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which it condemns; nor has it restrained Mr. Girdlestone. The fairest method of accounting for this apparent rashness, which we can take, is to let the present author speak for himself:
While we have long had translations of almost all the other poets, Latin and Greek, there has not yet appeared, in our language, an entire translation of the great Theban Bard by the same hand; though many persons have made choice of particular odes, as if to try how far it was possible to exhibit his manner in their own language. Hence I have been emboldened to undertake a version of all his odes. Curiosity may perhaps procure readers, who may wish to form some notion of this prince of Lyric poets, without the trouble of studying the original; for whoever has the least acquaintance with the great Grecian, must know that he would attempt to read him in his own language to little purpose, unless he did study him, and with minute attention.
There is such a peculiarity of style, a perpetual allusion to events little at this day known, a transition quick as lightning from general to particular reflections, from fact to fable, from living to dead heroes, from the immediate subject of the ode, some feat in the games, to the remoter exploits of war, from the praises of the hero to those of his relations, his ancestors, his country, or the gods; to understand all which a considerable knowledge of ancient history, places, and customs is necessary; that it can hardly be expected, even a translation will be intelligible to one, who is not prepared to bring with him to the perusal, either a previous knowledge or a very close attention. It has been however my endeavour to smooth the way as much as possible, and if in this very uneven country some difficult passes still remain, it is my hope the candid reader will make proper allowance.
So much light has been already thrown upon the subject of these odes, the sacred games of Greece, by the learned West, that it would be presumption to attempt to add any further observations on this head. No other notes are therefore to be expected than such as may tend to explain particular passages, or point out the secret connection, or some latent beauties.'
This is all very just: but in a great degree it serves to answer the question which we have proposed. Mr. G. again remarks, in a subsequent passage, that it is the nature of the Lyric Ode⚫ to glance too quickly over a variety of objects; that unless the objects themselves be previously known, the reader must borrow assistance: but if he will have patience, and make use of proper aid, there will then remain no confusion.' If the author be intelligible, certainly none:—but this is making a toil of a pleasure; and nothing can please in poetry which is not quickly understood by competent judges. This want of perspicuity may not be felt by those who, by long attention, have mastered the previous difficulties of style: but long attention is bestowed only on the business, not on the amusements of life, excepting by the very idle, who are of all readers the most unlikely to study Pindar.
Pindar. Yet studied he must be, and right steadily too, in order that he may be even moderately understood. One degree beyond his present obscurity would have wrapped him in utter darkness, as far as the general reader is concerned; and he would have taken a station, even on the shelf of the scholar, closer to Lycophron than that which he now occupies.
What, then, have the critics admired with justice in Pindar? His occasional bursts of transcendant poetry,- his brilliant passages, their elevation of sentiment and language, their glowing and dignified panegyrics, or sage and moral precepts,→→ their vivid images, or their energetic expressions. Even with the charm, the peculiar charm of lyric verse which belongs to Horace, and to Horace only, we are satiated with heathen gods and god. desses, heroes and heroines; and the stanzas which they so frequently engross are omitted in any voluntary perusal of his odes, while we dwell with incessant pleasure on the general reflections of moral wisdom which interest every mind, or the pathetic touches of nature which penetrate every heart. How, then, should Pindar, whose allusions to the gods and demigods of Greece are so infinitely more copious, whose odes are a living picture of the games and ceremonies, the mythology and the history, of the heroic ages, impart an interest to matters which make even Horace tedious? No power of song can render such subjects generally interesting. Besides, as Mr. Girdlestone confesses, every one who begins to read Pindar is apt to find himself bewildered with numberless images; with examples taken from history or fable, which seem introduced at random: hence he is led to blame the poet for want of connection and design ;'. and is he, in reasonably expecting amusement at no very costly price from the perusal of poetry, unjust in this censure? Mr. G. implies an answer in the affirmative:
Let it then be observed, that Pindar loves to introduce the praise of a dead hero; apparently because he was of the same country with the hero of his ode; or because he signalized himself perhaps in some particular place mentioned; but his real design is to entertain by some description of his exploits or virtues; and to leave it to others to transfer the praises of the dead hero to the living *. The kind of connection too, which prevails in his poetry, is such as may escape the notice of a reader not very attentive. The parts would often have no connection at all with each other, but that the poet has contrived to add so fine a link between each, that they hang together as by magic; after reflecting some time we discover the secret art, and with admiration acknowledge, that each part most wonderfully contributes to produce the grand effect of the whole design.'
* As some of the antient satirists, under pretence of lashing the iniquitous dead, really scourged the living villain. Rev. D 3
Surely, this is too minute and tedious a process for the attainment of the end in view. If all this previous study be necessary to perceive even the connection between the parts of the same poem in Pindar, we ought to learn him in our youth, digest him in our middle age, and admire him after we have passed our grand climacteric. Reading one of his Odes, in which all this magic is displayed, for the first time, must be like looking at the wrong side of a piece of finely wrought tapestry; all must be roughness and confusion in the figures;
till we are led round to the right point of view, we must be utterly unable to judge of the beauties of the composition ;→ and the most vexatious circumstance is that we cannot reach this point of view, although we are so near it, excepting by the most circuitous route.
