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- Odes and Carmen Saeculare of Horace - 2/26 -


having to provide three rhymes per stanza, against which the occurrence of one line in each without a rhyme at all was but a poor set-off. A second metre which occurred to me is that of Andrew Marvel's Horatian Ode, a variety of which is found twice in Mr. Keble's Christian Year. Here two lines of eight syllables are followed by two of six, the difference between the types being that in Marvel's Ode the rhymes are successive, in Mr. Keble's alternate. The external correspondence between this and the Alcaic is considerable; but the brevity of the English measure struck me at once as a fatal obstacle, and I did not try to encounter it. A third possibility is the stanza of "In Memoriam," which has been adopted by the clever author of "Poems and Translations, by C. S. C.," in his version of "Justum et tenacem." I think it very probable that this will be found eventually to be the best representation of the Alcaic in English, especially as it appears to afford facilities for that linking of stanza to stanza which one who wishes to adhere closely to the logical and rhythmical structure of the Latin soon learns to desire. But I have not adopted it; and I believe there is good reason for not doing so. With all its advantages, it has the patent disadvantage of having been brought into notice by a poet who is influencing the present generation as only a great living poet can. A great writer now, an inferior writer hereafter, may be able to handle it with some degree of independence; but the majority of those who use it at present are sure in adopting Mr. Tennyson's metre to adopt his manner. It is no reproach to "C. S. C." that his Ode reminds us of Mr. Tennyson; it is a praise to him that the recollection is a pleasant one. But Mr. Tennyson's manner is not the manner of Horace, and it is the manner of a contemporary; the expression--a most powerful and beautiful expression--of influences to which a translator of an ancient classic feels himself to be too much subjected already. What is wanted is a metre which shall have other associations than those of the nineteenth century, which shall be the growth of various periods of English poetry, and so be independent of any. Such a metre is that which I have been led to choose, the eight-syllable iambic with alternate rhymes. It is one of the commonest metres in the language, and for that reason it is adapted to more than one class of subjects, to the gay as well as to the grave. But I am mistaken if it is not peculiarly suited to express that concentrated grandeur, that majestic combination of high eloquence with high poetry, which make the early Alcaic Odes of Horace's Third Book what they are to us. The main difficulty is in accommodating its structure to that of the Latin, of varying the pauses, and of linking stanza to stanza. It is a difficulty before which I have felt myself almost powerless, and I have in consequence been driven to the natural expedient of weakness, compromise, sometimes evading it, sometimes coping with it unsuccessfully. In other respects I may be allowed to say that I have found the metre pleasanter to handle than any of the others that I have attempted, except, perhaps, that of "The Dream of Fair Women." The proportion of syllables in each stanza of English to each stanza of Latin is not much greater than in the case of the Sapphic, thirty-two against forty-one; yet, except in a few passages, chiefly those containing proper names, I have had no disagreeable sense of confinement. I believe the reason of this to be that the Latin Alcaic generally contains fewer words in proportion than the Latin Sapphic, the former being favourable to long words, the latter to short ones, as may be seen by contrasting such lines as "Dissentientis conditionibus" with such as "Dona praesentis rape laetus horae ac." This, no doubt, shows that there is an inconvenience in applying the same English iambic measure to two metres which differ so greatly in their practical result; but so far as I can see at present, the evil appears to be one of those which it is wiser to submit to than to attempt to cure.

The problem of finding English representatives for the other Horatian metres, if a more difficult, is a less important one. The most pressing case is that of the metre known as the second Asclepiad, the "Sic te diva potens Cypri." With this, I fear, I shall be thought to have dealt rather capriciously, having rendered it by four different measures, three of them, however, varieties of the same general type. It so happens that the firsf Ode which I translated was the celebrated Amoebean Poem, the dialogue between Horace and Lydia. I had had at that time not the most distant notion of translating the whole of the Odes, or even any considerable number of them, so that in choosing a metre I thought simply of the requirements of the Ode in question, not of those of the rest of its class. Indeed, I may say that it was the thought of the metre which led me to try if I could translate the Ode. Having accomplished my attempt, I turned to another Ode of the same class, the scarcely less celebrated "Quem tu, Melpomene." For this I took a different metre, which happens to be identical with that of a solitary Ode in the Second Book, "Non ebur neque aureum," being guided still by my feeling about the individual Ode, not by any more general considerations. I did not attempt a third until I had proceeded sufficiently far in my undertaking to see that I should probably continue to the end. Then I had to consider the question of a uniform metre to answer to the Latin. Both of those which I had already tried were rendered impracticable by a double rhyme, which, however manageable in one or two Odes, is unmanageable, as I have before intimated, in the case of a large number. The former of the two measures, divested of the double rhyme, would, I think, lose most of its attractiveness; the latter suffers much less from the privation: the latter accordingly I chose. The trochaic character of the first line seems to me to give it an advantage over any metre composed of pure iambics, if it were only that it discriminates it from those alternate ten-syllable and eight-syllable iambics into which it would be natural to render many of the Epodes. At the same time, it did not appear worth while to rewrite the two Odes already translated, merely for the sake of uniformity, as the principle of correspondence to the Latin, the alternation of longer and shorter lines, is really the same in all three cases. Nay, so tentative has been my treatment of the whole matter, that I have even translated one Ode, the third of Book I, into successive rather than into alternate rhymes, so that readers may judge of the comparative effect of the two varieties. After this confession of irregularity, I need scarcely mention that on coming to the Ode which had suggested the metre in its unmutilated state, I translated it into the mutilated form, not caring either to encounter the inconvenience of the double rhymes, or to make confusion worse confounded by giving it, what it has in the Latin, a separate form of its own.

