Графични страници
PDF файл

English prose, and a poem free from the trammeling necessity of a close translation. “Of the two kinds of translation which we like,” he remarks, "one is an exact rendering of the original text into idiomatic prose. The other kind can be made only by a poet who reproduces the thoughts and pictures of the original in his own style, and in a metre native to his own language. Hence we consider Pope's Iliad, with all its faults, more like Homer's than any other poetical translation, just as some living hero is, on the whole, more like Achilles than any statue. All other poetic translators, except Chapman, are between these extremes. They compromise difficulties of expression and difficulties of interpretation, trying to be either as literal as is consistent with versification, or as poetical as is consistent with literalness. Of these the best is Mr. Bryant. He has produced a better poem than any other of his school, and has adhered as closely to the text as any but the prose translators.”

To the specious argument implied in the comparison instituted by this writer we might with propriety reply: The argument proves too much, if it proves any thing at all. It is true that in some particulars a living hero may be more like Achilles than any statue can be, and so likewise any two poems, however diverse in character-even if they possess not a single thought, not a single expression in common—may be said to be so far alike as that both are good. We might go to the living hero to discover to what class of men we ought to refer Achilles, to any good poem to learn what is excellence in poetical composition ; but to declare Pope to resemble Homer because both were good poets, would be as absurd as to say that the personal appearance of General Sherman gave a good idea of the looks of Julius Cæsar or Napoleon Bonaparte.

This world, we say, is pretty well agreed, and has been ever since Cowper's time, respecting the paramount necessity that the version should be as exact as language and poetical diction will allow, and all the more recent attempts to give Homer an English dress have gone upon this assumption, with perhaps but a single exception. Philip Stanhope Worsley's Odyssey

* The Odyssey of Homer, translated into English verse, in the Spenserian Stanza, by P. S. Worsley, M.A., Scholar of Corpus Christi College, Oxford. (London, 1861-2.)

is not only exceedingly free in its general renderings, but admits very considerable insertions and expansions, somewhat after the style of Chapman, and this to such an extent that a very favorable critic* is forced to observe: “It is needless, however, to dwell on a fault (if fault it be after all) which runs through the whole translation,” adding by way of apology: “ Those who have not the Greek cannot feel as a defect insertions of which they are unconscious; and so long as the words or sentences introduced agree generally with the thought and language of Homer, they are rather indebted to the translator for touches which to them must heighten the effect of the picture.”

The other axiom laid down by Cowper—that no poetical version of Homer can be executed with any considerably close adherence to the form of the original without renouncing the trammels of rhyme—has not until recently been accepted with the same degree of unanimity. Hence we have seen many ingenious writers attempting in almost every variety of possible verse to overcome the insuperable difficulties which environed their self-imposed task. The results, in some cases, have been far from discreditable. W. Sotheby's translation of the Iliad and Odyssey entire,t and W. Munford's of the Iliad,f certainly both come under this category. The latter is the more interesting as the posthumous production of a gifted young countryman of our own, a native of Richmond, Va. The lamented President Felton, of Harvard University, has given the weighty sanction of his judgment to the opinion that this was “the best translation of the entire Iliad” as yet published.

Other translations, however, are by no means entitled to equal regard. One of the most singular productions that we are called upon to notice is a poem in whose composition the object seems to be quite as much to revive the old English as to furnish a version of Homer. Mr. W. G. T. Baxter is the author of this strange performance. (London, 1854.) He tells us that his Iliad “is offered as the most literal metrical English version of the Iliad hitherto published, and certainly the most literal in rhyme. And in it the translator has aimed at giving all that is in the original, without regard to supposed redundancy or repetition, and from it as rigidly excluding every thonght and expression which is not there to be found.” Leaving entirely out of consideration the utter absence of poetical fire, of which we look in vain for a spark in this dreary waste, we find ourselves confronted at the very outset with difficulties scarcely inferior to those of mastering a new language. A formidable glossary is thrust before our eyes, in which we discover a small part of the uncouth forms whose acquaintance we are expected to make. To our consternation we learn that we shall be called upon to interpret del as “ portion,” yare as "nimbly," y-fere as “ together," and y-wis as “verily;" that appeach is to “accuse," brast, to “break," and lin, to "give over” or “cease.” Unfortunately the list of obsolete words and expressions, although by no means a short one, covers but a very small part of those which the translator has laboriously culled from Chaucer and other sources of English pure and undefiled. The pages fairly bristle with unintelligible terms, for the explanation of which he kindly refers us to a copious collection of notes. But worst of all, there is no compensation for the trouble to which we are thus coolly subjected, in any manly vigor--not to say enthusiasm-of the author. Even the dignity of the epic is lost, and we have such lines as these, taken from the first book, (line 60, etc.) :

* In the “Edinburgh Review" for April, 1863.

