence to either of their memories; for I both loved them living, and reverence them now they are dead. But, if, after what I have urged, it be thought by better judges, that the praise of a tranflation confifts in adding new beauties to the piece, thereby to recompenfe the lofs which it fuftains by change of language, I fhall be willing to be taught better, and to recant. In the mean time, it feems to me, that the true reason, why we have so few versions which are tolerable, is not from the too close pursuing of the author's fenfe, but because there are fo few, who have all the talents, which are requifite for tranflation, and that there is fo little praife, and fo fmall encouragement, for fo confiderable a part of learning.
CANACE TO MACAREUS.
Macareus and Canace, fon and daughter to Æolus, God of the Winds, loved each other incestuously: Canace was delivered of a fon, and committed him to her nurse, to be fecretly conveyed away. The infant crying out, by that means was discovered to Æolus, who, inraged at the wickedness of his children, commanded the babe to be expofed to wild beafts on the mountains: and withal, fent a fword to Canace, with this message, That her crimes would instruct ber how to use it. With this fword fhe flew berfelf: but before he died, fhe writ the following letter to her brother Macareus, who had taken sanctuary in the temple of Apollo.
F ftreaming blood my fatal letter ftain, Imagine, ere you read, the writer flain; One hand the fword, and one the pen employs, And in my lap the ready paper lies. Think in this pofture thou behold'it me write : In this my cruel father would delight.
O! were he prefent, that his eyes and hands! Might fee, and urge, the death which he commands:
Than all the raging winds more dreadful, he,
The North and South, and each contending blast,