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old, who designs or performs in this manner, it proves ferent, that one must have been spoiled in the endeahim to have made the piece at a time of life when he vour to match the other. was master not only of his art, but of his discretion.
Longinus, who saw this poem was 'partly of the Aristotle makes no such distinction between the nature of comedy,' ought not, for that very reason, to two poems: he constantly cites them with equal have considered it with a view to the Iliad. How praise, and draws the rules and examples of epic little any such resemblance was the intention of writing equally from both. But it is rather to the Homer, may appear from hence, that, although the Odyssey that Horace gives the preference, in the character of Ulysses was there already drawn, yet Epistle to Loilius, and in the Art of Poetry. It is here he purposely turns to another side of it, and remarkable how opposite his opinion is to that of shows him not in that full light of glory, but in the Longinus and that the particulars he chooses to shade of common life, with a mixture of such qualiextol, are those very fictions, and pictures of the ties as are requisite for all the lowest accidents of it, manners, which the other seems least to approve. struggling with misfortunes, and on a level with the Those fables and manners are of the very essence of meanest of mankind. As for the other persons, none the work but even without that regard, the fables of them are above what we call the higher comedy: themselves have both more invention and more in- Calypso, though a goddess, is a character of intrigue; struction, and the manners more moral and exemplar The suitors yet more approaching to it; the Phracians than those of the Iliad. are of the same cast; the Cyclops, Melanthius, and
In some points (and those the most essential to the Irus, descend even to droll characters; and the scenes epic poem) the Odyssey is confessed to excel the that appear throughout are generally of the comic Iliad; and principally in the great end of it, the moral. kind; banquets, revels, sports, loves, and the pursuit The conduct, turn, and disposition of the fable is also of a woman.
what the critics allow to be the better model for epic From the nature of the poem, we shall form an idea writers to follow; accordingly we find much more of of the style. The diction is to follow the images, the cast of this poem than of the other in the Eneid, and to take its colour from the complexion of the and (what next to that is perhaps the greatest exam- thoughts. Accordingly the Odyssey is not always ple) in the Telemachus. In the manners it is no way clothed in the majesty of verse proper to tragedy, but inferior: Longinus is so far from finding any defect in sometimes descends into the plainer narrative, and these, that he rather taxes Homer with painting them sometimes even to that familiar dialogue essential to too minutely. As to the narrations, although they are comedy. However, where it cannot support a submore numerous as the occasions are more frequent, limity, it always preserves a dignity, or at least a yet they carry no more the marks of old age, and are propriety. neither more prolix, nor more circumstantial, than the There is a real beauty in an easy, pure, perspicuous conversations and dialogues of the Iliad. Not to description, even of a low action. There are numemention the length of those of Phoenix in the ninth rous instances of this both in Homer and Virgil: and book, and of Nestor in the eleventh (which may be perhaps those natural passages are not the least thought in compliance to their characters,) those of pleasing of their works. It is often the same in hisGlaucus in the sixth, of Eneas in the twentieth, and tory, where the representations of common, or even some others, must be allowed to exceed any in the domestic things, in clear, plain, and natural words, whole Odyssey. And that the propriety of style, and are frequently found to make the liveliest impression the numbers, in the narrations of each are equal, will on the reader. appear to any who compare them.
The question is, how far a poet, in pursuing the description or image of an action, can attach himself to little circumstances which contribute to form a full, and yet not a confused, idea of a thing.
