Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

innocent. The exercise of ridicule implies in the satirist and excites in his reader a contemptuous feeling, composed of pride and mirth; that of invective, implies and excités an indignant feeling, composed of pride and malice ; and however faint and harmless these feelings may appear in single instances, and on just occasions, the character which they induce on the mind by frequent recurrence, is neither dubioas nor amiable. The mob, which has been assisting with stones and mud at an exhibition on the pillory, returns, perhaps, with strong feelings of contempt or indignation against some particular crime; but we cannot applaud such an attack, even on vice, nor recommend such an employment as a salutary discipline for the heart.

If the innocence of satire be doubtful, we arerstiti more inclined to question its efficacy. We will not affirm that it has been wholly useless in combating the follies and delusions of mankind. It may have abated some nuisances in literature, and reformed some offences against taste; it may have rectified some little absurdities in dress or manner : and assisted in die molishing the reverence for monks, the spirit of knight-errantry, and the devotion to a corrupt and despotic priesthood. These absurdities were easy to overcome; to expose, was to defeat them : they had no hold on the passions and appetites, they maintained their power injuriously to the public interest, under a temporary cover of ignorance, and were vanquished by a gleam of light; they were not the canker at the heart of a flower, but the caterpillar on its leaf. The follies of men are, however, so volatile and fantastic, they are so ready to vanish spontaneously, and re-appear in new shapes, that the touch of satire is scarcely needed 'to anticipate their destiny; it is unable to extinguish their essential being, and can only pretend to hasten that metamorphosis, which might otherwise bave waited a little for the lapse of time. But the vices derive their influence, not from novelty or accident, but from the most powerful and permanent propensities of human nature; they maintain it, not by favour of ignorance, but against convictions of interest, and sentiments of obligation. The vice which has resisted them all, is invulnerable to the wrath or the ridicule of a satirist; he cannot make it appear more odious than it is known to be, by any poetical association of circumstances or aggravation of phrase ; nor propose any motives to virtue, which conscience or policy has not often suggested in vain.

Should it however be admitted, that the vicious are not ac. customed to surrender their favourite gratifications at the summons of a speculative satirist, yet personal satire may still be supposed to have its use, to deter the delinquent from repeating, or the tempted from committing, a crime, by the pres

pect of exposure and public scorn To condemn the vicious may be effectual, where it is useless to condemn vice. The experiment has been tried; the early comic writers of Athens, as long as they were endured,

Si quis erat dignus describi, quod malus, aut fur,
Quod mechus foret, aut sicarius, aut alioqui

Famosus, multa cum libertate notabant. . We do not hear that the ridicule of Aristophanes reformed or banished any culprit, or corrected the licentiousness of the Athenian manners; but we do remember, that a venerable and innocent sage was the victim of this hopeful censurate, The satire of the middle comedy has been revived in our own times; we do not hear that Samuel Foote could claim the credit of reducing the number of “ Mother Coles;" but we doubt not that, in blackening the character of Whitfield, he stimu. lated the spirit of bigotry and persecution which raged against him amongst vulgar nund, and confirmed multitudes in their derision of religious truth, their habits of vice, and their heedlessness of eternity. We must further observe, that few vices

can be imputed to an individual which would not subject him rto punishment or injury; and that no orderly government can admit the publication of charges without proof, or tolerate the continual breaches of the peace which must result from employing the press as a vehicle of personal accusation and scurrility. Some crimes, however, escape the vengeance of public justice, by favour of an imperfect and partial system of law. Yet even here it is needless for the satirist to interfere, with any other design, at least, than to recommend a revision of the jurisprudence. Few crimes will come to his knowledge, which are not sufficiently public without his intervention; and the seducer, the adulterer, the miser, the duellist, who apprehends no censure from his immediate connections, or if he did would despise it, must be ridiculously weak, s'ouid he concern himseif for the good opinion of the satirist, the nation, or posterity. If any efficacy could be ascribe to satire, when directed against crimes, we might anticipate its success 'when directed against national crimes; against crimes which the nation has power to suppress, and its members in general have no interest to maintain ; against the hideous traffic in blood, for instance, which has yielded at length to far other influence than that of humane satirists, double-tongued adversaries, or national repentance. In fine, one question may perhaps be equivalent to fifty arguments -66. What profiigate has it ever reclaimed to virtùe, and what crime has it ever banished from society?" If one instance could be produced, we must again inquire, before we acknowledge its efficacy as an instrument of reform, “has it altered the character, or only changed the vice? has it purged a constitutional taint, or only obliterated a particular symptom?”

We must be allowed now to add a few remarks, on the tendency of the particular satires before us.

If Juvenal did intend, as Mr. H. informis iis, to render vice disgustful by describing it with indelicate precision, he betrayed a weakness of judgement, which in himn is truly astonishing. He excites disgust we acknowledge; it is not the crime, however, that is disgusting, but the language: the circumstances which he makes offensively prominent, are not peculiar to vice; they do not constitute its essence or turpitude; they are not offensive in nature, but only in description. If in any instance be pretends to render a crime particularly odious, by connecting extraneous circumstances of grossness with it, the reader is only disgusted with the grossness, and is in no degree prejudiced against a more elegant form of debauchery. The “ noble object" which Mr. H. is moved to venerate, is precisely that of giving lessons on purity in a brothel. But the satirist did not adopt his unseemly diction with any such view; for he employs it continually, (as for instance in Sat. X.) where vice is wholly out of consideration, and where nothing but prurience could prompt the indecency, or folly defend it.

