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Oft, when night's ebon gloom was spread.
The glorious virtue each displays ;
Triumphant Henry waves his sceptred hand
That sets full soon in blood:
While Benbow on the trembling flood
Strikes Death and Valour dumb with strange delight;
But Nelson's soul still pants to soar a nobler height.'
Here is some bold and (we think) happy language, worthy an imitator of Pindar; particularly the line printed in Italics : but expressions of a very different stamp also occur in the Ode. Great Alfred's far-foreseeing soul' is a very unpleasant phrase; and beam'd a tremendous calm' is nonsense, notwithstanding the note about the dreadful calm before a battle.' We could specify several other objections to phrases, which plainly shew the author to be smitten with the Dithyrambic audacity of expression: but we shall be contented with observing that nature' cannot fade into eternal day;' that the flick'ring flood' is worse than Mason's "bick'ring blade;" and that the concluding sentence of the Ode is so inverted and latinized in construction, that all the surviving effect of a very stale thought evaporates in its expression :
" grey Ocean down
Drops at Britannia's feet, who weeps his long contested crown ;' an aukward Alexandrine, in the manner of Chapman. We shall next give a passage from the first Olympic Ode. The opening of a work may always be fairly presumed to have been as much laboured as any part of it; and we have another reason for the selection: it is also the opening of West's translation. Now, although "comparisons are odious," they must be made, if we would form a right estimate of the strength of two persons who are employed on the same task. We give the older writer first:
The idea of Sydney attracting his heroic followers by love seems, when combined with the circumstance of Wolfe's character immediately succeeding, to have been suggested by Cowper's lines on the latter, perhaps unconsciously. Wolfe, he says, " put so much of his heart into the act,
"That all were prompt to follow whom all lov'd.”
Seeks the faded starry train,
Round illumes the ethereal plain ?
Who a nobler theme can chuse
When her various songs she frames?
Sung at Hicro's feastful board."
The lines in Italics are flat and unpoetical in the above extract but the whole passage is spirited, and gives the general sense of the original; which indeed is all that West attempts, and all that is compatible with the flow of English verse, in a translation of Pindar. Mr. Girdlestone's arrangemcnt of the matter is closer to the original; and our readers shall judge of his manner :
Best of all Nature water flows;
Rise then, ye bards, whose souls the muse inspires,
Victorious! strike your harps to Jove, Olympia's king" It
It has been said,' observes Mr. G. in his note, that Pindar can never be translated. The first word, in his first ode, shows one reason upon which this opinion is founded. The words literally translated must, to a modern reader, appear very prosaic. Those however, for whom it was originally composed, did not want to be reminded that this was an observation of philosophy. What then is a translator to do? If he render the exact words of his author, one class of readers' (and surely the most judicious) will throw down the book in disgust; if he alter the expression too freely, he may incur the disapprobation of the learned. In such difficulties, which very frequently occur in this writer, I generally choose rather to encounter the displeasure of those from whom I may naturally expect the greatest candour. At once then, reader, understand what is my chief aim throughout this translation. I have not the presumption to offer instruction to the learned, but I wish to excite those, who admire inferior classical authors, to bestow more of their attention upon this great original. My endeavour has been to exhihit something of Pindar's manner. More labour has been employed in elucidating his sentiments, his train of thought and various comparisons, than to preserve the exact enumeration of victories or every nicety in history, geography, or chronology. It has been also conceived, that in many passages some liberty of retrenchment or addition, or of a slight change in the figure or mode of expression, might tend to give the modern reader a clearer idea of Pindar's general spirit, than an over-scrupulous, and at last vain endeavour, to exhibit each of his particular expressions more minutely."
The object, then, of Mr. Girdlestone appears from this and the previously quoted passages of his notes and preface to be the same as that of West, namely, to give a popular and pleasing translation of Pindar. If they both fail to render generally interesting this sublime writer, and sublimity is a quality ever uncertain in its effect on the beholder or the reader,the cause of the failure must be sought, as we have intimated, in the original; since both the translators, though we greatly prefer the former, are undoubtedly men of learning and abilities. Mr. Girdlestone's book we particularly recommend to students in the higher classes of schools, and to youth at our Universities; to all, in a word, who are beginning to study Pindar. The translation is in most instances sufficiently close to exhibit his general meaning, and sufficiently free to afford some idea of his manner. At the same time, it will by no means supersede the use of the Lexicon in the hands of the Tiro; nor will it remove West from the table of the scholar who delights in poetical translations of the classics.