To form a right judgment, whether the genius of Homer had suffered any decay; we must consider, in both his poems, such parts as are of a similar nature, and will bear comparison. And it is certain we shall Epithets are of vast service to this effect, and the find in each the same vivacity and fecundity of in- right use of these is often the only expedient to render vention, the same life and strength of imagining and the narration poetical.
colouring, the particular descriptions as highly painted, The great point of judgment is to distinguish when the figures as bold, the metaphors as animated, and to speak simply, and when figuratively but whenthe numbers as harmonious, and as various. ever the poet is obliged by the nature of his subject The Odyssey is a perpetual source of poetry: the to descend to the lower manner of writing, an elevated stream is not the less full for being gentle; though it style would be affected, and therefore ridiculous; and is true (when we speak only with regard to the sub- the more he was forced upon figures and letters to lime) that a river, foaming and thundering in cata-avoid that lowness, the more the image would be racts from rocks and precipices, is what more strikes, broken, and consequently obscure. amazes, and fills the mind, than the same body of water, flowing afterwards through peaceful vales and agreeable scenes of pasturage.
One may add, that the use of the grand style on little subjects, is not only ludicrous, but a sort of transgression against the rules of proportion and The Odyssey (as I have before said) ought to be mechanics: it is using a vast force to lift a feather. considered according to its own nature and design,| I believe, now I am upon this head, it will be found not with an eye to the Iliad. To censure Homer, a just observation, than the low actions of life cannot because it is unlike what it was never meant to re- be put into a figurative style, without being ridicusemble, is as if a gardener, who had purposely culti-lous; but things natural can. Metaphors raise the vated two beautiful trees of contrary natures, as a latter into dignity, as we see in the Georgics; but specimen of his skill in the several kinds, should be throw the former into ridicule, as in the Lutrin. I blamed for not bringing them into pairs: when in think this may very well be accounted for: laughter yoot, stem, leaf, and flower, each was so entirely dif-limolics censure; inanimate and irrational beings are
not objects of censure, therefore they may be elevated clouds; they are obvious to all capacities, and when as much as you please, and no ridicule follows: bat they are not evident, they do not exist. when rational beings are represented above their real The most plain narration not only admits of these, character, it becomes ridiculous in art, because it is and of harmony (which are all the qualities of style,) vicious in morality. The bees in Virgil, were they but it requires every one of them to render it pleasing. rational beings, would be ridiculous by having their On the contrary, whatever pretends to a share of the actions and manners represented on a level with sublime, may pass, notwithstanding any defects in the creatures so superior as men; since it would imply rest; nay, sometimes without any of them, and gain folly or pride, which are the proper objects of ridi- the admiration of all ordinary readers.
Homer, in his lowest narrations or speeches, is The use of pompous expressions for low actions or ever easy, flowing, copious, clear, and harmonious. thoughts, is the true sublime of Don Quixote. How He shows not less invention in assembling the far unfit it is for epic poetry, appears in its being the humbler, than the greater, thoughts and images: nor perfection of the mock epic. It is so far from being less judgment in proportioning the style and the the sublime of tragedy, that it is the cause of all bom-versification to these, than to the other. Let it be bast, when poets, instead of being (as they imagine) remembered, that the same genius that soared the constantly lofty, only preserve throughout a painful highest, and from whom the greatest models of the equality of fustian; that continued swell of language sublime are derived, was also he who stooped the (which runs indiscriminately even through their lowest lowest, and gave to the simple narrative its utmost characters, and rattles like some mightiness of mean- perfection. Which of these was the harder task to ing in the most indifferent subjects) is of a piece with Homer himself, I cannot pretend to determine; but that perpetual elevation of tone which the players to his translator I can affirm (however unequal alí his have learnt from it; and which is not speaking, but translations must be) that of the latter has been much vociferating. more difficult.
