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appear more pompous than sublime, unless dexterously varied by the rough Arabic words. We believe that he has been translated at Madrid; but among the hundreds of libraries which the writer of this has explored, he has never had the fortune to lay his hands ou a copy. With regard to the dialect of France, that légèreté inseparable from the character and tongue of the inhabitants, is much against the bard of Eden. Nevertheless, a language wbich owns such expressive and sonorous words as the following monde, onde, morne, tombeau, inébranlable, redoutable, abîme, fracas, tonnerre, surabondant, rassasié, inexorable, tremblant, entonnoir, profonde, trône, sombre, ombre, cuirasse, surplomber, onduler, rayonner, siffler, mugir, gronder, étincelant, flamboyant, étendard, vengeance, orgueil, mort, tourbillons, with about twenty others, need not despair of furnishing to its utterers materials of sufficient calibre wherewith to discharge with satisfactory effect the Miltonic thunder, when directed at least by a skilful engineer.
Great as our poet is, and allowed as he is to be the most powerful master of the sublime that ever scaled Parnassus, how comes it that the perusal of the Paradise Lost affords much less satisfaction than the conning of Homer and Virgil ? Is it because his readers discover that he by no means fulfils what he gives out with a biblical solemnity, his ascent to the height of the argument, and vindication of the ways of God to man? The eternally perplexing question of the origin of evil he leaves more perplexed than before. For, we ask, how does he explain the entrance of sin into heaven? He gets out of the scrape in as dexterous a manner as a man of ingenuity can do, by imagining Sin starting a goddess armed from the throbbing temples of Satan. But still he is in a scrape, for Sin must have come from some other hell, creeping in, we presume, at the mouth of Satan when asleep in his opal tower, and bursting forth from bis brain. Nor is this all. More bizarre, we think, is the Deity of Milton than the Jupiter of Homer and Virgil; for he makes him deliver a speech in which he says he has begotten a Son in heaven, of whom we are not toid. Here he perplexes the great mystery of the incarnation, typified only by the “ Blessed Virgin,” born many centuries after. When a man attempts and professes to expound the great mysteries of religion and philosophy, and fails like Milton, he must expect to be blown nine times nine by the winnowing blast of criticism. For these reasons, and, were we disposed to be overminute, for others, the writer of this, who has devoted many hours to these studies, would far prefer to have been the author of the Iliad, or even of the Æneid, than of the Paradise Lost. The Æneid, in spite of its plagiarisms, is, of all epic poems, the most readable through. So good is the judgment of Virgil, that, if we except the transformation of the vessels of his hero into sea-nymphs, and the puerile "mensas consumimus” exclaimed by Ascanius, we do not think a passage can be quoted to which criticism can be vulnerably attached. His Jupiter and Juno are not always boxing each other's ears, as in the Iliad; neither do his heroes pester us with long genealogical narrations before setting to with the sword, as is not unfrequently the case in the Iliad. Virgil's Jove never makes us laugh, as Homer's does; neither is he held out to us to adore with all our soul and strength, like the Deity in Milton, who but too often turns out nothing higher than a bizarre puritanical divine; few of whose unprejudiced readers, we apprehend, can wade through his poem without being tempted to exclaim with Boileau, who, we little doubt, glanced at Milton in the following lines :
“De la foi d'un Chrétien les mystères terribles
Que le diable toujours hurlant contre les cieux ? " But we must pull in the reins to general criticism, and return to the work before us.
Exclusive of the separately published Essai, we have to notice preliminary remarks, which preface the translation, and we propose to apply a short analysis to these. Some of these remarks are certainly ingenious, and develop satisfactorily enough the sense of the difficulties which the translator had to combat in his arduous task. He tells us, “ J'ai refondu trois fois la traduction sur le manuscrit et le placard; je l'ai remaniée quatre fois, d'un bout à l'autre, sur les épreuves, tâche que je ne me serais jamais imposée, si je l'eusse d'abord mieux comprise.” In confirmation of this, he complains in the succeeding paragraph of the unintelligibility of some apocalyptic phrases used by the poet. But surely in this M. de Chateaubriand may console his ignorance, for the visions of St. John the Divine baffle to this hour hosts of commentators, and it may be fairly presumed that Milton himself had not a clear conception of them, though he more than once, from veneration for the Bible, introduces them verbatim in several passages of his poem. M. de Chateaubriand leaves the interpretation of some of these passages ironically to the visionary crew of the Swedenborgians. The next stumbling-block that he meets is the well-known end of the serpent's syllogism :
“ Your fear itself of death removes the fear—" perplexivg indeed enough primâ facie, but with the help of the
two preceding lines we understand it thus: “God is just; if he be not just he is not God; consequently, not being God, be can neither be feared nor obeyed. But you fear death, and without reason, for were God to inflict it, he would be no longer just." We do not wonder at M. de Chateaubriand being staggered with this reasoning, which, it must be confessed, savours more of the arch-felon's logic than of Aristotle's. The next difficulty of which M. de Chateaubriand complains is in the following passage:
- I bare presumed, An earthly guest, and drawn empyreal air,
The temp’ring ” — Bad must have been the edition which the translator consulted; for in Newton's, perhaps the best of our poet, the reading is “ Thy temp'ring,” which makes the sense easily intelligible, being nothing more than a metaphor, taken from the tempering of steel or other metals, and finely applied by Milton to the tempering of his earthly essence, so as to render it a fit vehicle for celestial inspirations. One of the great beauties of the English language is the gerund used substantively, and frequent in daily talk. Had M. de Chateaubriand, when sentimentalizing on our smoky Babylon some years since, with his friend Fontaves, in the tavern at Chelsea, upset and broken a bottle of triste vin du Port, or Dorchester ale, he would have heard, most likely, his angry hostess exclaim, " This was all your doing, and you shall pay for it.” We coincide in what he says relative to the irony dealt by Milton against the usual subjects of epic poems, in the well-known opening of the ninth book; but we are far from thinking that he bas bappily translated the following passage:
- many a row Of starry lamps ...... yielded lights
As from a sky," “ Plusieurs rangs de lampes étoilées émanent la lumière comme un firmament."
