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But here Pope again reveals his ignorance or his carelessness,
for he translates, or re-writes, the passage thus :

“As on some ample barn's well-hardened floor,
(The winds collected at each open door,)
While the broad fan with force is whirled around,

Light leaps the golden grain, resulting * from the ground."
Only we have here additional inventions of the translator.
The scene is not the antique threshing-floor in the open air, but
shifts to the modern barn.t The wind is indeed admitted
through the doors, but has no function to perform. It is the
“ broad fan," “ with force whirled around," that does the execu-
tion; and not from it, but from the ground, the golden grain-
not the beans and pulse" light leaps.”

pass to one of the most engaging and one of the sweetest
poets with whom England has ever been favored—a poet no
less estimable as a man than respectable as an artist--William
Cowper. He had already manifested his rare abilities as an
original writer, and become famous as the author of “ John
Gilpin” and of “The Task,” when, relapsing into the constitu-
tional melancholy which was the great bane of his life, he felt
the absolute necessity of finding some employment less severe
and exacting than the composition of fresh verses of his own, yet
sufficiently engrossing to withdraw his thoughts from his own
infirmities, and to turn him away from the verge of that in-
sanity with whose proximity he was ever haunted. This em-
ployment he found in the translation of Homer. Not that he
at once entered seriously upon so appalling an undertaking as
was that of putting into English verse some forty thousand
lines of Greek poetry. But having commenced, almost with-
out thinking of what he was doing, by versifying a score or so
of Homer's lines as a pastime, and having extracted consider-
able diversion from the attempt, he was led to repeat the
process, and, his interest rather increasing than diminishing, he
found himself allured on further and further, until the task
whose magnitude might have affrighted him had he contem-
plated it at the beginning, seemed far from wearisome or im-
practicable. It was not, however, until he had gotten much

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* That is, leaping back.
+ Munford makes the same mistake:

" And barns are whitened with the rising cloud." FOURTH SERIES, VOL. XXIV.-24

15

beyond the middle of the Iliad that he ventured to acquaint his friends with what he intended to do, for he feared, with good reason, that it might otherwise appear problematic whether he would complete his work. Some of his friends, indeed, were not a little disappointed that one who had recently developed such extraordinary powers as an independent wooer of the Muses should stoop to the apparently lower level of a translator of the writings of another. And so Cowper's letters, written in his inimitable playfulness, are rather of an apologetic tone about this time, as if deprecating the censure which he felt he half deserved. Thus to the Rev. John Newton he wrote, December 3, 1785 : "Homer, in point of purity, is a most blameless writer; and, though he was not an enlightened man, has interspersed many great and valuable truths throughout both his poems. In short, he is in all respects a most venerable old gentleman, by an acquaintance with whom no man can disgrace himself. The literati are all agreed to a man that, although Pope has given us two pretty poems under Homer's titles, there is not to be found in them the least portion of Homer's spirit, nor the least resemblance to his manner. I will try, therefore, whether I cannot copy him somewhat more happily myself. I have, at least, the advantage of Pope's faults and failings, which, like so many buoys upon a dangerous coast, will serve me to steer by, and will make my chance more probable. These and many other considerations, but especially a mind that abhorred a vacuum as its chief bane, induced me so effectually to the work, that ere long I mean to publish proposals for a subscription to it."

Cowper had in his unusually close acquaintance with Homer, and Homer's modes of thought and of expression, a fine preparation for his work. Years before he had read and re-read his immortal works in company with a friend equally devoted to classical pursuits. They had studied him by himself, they had compared with him and with each other the older English versions, and Pope's, which was still all the rage, had particularly disgusted them. “I never saw," he wrote at a later date, *

a copy so unlike the original. There is not, I believe, in all the world to be found an uninspired poem so simple as those of Homer; nor in all the world a poem more bedizened with

* Letter to Rev. John Newton, December 10, 1785.

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ornament than Pope's translation of them. Accordingly, the sublime of Homer in the hands of Pope becomes bloated and tumid, and his description tawdry. Neither had Pope the faintest conception of those exquisite discriminations of character for which Homer is so remarkable. All his persons, and equally upon all occasions, speak in an inflated and strutting phraseology as Pope managed them; although in the original, the dignity of their utterance, even where they are most majestic, consists principally in the simplicity of their language. Another censure I must needs pass upon our Anglo-Grecian, out of many that obtrude themselves upon me, but for which I have neither time to spare nor room, which is, that with all his great abilities he was defective in his feelings to a degree that some passages in his own poems make it difficult to account for. No writer more pathetic than Homer, because none more natural; and because none less natural than Pope in his version of Homer, therefore than he none less pathetic."