There is still more reason for a variation of style Whoever expects here the same pomp of verse, in epic poetry than in tragic, to distinguish between and the same ornaments of diction, as in the Iliad, he that language of the gods proper to the muse who will, and he ought to be disappointed. Were the sings, and is inspired; and that of men, who are original otherwise, it had been an offence against introduced speaking only according to nature. Farther, nature; and were the translation so, it were an offence there ought to be a difference of style observed in the against Homer, which is the same thing. speeches of human persons, and those of deities; and It must be allowed that there is a majesty and haragain, in those which may be called set harangues or mony in the Greek language, which greatly contribute orations, and those which are only conversation or to elevate and support the narration. But I must also dialogue. Homer has more of the latter than any observe that this is an advantage grown upon the lanother poet; what Virgil does by two or three words guage since Homer's time: for things are removed of narration, Homer still performs by speeches: not from vulgarity by being out of use; and if the words only replies, but even rejoinders are frequent in him, we could find in any present language were equally a practice almost unknown to Virgil. This renders sonorous or musical in themselves, they would still his poems more animated, but less grave and majestic; appear less poetical and uncommon than those of a and consequently necessitates the frequent use of a dead one, from this only circumstance, of being in lower style. The writers of tragedy lie under the every man's mouth. I may add to this another dissame necessity if they would copy nature; whereas advantage to a translator, from a different cause: that painted and poetical diction which they per- Homer seems to have taken upon him the character petually use, would be improper even in orations of an historian, antiquary, divine, and professor of designed to move with all the arts of rhetoric: this is arts and sciences, as well as poet. In one or other plain from the practice of Demosthenes and Cicero ; of these characters, he descends into many pecuand Virgil in those of Drances and Turnus, gives an liarities, which as a poet only perhaps he would have eminent example, how far removed the style of them avoided. All these ought to be preserved by a faithought to be from such an excess of figures and orna- ful translator, who in some measure takes the place ments which indeed fits only that language of the of Homer; and all that can be expected from him is gods we have been speaking of, or that of a muse under to make them as poetical as the subject will bear. inspiration. Many arts therefore are requisite to supply these disTo read through a whole work in this strain, is like advantages, in order to dignify and solemnize these travelling all along the ridge of a hill, which is not plainer parts, which hardly admit of any poetical half so agreeable as sometimes gradually to rise, and ornaments. sometimes gently to descend, as the way leads, and Some use has been made to this end of the style of as the end of the journey directs. Milton. A just and moderate mixture of old words Indeed the true reason that so few poets have imi- may have an effect like the working old abbey stones tated Homer in these lower parts, has been the ex- into a building, which I have sometimes seen to give treme difficulty of preserving that mixture of ease a kind of venerable air, and yet not destroy the and dignity essential to them. For it is as hard for neatness, elegance, and equality, requisite to a new an epic poem to stoop to the narrative with success, work; I mean, without rendering it too unfamiliar, as for a prince to descend to be familiar, without or remote from the present purity of writing, or from diminution to his greatness. that ease and smoothness, which ought always to aeThe sublime style is more easily counterfeited than company narration or dialogue. In reading a style the natural: something that passes for it, or sounds judiciously antiquated, one finds a pleasure not unlike it, is common to all false writers: but nature, like that of travelling on an old Roman way: but purity, perspicuity, and simplicity, never walk in the then the road must be as good as the way is ancient:
a very few words about some reflections which the late Madam Dacier bestowed on the first part of my preface to the Iliad, and which she published at the end of her translation of that poem.*
To write gravely an answer to them, would be too much for the reflections; and to say nothing concerning them, would be too little for the author. It is owing to the industry of that learned lady, that our polite neighbours are become acquainted with many of Homer's beauties, which were hidden from them before in Greek and in Eustathius. She challenges on this account a particular regard from all the admirers of that great poet; and I hope that I shall be thought, as I mean, to pay some part of this debt to her memory, in what I am now writing.
