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talk; for no sober man would put himself into a danger for the applause of escaping without breaking his neck. We see Ben Johnson could not avoid obfcurity in his literal tranflation of Horace, attempted in the same compass of lines :' nay Horace himself could scarce have done it to a Greek Poet:
Brevis efe laboro, obscurus fro:
Dic mihi, musa, virum, captæ poft tempora Troja,
ROSCOMMON. But then the sufferings of Ulysses, which are a confiderable part of that sentence, are omitted :
["ος μάλα πολλά σλάχθη:] The confideration of these difficulties, in a fervile, literal, translation, not long since made two of our famous wits, Sir John Denham, and Mr. Cowley, to contrive another way of turning authors into our tongue, called, by the latter of them, Imitation. As they were friends, I suppose they communicated their thoughts on this subject to each other; and, therefore, their reasons for it are little different. Though the practice of one is much more moderate. I take imitation of an author, in their sense, to be an endeavour of a later Poet to write like one, who has written before him, on the same subject : that is, not to translate his words, or to be confin'd to his sense, but only to set him as a pattern, and to write, as he supposes that author would have done, had he lived in our age, and in our country. Yet I dare not say that either of them have carried this libertine way of VoL, III.
rendering authors (as Mr. Cowley calls it) so far as my definition reaches. For in the Pindaric Odes, the customs and ceremonies of ancient Greece are still preserved. But I know not what mischief may arise hereafter from the example of fuch an innovation, when writers of unequal parts to him fall imitate so bold an undertaking. To add and to diminish what we please, which is the way avowed by him, ought only to be granted to Mr. Cowley, and that too only in his tranllation of Pindar; because he alone was able to make him amends, by giving him better of his own, whenever he refused his author's thoughts. Pindar is generally known to be a dark writer, to want connexion, (I mean as to our understanding) to soar out of sight, and leave his reader at a gaze. So wild and ungovernable a Poet cannot be translated literally; his genius is too strong to bear a chain, and Samson-like he shakes it off. A genius so elevated and unconfined as Mr. Cowley's was but necessary to make Pindar speak English, and that was to be performed by no other way than imitation. But if Vir gil, or Ovid, or any regular intelligible authors, be thus used, it is no longer to be called their work, when neither the thoughts nor words are drawn from the original: but infead of them there is something new produced, which is almost the creation of another hand. By this way, it is true, somewhat that is excellent may be invented, perhaps more excellent than the first design; though Virgil must be ftill excepted, when that perhaps takes place. Yet he who is inquisitive to know an author's thoughts, will be disappointed in his expectation. And it is not always that a man will be contented to have a present made him, when he expects the payment of a debt. To state it fairly: imitation of an author is the most advantageous way for a translator to. shew himself, but the greatest wrong which can be done to the memory and reputation of the dead. Sir John Denham (who advised more liberty than he took himself) gives his reason for his innovation, in his admirable preface
before the translation of the second Æneid. “ Poetry is of fo subtle a spirit, that, in pouring out of one language into another, it will all evaporate; and, if a new spirit be not added in the transfusion, there will remain nothing but a Caput Mortuum.” I confess this argument holds good against a literal translation ; but who defends it? Imitation and verbal version are in my opinion the two extremes, which ought to be avoided : and therefore, when I have proposed the mean betwixt them, it will be seen how far his argument will reach.
No man is capable of translating Poetry, who, befides a genius to that art, is not a master both of his author's language, and of his own: nor must we understand the language only of the Poet, but his particular turn of thoughts and expression, which are the characters that distinguish, and as it were individuate him from all other writers. When we are come thus far, it is time to look into ourselves, to conform our genius to his, to give his thought either the same turn, if our tongue will bear it, or, if not, to vary but the dress, not to alter or destroy the substance. The like care must be taken of the more outward ornaments, the words. When they appear (which is but seldom) literally graceful, it were an injury to the author that they should be changed: but since every language is so full of its own proprieties, that what is beautiful in one, is often barbarous, nay sometimes nonsense in another, it would be unreasonable to limit a translator to the narrow compass of his author's words. It is enough if he choose out some expression which does not vitiate the sense. I suppose he may stretch his chain to such a latitude; but, by innovation of thoughts, methinks, he breaks it. By this means the spirit of an author may be transfused, and yet not loft: and thus it is plain, that the reason alledged by Sir John Denham has no farther force than to expression: for thought, if it be translated truly, cannot be loft in another language ; but the words that convey it to our apprehension
(which are the image and ornament of that thought) may be so ill chofen, as to make it appear in an unhandsome dress, and rob it of its native lustre. There is, therefore, a liberty to be allowed for the expreffion; neither is it necessary that words and lines should be confined to the measure of their original. The sense of an author, generally speaking, is to be sacred and inviolable. If the fancy of Ovid be luxuriant, it is his character to be so; and if I retrench it, he is no longer Ovid. It will be replied, that he receives advantage by this lopping of his superfluous branches; but I rejoin, that a translator has no such right. When a painter copies from the life, I fuppose he has no privilege to alter features, and linea ments, under pretence that his picture will look better: perhaps the face, which he has drawn, would be more exact, if the eyes or nose were altered; but it is his business to make it resemble the original. In two cases only there may a seeming difficulty arise ; that is, if the thought be notoriously trivial, or difhonest: but the same answer will serve for both, that then they ought not to be translated :
Desperes tractata nitescere pole, relinquas. Thus I have ventured to give my opinion on this subject against the authority of two great men, but I hope without offence to either of their memories; for I both loved them living, and reverence them now they are dead. But, if, after what I have urged, it be thought by better judges, that the praise of a translation consists in adding new beauties to the piece, thereby to recompence the loss which it fuftains by change of language, I shall be willing to be taught better, and to recant. In the mean time, it seems to me, that the true reason, why we have so few versions which are tolerable, is not from the too close pursuing of the author's sense, but because there are so few, who have all the talents, which are requisite for translation, and that there is so little praise, and so small encouragement, for so considerable a part of learning.
EPIS T. XI.
THE ARGUMEN T.
Macareus and Canace, son and daughter to Æolus, God
of the Winds, loved each other incestuously: Canace was delivered of a son, and committed him to her nurse, to be secretly conveyed away. The infant crying out, by that means was discovered to Æolus, who, inraged at the wickedness of his children, commanded the babe to be exposed to wild beasts on the mountains : and withal, sent a sword to Canace, with this mesage, That her crimes would instruct her how to use it. With this fword soe flew herself: but before she died, she writ the following letter to her brother Macareus, who had taken Sanctuary in the temple of Apollo.
F streaming blood my fatal letter stain,
One hand the sword, and one the pen employs,