Графични страници
PDF файл

safest quarters of the city. The success also of Sheriff Watson, in the Scotch city of Aberdeen, in clearing all the streets of young vagrants, by supplying plain clothing, food, and instruction in suitable institntions, and requiring all children found in the streets without regular employment to attend upon them at the peril of being committed to the penitentiary, and of the English ragged-schools, originated by that remarkable crippleshoemaker, John Pounds, of Portsmouth, in his experiment with his "little blackguards," as he called them, inspired Christian men and women on this side of the Atlantic to explore the dark wastes of vice in our large cities, and carry with them the resources of the Gospel and opportunities for intellectual and industrial training. What transformations have taken place in the Five Points and Fourth Ward of New York, in Bedford-street, Philadelphia, and in North-street, Boston ! The moral wilderness and the solitary places have been made glad by the presence of devoted men and women; the wolf has been made to dwell with the lamb, and a little child has led them.

One of the most thoroughly organized preventive measures of the day is the extended system of the Children's Aid Society in New York, embracing temporary lodgings for little street merchants, day and evening industrial schools, and a constant vigorous deportation of the vagrant youths of the city streets to those portions of the country where the pressing demands for even juvenile labor secure for these "little wanderers" a comfortable home and an agricultural training. The past twenty years have witnessed the rapid increase of orphan institutions, Magdalene asylums, city and midnight missions, and almost every conceivable variety of associated effort to carry the blessing of the Gospel to the dangerous and perishing classes. There is, doubtless, a great want of economy in this multiplication of agencies with paid agents. It is not altogether an unfounded taunt on modern philanthropy that it is made to cost two dollars to give a needy person one.

There is a special demand at this hour for some central board in States or municipalities to systematize and harmonize these maltiform agencies; but after all these obvious evils are admitted, it must be said that their very multitudinousness calls the greater number of workers into the field, and secures a wider exploration


of the seats and nests of vice and crime, the breaking up of which will be one of the most important and successful steps toward depleting our prisons and decreasing the criminal class. We bid God-speed to all these thousands of laborers in the great common field. Their efforts will disclose their efficiency in the transformations they secure. They will

“Ring out old shapes of foul disease,

Ring out the narrowing lust for gold,

Ring out the thousand ways of old;
Ring in the thousand years of peace,
Ring in the valiant man and free,

The larger heart, the kindlier hand;

Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be."


[SECOND ARTICLE.] In a previous article we examined the earlier translations of Homer into English verse. In the present one we shall devote our attention to the more recent translations of Lord Derby and Mr. Bryant, whose intrinsic merits, no less than their comparative freshness, entitle them to a fuller discussion as well as a careful collation.

It is not too much to assert, that among all the earlier complete translations of either the Iliad or the Odyssey, not one was felt to be wholly satisfactory. Chapman's Homer was too capricious, Ogilby's too tame. Hobbes, of Malmesbury, had given us a poem, the chief peculiarity of which was its baldness. Cowper had constructed verses conspicuously deficient

. in harmony; while none of the more modern writers-neither Sotheby nor Munford nor any of their rivals—possessed the combination of skill in the use of language and a keen appreciation of the spirit of the author demanded by their office. Although sound scholarship and scrupulous fidelity were felt to be needed worthily to reproduce the immortal poems of Homer, it was none the less evident that the old adage held good in this case also-It requires a poet fully to comprehend and translate a poet. And so it was that, until lately, in spite of all his glaring deficiencies, Alexander Pope was still the accepted interpreter of Homer. That he is no longer admitted to this high place, even in the estimation of the general public, is due entirely to Lord Derby and Mr. Bryant, who, on opposite sides of the Atlantic, have made the most painstaking and brilliant attempts to present us with an English Homer disfigured by no additions of strange and incongruous costume. And it is a matter of proper national pride that, in whatever light we compare the results of their efforts, it will be found that the palm of superior success incontestably belongs to our own American poet.

In the spring of 1862, Edward, Earl of Derby, for the gratification of a few personal friends, published in a volume of “Translations of Poems, Ancient and Modern," the first book of the Iliad. The flattering reception of this first attempt encouraged the author to employ such leisure as he could command, amid his engrossing political engagements, to the continuation of the work. At the close of 1864 he had completed his self-imposed task, and gave to the public the entire poem. He wrote in his preface:

It has been my aim throughout to produce a translation, and not a paraphrase; not, indeed, such a translation as would satisfy with regard to each word the rigid requirements of accurate scholarship, but such as would fairly and honestly give the sense and spirit of every passage and of every line, omitting nothing and expanding nothing, and adhering, as closely as our language will allow, ever to every epithet which is capable of being translated, and which has in the particular passage anything of a special and distinctive character.

