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Title: On Translating Homer
Author: Arnold, Mathew
Language: English
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With F. W. Newman’s ‘Homeric Translation’
and Arnold’s ‘Last Words’

George Routledge & Sons Limited
New York: E. P. Dutton & Co.



I. 1

II. 32

III. 68

By Francis W. Newman 112


A Reply to Francis W. Newman. By Matthew Arnold 217

... Nunquamne reponam?


It has more than once been suggested to me that I should translate
Homer. That is a task for which I have neither the time nor the courage;
but the suggestion led me to regard yet more closely a poet whom I had
already long studied, and for one or two years the works of Homer were
seldom out of my hands. The study of classical literature is probably on
the decline; but, whatever may be the fate of this study in general, it
is certain that, as instruction spreads and the number of readers
increases, attention will be more and more directed to the poetry of
Homer, not indeed as part of a classical course, but as the most
important poetical monument existing. Even within the last ten years two
fresh translations of the _Iliad_ have appeared in England: one by a man
of great ability and genuine learning, Professor Newman; the other by Mr
Wright, the conscientious and painstaking translator of Dante. It may
safely be asserted that neither of these works will take rank as the
standard translation of Homer; that the task of rendering him will still
be attempted by other translators. It may perhaps be possible to render
to these some service, to save them some loss of labour, by pointing out
rocks on which their predecessors have split, and the right objects on
which a translator of Homer should fix his attention.

It is disputed what aim a translator should propose to himself in
dealing with his original. Even this preliminary is not yet settled. On
one side it is said that the translation ought to be such ‘that the
reader should, if possible, forget that it is a translation at all, and
be lulled into the illusion that he is reading an original
work—something original’ (if the translation be English), ‘from an
English hand’. The real original is in this case, it is said, ‘taken as
a basis on which to rear a poem that shall affect our countrymen as the
original may be conceived to have affected its natural hearers’. On the
other hand, Mr Newman, who states the foregoing doctrine only to condemn
it, declares that he ‘aims at precisely the opposite: to retain every
peculiarity of the original, so far as he is able, _with the greater
care the more foreign it may happen to be_’; so that it may ‘never be
forgotten that he is imitating, and imitating in a different material’.
The translator’s ‘first duty’, says Mr Newman ‘is a historical one, to
be _faithful_’. Probably both sides would agree that the translator’s
‘first duty is to be faithful’; but the question at issue between them
is, in what faithfulness consists.

My one object is to give practical advice to a translator; and I shall
not the least concern myself with theories of translation as such. But I
advise the translator not to try ‘to rear on the basis of the _Iliad_, a
poem that shall affect our countrymen as the original may be conceived
to have affected its natural hearers’; and for this simple reason, that
we cannot possibly tell _how_ the _Iliad_ ‘affected its natural
hearers’. It is probably meant merely that he should try to affect
Englishmen powerfully, as Homer affected Greeks powerfully; but this
direction is not enough, and can give no real guidance. For all great
poets affect their hearers powerfully, but the effect of one poet is one
thing, that of another poet another thing: it is our translator’s
business to reproduce the effect of Homer, and the most powerful emotion
of the unlearned English reader can never assure him whether he has
_re_produced this, or whether he has produced something else. So, again,
he may follow Mr Newman’s directions, he may try to be ‘faithful’, he
may ‘retain every peculiarity of his original’; but who is to assure
him, who is to assure Mr Newman himself, that, when he has done this, he
has done that for which Mr Newman enjoins this to be done, ‘adhered
closely to Homer’s manner and habit of thought’? Evidently the
translator needs some more practical directions than these. No one can
tell him how Homer affected the Greeks; but there are those who can tell
him how Homer affects _them_. These are scholars; who possess, at the
same time with knowledge of Greek, adequate poetical taste and feeling.
No translation will seem to them of much worth compared with the
original; but they alone can say whether the translation produces more
or less the same effect upon them as the original. They are the only
competent tribunal in this matter: the Greeks are dead; the unlearned
Englishman has not the data for judging; and no man can safely confide
in his own single judgment of his own work. Let not the translator,
then, trust to his notions of what the ancient Greeks would have thought
of him; he will lose himself in the vague. Let him not trust to what the
ordinary English reader thinks of him; he will be taking the blind for
his guide. Let him not trust to his own judgment of his own work; he may
be misled by individual caprices. Let him ask how his work affects those
who both know Greek and can appreciate poetry; whether to read it gives
the Provost of Eton, or Professor Thompson at Cambridge, or Professor
Jowett here in Oxford, at all the same feeling which to read the
original gives them. I consider that when Bentley said of Pope’s
translation, ‘It was a pretty poem, but must not be called Homer’, the
work, in spite of all its power and attractiveness, was judged.