In attempting to vindicate the character of Pindar from the prejudice conceived against it by those who have from childhood been accustomed to regale upon the delightful beverage of Horace,' Mr. G. not only makes several observations which in our opinion sufficiently account for that prejudice, if it be one, but in which that judgment, as we should rather express ourselves, is amply justified by the very remarks that are intended to impugn it:
Horace chose his own subjects; of course he followed his fancy, who (which) led him through the most delightful gardens of Italy, a country nearer to us than Greece, and with the minute events of whose history we are better acquainted. Pindar's subjects were assigned him by others; and were in their own nature most barren. Whatever therefore we admire in him, must be considered entirely his own creation. When a man by necessity, not choice, is fixed on a barren flat, if he has the miraculous art of converting it to a paradise' (if indeed he has that art !!) who can withhold admiration? Yet while Horace is universally admired, the sublime Pindar remains almost entirely neglected. This cannot justly be ascribed to their difference of merit, for, if Horace be equal to Pindar in elegance and sweetness, Pindar is far superior to Horace in sublimity; if the Roman be admired for his moral sentences, in the Grecian you constantly meet with sentences that breathe at least as high a strain of morality and more holy thoughts of religion. The Italian poet was a polite courtier, and could compliment with great ingenuity the Theban bard addressed heroes and kings at the very moment when they were flushed with victory and glory, but so far was he from deifying, that he disdained even to flatter; in his highest strains of compliment he loses not sight of truth, nay, he frequently has the courage, in plain terms, though in a manner not offensive, to give advice. As to artful transition, if the Roman muse equals the Grecian, in gliding with exquisite delicacy from thought to thought, the Grecian, far surpasses the Roman in glancing with rapidity and boldness. In elegant allusion both poets excel. In
their epithets they are perhaps, beyond all others, admirable, except Homer, who had the art to paint a landskip in a single word. Pindar, however, in the sublimity of these, surpasses Horace, and even Homer in a peculiarity of boldness. But Pindar was much studied by Horace, who, in many admired passages, derives his excellence from the ancient poet of Thebes. The great uncertainty of Pindar's meaning in numerous places, the inferiority of our skill in the Greek language, in comparison with our knowledge of the Latin, his frequent obscurity of style and quick transitions, his apparent want of connection, the barrenness of the subjects on which he wrote, and his metre not being so musical without its accompani ment, at least to us; these seem to be the chief reasons why he is comparatively neglected. The last reason alone is very powerful. Horace's odes were intended to be musical, without the help of the lyre, and we soon feel their harmony. Pindar wrote his to be ac companied by the lyre, on which the Grecians were taught to play, as a common and necessary accomplishment. The constant changes contrived by the poet leading the lyre through a variety of melody, made probably a sort of air, and this seems to have been one great beauty in Pindar's compositions; but to us this beauty is lost. We cannot, in Pindar's verses, distinguish an equal harmony as in the measures of Homer, from the very flow of whose verse we are early taught to feel the mute sorrow of the father as he walks along the beach, and to hear the rolling thunder of the dashing waves: but whatever may be the reasons why Pindar is not more read, I shall not think my time and labour ill employed if this translation prove the means of bringing into more general notice the great Original.'
We wish that we could accompany the concluding sentence with any words of good omen: but we really cannot. The original which the translator has chosen would overwhelm any merit in his translation, by its own want of attraction. Yet he has undertaken the task with the proper spirit and feeling. As he was desirous of recommending Pindar to the greater notice of the generality of English readers, he properly winds up his labours with the following declaration :
As neither my translation, nor notes, were designed for professed scholars, if such should deign to read thus far and should disapprove the reasons frequently assigned for Pindar's various digressions, let it be recollected they are chiefly offered as conjectures. To read Pindar is to travel through a hilly country; every one observes the boldness of the scenes, every painter who attempts to copy must exhibit something of their characteristic grandeur; but if he would give a fair representation, he must endeavour to show the beauties of the vallies likewise. The translator, alas! beholds at a distance and often through a mist, insomuch that he must frequently supply by conjecture the objects which he but dimly sees. In this endeavour
to introduce to more general notice a poet less known than most others of the ancients, if some liberties have been taken; this, it is hoped, those who will be the first to discover will be the first to pardon.'
We have been the more ample in our extracts from Mr. Girdlestone's own account of his motives for the present bold undertaking, and of the plan of the work, because we not only deemed his explanation clear and satisfactory as far as the statement of his opinion goes, but because in that statement he appears to us to furnish sufficient reasons for the neglect of which he complains; the neglect, we mean, of his antiently much-admired original. -We have already done justice to Pindar's occasional excellence, even as a poet interesting to modern readers: but we must contend that much the larger part of his remaining works, from subject, from style, and from every peculiarity which they possess, are justly considered as dull, and unworthy of the trouble which they must cost to understand them.
We come now to an examination of the translator's qualifications as a poet; beginning with some remarks on an original Ode in imitation of Pindar, which he has prefixed to his work. We were surprized by a note in which the author deems it necessary to warn us that he sometimes makes one long syllable stand for a whole foot, according to the established custom of our best poets !
Thus Milton-" It was the winter wild
While the heav'n-born child ;'
and still more were we alarmed, when we found him introducing the line of fourteen syllables, instead of the usual Alexandrine, and apologizing for occasionally mixing in his verses what have been called Trochaic feet!'
Stand in his presence humble,"
"When with the charm compar'd,”
Smith holds a high rank in this catalogue, and precedes Gray,
The introductory Ode is in honour of Nelson; and its motto is well selected from the eighth Isthmian Ode :
Εσλον γε φῶτα καὶ φθίμενον ὑ
or, as Horace paraphrases the sentiment,
"Dignum laude Virum Musa vetat mori.”
The following stanza, alluding to Nelson's early ambition, appears to us well conceived, and vigorously expressed: