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Art. III.-1. The Works of Virgil. Translated by the Rev.
Rann Kennedy and Charles Rann Kennedy, 2 Vols. 1849, 2. My Book. By James Henry, 1853. 3. The Works of Virgil : closely rendered into English Rhythm.
By the Rev. Robert Corbet Singleton, Vol. I. 1855. 4. Virgil : literally translated into English Prose. By Henry Owgan, LL.D. 1857. OT long ago * we invited the attention of the public to
Horace and his translators. From Horace to Virgil is a natural and easy transition, and we are now accordingly going to offer some remarks on the English translators of Virgil, though we cannot plead the excuse of the appearance of any recent versions by eminent hands, by noble lords or accomplished statesmen. Our intention is to furnish some answer to two distinct though connected questions: How has Virgil been translated ? and how may he be translated ?
To attempt an exhaustive account of all the translations of the whole or parts of Virgil which have been made in English is a task which would exceed our own opportunities, as it probably would the wishes of our readers. Many of these productions are doubtless unknown to us : with others we are acquainted by name or by character, but they do not happen to be within our reach. It is obvious too that there must be a considerable number which do not deserve even the slender honour of a passing commemoration. Here, as elsewhere, something will depend on the date and consequent rarity of the book. A worthless translation of the nineteenth century calls for no mention at all; the work can be procured without difficulty, or the reader, if he .pleases, can himself produce something of the same character. A worthless translation of the sixteenth century has an adventitious value: it is probably rare, and at any rate the power of producing anything similar is gone for ever. While, therefore, we do not cater for professed antiquaries, we may perhaps hope to interest those who care to see how Virgil has fared at the hands of writers, great and small, belonging to the various schools of English poetry-who for the sake of a few instances of beauty and ingenuity will pardon a good deal of quaintness and even some dullness, and are not too severe to smile at occasional passages of rampant extravagance and undisguised absurdity.
A very few words are all that need be spent on the first translation of Virgil into English by Caxton. The title, or rather tail-piece, runs as follows : «Here fynyssheth the boke of eydos,
compyled by Vyrgyle, whiche hathe be translated oute of latyne in to frenshe, And oute of frenshe reduced in to Englysshe by me Wylls Caxton the xxii, daye of luyn, the yeare of our lorde m.iiii clxxxx. The fythe yeare of the Regne of Kynge Henry the seuenth.' Some account of the original work (by Guillaume de Roy) may be found in Warton's 'History of English Poetry,' Section xxiv. It seems, in fact, to be a romance made out of the Æneid by numerous excisions and some additions, the bulk of the whole being comparatively small. We have only glanced at the translation, the printing as well as the language of which is calculated to repel all but black-letter students; but its chief characteristic seems to be excessive amplification of the Latin, This is apparently the version of Virgil's two lines (Æn. IV. 9, 10):
* Anna soror, quæ me suspensam insomnia terrent !
Quis novus hic nostris successit sedibus hospes !' * Anne my suster and frende I am in ryghte gret thoughte strongely troubled and incyted, by dremes admonested whiche excyte my courage tenquire the maners & lygnage of this man thus valyaunt, strong, & puyssaunt, whiche deliteth hym strongely to speke, in deuysing the hie fayttes of armes and perillys daungerous whiche he sayth to haue passed, neweli hither comyn to soiourne in our countreys. I am so persuaded of grete admonestments that all my entendement is obfusked, endullyd and rauysshed.'
It was not long before Caxton was to meet with one who proved himself both a severe critic and a successful rival. This was the Reverend Father in God, Mayster Gawin Douglas, Bishop of Dunkel, and unkil to the Erle of Angus,' whose . xiii Bukes of Eneados of the famose Poete Virgill translatet out of Latyne verses into Scottish metir,' though not published till 1553, was written forty years earlier. In the poetical preface to this work—a composition of some five hundred lines—there is a long paragraph, entitled in the margin ‘Caxtoun's faultes,' which passes in review the various delinquencies of the father of printing: his omission of the greater part of the thre first bukis,' his assertion that the storm in Book I. was sent forth by Æolus and Neptune, the prolixt and tedious fassyoun' in which he deals with the story of Dido, his total suppression of the fifth Book, his ridiculous rejection of the descent into the shades as fabulous, his confusion of the Tiber with the Tover, his substi, tution of Crispina for Deiphobe as the name of the Sibyl, the whole being summed up by the assurance that - ;
*His buk is na mare like Virgil, dar I lay,
The Bishop's own version has been highly praised by competent judges, and we think deservedly. One specimen we will give, and it shall be from the exordium of Book I. :
The battellis and the man I will discriue,
Come, and the walleris of grete Rome alsua.' The reader of these lines will not fail to remark their general closeness to the original, at the same time that he will be struck with a certain diffuseness, such as seems to be an inseparable adjunct of all early poetry. To expect that such rude and primitive workmanship should represent adequately Virgil's peculiar graces would of course be absurd ; but the effort was a great one for the time when it was made, and our northern neighbours may well be proud of it.