Ὡς ἂν ὁ φρόνιμος ὁρίσειεν, ‘as the judicious would determine’, that is a
test to which everyone professes himself willing to submit his works.
Unhappily, in most cases, no two persons agree as to who ‘the judicious’
are. In the present case, the ambiguity is removed: I suppose the
translator at one with me as to the tribunal to which alone he should
look for judgment; and he has thus obtained a practical test by which to
estimate the real success of his work. How is he to proceed, in order
that his work, tried by this test, may be found most successful?

First of all, there are certain negative counsels which I will give him.
Homer has occupied men’s minds so much, such a literature has arisen
about him, that every one who approaches him should resolve strictly to
limit himself to that which may directly serve the object for which he
approaches him. I advise the translator to have nothing to do with the
questions, whether Homer ever existed; whether the poet of the _Iliad_
be one or many; whether the _Iliad_ be one poem or an _Achilleis_ and an
_Iliad_ stuck together; whether the Christian doctrine of the Atonement
is shadowed forth in the Homeric mythology; whether the Goddess Latona
in any way prefigures the Virgin Mary, and so on. These are questions
which have been discussed with learning, with ingenuity, nay, with
genius; but they have two inconveniences,—one general for all who
approach them, one particular for the translator. The general
inconvenience is that there really exist no data for determining them.
The particular inconvenience is that their solution by the translator,
even were it possible, could be of no benefit to his translation.

I advise him, again, not to trouble himself with constructing a special
vocabulary for his use in translation; with excluding a certain class of
English words, and with confining himself to another class, in obedience
to any theory about the peculiar qualities of Homer’s style. Mr Newman
says that ‘the entire dialect of Homer being essentially archaic, that
of a translator ought to be as much Saxo-Norman as possible, and owe as
little as possible to the elements thrown into our language by classical
learning’. Mr Newman is unfortunate in the observance of his own theory;
for I continually find in his translation words of Latin origin, which
seem to me quite alien to the simplicity of Homer,—‘responsive’, for
instance, which is a favourite word of Mr Newman, to represent the
Homeric ἀμειβόμενος:

      Great Hector of the motley helm thus spake to her _responsive_.
      But thus _responsively_ to him spake godlike Alexander.

And the word ‘celestial’ again, in the grand address of Zeus to the
horses of Achilles,

        You, who are born _celestial_, from Eld and Death exempted!

seems to me in that place exactly to jar upon the feeling as too
bookish. But, apart from the question of Mr Newman’s fidelity to his own
theory, such a theory seems to me both dangerous for a translator and
false in itself. Dangerous for a translator; because, wherever one finds
such a theory announced (and one finds it pretty often), it is generally
followed by an explosion of pedantry; and pedantry is of all things in
the world the most un-Homeric. False in itself; because, in fact, we owe
to the Latin element in our language most of that very rapidity and
clear decisiveness by which it is contradistinguished from the German,
and in sympathy with the languages of Greece and Rome: so that to limit
an English translator of Homer to words of Saxon origin is to deprive
him of one of his special advantages for translating Homer. In Voss’s
well-known translation of Homer, it is precisely the qualities of his
German language itself, something heavy and trailing both in the
structure of its sentences and in the words of which it is composed,
which prevent his translation, in spite of the hexameters, in spite of
the fidelity, from creating in us the impression created by the Greek.
Mr Newman’s prescription, if followed, would just strip the English
translator of the advantage which he has over Voss.