the style must be such in which we may evenly pro- since I am now taking my leave of Homer, and of all ceed, without being put to short stops by sudden ab- controversy relating to him, I beg leave to be inruptness, or puzzled by frequent turnings and trans- dulged, if I make use of this last opportunity to say positions. No man delights in furrows and stumbling-blocks: and let our love to antiquity be ever so great, a fine ruin is one thing, and a heap of rubbish another. The imitators of Milton, like most other imitators, are not copies but caricatures of their original; they are a hundred times more obsolete and cramp than he, and equally so in all places: whereas it should have been observed of Milton, that he is not lavish of his exotic words and phrases every where alike, but employs them much more where the subject is marvellous, vast, and strange, as in the scenes of heaven, hell, chaos, &c. than where it is turned to the natural and agreeable, as in the pictures of paradise, the loves of our first parents, entertainments of angels, and the like. In general, this unusual style better serves to awaken our ideas in the descrip- Had these reflections fallen from the pen of an orditions and in the imaging and picturesque parts, nary critic I should not have apprehended their effect, than it agrees with the lower sorts of narrations, the and should therefore have been silent concerning character of which is simplicity and purity. Milton them: but since they are Madam Dacier's, I imagine has several of the latter, where we find not an anti-that they must be of weight; and in a case where I quated, affected, or uncouth word, for some hundred think her reasoning very bad, I respect her authority. lines together; as in his fifth book, the latter part of I have fought under Madam Dacier's banner, and the tenth and eleventh books, and in the narration of have waged war in defence of the divine Homer Michael in the twelfth. I wonder indeed that he, against all the heretics of the age. And yet it is who ventured (contrary to the practice of all other Madam Dacier who accuses me, and who accuses epic poets) to imitate Homer's lowness in the narra- me of nothing less than betraying our common cause. tive, should not also have copied his plainness and per- She affirms that the most declared enemies of this spicuity in the dramatic parts: since in his speeches author have never said any thing against him more (where clearness above all is necessary) there is fre- injurious or more unjust than I. What must the quently such transposition and forced construction, world think of me, after such a judgment passed by that the very sense is not to be discovered without a so great a critic; the world, who decides so often, second or third reading, and in this certainly ought to and who examines so seldom; the world, who even be no example. in matters of literature is almost always the slave of authority? Who will suspect that so much learning should mistake, that so much accuracy should be misled, or that so much candour should be biassed?
To preserve the true character of Homer's style in the present translation, great pains have been taken to be easy and natural. The chief merit I can pretend to, is, not to have been carried into a more All this however has happened; and Madam Daplausible and figurative manner of writing, which cier's Criticisms on my Preface flow from the very would better have pleased all readers, but the judi- same error, from which so many false criticisms of cious ones. My errors had been fewer, had each of her countrymen upon Homer have flowed, and which those gentleman who joined with me shown as much she has so justly and so severely reproved; I mean of the severity of a friend to me, as I did to them, in the error of depending on injurious and unskilful a strict animadversion and correction. What assis-translations.
a good one will be of a great deal. But I think that no translation ought to be the ground of criticism, because no man ought to be condemned upon another man's explanation of his meaning: could Homer have had the honour of explaining his before that august tribunal where Monsieur de la Motte presides, I make no doubt but he had escaped many of those severe animadversions with which some French authors have loaded him, and from which even Madam Dacier's translation of the Iliad could not preserve him.
tance I received from them, was made known in An indifferent translation may be of some use, and general to the public in the orignal proposals for this work, and the particulars are specified at the conclusion of it; to which I must add (to be punctually just) some part of the tenth and fifteenth books. The reader will be too good a judge, how much the greater part of it, and consequently of its faults, is chargeable upon me alone. But this I can with integrity affirm, that I have bestowed as much time and pains upon the whole, as were consistent with the indispensable duties and cares of life, and with that wretched state of health which God has been pleased to make my portion. At the least, it is a pleasure to me to reflect, How unhappy was it for me, that the knowledge that I have introduced into our language this other of our island-tongue was as necessary to Madam Dawork of the greatest and most ancient of poets, with cier in my case, as the knowledge of Greek was to some dignity; and, I hope, with as little disadvantage as the Iliad. And if, after the unmerited success of that translation, any one will wonder why I would enterprize the Odyssey; I think it sufficient to say, that Homer himself did the same, or the world would never have seen it.
