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The same in English.
By the insertion of this, my first exercitation, in your next number, you will oblige
Your humble servant,
To the Editors.
GENTLEMEN, I considered it a duty incumbent on me to express the satisfaction I felt in Ioan Tegid's learned production, the new version of Isaiah into Welsh. It was in unison with the expression of my respect for that labour of the learned curate of Christ church, that I was pained to see that a successful competitor at several Eisteddvodau should charge the author of the new version with incompetency, in an instance, in which, if he erred, it was not his error alone. Elvaeliad, with all his petulant declamation, does not shew why we should consider himself a more accurate translator than either the learned Oxonian or Bishop Lowth, or the authors of the standard versions in English or Welsh. However incompetent I may be for the task of a Hebrew or Grecian critic, I leave your correspondents to judge how far more competent my opponent is. As to the Welsh orthography, one who has for many years sustained the character of an instructor, in both the English and the Welsh languages, ought to know as much about what may
be expedient for our countrymen as one who never has had much to do in that capacity in our native land. It is still my conviction, and not mine alone, that we ought not to shock the prejudices of the peasantry and yeomanry, by introducing sudden innovations into the form of wording the sacred volume; but the modification proposed by Mr. J. Jones is, for the most part, just in its principles and no way embarrassing to poor readers of the Welsh Bible. Was there any harm, gentlemen, in expressing that my own views vary a little from what they were at the time of the Brecon Eistedvod? The part I took in the transactions of the Cambrian Society at that time, and the manner in which my endeavours were received by my townsmen, as well as the members of the Eistedvod
generally, proved very agreeable, I confess, to my feelings; but whether my demeanour evinced any egregious vanity, which is intimated in the expressions used by Elvaeliad, let those who were present declare. That any passages in the essay then sanctioned, and subsequently printed, should meet with the disapproval of certain respectable Cambrians, was not so pleasing; but the sentiments there expressed were approved of by the Judges, and known to accord with the views of most persons in that part of Wales.
E is very kind, in his gentle hints, about the extreme danger of my staining the pages of the Cambrian Quarterly, in advancing any thing in the way of theological controversy. Pray, gentlemen, hold the reigns tight, and suffer no correspondent to rove abroad, to fill your pages with any more encomiums on the Hebrew bard and his faithful translators, or presume to speak of Paul of Tarsus, countenancing the tenets of Louth, and Horsley, and Burgess, and Edw. Davies, et hæc genus omnia; nothing respecting “the vicarious sacrifice of the Redeemer,” rather say, Hetaroclita sunto.
Whether I am deficient in “ moral courage” to meet my countrymen E— in single combat I can hardly tell, but perhaps I should display as much becoming temper in the dreadful fight as my opponent. I shall leave my Hebrew and Greek on the shelf for awhile, nor shall I offend any one with presuming to conclude as before with, Efelly a ddyu aid Ieuan, only suggesting to E the propriety of referring to some one lexicon, philological writer, or esteemed commentator, when disposed to give us his criticisms in the learned languages; it will then appear that both the Hebrew and the Greek, referred to in his Postcript, cannot properly be rendered otherwise, than as we find them in the English and Welsh versions. If it be not thought sufficiently expressive to say, with the authors of those two versions, that the Redeemer died for our offences: we will consent that Paul should
“ He was delivered because, or on account of, our offences.” or in the Welsh,
“Efe a draddodwyd o herwydd ein camweddau ni."
REVIEW OF NEW BOOKS.
The Celtic Annals. A Poem. By the Rev. John Parker, A.M.
1 vol. 8vo. Rivington; London, 1831. The poem before us is printed along with “The Passengers,” a work with which our readers are already familiar. The title is a vast and glorious one, and embraces events and ages of an extent and importance which are worthy of the proudest efforts of the British muse. Would that we could say Mr. Parker had succeeded in producing a fine poem: but whilst we deny that he has done so, we admit, most readily, that he has given us sufficient proof of the poetical nature of his mind, and a store of information, both historical and philosophical, that can very rarely be excelled. Had he applied these powers with a greater portion of taste and judgment towards so noble a subject, we have no hesitation in saying, from this specimen of his muse, that he might have produced a poem far more interesting to the Celtic and the general reader, as well as infinitely superior in intrinsic merit. But our author has unfortunately become possessed of a notion, that he can effectually introduce, through the medium of English, the most extraordinary, and to us almost intolerable, hexameters; and we will venture to assert that Mr. Parker has, ere this, discovered that we are not alone in our opinion.
