Page images
PDF
EPUB

CONCERNING

Poetical Translations,

AND

VIRGIL'S and MILTON'S

ARTS of VERSE, &c.

by Mr. Benson.

LONDON:

Printed for J. ROBERTS, near the Oxford-Arms
in Warwick-Lane, MDCC XXXIX,

270. f. 64.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

LETTER I.

SIR,

AM now going to obey your Commands; but you must let me do it in my own way, that is, write as much, or as little at a time as I may have an Inclination to, and juft as things offer themselves. After this manner you may receive in a few Letters, all that I have faid to you about poetical Translations, and the resemblance there is between Virgil's and Milton's Verfification, and fome other Matters of the fame nature.

To begin with the Bufinefs of Translation.

Whoever fits down to tranflate a Poet, ought in the first place to confider his Author's peculiar Stile; for without this, tho' the Translation may be very good in all other refpects, it will hardly deserve the Name of a Tranflation.

The two great Men amongst the Antients differ from each other as much in this particular as in the Subjects they treat of. The Stile of Homer, who

B

fings

[ocr errors]

fings the Anger or Rage of Achilles, is rapid. The Stile of Virgil, who celebrates the Piety of Eneas, is majestick. But it may be proper to explain in what this Difference confifts..

The Stile is rapid, when feveral Relatives, each at the head of a feparate Sentence, are governed by one Antecedent, or feveral Verbs by one Nominative Cafe, to the clofe of the Period.

Thus in Homer:

"Goddess, fing the pernicious Anger of Achilles, which brought infinite Woes to the Grecians, "and fent many valiant Souls of Heroes to Hell, " and gave their Bodies to the Dogs, and to the "Fowls of the Air."

Here you fee it is the Anger of Achilles, that does all that is mentioned in three or four Lines. Now if the Tranflator does not nicely obferve Homer's Stile in this Paffage, all the Fire of Homer will be loft. For Example: "O Heavenly God"defs, fing the Wrath of the Son of Peleus, the "fatal Source of all the Woes of the Grecians, "that Wrath which fent the Souls of many Heroes to Pluto's gloomy Empire, while their Bodies lay upon the Shore, and were torn by devouring "Dogs, and hungry Vultures.'

66

66

99

Here you fee the Spirit of Homer evaporates; and in what immediately follows, if the Stile of Homer is not nicely attended to, if any great matter is added or left out, Homer will be fought for in vain in the Tranflation. He always hurries on as faft as poffible, as Horace juftly obferves, femper ad eventum feftinat; and that is the reason why he introduces his firft Speech without any Connection, by a fudden Transition; and why he so often brings in his vaniu: He has not patience to ftay to work his Speeches artfully into the Subject.

Here

[merged small][ocr errors]

Here

you fee what is a rapid Stile. I will now fhew you what is quite the contrary, that is, a majestic one. To inftance in Virgil: "Arms and the "Man I fing; the first who from the Shores of Troy (the Fugitive of Heav'n) came to Italy and "the Lavinian Coaft." Here you perceive the "Subject-matter is retarded by the Inverfion of the Phrafe, and by that Parenthefis, the Fugitive of Heaven, all which occafions Delay; and Delay (as a learned Writer upon a Paffage of this nature in Tafo obferves) is the Property of Majefty: For which Reason when Virgil reprefents Dido in her greatest Pomp, it is,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

·Reginam cunctantem ad limina primi Panorum expectant.

For the fame Reason he introduces the moft folemn and most important Speech in the Eneid, with three Monofyllables, which caufes great Delay in the Speaker, and gives great Majefty to the Speech.

O Qui Res Hominumq; Deumq;

These three Syllables occafion three fhort Pauses. QuiResHow flow and how ftately is this Paffage!

O

But it happens that I can fet the Beginning of the Eneid in a clear Light for my purpose, by two Tranflations of that Paffage, both by the fame Hand; one of which is exactly in the manner of Virgil, the other in the manner of Homer: The two Tranflations are made by the Reverend Mr. Pitt. He published the first among fome Mifcellany Poems feveral Years fince, the latter in his four Books of the Eneid about two Years ago.

B 2

I. "Arms

« PreviousContinue »