I designed to have ended this postscript here: but
Monsieur de la Motte in that of our great author; or to any of those whom she styles blind censurers, and blames for condemning what they did not understand. I may say with modesty, that she knew less of my true sense from that faulty translation of part of my
Second edition, at Paris, 1719.
Preface, than those blind censurers might have known done the same without intending that compliment of Homer's even from the translation of la Valterie, for they are also to be found in Eustathius; and the which preceded her own. sentiment I believe is that of all mankind. I cannot
It pleased me however to find, that her objections really tell what to say to this whole remark, only were not levelled at the general doctrine, or at any that in the first part of it, Madam Dacier is displeased essentials of my Preface, but only at a few particular that I do not agree with her, and in the last that I do : expressions. She proposed little more than (to use but this is a temper which every polite man should her own phrase) to combat two or three similes; and overlook in a lady. I hope that to combat a simile is no more than to fight with a shadow, since a simile is no better than the shadow of an argument.
She lays much weight where I laid but little, and examines with more scrupulosity that I writ, or than perhaps the matter requires.
To punish my ingratitude, she resolves to expose my blunders, and selects two which I suppose are the most flagrant, out of the many for which she could have chastised me. It happens that the first of these is, in part the translator's, and in part her own, without any share of mine: she quotes the end of a These unlucky similes, taken by themselves, may sentence, and he puts in French what I never wrote perhaps render my meaning equivocal to an ignorant in English: Homer (I said) opened a new and translator; or there may have fallen from my pen boundless walk for his imagination, and created a some expressions, which, taken by themselves, like-world for himself in the invention of fable;' which wise, may to the same person have the same effect. he translates, Homer crea pour son usage un monde But if the translator had been master of our tongue, mouvant, en inventant la fable.' the general tenor of my argument, that which pre- Madam Dacier justly wonders at this nonsense in cedes and that which follows the passages objected me, and I in the translator. As to what I meant by to, would have sufficiently determined him as to the Homer's invention of fable, it is afterwards particuprecise meaning of them; and if Madam Dacier had larly distinguished from that extensive sense in which taken up her pen a little more leisurely, or had em- she took it, by these words: 'If Homer was not the ployed it with more temper, she would not have an- first who introduced the deities (as Herodotus imaswered paraphrases of her own, which even the gines) into the religion of Greece, he seems the first translation will not justify, and which say, more than who brought them into a system of machinery, for once, the very contrary to what I have said in the poetry.' passages themselves.
The other blunder she accuses me of is, the misIf any person has curiosity enough to read the taking a passage in Aristotle, and she is pleased to whole paragraphs in my Preface, on some mangled send me back to this philosopher's treatise of Poetry, parts of which these reflections are made, he will and to her Preface on the Odyssey for my better easily discern that I am as orthodox as Madame Da-instruction. Now though I am saucy enough to cier herself in those very articles on which she treats think that one may sometimes differ from Aristotle me like a heretic; he will easily see that all the dif- without blundering, and though I am sure one may ference between us consists in this, that I offer opin- sometimes fall into an error by following him serions, and she delivers doctrines; that my imagination vilely; yet I own, that to quote an author for what he represents Homer as the greatest of human poets, never said, is a blunder; (but, by the way, to correct whereas in hers he was exalted above humanity; in- an author for what he never said, is somewhat worse fallibility and impeccability were two of his attri- than a blunder.) My words were these: As there is butes. There was therefore no need of defending a greater variety of characters in the Iliad, than in Homer against me, who, (if I mistake not) had carried any other poem, so there is of speeches. Every my admiration of him as far as it can be carried, thing in it has manners, as Aristotle expresses it; without giving a real occasion of writing in his de- that is, every thing is acted or spoken; very little fence. passes in narration.' She justly says, that Every After answering my harmless similes, she pro- thing which is acted or spoken, has not necessarily ceeds to a matter which does not regard so much the manners, merely because it is acted or