It speaks well for the sound judgment of Lord Derby, that he seems promptly to have rejected the various meters which his predecessors in this work had severally adopted—the complicated Spenseriar stanza, the trochaic or ballad measure, the rhyming couplet, and the hexameter, which, artificial in German, even in the hands of Voss, becomes absolutely unendurable when pressed into the service of English versification. Applied to a language in which the verbal accent, the only basis for rhythm it possesses, abhors the long intervals required by the dactyl, and, if it falls far back in the word, almost uniformly necessitates the introduction of a secondary or auxiliary accent in every alternate syllable, this English hexameter is a monstrosity, totally different in type from the Greek and Latin

hexameters. On the other hand, the grand decasyllabic iam-
bic verse, the verse of Milton's immortal epics, in which that
master writer, who, whether in prose or in poetry, knew scarce
an equal, certainly no snperior, sang

of man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,

With loss of Eden
the verse which, accordingly, has as good a claim to be called
heroic in English as has the dactylic hexameter in Greek, pre-
sented itself as eminently appropriate. Lord Derby's pane-
gyric of this species of verse, the heritage of our common
Anglo-Saxon tongue, is so fine, and at the same time so well-
deserved, that we cannot but give it a place here, extended
though it is :

In the progress of this work I have been more and more confirmed in the opinion which I expressed at its commencement, that (whatever may be the extent of my own individual failure) “it justice is ever to be done to the easy flow and majestic simplicity of the grand old poet, it can only be in the heroic blank

I have seen isolated passages admirably rendered in other meters; and there are many instances in which a translation line for line and couplet for couplet paturally suggests itself, and in which it is sometimes difficult to avoid an involuntary rhyme; but the blank verse appears to me the only meter capable of adapting itself to all the gradations, if I may use the term, of the Homeric style, from the finished poetry of the numerrous similes, in which every touch is nature and nothing is overcolored or exaggerated, down to the simple, almost homely, style of some portions of the narrative. Least of all can any other meter do full justice to the spirit and freedom of the various speeches in which the old warriors give utterance, without disguise or restraint, to all their strong and genuine emotions. To subject these to the trammels of couplet and rhyme would be as destructive of their chief characteristics as the application of a similar process to the “Paradise Lost” of Milton or the tragedies of Shakspeare; the effect, indeed, may be seen by comparing with some of the noblest speeches of the latter the few couplets which he seems to have considered himself bound by custom to tack on to their close at the end of a scene or an act."

The execution of the translation, conceived with such just views so far as regards its form, is deserving of very high praise. One or two things will at once strike the reader,


[ocr errors]

* Preface, p. 7, etc.

especially it he come to it fresh from the perusal of the earlier versions. In the first place he will discover, before he has gone very far, that if art has been employed in the construction of the sentences it is an art that conceals art. The flow is steady, the versification smooth. There is nothing abrupt; there are no impediments in the way, no rough spots to withdraw the eye from the view of scene after scene of rare beanty and attractiveness. In an eminent degree Lord Derby's Homer possesses the highest merit which can attach to literary composition, that of rarely fixing attention upon itself either by falling below the proper dignity of the subject or by an attempt at meretricious display. The diction is clear and transparent. Now this is very different from the older translations, and especially from that of Cowper, which, being in blank verse, affords the most convenient basis of comparison. Of the latter you can hardly read five lines anywhere without stumbling upon a defective rhythm, caused, it is not unlikely, by the false and unnatural accent which the verse requires you to place upon some properly unaccented syllable. Closely connected with this is another fact which the comparison will infallibly bring into view. The involved constructions of Cowper find no place in Derby. To exemplify both the transparent diction and the simple but dignified construction of the discourse in Lord Derby's translation, read his rendering of the characteristic speech of Telamonian Ajax to Ulysses in the hearing of the obdurate hero, whom he wished to shame into return. ing to his post in the Greek army (Iliad IX, 724, etc.):

"We needs must bear
Our tidings, all unwelcome as they are,
Back to the chiefs awaiting our return.
Achilles hath allowed his noble heart
To cherish rancor and malignant hate;
Nor recks he of his old companions' love,
Wherewith we honored him above the rest
Relentless hel à son's or brother's death,
By payment of a fine, may be atoned;
The slayer may remain in peace at home,
The debt discharged; the other will forego,
The forfeiture received, his just revenge;
But in thy breast the gods have placed a soul
Implacable and harsh: and for a girl,
A simple girl! and seven we offer thee
Surpassing fair, and other gifts to boot.

« ПредишнаНапред »