Now this has not only the defect of being bad French, but it does not quite minister to the sense of the poet. By over-refining, M. de Chateaubriand misses his mark. We are convinced that most of his country's critics would even prefer“ Plusieurs rangs de lampes étoilées jettèrent la lumière, comme d'un firmament.” We approve much of the last word, which is finer than the “sky” of the original. We acquiesce in M. de Chateaubriand's judgment in using the old word maintes, in his translation of the fine passage descriptive of the dolorous regions traversed by the demons. After a series of further remarks on
the errors of former translators, and on the numerous obstacles presented by our bard to a French translator, he closes bis prefatory remarks with the following sentence. « Je cherche seulement une excuse à mes fautes. Un traducteur n'a droit à aucune gloire ; il faut seulement qu'il montre qu'il a été patient, docile, et laborieux." Here we are completely at issue with M. de Chateaubriand. For though nobody ever ventured to place the fame of Pope within one hundred degrees of the same level as that of Homer, still it is universally allowed that his excellent translation, or rather paraphrase, of the Greek original, confers upon him nearly as much celebrity as the rest of his productions. Who is ignorant that Dryden has gained more fame by his nervous and racy translation of the Æneid than by all his plays and prose works put together? The translator who but ill accomplishes his task is much to be pitied, for he will not only injure his own reputation, but also, in some degree, that of his original, especially if he shall have gained some celebrity by his own writings. If he succeed pretty well, with an author for instance so difficult to transpose as Milton, he may perhaps, with the quota of fame which he will reap, compensate nearly the labour that the task will have cost him. If he succeed very well, his name will be often mentioned at the same moment that applause is bestowed upon the original, and he will participate in no small share of the glory of his prototype; and, the more the difficulties he has had to conquer, the fuller, of course, will be bis renown. Such was the case of Pope with Homer, of Annibal Caro and of Dryden with Virgil. From the first-mentioned class of these three we can venture to emancipate, with perfect confidence, M. de Chateaubriand; whether or not he should be assigned to the second or third, (we suspect the second,) can perhaps only be decided by the course of time, which never fails to keep more or less buoyant in the great reservoir of literature, works of intrinsic merit. We, nevertheless, hope to be able to point out what we consider the leading defects and merits of the work before us; and we shall begin with the defects, keeping as clear as possible of that bitterness of temper so common in criticism, and reserving our commendation, the most agreeable task, to the last. To attempt to follow the translator word for word through a performance which, we have heard, and may conclude from what he himself states, has been long on the anvil, would be to swell our criticism to a considerable volume. We propose to linit it to an inquiry into the manner in which the learned Frenchman has accomplished his task, especially in relation to the first, second, third, fourth, ninth, and tenth books of the poem, which all reader's of taste concur in looking upon as the most transcendent of the Paradise Lost.
The first page of the translation contains two faults, which, though of small import, are still faults. “Ou si la colline de Sion, le ruisseau de Silöe, qui coulait rapidement près l'oracle de Dieu," &c. M. de Chateaubriand, in his preliminary remarks, promises us a translation “mot à mot," not very difficult to follow in a work unfettered by rhyme, as are both the original and copy of the poen). “ Fast by” cannot be translated by rapidement. It here means quite close to. He has, too, omitted the and. We should propose in lieu of his version : “si la colline de Sion et le ruisseau de Siloë, qui coulait tout près l'oracle de Dieu," &c. In the next sentence he translates thence by là; de là is thence, là is there. In page 10 we have the line
“There to dwell in adamantine chains," &c. He renders adamantine chains by “ chaines de diamant." Adamant is an imaginary stone of impenetrable hardness, which the word diamant but unsatisfactorily interprets. We almost think, as the tribunal of Port-Royal is extinct, M. de Chateaubriand might have ventured on coining a new FrenchMiltonic word, adamant, which is a sort of poetic mineral, as Shakspeare's mandrake is a poetic vegetable. He has not, we think, abided as near as he might in the fine sentence of “ darkness visible," &c., to the original. He translates rather by seulement. We should prefer the plain plutôt; and we think his obscurité plaintive, “doleful shades," had been better rendered by os ombres mornes de douleur." There is something very Miltonic in the word morne. He omits, we think, toujours needlessly, in rendering the words, “ ever-burning sulphur.” “ Qui brûle toujours sans se consumer," gives more rotundity to the period. In the next sentence, M. de Chateaubriand translates utter darkness, by “ ténèbres extérieures," utter here does not mean outer ; it is simply complete, total. The fault, however, is too trivial to dwell upon; for he is in unison with one meaning of utter, which Johnson gives. He puts in a parenthesis the description of Satan's lance, which we think, mars, in some degree, the original. Better surely would be " sa lance ne serait qu'un roseau dont il se servait," &c., without any parenthesis. In page 40
“ Till good Josiah drove them thence to hell"he omits the translation of till, which we think mutilates the sense not inconsiderably. We presume that the French language will not admit of anything more expressive than " ornée d'un crois