Not less marked, though not altogether of the same character, is the interest attaching to the next translation, or rather fragment of translation. The Earl of Surrey may or may not have died too soon for the political well-being of England, but his fate was undoubtedly an untimely one for her literature, and the historian who denies his claim to our sympathy expressly acknowledges his brilliant genius.' * His version, which embraces the Second and Fourth Books of the Æneid, deserves attention not only for its own sake, but as the first known specimen of English blank verse. As might be expected, the versification is not entitled to any very high positive praise. It is languid and monotonous, and sometimes unmetrical and inharmonious; but the advance upon Gawin Douglas is very perceptible. The language is chiefly remarkable for its purity and simplicity; occasionally there is a forcible expression, but in general a uniform medium is kept, and a modern reader will still complain a little of prolixity, though he will acknowledge that the fault is being gradually corrected. Dr. Nott has remarked that some parts of the translation are more highly-wrought than others; and while he draws attention to the fact that Surrey has frequently copied Douglas, whose work must have been known
* Froude's Hist. of England, vol. iv. p. 509.
to him in MS., he notes that these obligations are much more frequent in the Second Book than in the Fourth. The following extract (we quote from Dr. Nott's edition) will perhaps give an adequate notion of Surrey's manner (Æn. ÍI, 228, • Tum vero tremefacta,' &c.) :
• New gripes of dread then pierce our trembling breasts.
They said, Lacon's deserts had dearly bought
And well were they whose hands might touch the cords.' The next translator, like Surrey, only lived to accomplish a portion of the Æneid: but it was a much larger portion, and it had the good fortune to be completed by another hand, Thomas Phaer, at one time sollicitour to the king and quene's majesties, attending their honourable counsaile in the marchies of Wales,' afterwards doctour of physike,' published seven Books of the Æneid in 1558. At his death, two years afterwards, he left a version of the Eighth and Ninth Books and a part of the Tenth ; and in 1573 'the residue' was supplied and the whole worke together newly set forth by Thomas Twyne, gentleman.' This translation is in the long fourteen-syllable or ballad metre, which had then come into vogue, being used even in versions from the drama,* and which was afterwards adopted by Chapman in rendering the Iliad. It is of Chapman, indeed, that the ordinary reader will most naturally think in turning over Phaer's pages. Not to dwell on the essential difference between the two involved in the choice of subject, the ballad-measure of Queen Mary's time being as ill suited to the Virgilian hexameter as the balladmeasure of King James's may be well suited to the Homeric, we shall probably be justified in saying that Phaer's inferiority in original power makes him more faithful as a translator, though less interesting as a writer, and that his greater prolixity gives him a certain advantage in dealing with a measure which
* See Warton's account of Seneca his tenne Tragedies translated into English,' 1581 (Hist, of Eng. Poetry, ş lvii.).
from its enormous length can hardly be made attractive, when written, as Chapman has written it, in couplets closely interlaced and complicated with each other. But Phaer has little or nothing of that ' daring fiery spirit' which, as Pope says, made Chapman write like an immature Homer; and though his language is not without merit, not many expressions can be quoted from him which would appear felicitous to a modern taste. His greatest eulogist is Godwin,* who pronounces his book the most wonderful depository of living description and fervent feeling that is to be found, perhaps, in all the circle of literature ;' and, after quoting various passages with the highest commendation, says that whoever shall read his version of Anchises's speech about Marcellus, at the end of the Sixth Book, will cease to wonder that the imperial court was dissolved in tears at Virgil's recital. Let us see if we can transcribe it dry-eyed :• Æneas there (for walke with him he saw a seemly knight, A goodly springold yong in glistring armour shining bright, But nothing glad in face, his eyes downcast did shewe no cheere), O father, what is he that walkes with him as equall peere ? His onely son ? or of his stock some child of noble race ? What bustling makes his mates? how great he goth with portly
grace ? But cloud of louring night his head full heauy wrappes about. Then lord Anchises spake, and from his eyes the teares brake out, O son, thy peoples huge lamented losse seeke not to knowe. The destnies shall this child onto the world no more but showe, Nor suffer long to liue : 0 Gods, though Rome you think to strong And ouermuch to match, for enuie yet do us no wrong. What wailings loude of men in stretes, in feeldes, what mourning
cries In mighty campe of Mars, at this mans death in Rome shall rise ? What funeralls, what numbers dead of corpses O Tyber flood, whan fleeting nere his new tombe thou shalt flee? Nor shall there neuer child from Troian line that shal proceede Exalt his graunsirs hope so hie, nor neuer Rome shal breede An impe of maruel more, nor more on man may iustly bost. O vertue, O prescribid faith, O righthand valiaunt most! Durst no man him haue met in armes conflicting, foteman fearce, Or wold he fomy horses sides with spurres encountring pearce. O piteous child, if euer thou thy destnies hard maist breake, Marcellus thou shalt be. Now reatche me Lillies, Lilly flours, Giue purple Violetts to me, this neuews soule of ours With giftes that I may spreade, and though my labour be but yayne, Yet do my duety deere I shall. Thus did they long complayne.' The remaining attempts in the sixteenth century deserve regis
shalt thou see,
* Lives of Edward and John Philips' (Londo , 1815), pp. 247 foll.