페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

As muche as doth Apolloe's beames

the dymmest starre in lyght.
The envious fates (O pytie great)

had great disdayne to se,
That us amongst there shuld remayn

so fyne a wyt as he:
And in the midst of all his toyle

dyd force him hence to wende,
And leave a worke unperfyt so,

that never man shall ende.” These testimonies will derive little accession of strength from the sentence of Pits; who tells us, that Phaer translated the Æneid, magna gravitate. Fuller, who records this expression,* adds an observation on it, wbich shews, that, in his time, a better taste in poetry was becoming prevalent. He says, “ Some modern wits will render magna gravitate, great dulness, and avouch, that Phaer, instead of a Latin Virgil, has presented us with an English Ennius, such is the rudeness of his verse. But who knoweth not that English poetry is improved fifty in the hundred, in this last century of years."

The opinion which Phaer himself expresses of his version is much less favourable than those of his contemporaries; and, if he was sincere, it must be concluded, that he possessed more poetical taste than genius. In his concluding address to his readers, he says; “ You may therefore accept these translations as things roughly begun, rather than polished, and where you shall understand a fault, I desire you, with silence, patiently pass it, and, upon knowledge given to me, I shall in the next setting forth endeavour to reform it.”

Though Phaer had been preceded in his undertaking by Lord Surrey and Douglas, it is not probable, that he derived any assistance from their labours. It may rather be inferred, that his interpretation is founded almost exclusively on the original text, both from the absence of any acknowledgement, and from the short time he allowed himself in going through each book : by the inscriptions placed at the end of which, it appears, that the seventh was translated in twelve days, and the first in rather less time; the eighth, which engaged his attention longest, took up forty days, and the others from fifteen to thirty.

Phaer's translation is executed in the same kind of verse with that used in Chapman's version of the Iliad, which con

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

sists of fourteen syllables, and has been therefore stiled the long verse. It seems to have been a favourite metre with the poets of the sixteenth century, probably from its facility; but is by no means a fit vehicle for heroic poetry, though it has been employed to more advantage by Chapman than by Phaer.

Among modern critics, our translator has obtained some notice, and even occasional approbation. The description which Æneas gives, in the second book, of his visionary interview with Hector, has been considered a favourable specimen of Phaer's talents. A few lines will enable the reader to judge for himself. “ That time it was, when slumber first, and dead sleep deep op

prest, On weary, mortal men doth creep, through God's gift, sweet at rest : Unto my sight (as dream I did), all sad, with doleful cheer, Did Hector stand; and large him weep with sobs I well might hear; With horses haled, as bloody drawn sometime he was in dust, And all to swolne his worthy feet, where through the thongs were

thrust, Alas, to think how sore berayed-how from that Hector sore He changed was, that in Achilles' spoils came home before; Or when, among the ships of Greece, the fires so fierce he flung : But now in dust, his head bedaubed ; bis hair with blood is clung ; With naked wounds, that in defence of Trojan walls sustained He often had; and me to weep for pity, woe constrain'd, With heavy voice, methought I spake, and thus to him I plain’d.”

There is such extreme monotony of manner extending through the whole of this version, that this short extract may be considered as affording a tolerably fair sample of it. The finest passages of the original have no splendor of diction to distinguish them in the translation. The description of the calm season of nature's repose, and the contrast it afforded to the agitation of mind under which Dido laboured, so finely pourtrayed in the fourth book, is thus rendered :

“ Then was it night, and creatures all that weary were on ground Did take their slumber sweet; both woods and seas had left their

sound,
And waves of waters wild, when stars at midnight soft do slide,
When whist is every field, and beasts and birds of painted pride,
In bushes broad that breed, and country fowls of land and lake,
By night, in silence, still are set on sleep, their ease to take,
Forgetting labours long, and care away from heart they shake.

But not so Dido could, nor never rest relieves her mind;
On sleep she never falls ; her eyes, or heart, no night can find :
Her cares increasing rise; with raging lover in breast she boils
Afresh, and surges wild of wrath within herself she toils :
Between them thus she strives, and thus her heavy heart turmoils.”

The following short extract, from the account of the shooting of the Dove, is not ill done: “ Then Mnesteus, his bow to draw, forth with with strength stood

out; And stretching hand aloft, his heart and eye did level right; Yet could not he, (good man), for all his art, the culver smite, But hit the hempen cord; and of the knot the bands he brast, Whereby the bird was bound, and by her foot did hang at mast: She took the wind forthwith, and to the clouds full fast she flew. And even at that time, as he his bow and dart directing drew, Eurition, and for his brother's help, in heaven, he cried : The bird he saw was loose ; and sporting her in skies, he spied : Yet, marking well with eyes and stedfast hand, in clouds above, He quickly brake her play with sudden stroke, and slew the dove, That tumbling down she fell, and in the stars her life she left, And dead she came to ground, and in her body brought the shaft."