Convinced as we are that the direct tendency of these Satires is not useless only, but noxious, we cannot welcome any attempt to diffuse them among English readers. They might be va. luable as a picture of human corruption, and as a depository of moral sentiments; but the world is already crowded with these pictures and sentiments. If Mr., H. bad attempted to exhibit them, detached as much as possible from injurious accompaniments, we might have commended the utility, or at least the harmlessness of his performance. We are sorry to be under the necessity of observing, that, in point of decency, his work is much inferior to Mr. Marsh's; and though it slurs over some improprieties more obscurely than even the second edition of Mr. Gifford's, we are not prepared to recommend it as on the whole less exceptionable. There is a disgraceful double entendre in one of the Satires, from which not only Mr. Gifford, but Juvenal himself is exempt; it is a foolish change of metaphor, and an unnecessary, would that we could think it an unintentional, addition of indecency. We refer to the translation of these lines, . • Instabile, ac dirimi coeptum, et jam penè solutum

Conjugium in multis domibus, &c. Since the appearance of Mr. Gifford's excellent work, the public have felt no anxiety for a new translation of Juvenal; it is therefore probable that a performance fully equal to it in

merit, would obtain little but fruitless praise, and sue in vain for a preoccupied station in English literature. We have no difficulty in saying that Mr. Hodgson's is not such a work ; and that, as a version, it is decidedly inferior to its more fortunate rival. Mr. Gifford's performance is at once a translation and a comment; he exhibits the sense of his original, and explains it; he adopis the metaphors, and enriches them. Mr. Hodgson, on the contrary, is often satisfied with alluding to his author's meaning, instead of producing it; he will em bellish his sentiments with different and superfluous figures, or resolutely omit what he cannot elegantly represent. The one possesses the rare merit of furnishing a complete idea of his author's meaning, and nearly a complete idea of his manner; the other, as it appears to us, has necessarily failed in one requisite by wilfully failing in the other. He has attempted to reduce the ruggedness, the negligence, and the grandeur of Juvenal's style, to one uniform character of luxurious pomp and elegance; he has put the statue of the Roman into the masquerade dress of a Persian , he has chisselled down the sternness of countenance and the brawny strength of Jimb, and enveloped the whole form in a robe of embroidered silk, renouncing likeness for the sake of grace, and costume for the sake of splendour.

We shall quote the following celebrated passage, on the reverse of Hannibal's fortune, in the original, that our readers may the more easily appreciate the comparative fidelity of the yersions. .

Exitus ergo quis est ? ( Gloria! Vincitur idem
Nempe, et in exilium præceps fugit, atque ibi magnuo
Mirandusque cliens sedet ad prætoria regis,
Donec Bithyno libeat vigilare Tyranno.
Finem animæ, quæ res humanas miscuit olim,
Non gladii, non saxa dabunt, non tela, sed ille
Cannarum vindex, ac tanti sanguinis ultor
Annulus. I demens, et sævas curre per Alpes,
Ut pueris placeas, et declamatio fias.

Hodgson. · Thy.work, O Fame! thus gallantly begud,
How didst thou finish for thy favour'd son?
Swift Rout behind and skulking Terror wait
On his yain march--the glorious, and the great,
The godlike Hannibal, compell’d to dy
For shameful safety to a foreign sky,
Before a despot's tent, the cruel sport,
The wonder of an Asiatic court,
Bows his brave head with all a suppliant's fear,
Till the Bithynian deign to wake, and hear.
No hostile dart, no rocky fraginent hurld,
Laid low this hot disturber of the world ;
A little ring aveng'd the heaps of slain,
The streams of blood on Cangz's fatal plain,

Was it for this, infuriate chief, you crost ,
Each Alpine barrier of relentless frost;
Was it for this you triumph'd, to employ
The teaching pedant, and declaiming boy? pp. 194, 195,

Gifford. • But what ensued ? Illusive Glory, say:
Subdued on Zama's memorable day,
He flies in exile to a petty state,
With headlong haste; and, at a despot's gate
Sits, mighty suppliant! of his life in doubt,
Till the Bithynian's morning nap be out.

Nor swords, nor spears, nor stones from engines hurl'd,
Shall quell the man whose frown alarm'd the world :
The vengeance due to Canna's fatal field,
And floods of human gore, a ring shall yield ! .
Go, madman, go! at toil and danger mock,
Pierce the deep snow, and scale the eternal rock,
To please the rhetoricians, and become

A DECLAMATION for the boys of Rome !! We need not observe how superior, both in spirit and accur. racy, is Mr. G.’s rendering of the most prominent passages.

A specimen of the ambiguities in the original, which are even obscured by one translator, and finely illustrated by the other, immediately precedes our quotation. The poet is ex, posing the folly of that ambition which affects posthumouş glory, and covets those sepulchral monuments,

............. ad quæ · Discutienda valent sterilis mala robora ficus. This is not much elucidated by saying,

Though the wild fig, and mouldering age combined

Leave but a wreck of funeral pomp behind. Mr. Gifford's version is,

Vain rage! the roots of the wild fig-tree rise,

Strike through the marble, and their memory dies ! This is one proof among many, that to understand Juvenal, the reader should consult Mr. Gifford; to understand Mr. H. the reader must consult Juvenal.

As a 'striking specimen of Mr. Hodgson's neglect of his author's metaphors, we shall take his tumid and feeble version of another well known passage, on the propensity to scribbling, and the character of a poet. ,

Nam si discedas, laqueo tenet ambitiosi
Consuetudo mali; tenet insanabile multos
Scribendi cacoethes, et ægro in corde senescit.
Sed Vate'n egregium, cui non sit publica vena,
Qui nihil expositum soleat deducere, nec qui
Communi feriat carmen triviale moneta;
Hunc qualem nequeo monstrare, et sentio tantum,

« ПредишнаНапред »