23 FEBRUARY 1901, Page 22


The Satires of Persius. Translated, with Introduction and some Notes, by the Rev. S. Hemphill, D.D. (G. Bell and. Sons.) —It is a somewhat discouraging, not to say hopeless. task to translate Persius ; he is so allusive, he leaves so much to be supplied. It would be most interesting to discover what a genuine "English reader" would make of him. For ourselves, we have often wished that Dr. Hemphill had thought fit to print the Latin on the opposite page, so hard is it—we do not mean any blame in saying this—to understand the English without it. Naturally we have compared the new version with that which has hitherto held the ground, Conington's, as edited by Nettle- ship. Here is a specimen of the two, taken from a passage where the satirist is at his best :— CONINGTON. HEMPH/LL.

"How can it answer to in- troduce the spirit of the age into the temple-service, and infer what the gods like from this sinful, pampered flesh of ours ? The flesh it is that has got to spoil wholesome oil by mixing casia with it,—to steep Calabrian wool in purple that was made for no such use ; that has made us tear the pearl from the oyster, and separate the veins of the glowing ore from their primitive slag. It sins — yes,it sins ; but it takes something by its sinning ; but you, reverend pontiffs, tell us what good gold can do in a holy place Give we rather to the gods . . . . . . duty to God and man well blended in the mind, purity in the shrine of the heart, and a flavour of nobleness pervading the bosom. Let one have these to carry to the temple, and a handful of meal shall win one acceptance."

"What boots it to import these morals of ours into the temples, and to deduce what is good in the gods' sight from the analogies of this sinful flesh ? This, for its selfish whim, has melted cassia in olive oil to the spoiling of the litter; it has dyed the Calabrian fleece with misapplied purple; it has bidden us scrape the pearl from the shell, and tear out the veins of glowing metal from the rough slag. And in these respects it sins ; it sins. Still, it turns its iniquity to some practical use. But tell us, ye priests in reli- gion'sser vice, what real influence

has gold Nay, let us offer to the gods justice and religion well blended in the soul; and the inner shrine of the mind consecrated ; and a heart imbued with honour, the true gentility. Let me but bring these to the temple, and I'll gain my quest with a pint of meal."

On the whole, we prefer the older version. It is more idiomatic and vigorous (as in the passage italicised). But Dr. Hemphill has made some imprornments, especially in the phrase again indicated by italics, lie append 6, also, to be right when he takes hacc in " peccat et haec, peccat " as neuter plural. " Slag " (refuse of the furnace) is clearly wrong in both versions. The introduction is a good piece of work. Persius's philosophy is well described as a "species of Puritanism."