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We have to apologise to our readers for the long array of quotations which we have brought before them, and which, we fear, must have sorely taxed their patience, and made them think that we are no more sitting in judgment on Mr. Wright than on Chapman, Pope, or Cowper, whose merits have been long since well weighed, and who have scarce a right to be again and again reconsidered. We can only meet the objection by repeating our former statement, that Mr. Wright had a fair claim to be judged, not by an ideal standard of what we might have supposed possible in a translation, but by comparison with those who have actually preceded him in the same path. Tried by this test, he will be seen to be worthy to win a good place among that imposing list of great names. In one point, namely in faithfulness to his author's text, he excels all except Mr. Newman, and this in itself is no mean praise. We are well aware, indeed, that such faithfulness is apt to be lightly esteemed. We may be told that a literal translation can never be a perfect translation; that, by the very care taken to reproduce the letter of his author, the servile copyist runs the greater risk of failing to reproduce the spirit; that we may turn Homer, passage by passage, line by line, word by word, into neat scholarlike English, every epithet and every partiele may find its place,-yet we may have for our result a mere picture without life or movement, too clearly showing that it is not for the learning of the library or cloister to grasp the spirit of the “poet of the broad highway and market-place;” that the higher and bolder attempt takes the original as a basis on which to rear a poem that shall affect our countrymen as the original may be conceived to have affected its natural hearers; in a word, it is by imitation, not by translation, that we may best represent to an English mind an ancient poet.* It must be owned that the supporters of this theory are not without facts to back them. Dryden's magnificent imitation of Horacef may well make translators shrink from competition. The satiric vein of Horace is better appreciated from the imitations of Pope than the translations of Francis; even Gifford's excellent translation of Juvenal may fail to bring his author as vividly before us as the London and Vanity of Human Wishes of Johnson.
But we have no belief in the possibility of such a representation of Homer, and it is perhaps well that none have provoked failure by trying to realise it. He who translates faithfully runs the lesser risk, and (to quote a well-known image applied by Lord Macaulay in a similar case) if he aims at a modest mark, he at least hits the white, and is so far better than he who
. Cf. Retrospective Review, iii. 169.
shoots at the stars. Better is it to have laboured as Cowper has laboured, than to aim at conveying by a free translation the author's true sense and spirit, yet to succeed only in palming off on us the frigid conceits of the translator's own imagination, sure sooner or later to be detected as impostures, and rob their author even of such praise as he had justly won. Mr. Wright will scarcely succeed, where Cowper has failed, in dislodging Pope's version from its hold on the general reader, who looks less to fidelity than brilliancy ; but he will be appreciated by the scholar accustomed to test a translation rigidly by comparison with the original, to look perhaps with excessive care to finish in detail rather than boldness and general effect, and find pardon even for a version that seems bare and bald so it be scholarlike and faithful. In exactness Mr. Wright, as we have seen, even exceeds Cowper, though he does not equal him in poetic taste. Sotheby bears much the same relation to Pope, though Cowper, far better than Pope, holds his own against his younger
rival. We may perhaps wish that in his choice of a metre Mr. Wright had not followed Cowper's example. We fully admit that “to invade the peculiar province of Pope would be the height of temerity,”* and we as fully accept the opinion quoted from Longfellow, that “the hexameter is inexorable, and the motions of the English muse in that measure are not unlike those of a prisoner dancing to the music of his chains.” Yet though the couplet and the hexameter be abandoned, the Miltonic verse is not our only refuge; for we have yet the metres in which are embodied the most really and truly Homeric of all the creations of the English muse, the ballad-poetry of ancient times; † and the association between metre and subject is one that it would be true wisdom to preserve. Cowper has complained in his preface of the difficulty of preserving dignity in a literal version: “ It is difficult to kill a sheep with dignity in a modern language, to play and prepare it for the table, detailing every circumstance of the process. Difficult also, without sinking below the level of poetry, to harness mules to a wagon, particularising every article of their furniture, rings, staples, straps, and even the tying of the knots that kept all together.” The difficulty is indeed great;
but we believe it to be less evident in the comparative freedom of the ballad than in the somewhat stilted gravity
* Preface, p. viii.
+ Mr. Newman (Preface, p. x.) considers that “our real old ballad-writers are too poor and mean to represent Homer, and are too remote in diction from our times to be popularly intelligible.” No doubt a translation would have to be based upon our ballad-poetry rather than a reproduction of it. Indeed, the English ballad-poetry was itself modified from time to time as its diction became obsolete. The difference between the more ancient and the more modern version of “Chevy Chase” is considerably greater than that between the latter and the language of our own times.
of blank verse, a metre which may be Homeric in Milton, but scarce seems to obey a weaker hand.