spoken.' honour of Homer, as that of the times he lived in ; Agreed: but I would ask the question, whether any and here I must confess she does not wholly mistake thing can have manners which is neither acted or my meaning, but I think she mistakes the state of the spoken? If not, then the whole Iliad being almost question. She had said, the manners of those times spent in speech and action, almost every thing in it were so much the better, the less they were like ours. has manners; since Homer has been proved before, I thought this required a little qualification. I con- in a long paragraph of the Preface, to have excelled fess that in my opinion the world was mended in in drawing characters and painting manners; and some points, such as the custom of putting whole indeed his whole poem is one continued occasion nations to the sword, condemning kings and their of showing this bright part of his talent. families to perpetual slavery, and a few others. To speak fairly, it is impossible she could read Madam Dacier judges otherwise in this; but as to even the translation and take my sense so wrong as the rest, particularly in preferring the simplicity of she represents it: but I was first translated ignorantly, the ancient world to the luxury of ours, which is the and then read partially. My expression indeed was main point contended for, she owns we agree. This not quite exact; it should have been. 'Every thing I thought was well, but I am so unfortunate that this has manners, as Aristotle calls them.' But such at too is taken amiss, and called adopting or (if you will) fault, methinks, might have been spared; since if stealing her sentiment. The truth is, she might have one was to look with that disposition she discovers said her words; for I used them on purpose, being towards me, even on her own excellent writings, one then professedly citing from her: though I might have might find some mistakes which no context can re
dress; as where she makes Eustathius call Cratis- by public and general acts of worship, others by a thenes the Phliasian, Callisthenes the Physician. reverend sort of reasoning and inquiry about the What a triumph might some slips of this sort have grounds of it; it is the same in admiration : some prove afforded to Homer's, hers, and my enemies, from it by exclamations; others by respect. I have observed which she was only screened by their happy igno- that the loudest huzzas given to a great man in a trirance! How unlucky had it been, when she insulted umph, proceed not from his friends, but the rabble; Mr. de la Motte for omitting a material passage in the and as I have fancied it the same with the rabble of speech of Helen to Hector, Iliad vi.† if some cham- critics, a desire to be distinguished from them has pion for the moderns had by chance understood so turned me to the more moderate, and I hope, more much Greek, as to whisper him, that there was no rational method. Though I am a poet, I would not such passage in Homer! be an enthusiast; and though I am an Englishman I
Our concern, zeal, and even jealousy for our great would not be furiously of a party. I am far from author's honour were mutual; our endeavours to ad- thinking myself that genius, upon whom, at the end vance it were equal: and I have as often trembled of these remarks, Madam Dacier congratulates my for it in her hands, as she could in mine. It was one country: one capable of correcting Homer, and of the many reasons I had to wish the longer life of consequently of reforming mankind, and amending this lady, that I must certainly have regained her good this constitution.' It was not to Great Britain this opinion, in spite of all misrepresenting translators ought to have been applied, since our nation has one whatever. I could not have expected it on any other happiness for which she might have preferred it to terms than being approved as great, if not as passion-her own, that as much as we abound in other miserate, an admirer of Homer as herself. For that was able misguided sects, we have at least none of the the first condition of her favour and friendship; other- blasphemers of Homer. We steadfastly and unaniwise not one's taste alone, but one's morality had mously believe, both his poem, and our constitution, been corrupted, nor would any man's religion have to be the best that ever human wit invented: that been unsuspected, who did not implicitly believe in the one is not more incapable of amendment than an author whose doctrine is so comformable to Holy the other; and (old as they both are) we despise any Scripture. However, as different people have dif- French or Englishman whatever, who shall presume ferent ways of expressing their belief, some purely to retrench, to innovate, or to make the least altera
tion in either. Far therefore from the genius for which Madam Dacier mistook me, my whole desire * Dacier Remarques sur le 4me livre de l'Odyss. is but to preserve the humble character of a faithful translator, and a quiet subject.