17 JANUARY 1885, Page 19

MODERN GREEK LYRICAL POETRY.* ONE of the unfortunate but inevitable

results of the Erasmian pronunciation is that it renders English readers totally unable to appreciate the rhythm of Modern Greek verse, in which a great deal of its charm resides. That this inability involves a real loss, we are prepared to maintain ; and we would adduce in support of our opinion tie fact that two nations differing sowidely in intellectual temperament as the French and the Germans are at one in the interest they display in the literature of Modern Greece. In evidence of this, we have only to point, amongst a number of similar works, to the valuable collections of Fauriel and Passow, and the monumental researches of Legrand, which combine French enthusiasm with Teutonic erudition.

In comparison with our neighbours, it must be confessed that in this field we Englishmen make but a sorry show, and that themeagre list of our contributions reflects discredit en the comprehensiveness of our scholarship. We have, it is true, some half a dozen enthusiasts among us ; but they are voices crying in the wilderness. Professors Blackie, Jebb, Mahaffy, and Mr. Geldart have, by their lectures, essays, and descriptive writings, given some slight impulse to the study of Modern Greek ; but the barrenness of results may best he illustrated by the fact that, in the list of publications of the Oxford University Press, the only book treating of the subject is Mr. Geldart's slim volume of lectures on the relation of Modern to Classical Creek ; while we doubt if up to the present date the Cambridge Press has issued any such work at all. This has struck us as all the more remarkable, because by encouraging and patronising the study of the living — _ — _

• The pea" Specimens and Extracts translated by Florence 31,2n:en:Jo. Lori& 1: : al.d Co.

language, which is acknowledged to be a valuable means of communication throughout South-Eastern Europe, our leading scholars would be able to give a most effective answer to the utilitarian arguments of those who would dispense with the study of the dead language altogether. Moreover, the present writer can answer, from his own experience, for the renewed interest with which, after a course of the modern, one recurs to the study of the classical literature. But, as we have indicated above, our mode of pronunciation—which has been justly described as one which enables us to understand one another, at the cost of being unintelligible to the rest of the world—remains the most fatal block in the way of an intelligent study of a literature possess ing many characteristic and attractive features. Conceive the state of our patriotic feelings if the Germans were to promulgate and adopt a method of pronouncing Shakespeare differing absolutely from our own And yet this is not a very unfair picture of our treatment of the Greeks,—a treatment which, it is well to remind all scholars, is naturally resented by their leading literary men, and justly regarded by them as an effectual hindrance to the manifestation of an appreciative interest

in their literature by English readers. The following experience of an English visitor to Athens may be taken as the reductio ad absurdum of the Erasmian pronunciation. Having learnt that a fine sarcophagus had been recently dug up, this gentleman set off in the direction of the quarter where the discovery had been made, and meeting a gendarme, addressed to him the following query,—Pow estin ho sarcophagus ?

exozopsiyo;). To which the Greek replied,—" Bono Johnny, me no spik Inglish."

In the face, then, of the comparative dearth of interest ex

hibited by English classicists, it is a refreshing sign of the times to find an English lady possessing the general scholarship and the special familiarity with her subject which lend

such value to this volume of translations from the poetry of modern Greece. The authoress has, in the first place, one requisite of the highest value to a translator, a perfect understanding of the meaning of the original. She is also so well read in the history of modern Greece as to be able to elucidate all allusions, personal or geographical. And lastly, her evident familiarity with our own ballad-poetry lends force and spirit to her renderings of the Klephtic songs. The collection is divided into two parts, the first comprising specimens of the popular ballads of Greece, the second containing translations from the works of lettered Greek poets of the present century. If the authoress is at her best in the former, recalling the spirit of Lockhart's Spanish ballads by her vigorous renderings, it is, in our opinion, because she has here shown far better judgment in making selections than in the field of recent or contemporary verse. No collection of Modern Greek poetry can lay claim to be really representative which does not contain specimens of Chrestopoulos, who is conspicuous by his absence from this volume. Again, while perhaps justly denying originality to Alexander Soutsos, except in his early satirical pieces, Miss McPherson has surely acted unfairly by him in not making extracts from the one department in which, according to her own confession, he excelled. She might well have given us one of his stinging onslaughts on Capodistrias, the refrains of

which, as A. R. Ranga,be, the doyen of Modern Greek literature, tells us, have passed into proverbs, such as that, for instance, of the journalist, tlEp,u6; ETucci werrpteer4; rxi x,ovzxf,tiAlet /346). n z%77.06P74,"couc Z'IBEI; rj iPn,,4=Prisc "I'm a staunch and fiery patriot, loyal to the very kernel : Find me office, or I'll start a hostile opposition journal."

Much that is characteristic of Modern Greek verse is almost impossible to reproduce; for example, its iterations and constant

refrains, as in the charming NotYcipta,ua, or Lullaby, by Valaorites, where Miss McPherson fails most conspicuously to render the grace of the original. Here, too, as in one or two other passages, there is some bad grammar, such a sentence as this being in

excusable :—

" Come ! (sc. dreams) a poor mother forsaking not, Beside her babe who lies Taking their lullabies."

Another slight blot is the writer's predilection for the epithet " swarthy " in inappropriate applications, as, for example, to the " flanks " of a ship. Nor has she always succeeded in grasping the metre of the original in those poems where she professes to reproduce it. We have detected also one slight chronological flaw, possibly a printer's error, in a note on p.106, stating that Miaoulis, the famous Hydriote sea-captain, died in

1837. This should be 1831, in which year the collection of lyrics by Panagiotes Soutsos was published containing the elegy which Miss McPherson translates. These blemishes, however, do not detract from the solid merit of the work, which deserves a cordial welcome as an effort to raise the study of Modern Greek literature from the magazine-article level, to which it has hitherto been almost exclusively confined. The following passage is a fair sample of Miss McPherson's powers as a translator :— "THE PALLIEAR'S LAST MESSAGE.

Bear ye this message to my love, my own beloved one : At Easter she most mourning go, nor festal garments don, Nor braid her hair, nor garnishing of golden coins put on. These tidings to my mother bear, my mother sorrowing sore, Bid her not hope for my return, nor e'er await me more ; But tell her not that I am slain ; say not that I am dead ; Say, far amid the forest lone, a wife I've wooed and wed. The hard rock my new mother is, the black earth is my bride ; My kin by marriage are the dust and pebbles at my side."