From Mr. G.'s own account of his plan, there seems to be no necessity for our minutely comparing him with his original throughout. We shall satisfy ourselves, therefore, with adding some more particular remarks on his style, and with extracting
another passage or two as specimens of his genius: dismissing his volume with that portion of praise which we have already bestowed on it; and with those anticipations as to its contracted sphere of reputation, which we have felt it impossible not to entertain.
In, the description of the punishment of Tantalus, Olympic 1. (differing, like all these mythological stories, from the accounts of various authors,) we have the following harsh line:
He, shrinking still, still shudders from the whelming shock.' In the note to the description of the happy isles,' Olympic 2. where Archilles and Diomed dwell,' we have a very pleasing version of a fragment of Pindar on the same subject. It forcibly reminds the reader (which the author has not remarked) of the beautiful picture of the Elysian fields in Tibullus. Mr. Girdlestone compares it with a passage in the Fairy Queen. Thus Pindar:
There round the blest in powerful light
The sun for ever shining cheers their night;
Arching the fragrant trees their shadowy boughs
Wave high; the golden fruit in glitt'ring clusters glows,
Joys in full flow'r around them blow;
Breathing altars o'er them throw
Their lovely perfumes through the air; the skies
Smile o'er the far-seen flame, whence the rich clouds arise.”
passage in the text is still better:
There lie the Happy Isles,
Enrobed with everlasting smiles;
And there the great Saturnian towers invite.
Sea-breezes ever blow,
Sweet flow'rs for ever throw
Soft gleams of gold upon th' enchanted sight,
Some from the beauteous trees around,
Some from the billowy waters gently breathe
Their sweets, and tempt the hand to form the blushing wreath.'
This is really very good poetry. Pindar does not often give his translator such an opportunity of displaying himself: but we see that the latter can take the best advantage of these occasional openings.
* "Floret odoratis terra benigna rosis." TIBULLUS. (Rev.) Sweet meadows' and lovely perfumes' in the same passage, rather surfeit us with sweetness and loveliness.
West renders the passage thus; and beautiful as his version is, we are inclined in this instance to prefer Mr. Girdlestone : "Where fragrant breezes, vernal airs, Sweet children of the main,
Purge the blest island from corroding cares,
On a passage in the 6th Olympic Ode, - which certainly trembles on that verge where sublimity ends and burlesque begins, and the poet, like the personified Danger of Collins, hangs on the edge of a precipice,—Mr. G. thus comments:
• Those whose heads tuin giddy when they are whirled along by the rapidity of Pindar's car, should not reflect upon his muse, who is there seated in majesty and grace. Ingenious and bold indeed she is. Her flights disdain criticism, at least such criticism as presumes to judge without some considerable portion of her divine fire. Similar to this probably were the flights which made Pindar compare himself to an Eagle, and those who blamed him to
; but we will forbear, for the sake of the truly learned and sagacious Heyne.'
Heyne, it seems, has called this flight of Pindar, has dared to call it,'" lusus ingeniosus, lusus tamen." As to Pindar disdaining criticism, if that criticism be clearly and reasonably urged, we cannot help recollecting a saying of Hobbes, that "if a man be against reason, reason will be against him."
In an animated eulogy on the Rhodians, Olympic 7. Mr. G. has disfigured a very good version of the passage by such a prosaic line as
Immense the fame they gain'd.
"Hv de xλéos Balú, indeed, is Pindar; and, saving the plea of Grecian simplicity, the poet himself approaches to the Bathos. • Man, boast of nought! whate'er thou hast is givenWisdom and Virtue are from Heaven.' "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above." Mr. G. does not fail to remind us of similar coincidences between heathen and inspired wisdom; coincidences, we may add, which are observable between many passages of the Greek tragedians (as well as of Pindar) and expressions in the Bible. Sophocles has some particularly striking instances. The superiority of the religious sentiment of Pindar to the
“Equum mî animum ipse parabo,”