The frame of mind in which we approach an author influences our
correctness of appreciation of him; and Homer should be approached by a
translator in the simplest frame of mind possible. Modern sentiment
tries to make the ancient not less than the modern world its own; but
against modern sentiment in its applications to Homer the translator, if
he would feel Homer truly—and unless he feels him truly, how can he
render him truly?—cannot be too much on his guard. For example: the
writer of an interesting article on English translations of Homer, in
the last number of the _National Review_, quotes, I see, with
admiration, a criticism of Mr Ruskin on the use of the epithet φυσίζοος,
‘life-giving’, in that beautiful passage in the third book of the
_Iliad_, which follows Helen’s mention of her brothers Castor and Pollux
as alive, though they were in truth dead:

               ὣς φάτο· τοὺς δ’ ἤδη κατέχεν φυσίζοος αἶα
               ἐν Λακεδαίμονι αὖθι, φίλῃ ἐν πατρίδι γαίῃ.[1]

‘The poet’, says Mr Ruskin, ‘has to speak of the earth in sadness; but
he will not let that sadness affect or change his thought of it. No;
though Castor and Pollux be dead, yet the earth is our mother
still,—fruitful, life-giving’. This is a just specimen of that sort of
application of modern sentiment to the ancients, against which a
student, who wishes to feel the ancients truly, cannot too resolutely
defend himself. It reminds one, as, alas! so much of Mr Ruskin’s writing
reminds one, of those words of the most delicate of living critics:
“Comme tout genre de composition a son écueil particulier, _celui du
genre romanesque, c’est le faux_”. The reader may feel moved as he reads
it; but it is not the less an example of ‘le faux’ in criticism; it is
false. It is not true, as to that particular passage, that Homer called
the earth φυσίζοος because, ‘though he had to speak of the earth in
sadness, he would not let that sadness change or affect his thought of
it’, but consoled himself by considering that ‘the earth is our mother
still,—fruitful, life-giving’. It is not true, as a matter of general
criticism, that this kind of sentimentality, eminently modern, inspires
Homer at all. ‘From Homer and Polygnotus I every day learn more
clearly’, says Goethe, ‘that in our life here above ground we have,
properly speaking, to enact Hell’[2]:—if the student must absolutely
have a keynote to the _Iliad_, let him take this of Goethe, and see what
he can do with it; it will not, at any rate, like the tender pantheism
of Mr Ruskin, falsify for him the whole strain of Homer.

These are negative counsels; I come to the positive. When I say, the
translator of Homer should above all be penetrated by a sense of four
qualities of his author;—that he is eminently rapid; that he is
eminently plain and direct, both in the evolution of his thought and in
the expression of it, that is, both in his syntax and in his words; that
he is eminently plain and direct in the substance of his thought, that
is, in his matter and ideas; and, finally that he is eminently noble;—I
probably seem to be saying what is too general to be of much service to
anybody. Yet it is strictly true that, for want of duly penetrating
themselves with the first-named quality of Homer, his rapidity, Cowper
and Mr Wright have failed in rendering him; that, for want of duly
appreciating the second-named quality, his plainness and directness of
style and dictation, Pope and Mr Sotheby have failed in rendering him;
that for want of appreciating the third, his plainness and directness of
ideas, Chapman has failed in rendering him; while for want of
appreciating the fourth, his nobleness, Mr Newman, who has clearly seen
some of the faults of his predecessors, has yet failed more
conspicuously than any of them.

Coleridge says, in his strange language, speaking of the union of the
human soul with the divine essence, that this takes place

            Whene’er the mist, which stands ’twixt God and thee,
            Defecates to a pure transparency;

and so, too, it may be said of that union of the translator with his
original, which alone can produce a good translation, that it takes
place when the mist which stands between them—the mist of alien modes of
thinking, speaking, and feeling on the translator’s part—‘defecates to a
pure transparency’, and disappears. But between Cowper and Homer—(Mr
Wright repeats in the main Cowper’s manner, as Mr Sotheby repeats Pope’s
manner, and neither Mr Wright’s translation nor Mr Sotheby’s has, I must
be forgiven for saying, any proper reason for existing)—between Cowper
and Homer there is interposed the mist of Cowper’s elaborate Miltonic
manner, entirely alien to the flowing rapidity of Homer; between Pope
and Homer there is interposed the mist of Pope’s literary artificial
manner, entirely alien to the plain naturalness of Homer’s manner;
between Chapman and Homer there is interposed the mist of the
fancifulness of the Elizabethan age, entirely alien to the plain
directness of Homer’s thought and feeling; while between Mr Newman and
Homer is interposed a cloud of more than Egyptian thickness,—namely, a
manner, in Mr Newman’s version, eminently ignoble, while Homer’s manner
is eminently noble.