+ The Iliad and Odyssey, translated by W. Sotheby. Plates after the designs of Flaxman. 4 vols., 8vo. London, 1834.

| The Iliad, etc. 2 vols. Boston, 1846.

"So spake, and with his dark brows Kronos' son
Did nod. The locks ambrosial of the king
Y-quivered from his head immortal down,
And huge Olympus sbook."

And a little further we meet with these :

- The gods encountering
Their Sire, all from their seats arose. None might
His coming bide, but stood to meet him every wight."

Under the translation “ the all-renowned Both-feet-Lome,the unclassical reader would certainly find it difficult to recognize the god Vulcan-περικλυτος 'Αμφιγνήεις.

In another article we shall take occasion to examine with greater particularity the later versions of Lord Derby and Mr. Bryant.

ART. II.-RICHARD ROTHE. “We must assign to Rothe the very first place among the speculative divines of the present day. He surpasses even Nitzsch, Müller, Dorner, Martensen, and Baur in vigorous grasp and independence of thought, and is hardly inferior in this respect to Schleiermacher.”' “We regard his system of Theological Ethics as the greatest work on speculative divinity which has appeared since Schleiermacher's Dogmatics, full of power, boldness, and originality. It is truly a work of art as well as of science, and the several stones of the ethical system are reared up here into a magnificent Gothic cathedral by the skill of a master architect. Those who have formed their idea of this important science from such books as Dr. Wayland's popular Moral Philosophy will lose both sight and hearing before they have read two pages of this work. But those who are accustomed to go beneath the shallow surface of things to the fundamental principles and general laws of the moral universe, will feel amply repaid by a careful study of it, however often they may be compelled to differ toto cælo from the author's views." *

It is natural to suppose that the passing away of a theol. ogian who called forth, fifteen years before the close of his labors, so high an appreciation as the above from so competent a judge as Dr. Schaff, would cause a thrill of interest to pass throughout the whole circle of Christian thinkers; and in fact more than this has been the case. The thrill that vibrated through both continents at the news of August 20, 1867, that Richard Rothe had passed away, proved but the first pulsation of a stream of interest that flows unabated to the present bour. The Christian world was loath to realize that the creative thinker, the revered teacher, and the modestly and humbly adoring disciple of Christ, should no longer raise his peacefraught voice for the cause of Christian charity and progress. But in this particular case the cloud of regret is silver-lined with more than the usual quantum of consolation. A man whose life is so intensely inward as was Rothe's, and whose soul has so fully uttered and enshrined itself in undying pages

* Philip Schaff: “Germany, its Universities," etc. 1857.

[ocr errors]

of diamond-set thought, and whose humbly reverent, Christlike life stands so halo-clothed in the memories of that forty years' series of youthful disciples who hung upon his words of instruction, and drank in of his richly Christian personal example, dies much less wholly from the world than one whose working is more actively outward.

We purpose, in the following paper, a brief sketch of the life and significance of Richard Rothe, drawn almost wholly from a monograph by Ernst Achelis,* but as corroborated by Dr. Schaff's “Germany,” etc., by Rothe's Theologische Ethik itself, and by various other sources.

Born of a well-to-do family in Posen, January 28, 1799, Rothe grew up the sole child of his parents, and was even hindered by sickness until his eighth year from almost all association with like-aged playmates from without; when he once grew able to form such association, it was suddenly severed by the removal of the family (1809) to Stettin, and almost before he felt at home here his father was called (1811) to Breslau. In Stettin he attended the gymnasium two years. In Breslau he began to experience the spring-time pulsations of the self-reconstructing German national life that ensued on the falling off of the French yoke; but these momentous outward events were again unfavorable to any healthful social life in the young scholar, though they must have deeply and sublimely influenced his impressible heart. The Scriptures and the writings of the “romantic" school formed now his favorite reading. At Easter, 1817, he entered the University of Heidelberg. He calls his life here “a poetico-religiososcientific idyl.” The writings of Schelling here made upon him an almost bewildering impression. His other most preferred reading was St. Paul and Luther. The patriotic spirit dominant among the youth at Heidelberg soon drew him into its current, but he remained a stranger to the conventional rowdyhood of university life; and yet the “little prince," (as his fellow-students were wont to call him,) notwithstanding that he uniformly appeared in dress-coat and with cylindercrowned head, suffered by no means from unpopularity. But

* "Dr. Richard Rothe.” Gotha, 1869. Achelis is a student and ardent admirer of Rothe, but, being thoroughly orthodox, dissents from his master on important points, and, on the whole, presents an impartial and justly appreciative picture.

« ПредишнаНапред »