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PR EFA CE.
IF a man should undertake to translate Pindar word for word, it would be thought that one madman had translated another; as may appear, when he that understands not the original, reads the verbal traduction of him into Latin prose, than which nothing seems more raving. And sure, rhyme, without the addition of wit, and the spirit of poetry (“quod nequeo monstrare & sentio tantum”), would but make it ten times more distracted than it is in prose. We must consider in Pindar the great difference of time betwixt his age and ours, which changes, as in pictures, at least the colours of poetry; the no less difference betwixt the religions and customs of our countries; and a thousand particularities of places, persons, and "manners, which do but confusedly appear to our eyes at so great a distance. And lastly (which were enough alone for my purpose) we must consider that our ears are strangers to the musick of his numbers, which sometimes (especially in songs and odes), almost without any thing else, makes an excellent poet; for though the grammarians and criticks have laboured to reduce his verses into regular feet and measures (as they have also those of the Greek and Latin comedies), yet in effect they are little better than prose to our ears. And I would gladly know what applause our best pieces of English poesy could expect from a Frenchman or Italian, if converted faithfully, and word for word, into French or Italian prose. And when we have considered all this, we must needs confess, that after all these losses sustained by Pindar, all we can add to him by our wit or invention (not deserting still his subject) is not like to make him a richer man than he was in his own country. This is in some measure to be applied to all translations; and the not observing of it, is the cause that all which ever I yet saw, are so much inferior to their originals. The like happens too in pictures, from the same root of exact imitation; which, being a vile and unworthy kind of servitude, is incapable of producing any thing good or noble. I have seen originals, both in painting and poesy, much more beautiful than their natural objects; but I never saw a copy better than the original: which indeed cannot be otherwise; for, men resolving in no case to shoot beyond the mark, it is a thousand to one if they shoot not short of it. It does not at all trouble me that the grammarians
rhaps will not suffer this libertine way of rendering foreign authors to be called Translation; for I am not so much enamoured of the name Translator,
as not to wish rather to be something better, though it want yet a name. I speak not so much all this, in defence of my manner of translating, or imitating (or what other title they please) the two ensuing Odes of Pindar; for that would not deserve half these words; as by this occasion to rectify the opinion of divers men upon this matter. The Psalms of David (which I believe to have been in their original, to the Hebrews of his time, though not to our Hebrews of Buxtorfius's making, the most exalted pieces of poesy) are a great example of what I have said ; all the translators of which (even Mr. Sandys himself; for, in despite of popular error, I will be bold not to except him), for this very reason, that they have not sought to supply the lost excellencies of another language with new ones in their own, are so far from doing honour, or at least justice, to that divine poet, that methinks they revile him worse than Shimei. And Buchanan himself (though much the best of them all, and indeed a great person) comes in my opinion no less short of David, than his country does of Judea. Upon this ground I have, in these two Odes of Pindar, taken, left out, and added, what I please; nor make it so much my aim to let the reader know precisely what he spoke, as what was his way and manner of speaking; which has not been yet (that I know of) introduced into English, though it be the noblest and highest kind of writing in verse; and which might, VOL. II • M
perhaps, be put into the list of Pancirolus, among the lost inventions of antiquity. This essay is but to try how it will look in an English habit: for which experiment, I have chosen one of his Olympick, and another of his Nemaean Odes; which are as followeth.
THE SECOND OLYMPICK ODE
Written in praise of Theron, prince of Agrigentum (a famous city in Sicily, built by his ancestors), who, in the seventy-seventh Olympick, won the chariot-prize. He is commended from the nobility of his race (whose story is often toucht on); from his great riches (an ordinary common-place in Pindar); from his hospitality, munificence, and other virtues. The Ode (according to the constant custom of the Poet) consists more in digressions than in the main subject ; and the Reader must not be choqued to hear him speak so often of his own Muse; for that is a liberty which this kind of poetry can hardly live without.
QUEEN of all harmonious things, Dancing words, and speaking strings! What God, what Hero, wilt thou sing What happy man to equal glories bring f Begin, begin thy noble choice, And let the hills around reflect the image of thy voice. Pisa does to Jove belong; Jove and Pisa claim thy song. The fair first-fruits of war, th’ Olympick games, Alcides offer'd-up to Jove; o * Alcides too thy strings may move; But, oh! what man to join with these can worthy prove 1