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Not to have seen or heard him they avouch'd,
For ever this undying name.'—Cary. The sympathetic sense of the picturesque in poetry, and the power of preserving it in another language, which gave Mr. Cary so much advantage in translating Dante, have insured to him a proportionate success with Pindar. We do not say that his success, taken absolutely, is equal in this his later attempt; and it is not surprising that such should not be the case, the difficulties of adequately rendering Pindar being so much greater. Add to the mere talent or knack of translation which many possess, the generally pure and racy diction, and the strong sense of the picturesque which cannot be denied to Mr. Cary, and you have provided the main qualities of a good translator of Dante. The moral tone and manner of narrative of the Divine Comedy are very easily imitable, as may be inferred by the uniformity, in this one respect, of versions by Hayley, Cary, Byron, and Wright; but the difficulty of executing the terza rima in English is, we think, insurmountable. Perhaps (as we lately had occasion to express our opinion) Mr. Cary showed the soundest judgment in adopting the Miltonic measure—not as like, but as a satisfactory substitute for, the original. Certainly Mr. Wright's double triplets without the third rhyme, which so subtly links together the total rhythmic flow of the Italian, sound to our ears as little like the Dantescan harmony as Cary's blank verse, and not so easy and noble. But, considerable as the difficulty of the terza rima is in the way of a translator of Dante, it is little in comparison with the task of rendering into English the various and complicated movements of Pindar's Odes. The great Florentine marches through the nether, middle, and upper worlds with an even step; learn his pace once, and you may keep up with him always. But it is not so with Pindar; the speed with which he sets out is often enough doubled or trebled before he gets to the end of his course ; eagle of song as he was, and dared to call himself—not the swan, as Horace and Cowley call him-he has all the movements of that imperial bird, now towering right upwards to heaven's gate, now precipitating himself to the earthnow floating with spread wings in the middle ether, and now couching with the setting sun on the gilded battlements of a temple. No poet is so slow-none so rapid ; a master of sentences, a preacher of piety, an offerer of prayers, he drops word after word as if he feared the escape of a light phrase in the presence of God; and with a thought, the string of his tongue is loosened, the fire is kindled within him, and the verse bursts forth like the gushes of a virgin fountain, swelling, heaving, falling, but ever increasing ; the melodies converge, interlace, twist, and unite, till a sound of many waters arises—a unison of many voices inextricably blended, yet distinctly perceptible--and the accumulated harmony subdues the inner and the outer sense, as with the chorus of a distant organ, or the gentle roar of a dying storm at sea.
• Tres imbris torti radios, tres nubis aquosa
Addiderat, rutili tres ignis, et alitis Austri.
Miscebat operi, flammisque sequacibus iras.' The metre and rhythm of Dante in the Divine Comedy being so elaborately opposite to the prevailing movement in Pindar-as the incessus of Jupiter might be to the impetus of his eaglemit is obvious that in the mechanism of the verse the translator of Pindar has to satisfy a very peculiar and very trying demand upon his skill. Our English lyric poetry will afford him no adequate model by which to express any of the longer odes of Pindar in all the varieties of their movements; the language itself presents no natural facilities, although we are far from from saying that in the hands of a master it might not be wrought into the ductility and continuousness required for the purpose. In the choruses of the Samson Agonistes, Milton has shown that the lyric manner, which chiefly prevails in the Greek drama, can be competently preserved in English. Take for example that solemn and affecting complaint,
• God of our fathers ! what is Man,
That Thou towards him with hand so various,
Irrational and brute!' &c.
• But who is this, what thing of sea or land-
Courted by all the winds that hold them play,
Her harbinger, a damsel train behind ?'But the truth is, the choric odes of the Greek tragedians are constructed upon principles, and breathe a spirit very different from what we seem to discover in Pindar, who especially requires a more distinct expression, and a quicker repercussion of musical sounds. In this respect, also, our great master has, in his L'Allegro and Il Penseroso—more particularly in the formershown a power over the English language of which there are few examples, and which cannot without the very greatest skill and felicity be preserved within the limits allowed by faithful translation. Long habit has seemed to make rhyme essential to our lyric verse; and, no doubt, by marking the metre more distinctly, and by exciting and gratifying the ear in its craving for the return of similar sounds, rhyme does very materially add to the peculiar pleasure which every one of any sensibility receives from the recitation of that kind of poetry. It helps also to supply something of that melody and sonorousness of words in wbich the Greek is so infinitely superior to the English and all other modern European languages. But then, on the other hand, rhyme is a very Procrustes' bed in the hands of a translator; the dimensions of the original must be made to fit the appointed frame, cost what it may in amputation, excision, or stretching; and it may well be questioned whether, upon a review of all our English versions of the Greek and Latin poets—to say nothing of the foreign poetry of modern Europe-more has been gained by the use of rhyme, in producing what is called readability, than has been lost, through the difficulties which it imposes, in omissions, garblings, and total misrepresentations of the meaning and character of the original authors.
