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ment of the art of translation, though foreign nations and other languages offered us models of a better method ; till in the age of Elizabeth we began to find that greater liberty was necessary to elegance, and that elegance was necessary to general reception ; some essays were then made upon the Italian poets: which deserve the praise and gratitude of posterity.
But the old practice was not suddenly forsaken";: Holland filled the nation with literal translation, and, what is yet more strange, the same exactness was obstinately practised in the versions of the poets. This absurd labour of construing into rhyme was countenanced by Jonson in his version of Horace ; and whether it be that more men have learning than genius, or that the endeavors of that time were more directed towards knowledge than delight, the accuracy of Jonson found more imitators than the elegance of Fairfax; and May, Sandys, and Holyday confined themselves to the toil of rendering line for line, not indeed with equal felicity, for May and Sandys were poets, and Holyday only a scholar and a critic.
Feltham appears to consider it as the established law of poetical translation, that the lines should be neither more nor fewer than those of the original : and so long had this prejudice prevailed, that Den. ham praises Fanshaw's version of Guarini as the example of a new and noble way, as the first attempt to break the boundaries of custom, and assert the natural freedom of the muse. .
In the general emulation of wit and genius which the festivity of the restoration produced, the poets, shook off their constraint, and considered translation as no longer confined to servile closeness. But reformation is seldom the work of pure virtue or unassisted reason. Translation was improved more by accident than conviction. The writers of the forea going age had at least learning equal to their genius,
and being often more able to explain the sentiments or illustrate the allusions of the Ancients, than to exhibit their graces and transfuse their spirit, were perhaps willing sometimes to conceal their want of poetry by profusion of literature, and therefore translated literally, that their fidelity might shelter their insipidity or harshness. The wits of Charles's time had seldom more than slight and superficial view, and their care was to hide their want of learning behind the colours of a gay imagination; they therefore translated always with freedom, sometimes with licentiousness, and perhaps expected that their readers should accept spriteliness for knowledge, and consider ignorance and mistake as the impatience and negligence of a mind too rapid to stop at difficulties, and too elevated to descend to minateness.
Thus was translation made more easy to the writer, and inore delightful to the reader; and there is no wonder if ease and pleasure have found their advocates. The paraphrastic liberties have been almost universally admitted; and Sherbourn, whose learning was eminent, and who had no need of any excuse to pass slightly over obscurities, is the only writer who, in later times, has attempted to justify or revive the ancient severity.
There is undoubtedly a mean to be observed. Dry. den saw very early that closeness best preserved an author's sense, and that freedom best exhibited his. spirit; he therefore will deserve the highest praise who can give a representation at once faithful and pleasing, who can convey the same thoughts with the same graces; and who, when he translates, changes, nothing but the language.
No. LXX. SATURDAY, AUGUST 18, 1759.
FEW faults of style, whether real or imaginary, excite the malignity of a more numerous class of readers, than the use of hard words.
If an author be supposed to involve his thoughts in voluntary obscurity, and to obstruct, by unnecessary difficulties, a mind eager in pursuit of truth; if he writes not to make others learned, but to boast the learning which he possesses himself, and wishes to be admired rather than understood, he counteracts the first end of writing, and justly suffers the utmost severity of censure, or the more affictive severity of neglect.
But words are only hard to those who do not understand them, and the critic ought always to enquire, whether he is incommoded by the fault of the writer, or by his own.
Every author does not write for every reader; many questions are such as the illiterate part of mankind can have neither interest nor pleasure in discussing, and which therefore it would be an useless endeavour to level with common minds, by tiresome circumlocutions or laborious explanations: and many subjects of general use may be treated in a different manner, as the book is intended for the learned or the ignorant. Diffusion and explication are necessary to the instruction of those who, being neither able nor accustomed to think for themselves, can learn only what is expressly taught; but they who can form parallels, discover consequences, and multiply conclusions, are best pleased with involution of argument and compression of thought; they desire only to receive the seeds of knowledge which they may branch out by their own power, to have the way to truth
pointed out which they can then follow without a guide.
The guardian directs one of his pupils to think with the wise, but speak with the vulgar.' This is a precept specious enough, but not always practicable. Difference of thoughts will produce difference of language. He that thinks with more extent than another will want words of larger meaning; he that thinks with more subtilty will seek for terms of more nice discrimination; and where is the wonder, since words are but the images of things, that he who never knew the originals should not know the copies?
Yet vanity inclines us to find faults any where rather than in ourselves. He that reads and grows no wiser, seldom suspects his own deficiency: but complains of hard words and obscure sentences, and asks why books are written which cannot be understood.
Among the hard words which are no longer to be used, it has been long the custom to number terms of art. Every man (says Swift) is more able to explaiu the subject of an art than its professors ; a Farmer will tell you, in two words, that he has broken his leg; but a surgeon, after a long discourse, shall leave you as ignorant as you were before. This could only have been said by such an exact observer of life, in gratification of malignity, or in ostentation of acuteness. Every hour produces instances of the necessity of terms of art. Mankind could never conspire in uniform affectation; it is not but by necessity that every science and every trade has its peculiar language. They that content themselves with general ideas may rest in general terms; but those whose studies or employments force them upon closer inspection, must have names for particular parts, and words by which they may express various modes of combination, such as none but themselves have occasion to consider.
Artists are indeed sometimes ready to suppose that none can be strangers to words to which themselves are familiar, talk to an incidental enquirer as they talk to one another, and make their knowledge ridiculous by injudicious obtrusion. An art cannot be taught but by its proper terms, but it is not always necessary to teach the art.
That the vulgar express their thoughts clearly is far from being true; and what perspicuity can be found among them proceeds not from the easiness of their language but the shallowness of their thoughts. He that sees a building as a common spectator contents himself with relating that it is great or little, mean or splendid, lofty or low; all these words are intelligible and common, but they convey no distinct or limited ideas; if he attempts, without the terms of architecture, to delineate the parts, or enumerate the ornaments, his narration at once becomes unintelligible. The terms, indeed, generally displease, because they are understood by few; but they are little understood only because few that look upon an edifice, examine its parts, or analyse its columns into their members.
The state of every other art is the same; as it is cur. sorily surveyed or accurately examined, different forms of expression become proper. In morality it is one thing to discuss the niceties of the casuist, and another to direct the practice of common life. In agriculture, he that instructs the farmer to plouzh and sow, may convey his notions without the words which he would find necessary in explaining to philosophers the process of vegetation ; and if he, who has nothing to do but to be honest by the shortest way, will per plex his mind with subtile speculations; or if he, whose task is to reap and thresh will not be contented without examining the evolution of the seed and cir. culation of the sap, the writers whom either shall con.