The description of the bay, into which Æneas and his companions were driven, on the coast of Africa, is rather poetically translated :

“Far in the shore there lieth an isle, and there besides a bay, Where, from the channel deep, the haven goeth in and out alway: On either side, the reaches high, to heaven up climb to grow, And under them the still sea lieth, for there no breath can blow; But green wood like a garland grows, and hides them all with shade, And in the midst a pleasant cave there stands, of nature made, Where sit the nymphs, among the springs, in seats of moss and

stone, When ships are in, no cables need, nor anchors need they none."

This is his sketch of Mount Etna : “ A haven right large there is, whom force of wind can never

move,
But Ætna's brasting noise, and grisly thundering, roars above :
Sometimes thereout a blustring cloud both break, and up to skies,
All smoking, black as pitch, with flakes of fires among it, flies ;

And flames, in foldings round, to sweep the stars, the mouth doth

cast.
Sometime the rocks, and mountain's deep entrails, asunder brast;
It belch, and bolketh out; and stones it melts and up it throws
In lumps with roaring noise, and low beneath the bottom glows."

The above specimens will suffice to give the reader an idea of the manner in which this very early translation of the Æneid is executed.

Twyne's poetical abilities were much inferior to those of his coadjutor, so that his portion of the undertaking is, as might be expected, utterly beneath criticism.

We may dismiss this publication with observing, that it has long since found its place among those books which are scarce, because they have been supplanted by superior productions on the same subject; and consequently, the demand for them having ceased, they are no longer reprinted.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

Art. XIII.-Bishop Burnet's History of his Own Time. 1724.

It has been the fate of Bishop Burnet to experience the severity of criticism, and the license of political scandal, in a greater degree than almost any writer with whom we are acquainted. Indeed he has delivered his opinion so roundly on the characters of men, spoken so many harsh and ungrateful truths, and, without regard to the quality of the offender, denounced the vices of public men in such unsparing terms, that he could hardly fail of alarming a host of prejudices, both personal and political. In directing, therefore, the publication of his history to be deferred so long after his own decease, though. he might be chiefly influenced by a delicate regard to the feelings of his more immediate contemporaries, he was not, we suspect, without some foreboding of the storm it was likely to raise ; and, doubtless, consoled himself with the reflection, that -let it break as it might-he should then be himself secure beyond the reach of calumny. His reputation has accordingly had to sustain the conflict from which he wisely withdrew his person; and each individual of that hornet's nest his rashness had provoked, has concentrated all its venom to sting wherever there seemed a possibility of inflicting a wound. His character has been assailed in every mode, which dulness, inspired with resentment, could bear to use; or wit, sharpened and set on by

VOL. V. PART II,

2 A

malice, could devise. His veracity has been impeached, his integrity questioned, his candour and fairness utterly denied; and whilst one has termed him a busy meddler in politics,-another, a defamer of honest men,-a third, a factious spirit;—there is scarcely a single epithet, which the copious vocabulary of party abuse could supply, that has not, at one time or other, been appended to his name. Abundantly vain, and sufficiently credulous, his foibles have presented a fairer mark for the shafts of ridicule, and his enemies have possibly succeeded as often in raising a laugh at his expense, as they have failed in establishing the more serious charges which, in a graver mood, they have preferred against him. But the liveliest effusions of satirical wit, when directed against real merit, are, as they deserve to be, fleeting and ephemeral—the recollection of them seldom surviving the slightest change in the current of men's thoughts, and in well-constituted minds, dying with the mirth they have created. Those who were once so busy with his fame, and strove so hard to affix a stigma to his reputationthe witty and ingenious, no less than the dull and malignant, sleep the long night of oblivion ; whilst all that kindled their resentment, or excited their spleen,-his intrepid, manly, and honest exposure of iniquity, wherever it lurked, and his plain and downright dealing with characters, however high in station, or distinguished for talent, still remain to demand the unequivocal applause of more impartial posterity.

Those who, in the history of Bishop Burnet, expect general and extensive views, a luminous narrative of events, or a philosophical exposition of their causes, must not be surprised, if, instead of finding what contemporary historians so seldom exhibit, they are involved, with no clue to guide them, in the confusion of a period more than usually dark and intricate. Want of perspicuity, the result either of bad arrangement, or defective information, and conclusions drawn from statements imperfect or inaccurate, partial views and mistaken opinions, judgement outrun by zeal, and discernment clouded by prejudice-sentiments coloured by party feelings or personal interests, and characters drawn with fondness or resentment, these are defects incidental, in a greater or less degree, to the works of all, who, however honest in their intentions, or little interested in the transactions they record, have attempted to tell the story of their own times. If Burnet has not risen superior to the weaknesses of our common nature, he had at least à situation of more than ordinary difficulty to plead in excuse; and being not merely a close observer of passing events, but a warm and active partizan, during a period when parties ran high, and delusions abounded, we have less reason to wonder at his occasional errors and wrong conclusions, than to admire the

« 이전계속 »