17 NOVEMBER 1866, Page 16


MR. CONINGTON'S 2ENEID., PROFESSOR CONINGTON has at least succeeded in doing all in his translation of the ..deneid to which he himself, in his graceful pre- face, lays claim. He is so well aware of the difficulties of repro- ducing Virgil, and puts so modestly his own choice of metre as a choice of the one mode—not necessarily the best in itself—but the best suited to his powers, that he anticipates the only oral- • The ,Eeeid of TOW. Translated into English Verse by John Conington, Mts., Corpus Professor of Latin in the University of Oxford. London: Longtoans. 1866. clam on his general plan which would have any validity. There is undoubtedly in this version the merit at which Mr. Coning- ton chiefly aimed, when he chose Sir Walter Scott's metre as we see it in Marmion and the Lord of the Isles for his render- ing of Virgil's 2Eneid,—the merit of a rapidity of narrative quite equal to Virgil's own. Our translator's own criticism on this metre is, we think, very true,—that it is expressive of the rapidity of fast riding,—of a love of motion for its own sake. On the other hand, the sort of rapidity for which Virgil's style is re- markable seems to us the rapidity of a quick eye, of running water, involuntary rapidity,—not the rapidity of animal spirits, but of intellectual conception, the rapidity of clear vision, which does not disdain here and there to stay and eddy round a single point when it is fascinated with its own thought, and hurries on only when the hurry of events does not interfere with distinctness and clearness of vision. The difference between the two styles is seen in remarkable contrast in the description of some of the games in honour. of Anchises' shade in the fifth book, where Mr. Coning- ton's translation is exceedingly spirited, and in some respects better than the original,—better on this account, that it expresses the bounding animation of the rivals themselves, the pulses of eager strife, while Virgil only gives the clear passionless picture in the eyes of a spectator. Take the following, for instance, the trans- lation of the boat-race between Gyas and Cloanthus, which has all the animation in it which Mr. Hughes threw into his admirable University boat-race in Tom Brown at Oxford " At length the rock before them lay:

The goal was in their roach: When Gyas, conqueror of the way, His helmsman thus, Mencetes gray, Plies with upbraiding speech : 'Why to the right so blindly push?

Here, take a narrower sweep : Hug close the shore, nor fear its crush : The cliff's left hand our oars should brush: Let others hold the deep.'

So Gyas : but Mencetes fears The hidden rocks, and seaward steers.

'What ! swerving still?' he shouts once more : The shore, Mencetea! seek the shore!'

And backward as he turns his eyes, 0 death ! Cloanthus he descries Close following, nearer and more near, And all but springing on his rear.

'Twiat Gyas and the rocky shoal The rival deftly glides, Shoots to the forefront, turns the goal, And gains the safer tides.

Grief flashed to flame in Gyas' soul: Tears from his eyes were seen to roll : All reckless of his own true pride And his imperilled crew, He seized the dilatory guide

And from the vessel threw :

Himself assumes the helm, and cheers His merry men, and shoreward steers.

But old Mencetes, when the main Gave him at length to light again, Landward with feeble motion swims, His wet clothes clinging to his lima, Ascends the rock, and sits on high There on the summit, safe and dry.

To see him fall the Trojans laughed : They laughed to see him float,

And laugh, as now the briny draught He sputters from his throat.'

It is obvious here that the " moss-trooper " metre in which he writes has lashed Mr. Conington to an impatience quite beyond his original, and which certainly improves the spirit of the race. Compare,

" 'What ! swerving still ?' he shouts once more:

The shore, Mencetes ! seek the shore !'

And backward as he turns his eyes, 0 death! Cloanthus he descries Close following, nearer and more near, And all but springing on his rear,"

with Virgil's

" ' Quo diversus abis?' iterum: pete smut, Mencete, Cam clamor° Gyaa revocabat ; et ecce Cloanthum Respicit instantem tergo et propiora tenentem !"

"0 death !" is clearly far beyond " ecce !" which is the mere " voilit!" of a spectator, the explanatory " see " with which an amateur watching the race would explain the situation, not the exclamation of an eager partizan of Gyas.