It is certainly not true that rhyme is indispensable to the perfection of some kinds of lyric verse in English. The choruses in the Agonistes, in which the rhymes are only scattered here and there, are a proof of this, so we must be bold to say-notwithstanding some stiff phrases—is the translation from Horace:
• What slender youth, bedew'd with liquid odours,
Pyrrha ? for whom bind'st thou
In wreaths thy golden hair,
Plain in thy neatness ? &c. And, in our judgment, Collins's rhymeless Ode to Evening is not surpassed for musical effect in any language in Europe;
• If aught of oaten stop, or pastoral song,
Like thy own solemn springs,
Thy springs, and dying gales,' &c. We some time ago chanced to hear Mr. Coleridge recite the following lines, as a specimen of lyric rhythm, which he thought might satisfy the ear without rhyme; and we well remember, whilst listening to the intonations of that old man eloquent,' our feeling that rhyme would have been even injurious to the effect. • To a Cataract from a cavern near the summit of a mountain
precipice :• Unperishing youth!
• The wild goat, in awe,
* * * * If this, or something like this, could be sustained permanently, and fitted to correspond with the varieties of the original, we think more of what is really Pindar’s, and less of what is not Pindar's, might be worthily given in an English version. The labour to the translator would, in one respect, be greatly increased, unless he were a master of versification ; for where the popular support of rhyme is wanting, the choice and balance of words must be exquisite, in order to produce the melody which the English ear requires in lyric measures. But if the translator were a perfect craftsman in this, then surely, being liberated from the necessity of finding like-ending words, he might venture to interpret his original with an
exacter fidelity. The almost necessary faults of rhyming translators are not so much those of omission as of commission; they are not satisfied with what satisfied their betters; nescio quid majus Iliade is always secretly in their hopes, and they insist that the fire of the original must not be lost by an over-scrupulous attempt to preserve its form. With which proposition we entirely agree, and only require an instance to be shown where that which really is fire in the original has ever been extinguished—or even dimmed by the exactness of the form of transfusion alone. But if something more is meant, and it is alleged to be a translator's duty to embellish the original, then we dissent. At least, if you smear paint upon a plain face, you ought to be very sure that you will improve what you must disguise. It may well be that the bare place which you have decked with fruits not its own, was intended—or, at all events, now serves—to give relief and lustre to the flower planted next to it; and it may also be, that the sheathed rose-bud, which with infinite labour you have contrived to blow all abroad, has thereby lost at once the beauty and the fragrance which it had. Some one brought to Sheridan, we think, .the Beauties of Shakspeare, in one volume; he asked, where the other seven were. So it is pre-eminently with Pindar. No other poet of all antiquity so imperatively demands from a translator a strict observance of his shade as well as his light; to adorn that which he has left plain is, more than with any other poet we know, to confound all resemblance. He is, for the most part, so figurative, that, where he speaks without a figure, it may well be presumed that he did so on purpose, and his purpose ought to be observed.
We will say for Mr. Cary, that he has been less ashamed of his original than any other translator of Pindar who has gone before ; indeed, we expected as much from his manly version of the rough places in Dante: yet rhyme and fashion, and the cant of common versifiers, have led him away from the simple straight-forwardness of his noble original more often than we could have wished. We have already mentioned those three opening lines of the second Olympic; just take them as an example :
tíva & övàga xenadúsquev; Which Mr. Cary renders thus :
• Ye hymns, that rule the lyre,
What mortal man, the warbled song ?' · Whom shall we sing, O Hymns ?' says Pindar, with a strong personification, but a direct and simple meaning. The translator