The utter failure of his great predecessor (avowedly a great poet when he undertook to give expression to his own thoughts) in the attempt to reproduce Homer's writings in English verse, Cowper ascribed in great part to the fact that Pope had trammeled himself with rhyme. He regarded it an utter impossibility for a poet, no matter how skillful he might be in the use of language, to give the sense of a foreign work with strict fidelity if he burdened himself with the requirement that his lines should be rhyming couplets. In blank verse the problem might be solved, in rhymed verses never. Not that it is easier under ordinary circumstances to compose blank verse than to rhyme; on the contrary, while almost every body can write tolerable verses, such is the fatal facility of the Euglish language but few can form respectable blank verse, so great is the care and variety which the successful prosecution of this species demands. But it is impracticable to find a form of words with similar terminations that shall adequately express the sense of any given passage in a poem written in a foreign language.

With these views Cowper undertook to translate the Iliad and the Odyssey, the former of which he published in 1791. If his performance did not completely realize his high expectations, it was not from any defect in his general plan. He was undoubtedly correct in his choice of a metre, and he had the right view of the translator's province as limited to the close reproduction of his original. But he was less fortunate in the execution, despite the assurances with which his letters abound, that he would allow no defective line to escape his attention and correction. No one can deny that his versification is often rongh, the flow of words irregular and interrupted, the constructions involved and harsh ; in fine, very unlike the calm, inajestic movement that every-where characterizes Homer's own hexameters. Take, for instance, so favorable an example of his style as that contained in the twelfth book of the Iliad, where Hector indignantly rebukes Polydamas for giving heed to the unfavorable augury derived from the circumstance that a bird in its flight had dropped a serpent between the contending armies :

"To whom, dark-lowering, Hector thus replied:
“Polydamas! I like not thy advice;
Thou couldst have framed far better; but if this
Be thy deliberate judgment, then the gods
Make thy deliberate judgment nothing worth,
Who bidd'st me disregard the Thunderer's firm
Assurance to myself anuounced, and make
The wild inhabitants of air my guides,
Which I alike despise, speed they their course
With right-hand flight toward the ruddy East,
Or leftward down into the shades of eve.
Consider we the will of Jove alone,
Sovereign of heaven and earth. Omens abound,
But the best omen is our country's cause.*
Wherefore should fiery war thy soul alarm?
For were we slaughtered, one and all, around
The feet of Greece, thou need'st not fear to die,
Whose courage never will thy figlit retard.

* The various translations of the famous line (243) in the Greek,

Είς οιωνός άριστος, αμύνεσθαι περί πάτρης, are themselves a study:

Voss: Ein Wahrzeicheu nur gilt: das Vaterland zu erretten.
Ogilby : 'Tis a good sign, we for our country fight.
Derby: (following Cowper almost word for word,)

The best of omens is our country's cause.
Sotheby: Watch thou the flight of birdssuch omens; thine :

One-far o'er all-to guard my country-mine.
Munford: One omen is the best, and that is our's,

That we are bravely fighting to defend
Our native country.

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But if thou shrink thysell, or by smooth speech
Seduce one other from a soldier's part,

Pierced by this spear, incontinent thou diest.”—230, etc.
This is, perhaps, as favorable an example of the verses of
Cowper as we could well give, yet it brings to light some of
the poet's deficiencies—deficiencies which, to use the words of
another, render his work “cold and repulsive.” “The Homeric
hexameters," writes a recent critic,* “ have an independence
wholly foreign to the more complicated hexameters of Virgil ;
and the sequence of ideas is kept so distinct, that one is com-
monly dismissed before the next is introduced; but harsh invo-
lutions give to Cowper's translation a stiff and stilted character.
... It is one of the first duties of a translator to construct his
sentences as closely after the manner of the original as the
idiom of another langnage will permit, but the intricate syntax
and inverted constructions of Cowper are not suggested by any
thing in the style of Homer.”

Cowper's Homer inaugurated a new series of translations. The view which he promulgated, and endeavored to put into practice in his own work, has come to be generally accepted as sound and judicious. It is now admitted almost npon all sides, that the paramount obligation resting upon the translator is accuracy; that care in the selection of corresponding idioms, in the adoption of equivalent epithets, in the similar distribution of the matter, is not labor thrown away. A few critics, it is true, continue to advocate the old theory and practice, according to which a very loose paraphrase is allowed to assume the name of a translation, however unfaithful it may be to the form, and even the spirit, of the original. Thus a recent writer in the “ North American Review” (October, 1870) is in favor of nothing that lies between a simple rendering of the Greek into Pope : (free as usual,)

Without a sign, his sword the brave man draws,

And asks no omen but his country's cause.
Bryant:

One augury
There is, the surest and the best-to fight

For our own land.
Barter: (probably the most literal,)

One augury is best, to fight for native land.
Perhaps the most exact rendering which can be given in our language would be,

One omen's best--to fight for fatherland.

Edinburgh Review," January, 1865.

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