And again, a little further on, Mr. Conington has rendered Virgil's reflective and almost analytic remark,

"Turn vero exarsit juveni dolor ossibus ingens," into something much more impatient in its force,—

" Grief flashed to flame in Gyas' soul,—" the very omission of Virgil's calm and spectatorial "turn vero

marking the different pulse of the original and the translation. In this passage Mr. Conington far surpasses Dryden, Pitt, and Simmons in spirit and accuracy.

No one probably is better aware than Mr. Conington that the very quality of metre which lends force to this admir- able translation of the games, often robs Virgil of that serene and dignified sweetness which is his peculiar epic characteris- tic. The rapidity of motion cannot be substituted for rapidity of pictorial insight, for the swiftly running stream of limpid intellectual conception, — without a general disturbance of effect. And while Mr. Conington is very successful usually in the pathetic, and even surpasses his author sometimes in the eager parts, he fails in what is perhaps most Virgilian of all, the sweet serenity of dignified moral sentiment. When, for instance, /Eneas soothes his disheartened followers with mild sad patience, telling them they have had large knowledge of misfortune already, and saying to them, with pathetic eloquence,

"0 passi graviora dabit dens his quoque finem I" Mr. Conington translates with exquisite tact and feeling,— " Comrades and friends, for ours is strength

Has brooked the test of woes, Oh worse-scarred hearts ! These wounds at length The Gods will heal like those !"

But when 2Eneas goes on in Virgil's most characteristic strain to moralize in a way that could not possibly have been a comfort to anybody in actual distress, and which yet has a great literary charm to those who are not :—

" Revocate animos, maestumque timorem Mittite. Forsan at haec ohm meminisse juvabit. Per varios easus, per tot discrimina rerum Tendimus in Latium, Bodes ubi fate quietas Ostendunt : illic fas regna resurgere Trojae : Durate, et vosmet rebus servate secundis,"

—Mr. Conington, no doubt partly misled by the cheerful rhymes of his metre, loses to our ear all trace of the Virgilian flavour of the exhortation,—

" Come, cheer your souls, your fears forget, This suffering will yield us yet

A pleasant tale to tell; Through chance, through peril lies our way To Latium, where the Fates display A mansion of abiding stay ;

There Troy her fallen realm shall raise, Bear up, and live for happier days."

The mild grandeur of epic feeling expressed in

"Per varios casus, per tot discrimina rerum Tendimus in Latium,"

is quite lost in

"Through chance, through peril lies our way To Latium."

Simmons is here, we think, though not reaching the Virgilian elevation and serenity, nearer it than either Dryden or Pitt, and much nearer than Mr. Conington

:- "Collect your souls ! be bold ! e'en toils like these, Recalled by memory, will haply please;

Through various labours, through a storm of fate, We struggle onward to our Latian State. There peace awaits us ; there reviving Troy. Endure, and keep yourselves for coming joy I"

So, too, in single lines, when Virgil has concentrated all the dignity of his art, as, for example, in the prophecy of the future greatness of Rome, Mr. Conington's metre breaks down, and exercises a paralyzing effect on his mind, just as in passages of the fifth book it exercises a tonic and stimulating effect on his mind:— " Quin aspera Juno Quae mare nunc terrasque meta coelumque fatigat Consilia in melius referet, mecumque fovebit Romanos rerun dominos gentemque togatam,"

15 very poorly rendered by,— " Nay, Juno's Bell, whose wild alarms Set ocean, earth, and heaven in arms, Shall change for smiles her moody frown, And vie with me in zeal to crown Rome's sons, the nation of the gown."

The " rernm dominos" is, if not entirely left out, very feebly rendered by "to crown," and what is worse, the stately tone of divine foreknowledge is drowned in the quick flap of the short rhymes. Dryden is here naturally enough far nearer the effect of the original:—.

"E'en haughty Juno, who with endless broils Earth, seas and heaven, and Jove himself turmoils, At length ;toned, her friendly power shall join To cherish and advance the Trojan line ; The subject world shall Rome's dominion own, And prostrate shall adore the nation of the gown ;"

though here the "prostration" and " adoration " are as much in excess of the dignity of the original,—verging sensibly towards the magniloquent,—as Mr. Conington's version is below it.

