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I agree with your lordship that a translation perfectly close is impossible, because time has sunk the original strict import of a thousand phrases, and we have no means of recovering it. But if we cannot be unimpeachably faithful, that is no reason why we should not be as faithful as we can; and if blank verse affords the fairest chance, then it claims the preference.
Your lordship, I will venture to say, can command me nothing in which I will not obey with the greatest alacrity.
Ει δυναμαι τελεσαι γε, και ει τετελεσμενον εστι.
But when, having made as close a translation as even you can invent, you enjoin me to make it still closer, and in rhyme too, I can only reply, as Horace to Augustus,
cupidum, pater optime, vires
I have not treacherously departed from my pattern that I might seem to give some proof of the justness of my own opinion, but have fairly and honestly adhered as closely to it as I could. Yet your lordship will not have to compliment me on my success, either in respect of the poetical merit of iny lines, or of their fidelity. They have just enough of each to make them deficient in the other.
Oh Phoenix, father, friend, guest sent from Jove'
Since I wrote these I have looked at Pope's. I am certainly somewhat closer to the original than he, but farther I say not. I shall wait with impatience for your lordship's conclusions from these premises, and remain, in the mean time, with great
truth, my lord, &c. W. C.
To WILLIAM COWPER, ESQ.
Dear Cowper—I have received your letter on my journey through London, and as the chaise waits I shall be short. I did not mean it as a sign of any presumption that you have attempted what neither Dryden nor Pope would have dared; but merely as a proof of their addiction to rhyme; for I am clearly convinced that Homer may be better translated than into rhyme, and that you have succeeded in the places I have looked into. But I have fancied that it might have been still more literal, preserving the ease of genuine English and melody, and some degree of that elevation which Homer derives from simplicity. But I could not do it, or even near enough to form a judgment, or more than a fancy about it. Nor do I fancy it could be done “stans pede in uno.” But when the mind has been fully impregnated with the original passage, often revolving it, and waiting for a happy moment, may still be necessary to the
best trained mind. Adieu. Thurlow.
TO THE LORD THURLOW.
My Lord—I haunt you with letters, but will trouble you now with a short line, only to tell your lordship how happy I am that any part of my work has pleased you. I have a comfortable consciousness that the whole has been executed with equal industry and attention; and am, my lord, with many thanks to you for snatching such a hasty moment to write to me, your lordship's obliged and
affectionate humble servant,
These letters cannot fail to be read with great interest.
Having in a former part of this work contrasted the two versions of Cowper and Pope, we shall now close the subject, by quoting Cowper's translation of some well-known and admired passages in the original poem. The classical reader will thus be enabled to determine how far the poet has succeeded in the application of his own principle, and retained the bold and lofty spirit of Homer, while he aims at transfusing his noble simplicity, and adhering strictly to his genuine meaning We have selected the following speci
Hector extending his arms to caress his son Astyanax, in his interview with Andromache :
The hero ended, and his hands put forth
For two other versions of this passage, see Letters, dated Dec. 17, 1793, and Jan. 5, 1794.
He spake, and to his lovely spouse consign'd
Book vi. line 524.
The fatal conflict between Hector and Achilles :
So saying, his keen falchion from his side