The remaining metres may be dismissed in a very few words. As a general rule, I have avoided couplets of any sort, and chosen some kind of stanza. As a German critic has pointed out, all the Odes of Horace, with one doubtful exception, may be reduced to quatrains; and though this peculiarity does not, so far as we can see, affect the character of any of the Horatian metres (except, of course, those that are written in stanzas), or influence the structure of the Latin, it must be considered as a happy circumstance for those who wish to render Horace into English. In respect of restraint, indeed, the English couplet may sometimes be less inconvenient than the quatrain, as it is, on the whole, easier to run couplet into couplet than to run quatrain into quatrain; but the couplet seems hardly suitable for an English lyrical poem of any length, the very notion of lyrical poetry apparently involving a complexity which can only be represented by rhymes recurring at intervals. In the case of one of the three poems written by Horace in the measure called the greater Asclepiad, ("Tu ne quoesieris,") I have adopted the couplet; in another ("Nullam, Vare,") the quatrain, the determining reason in the two cases being the length of the two Odes, the former of which consists but of eight lines, the latter of sixteen. The metre which I selected for each is the thirteen- syllable trochaic of "Locksley Hall;" and it is curious to observe the different effect of the metre according as it is written in two lines or in four. In the "Locksley Hall" couplet its movement is undoubtedly trochaic; but when it is expanded into a quatrain, as in Mrs. Browning's poem of "Lady Geraldine's Courtship," the movement changes, and instead of a more or less equal stress on the alternate syllables, the full ictus is only felt in one syllable out of every four; in ancient metrical language the metre becomes Ionic a minore. This very Ionic a minore is itself, I need not say, the metre of a single Ode in the Third Book, the "Miserarum est," and I have devised a stanza for it, taking much more pains with the apportionment of the ictus than in the case of the trochaic quatrain, which is better able to modulate itself. I have also ventured to invent a metre for that technically known as the Fourth Archilochian, the "Solvitur acris hiems," by combining the fourteen-syllable with the ten-syllable iambic in an alternately rhyming stanza. [Footnote: I may be permitted to mention that Lord Derby, in a volume of Translations printed privately before the appearance of this work, has employed the same measure in rendering the same Ode, the only difference being that his rhymes are not alternate, but successive.] The First Archilochian, "Diffugere nives," I have represented by a combination of the ten-syllable with the four- syllable iambic. For the so-called greater Sapphic, the "Lydia, die per omnes" I have made another iambic combination, the six-syllable with the fourteen-syllable, arranged as a couplet. The choriambic I thought might be exchanged for a heroic stanza, in which the first line should rhyme with the fourth, the second with the third, a kind of "In Memoriam" elongated. Lastly, I have chosen the heroic quatrain proper, the metre of Gray's "Elegy," for the two Odes in the First Book written in what is called the Metrum Alcmanium, "Laudabunt alii," and "Te maris et terrae," rather from a vague notion of the dignity of the measure than from any distinct sense of special appropriateness.

From this enumeration, which I fear has been somewhat tedious, it will be seen that I have been guided throughout not by any systematic principles, but by a multitude of minor considerations, some operating more strongly in one case, and some in another. I trust, however, that in all this diversity I shall be found to have kept in view the object on which I have been insisting, a metrical correspondence with the original. Even where I have been most inconsistent, I have still adhered to the rule of comprising the English within the same number of lines as the Latin. I believe tills to be almost essential to the pieservation of the character of the Horatian lyric, which always retains a certain severity, and never loses itself in modern exuberance; and though I am well aware that the result in my case has frequently, perhaps generally, been a most un-Horatian stiffness, I am convinced from my own experience that a really accomplished artist would find the task of composing under these conditions far more hopeful than he had previously imagined it to be. Yet it is a restraint to which scarcely any of the previous translators of the Odes have been willing to submit. Perhaps Professor Newman is the only one who has carried it through the whole of the Four Books; most of my predecessors have ignored it altogether. It is this which, in my judgment, is the chief drawback to the success of the most distinguished of them, Mr. Theodore Martin. He has brought to his work a grace and delicacy of expression and a happy flow of musical verse which are beyond my praise, and which render many of his Odes most pleasing to read as poems. I wish he had combined with these qualities that terseness and condensation which remind us that a Roman, even when writing "songs of love and wine," was a Roman still.

Some may consider it extraordinary that in discussing the different ways of representing Horatian metres I have said nothing of transplanting those metres themselves into English. I think, however, that an apology for my silence may he found in the present state of the controversy about the English hexameter. Whatever may be the ultimate fate of that struggling alien--and I confess myself to be one of those who doubt whether he can ever be naturalized--most judges will, I believe, agree that for the present at any rate his case is sufficient to occupy the literary tribunals, and that to raise any discussion on the rights of others of his class would be premature. Practice, after all, is more powerful in such matters than theory; and hardly at any time in the three hundred years during which we have had a formed literature has the introduction of classical lyric measures into


Odes and Carmen Saeculare of Horace - 2/26

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