Mr. Conington tells us frankly that "a translator will often be better employed in endeavouring to bring about resemblance to his author by applying a principle of compensation, by strengthen- ing his version in any way best suited to his powers, so long as it be not repugnant to the genius of the original," than in trying to render the special felicities of an original author by felicities of exactly the same individual type. This remark is no doubt true in itself, and its application has been partly determined in the direction of lyrical intensity by the metre which Professor Coning- ton has chosen, which admits of greater warmth and variety of expression than Virgil's smoothly rippling hexameter, and fails only in the direction of placid sententious wisdom. We feel no doubt that Mr. Conington has often really " compensated " his translation for a clear loss in this latter direction by giving a more decidedly lyrical emphasis—almost a wail of pathetic pain—to thoughts which in his original are set down lightly, with a touch of meditative criticism, if not scepticism. The first instance of this meets us at the very outset. Where Virgil invokes the Muse to remind him of the wrongs which made Juno persecute with so relentless a hate the subject of his poem, he closes the invocation with what we have always regarded as intended to convey a flavour of sententious irony,— " Tantaene animia ca§lestibua irae !"

which Mr. Conington translates beautifully, but with a very different turn of thought,—

" Can heavenly natures nourish hate So fierce, so blindly passionate?"

—where the ring of both words and metre conveys rather eloquent pain, and staggered faith, than the calm irony of Augustan wisdom So, again, where /Eneas relates the fall of Rhipeus in the sacking of Troy, and with a stately melancholy combines all the generous warmth of personal friendship,—

" Cadit at Rhipeus justissimus mum

Qui fuit in Teuoris, et servantissimus aequi ; Die aliter vision."

—Mr. Conington translates,— " Then Rhipeus dies, no purer son

Troy ever bred, more jealous none

Of sacred right ; Heaven's will be done."

and certainly imports into the last words a touch of feeling foreign to the original, to make up for the less dignified movement of the thought. No doubt he is right in holding that Virgil did not mean to say that Heaven had judged differently of the moral worth of Rhipeus from his own hero. There is probably no sarcasm of that kind on Providence imputed to &new. The meaning is, no doubt, that Heaven judged differently from himself of the fate which Rhipeus deserved. Still "Heaven's will be done" implies a profound submission of heart which cannot be found in the stoical melancholy of the admission that the Gods took a different view from himself of the true destiny for Rhipeus. Virgil at most makes Eneas recognize and admit the overruling power, but certainly not pray that his own heart may acquiesce in its decree. Even if there is no faint touch of sarcasm in the "Disaliter visum,"—of which Mr. Conington is a much better judge than we can be,—there is surely no Christian resignation in it.. The compensation here is in depth of feeling for Virgil's senten- tious melancholy. There is a similar compensation in the passage quoted so often last session by Mr. Lowe and Mr. Gladstone, con- cerning the reception of the Trojan horse into Troy. This is one of the passages in Mr. Conington's version which reminds US most of Sir Walter Scott, and it is difficult to conceive that he had not the ring of Sir Walter's address to Caledonia,— " Land of the mountain and the flood

Land of brown heath and shaggy wood!

in his head as he wrote it :— " 0 Mum, city of my hove!

0 warlike home of powers above!

Four times 'twas on the threshold stayed :

Four times the armour clashed and brayed.. Yet on we press with passion blind, All forethought blotted from our mind, Till the dread monster we instal Within the temple's tower-built wall.

E'en then Cassandra's prescient voice

Forewarned us of our fatal choice,

That prescient voice, which Heaven decreed No son of Troy should hear and heed.

We, careless souls, the city through, With festal boughs the lanes bestrew, And in such revelry employ The last, last day should shine on Troy.'

There is far more of the impetuousness of the Border minstrelsy about this, far more of the frank warmth of Sir Walter Scott's patriotism, than of Virgil's historical and epic sadness,-.-in

"0 ratria, 0 divilm &anus Ilium, et inclyta hello Moenia Dardanklum!"

And, again, •Mr. Conington's "last, last day should shine on Troy" has a 'sort of heat and sob in it which is entirely absent from the beautiful and pathetic serenity of Virgil's

"Not miseri qaibus animas esset Ille dies."

No doubt the ultimus ' so placed is not less emphatic than Mr. Omington's reiterated last,' but the device of reiteration to express the emphasis of sadness, is in itself expressive of a child- like impulsiveness of feeling, different in tone from Virgil's stately tenderness of historical melancholy. Mr. Conington's translation does not often reach a higher point of lyrical passion than in Dido's farewell words

"She eyed the robes with wistful look, And pausing, thought awhile and wept : Then pressed her to the couch, and spoke Her last goodnight or are she slept.