Our readers will recollect that “The Passengers" contained, in the shape of dialogue, a very pleasant and interesting tour in Wales by three gentlemen, whose travelling names were Clanvoy, Allansley, and Larndon. The incidents are simply and prettily told, and the reflections in which the travellers indulged on the road are always agreeably, and frequently feelingly, related: there also appears a fair portion of scientific research. It would seem that during their tour, Clanvoy, having frequently alluded to various sorts of verses, threatens to repeat to his companions a whole chapter of hexameters, to wit, the poem of “the Celtic Annals.” He says,
“This was called by Aristotle the grandest and least musical of all the metres. No great number of them will ever be made in English with rhyme, for we have but few rhyming spondees in our language. When the accent is greatly varied, it becomes the versification of Homer and Theocritus; when the accentual variation is much controlled, it is that of Horace and Virgil; when it is broken into pauses at short or equal intervals, it is the style, if not the verse, of the Hebrew prophets. You and Larndon are both so well acquainted with ancient hexameters, that you cannot help recognizing the
same form in those which I will repeat; otherwise I should have desired you to consider them as you would have measured the prose of Ossian, or our translations of scripture poetry. Now I beg of you for once to be satisfied without rhyme, and to acknowledge that, if under the present modern system blank verse can become both popular and melodious, there is yet a chance that the heroic verse of the classic age may obtain some indulgence in ours. Do not be surprised at the spelling contradicting the metrical quantities in many words: versification is the province of our ear, which is guided not by our eye in spelling, but by our tongue in pronunciation. I have nothing more to add by way of Preface than this, one declaration: I should as soon overlook an extra syllable as a false quantity.” See Passengers, p. 200.
Now, in all good-nature and candour, we must beg leave to differ from the author in one or two points of this tolerably analytical and rather ingenious preface to his poem. First, to the opinion of the profound Aristotle we bow with deference: the metre is grand, and, unto our humble ears, devoid of all music whatever. As to there being “but few rhyming spondees in our language," surely the learned author cannot have forgotten how plentifully they seem to have come to the hands of Byron, in his most lamentably sensual, yet splendidly intellectual, poem of Don Juan: and although we would not willingly witness another modern production, either from Mr. Parker or any one else, in the same metre as his present effort, still, if the cacoethes be strong upon him, we suggest the imperative necessity of his clothing his verses in the garb of rhyme, in order to ensure a reception from the public not absolutely damnatory. With regard to the poetry of Homer and Theocritus, of Horace and Virgil, as well as to the more sublime strains of the Hebrew prophets, (notwithstanding that the Hebrew tongue is known to Mr. Parker, while we can only see it darkly through the medium of a translation,) we must confess that the poem of “ The Celtic Annals” does not, nor can it from the rugged difficulties of the measure in which it is written, remind us of the sublime and immortal strains of any of them.
On the contrary, almost all the lines fall harshly, and others glide flatly on the ear; and we have in vain sought for a passage, however short, in which both of these defects are not extremely prominent. Again, our author cannot but know that even “under the present modern system” blank verse is both “popular” and “melodious;” and we have invariably found, amongst readers of a truly poetical temperament, that its style is admired and honoured, as it ought to be: but that the bare imitation of “the heroic verse of the classic age" can ever become popular in Great Britain and Ireland, we can never believe. All professed imitations are bad; and we should as soon expect to see the verses of Voltaire and Racine preferred to those of Milton or Shakspeare, as that the heroic verse of the ancients should gain any influence among the literati of our country, when clothed in our Teutonic sounds. We have felt ourselves bound to say thus much on the grand defect in the execution of Mr. Parker's poem, viz. the form in which it is pre
sented; and once for all we must add, that this defect is of a nature so uncongenial to English tastes and ideas, that it can only have the effect of rendering abortive all future attempts to make it palatable. We believe “The Passengers” has met with the encouragement the book deserves, and that, consequently, “The Celtic Annals” has found its way into many hands; but we are confident that if the poem had been published separately, so as to have stood on its own merits, it would not have been perused by one tithe of the eyes which have now cast a cursory glance over its
pages. We will now proceed to the more grateful portion of our task, by pointing out those beauties in poetical idea, and in general arrangement and execution of the subject, which the form, and the form only, of the poem could have prevented a genius, like that of Mr. Parker, from rendering highly interesting and popular.
The author states that “the Welsh Triads form the chief groundwork of this poem. The object is to combine into one continued epic narrative, the scattered fragments relating to the more splendid occurrences of Welsh history.” A more grand and worthy object for poetry could not have been selected; and we feel the assurance that had the harmonious verse of Pope, the romantic stanza of Spencer, or the lofty and soul-stirring strain of Milton been adopted, instead of this extraordinary and unmanageable AngloGreek, “The Celtic Annals” might have been made one of the most attractive and excellent
poems. Our readers will at once perceive, from the opening of the poem, that the author is not destitute of the inspiration necessary to grapple with his mighty subject.
“Hail, western sunbeam! thy rays are dear to the mountain
After a hot noontide; hail, time of sweet meditation!
« Wilt thou hear the poem, thou friend of songs! the melodious