1 NOVEMBER 1884, Page 39


Or all the departments of modern Greek literature, perhaps none is so fully represented as that of translations. At all times in the course of the last four centuries, the travelled. and enlight- ened members of the community have assiduously striven to

bring the literary masterpieces of other nations within the reach of their less fortunate brethren. Before the Greek Revo- lution, this work, generally carried on abroad, was undertaken as an indirect but powerful means of stimulating their fellow- countrymen to shake off the Ottoman yoke, under the stifling pressure of which original thought was well-nigh impossible. This same practical bent marks also the period of their Renais- sance, which abounds in translations, Tasso, Voltaire, Moliere, Metastasio, Alfieri having all been rendered into verse or prose between 1800 and 1830. As is remarked by one of their greatest writers, A. R. Rangabe, one of the leading features of the epoch was "its desire to enrich the national literature with the choicest productions of other nations as so many patterns whereby to model their new career." In this as in other depart-

ments the Hellenists and the champions of the spoken dialect are both represented ; and while more recently the principal plays of Shakespeare have been rendered into homely tetrameters by Vikelas, Musurus Pasha has now completed two-thirds of his version of the Divina Commedia in what he calls Kayomarpipn EAionax.ti, or the academic style introduced by Corny.

The labour and resolution necessary to achieve such a task, at an advanced age, would in themselves prepossess a critic iu the writer's favour. But apart from this the version before us is marked by intrinsic merits which, if not of the highest order, are at any rate eminently acceptable to a reader who is familiar with English versions of the Italian epic. A close comparison of this translation with those of Cary, the best-known verse, and of Dugdale, the most recent prose version, has led us to decide in its favour on the score of fidelity, a prime essential in works of this sort. Indeed, it has been to us for some time past a cause for wonder, and this seems a fitting occasion to express it, that Cary's translation should have held its own for so long against all-comers as the most popular rendering of Dante, and that the mere feeling of discontent should not have produced a version in which the statuesque simplicity of the original should be less outrageously defaced. For the value of the notes cannot extenuate the faults of the style, which is what might have been expected from Dr.

Johnson, had he set to work to rewrite Milton. In mystical or philosophical passages the translator is almost invariably more obscure than his original, archaisms of the most vicious type

are perpetuated, epithets foisted in to display research, as when Tommaso is rendered by "the Angelic teacher;" Girevenale,

" Aquinum's bard ;" while in the development of single words a

faculty for "expansion" is shown that would do credit to the most imaginative journalist of to-day, vccellin becoming " diminutive birds," augelletti " feathered quiristers," and vizzo "the pulp of summer fruit mature." As has been pointedly remarked in the preface to their version of the Odyssey by

Messrs. Butcher and Lang, no translation is final. And a trans- lation overcharged with the mannerisms of any age might natur- ally be expected to become rapidly obsolete. Still, in defiance

of this principle, Cary's version, a flagrant exception to the law of the survival of the fittest, continues to enjoy a larger circu- lation and a wider popularity than any other English rendering of the Divina Commedia.

Turning to the work of Musurus Pasha, we find it, on the whole, a clear and faithful rendering of the original, in spite of numerous small inaccuracies and the inevitable incon- gruity attaching to an artificial and eclectic style. Occa- sionally the archaisms are dexterously and appropriately

wrought into the texture of the poem, and more than once we have come across classical reminiscences that are decidedly felicitous. But as a set-off must be noticed the introduction of Homeric words, like ircati.47isic, ciiperkolic, alongside of Hellen- istic words such as pouTalx, and modernisms like uederroti; and rearm, in the sense of " to hold." It is only just, however, to the translator to say that these last are reduced to a minimum,

* Dart's Pargatoria. Translated into Greek Ye se by Muslims Paella, D.C.L. London: Williams and No ga.e.

Ai and vic being absolutely excluded. Nevertheless, the juxta-

position of classical forms taken from all authors and all dialects, from Homer downwards, tends to give the diction the appearance of a mosaic. The metre, which is accentual and not quantitative, resembles the iambic trimeter in the possession of twelve syllables, but in nothing else, the climax of the accent falling on the penultimate syllable of each line. The original is fairly represented so far as the length of the line goes, but the absence of any marked stress before the end of the line deprives the rhythm of decision and fluency, characteristics which most modern Greek poets are inclined to exaggerate rather than neglect.

Dismissing the consideration of the form for that of the matter, we have to notice as the chief defects of this translation the constant omission of characteristic expressions which are not essential to the meaning ; the systematic manner in which any grotesque or quaint image is diluted or modified ; and, lastly, the dexterity—often worthy of a veteran diplomatist—with which difficulties are evaded or slurred over. As an instance of

dilution, we may quote, " Ale; _Asa; 5re' 051-41 pciyce5.," where- the fine metaphor contained in the Italian, " Ma la bonik infinite ha si gran breccia," iii., 122, is quite missed. SO, too, the pic- turesque word " piovve " [xvii., 2&], "There showered into my fantasy," is tamely paraphrased by " znpgar4." To illustrate the tendency to evade difficulties, we will content ourselves by pointing out that in v. 75 and x. 65 the ambiguous words " grembo " and " alzato" are entirely omitted in the Greek.

In addition to these blemishes, there are not a few passages where actual misrenderings occur, one or two of which may here be singled out. In Canto iii., 1. 37, " State contenti, umana gents., al TIM," correctly rendered by Cary, " Seek not the

wherefore, race of human kind," is quite misrepresented in the version " riyo; iirt1p1.1%-or, dpzEi got TO 4.161-1." Again, xxii., 106,

" Euripide v'e nosco," is, by a strange misapprehension, trans- lated " Elyez-180 Zysas." There are also several curious slips in

the case of single words,—though none comparable to that of the most recent English translator of the Purgatorio, who, in xxiv., 14.5, confounds " albore " with "albero," and speaks of "the breeze of May the forerunner of the trees," instead of the dawn— and a long list of errata by no means exhausts all the typo-

graphical errors to be found in this handsome volume.

The following short extract from the seventh Canto will enable the reader to judge of the closeness with which the Greek translator follows his original in descriptive passages, in which he is always seen at his best :—

" Non area pur nature ivi dipiuto, Ma di soaviti di male odori

Vi faceva on incognito indistinto."—vii., 79 81.

" Ov kuSsew Esel 'Cco7pcieprio-ev Outs AAA' fbwalais ueptrov itpmµiTwv luq4uppao-rov sal VEOY."

A version in every point superior to the tawdry paraphrase of Dugdale,—" Nature had not been content with lavishing her multifarious hues, but with the sweetness of a thousand per- fumes had produced there an indescribably delicious fragrance."

Space fails us for any further extracts, or we should have liked to quote the passage beginning at line 22 in Canto xxviii., as a graceful and spirited rendering of the beauties of the

original. We have pleasure, in conclusion, in calling attention to the long list of revised renderings of passages in the Inferno, given at the end of this volume, testifying to the painstaking care of the translator to secure accuracy, as well as to weed out all modernisms from his text.