As regards the vexata questio of Greek or Latin names for the deities, Mr. Wright is probably correct in saying that it is almost hopeless to escape incurring the charge of pedantry on the one hand, or barbarism on the other. We confess, however, to being sorry that he preferred the latter charge to the former, as we believe that the retention of Greek names is fast ceasing to appear pedantic, and that any work which could look forward to living into the next generation could look forward to a time when a scholar's teeth would be set on edge at hearing of Jupiter and Juno in a translation from Greek. Long before that time many a schoolmaster will have enforced on the youthful mind, by arguments more convincing than ever issued from the lips of the eloquent, such a lesson as Sir E. B. Lytton has put into the mouth of the German pedagogue of Pisistratus Caxton:
“Vat do you mean by dranslating Zeus, Jupiter ? Is dat amatory, irascible, cloud compelling god of Olympus, vid his eagle and his ægis, in de slightest degree resembling de grave, formal, moral Jupiter Optimus Maximus of de Roman Capitol ? a god, Master Simpkins, who would have been shocked at the idea of running after innocent Fraulein dressed up as a swan or a bull. I put dat question to you vonce for all, Master Simpkins.' Master Simpkins took care to agree with the doctor, * And how could you,' resumed Dr. Herman majestically, turning to another criminal alumnus,— how could you presume to dranslate de Ares of Homer, sir, by de audacious vulgarism Mars ? Ares, Master Jones, who roared as loud as ten thousand men when he was hurt, or as you vill roar, if I catch you calling him Mars again! Ares, who covered seven plethra of ground ; Ares the manslayer,with the Mars or Mavors whom de Romans stole from de Sabines ! Mars, de solemn and calm protector of Rome! Master Jones, Master Jones, you ought to be ashamed of yourself! Und du! and dou, Aphroditè, dou whose bert de seasons velcomed ! dou, who didst put Atonis into a coffer, and den tid durn him into an anemone ; dou to be called Venus by dat snivel-nosed little Master Budderfield! Venus, who presided over Baumgartens and funerals, and nasty tinking sewers ! Venus Cloacina, O mein Gott ! come here, Master Budderfield ; I must a flog you for dat ; I must indeed, liddle boy !'"*
Those who have believed a perfect translation of Homer to be an impossibility will hardly, we fear, the less believe it upon examination of such specimens as we have submitted to their judgment; they will be conscious that all, in spite of their many merits, are more or less wanting; yet that the cause of failure lies, not in the incapacity or carelessness of the translators, but mainly in the unconscious strength and majestic simplicity of the author who thus seems to defy translation. They will see too that all the progress of modern scholarship, great as it has been, greater still though it may be destined to become, gives but slender hope of the attainment of their wishes. We have indeed opened up a flood of questions, most interesting and instructive, respecting the origin and structure of the Homeric poems. Their historical value as a picture of early Greek life, their philological value as a storehouse of early Greek language, have been again and again discussed; here and there a Buttmann or Passow may have altered the interpretation of a word. Still we admit that even Chapman had sufficient knowledge of the language to be in the main a correct interpreter; that none but a very literal modern version would show a material difference from him in point of accuracy; that even the most correct would not differ nearly as much from him as we might at first sight be inclined to imagine. On the other hand, the years that have given us scholarship have robbed us of far too much of that spirit which alone could make Homer a living book to us. An age when chivalry and warlike enterprise had not yet given way to commerce and industry, with all their changes of sentiment; an age which had not long since bad Sidney for its Achilles and Drake for its Odysseus,-might well excel us in this vigorous freshness; a spirit which was yet more hearty in an age to which Chapman was modern, when minstrels tuned their harp in knightly halls to the deeds of the Bruce, the Percy, or the Douglas ;—the age that lived and breathed in the spirit of Homer, though it knew him not. All this we have lost and much more, and the great poets of modern times have been less and less inclined to peril their poetic fame by attempting a translation of the untranslatable. Few have drunk more deeply of the spirit of ancient legendary lore than the Laureate, yet he is scarcely likely to follow in the steps of Chapman or Cowper; and his best friends, perhaps, would least wish to see him do so. perfect translation, it seems, we must ever remain strangers, till some rare combination of circumstances has united in the same person the full learning and scholarship of the nineteenth century with that magic gift for describing stirring scenes, and living in the history of the past,—that command of all the language of fiery valour and knightly duty,— which has been granted to none of all the writers of later days save Sir Walter Scott.
* The Caxtons, b. i. c. 7.
For the present, our translators are but mortal men, and must be satisfied with such scanty measure of success as they can win. It would seem as if all the students of Homer, -editors, commentators, translators, yes, and infallible critics and reviewers too,-all were but as the suitors who strove in vain to bend the mighty bow of Odysseus. There it lies before us to
string, if string it we can; and at first sight it may seem as if a child could achieve the task; and it is only when we address ourselves to it that we mark its unyielding stubbornness. One may scarce move it an inch, another may almost seem to draw it to the nock; yet the strained muscle betrays their weakness, the wondrous bow still mocks their puny strivings. The suitors discerned not the hero in his disguise, nor can we point out the genius, though he may be even now amongst us, calm in the consciousness of his strength, who shall without strain or effort string the bow which none but he can wield, and from that string, in his hands alone alike tuneful and warlike, awake the long-forgotten echoes of its magic music.
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ART. III.-BUILDERS' COMBINATIONS IN LONDON
Report on the Builders' Strike. By T. R. Bennett and G. S. Lefevre,
Esqrs. Printed for the Trade Societies' Committee of the Associa
tion for the promotion of Social Science. 1860. Die gewerblichen und wirthschaftlichen Genossenschaften der ar
beitenden Classen in England, Frankreich und Deutschland. Von
V. A. Huber, Professor in Wernigerode. Tubingen, 1860. Association d'Ouvriers pour l'Entreprise en général du Bâtiment,
rue St. Victor, 155 (Maison Bouyer et Cie.). Documents divers. Few events in that sphere of social action which may be said immediately to outlie the political one,-that of the relations between class and class,—have fixed attention more of late years than the strike and lock-out of the London building trades in the latter part of 1859 and the early part of 1860. From the closing of their shops on August 6, 1859, by 225 of the largest firms of this city (employing, it is said, 24,000 out of the 40,000 artisans engaged in the building trades, and comprising every builder einploying more than fifty men, and some of the smaller firms), to the 27th Feb. 1860, when the last dividend was paid to the “lock-outs,” nearly seven months passed over this huge metropolis of a social war,—for it can be called by no other name, -involving directly the comforts, the fortunes, and, within cer