Sweet relics of a time of love, When fate and heaven were kind, Receive my life-blood, and remove These torments of the mind.

My life is lived, and I have played The part that Fortune gave, And now I pass, a queenly shade, Majestic to the grave.

A glorious city I have built, Have seen my walls ascend, Chastised for blood of husband spilt A brother, yet no friend.

Blest lot ! yet lacked one blessing more, That Troy had never touched my shore.'

Then, as she kissed the darling bed, `To die ! and unrevenged ! ' she said, 'Yet let me die : thus, thus I go Exulting to the shades below.

Let the false,Dardan feel the blaze

That barns me pouring on his gaze, And bear along, to cheer his way, The funeral presage of to-day.'"

The difference between this and Virgil, is that Mr. Conington's version is much fuller of the woman's passionate pangs, and Virgil's of the last flash of queenly pride.

"Receive my life-blood, and remove These torments of the mind,"

is far mere sick of life than Virgil's

"Accipite harm animam mega() his exsolvite curls." And, on the other hand, Virgil's

"Vial, et quem dederat cursnm fortuna, peregi, Et mule magna mei sub terms ibit imago,"

is far more proud and stately than,

"My life is lived, and I have played The part that Fortune gave ; And now I pass, a queenly shade, Majestic to the grave."

On the whole, Mr. Conington's version seems to us far superior in the one feature he has 'aimed at, narrative rapidity, to all the thtee others-with-Which we are acquainted,—Dryden's, Pitt's, and Slitimons',—And 'to have-Also at times a lyrical intensity of feeling beyond-the otigittal itself. On the Other hand, it has nedessarily 'leas sententious balance than most of its competitors, and -its eager movement is never the inovenient of -Virgil, and only here and there as well stdted to Virgil's subject as his own metre. :In-a few places there are blots, baldnesses of style, which in atcomplished a translator take the reader by surprise. For Inattnee, Mr. Conitigton translates " agmina conscia jungunt," "and introduce their conscious mates," as if a plot to sack a tOwn could by any potsibility be performed unconseionsly. Again, he makes Entellas tail youth a." thing,"—.

"Had I the thing I once posseised, Which makes yen braggart rear his crest,- Had I but youth," &c.

In another pines. he calls the mysterious serpent which comes forth as an omen of Anchises' satisfaetion in the funeral games " a


"Unknowing in his wondering awe How beat to name the beast he saw."

This is assuming the very point in question. 2Eneas' real diffi- culty was rather whether it was a beast at all, and not rather a mystic apparition or symbol of the genius loci. Again, in relation to Scylla, he translates " pistrix " (sea monster), a whale (we suppose very like a whale' was in his mind),—

"Below, all a hideous whale, Wolfs belly linked to dolphin's tail,"

where the second line contradicts the"translation of the litet. 'The -wotst, we think, of the little blots on Mr. Conin,gton's transla- tion, is that where Sinon speaks of the' fear of the Greeks lest the lot of human victim should fall oneach one of theta thus :-

"Through every heart a shudder rat Apollo's victim—who the man ?' "

—an atrocious vulgarism, which Mr. Conington, who kindly promises in his preface to avoid ballad slang, and keeps his promise, should have felt to be far worse than ballid slang,--. newspaper slang. If the Greeks bad had a Troy Herald, the sensational heading of the column of Latest Intelligence' wbuld certainly have been, "Apollo's victim—who the man ?"

But after all, these blotware comparatively rare. The version, asa whole, is full of taste, and has passages of rare beauty and pathos. The narrative runs on with a swift current, and'alstays rises in elevation with the original, though often with a very different selection of the special mood to which it gives most emphasis. The accuracy of translation is far greater than in any version known to us, and though we have, throughout, cm doibta as to the wisdom of choosing the ballad metre,—the metre once granted, Mr. Conington has made more of it than -we should have thought possible. To the young at least, we suspect, this will always be the most popular version of the 2Eneld. The variety and velocity Of the rhythm make a poem of mild, -iiiveet, historic lustre beat with the swift pulse of youth.