I do not despair of making all these propositions clear to a student who
approaches Homer with a free mind. First, Homer is eminently rapid, and
to this rapidity the elaborate movement of Miltonic blank verse is
alien. The reputation of Cowper, that most interesting man and excellent
poet, does not depend on his translation of Homer; and in his preface to
the second edition, he himself tells us that he felt,—he had too much
poetical taste not to feel,—on returning to his own version after six or
seven years, ‘more dissatisfied with it himself than the most difficult
to be pleased of all his judges’. And he was dissatisfied with it for
the right reason,—that ‘it seemed to him deficient _in the grace of
ease_’. Yet he seems to have originally misconceived the manner of Homer
so much, that it is no wonder he rendered him amiss. ‘The similitude of
Milton’s manner to that of Homer is such’, he says, ‘that no person
familiar with both can read either without being reminded of the other;
and it is in those breaks and pauses to which the numbers of the English
poet are so much indebted, both for their dignity and variety, that he
chiefly copies the Grecian’. It would be more true to say: ‘The
unlikeness of Milton’s manner to that of Homer is such, that no person
familiar with both can read either without being struck with his
difference from the other; and it is in his breaks and pauses that the
English poet is most unlike the Grecian’.

The inversion and pregnant conciseness of Milton or Dante are,
doubtless, most impressive qualities of style; but they are the very
opposites of the directness and flowingness of Homer, which he keeps
alike in passages of the simplest narrative, and in those of the deepest
emotion. Not only, for example, are these lines of Cowper un-Homeric:

              So numerous seemed those fires the banks between
              Of Xanthus, blazing, and the fleet of Greece
              In prospect all of Troy;

where the position of the word ‘blazing’ gives an entirely un-Homeric
movement to this simple passage, describing the fires of the Trojan camp
outside of Troy; but the following lines, in that very highly-wrought
passage where the horse of Achilles answers his master’s reproaches for
having left Patroclus on the field of battle, are equally un-Homeric:

              For not through sloth or tardiness on us
              Aught chargeable, have Ilium’s sons thine arms
              Stript from Patroclus’ shoulders; but a God
              Matchless in battle, offspring of bright-haired
              Latona, him contending in the van
              Slew, for the glory of the chief of Troy.

Here even the first inversion, ‘have Ilium’s sons thine arms Stript from
Patroclus’ shoulders’, gives the reader a sense of a movement not
Homeric; and the second inversion, ‘a God him contending in the van
Slew’, gives this sense ten times stronger. Instead of moving on without
check, as in reading the original, the reader twice finds himself, in
reading the translation, brought up and checked. Homer moves with the
same simplicity and rapidity in the highly-wrought as in the simple

It is in vain that Cowper insists on his fidelity: ‘my chief boast is
that I have adhered closely to my original’:—‘the matter found in me,
whether the reader like it or not, is found also in Homer; and the
matter not found in me, how much soever the reader may admire it, is
found only in Mr Pope’. To suppose that it is _fidelity_ to an original
to give its matter, unless you at the same time give its manner; or,
rather, to suppose that you can really give its matter at all, unless
you can give its manner, is just the mistake of our pre-Raphaelite
school of painters, who do not understand that the peculiar effect of
nature resides in the whole and not in the parts. So the peculiar effect
of a poet resides in his manner and movement, not in his words taken
separately. It is well known how conscientiously literal is Cowper in
his translation of Homer. It is well known how extravagantly free is

                                   So let it be!
                   Portents and prodigies are lost on me;

that is Pope’s rendering of the words,

    Ξάνθε, τί μοι θάνατον μαντεύεαι; οὐδέ τί σε χρή·[3]

    Xanthus, why prophesiest thou my death to me? thou needest not at

yet, on the whole, Pope’s translation of the _Iliad_ is more Homeric
than Cowper’s, for it is more rapid.

Pope’s movement, however, though rapid, is not of the same kind as
Homer’s; and here I come to the real objection to rhyme in a translation
of Homer. It is commonly said that rhyme is to be abandoned in a
translation of Homer, because ‘the exigencies of rhyme’, to quote Mr
Newman, ‘positively forbid faithfulness’; because ‘a just translation of
any ancient poet in rhyme’, to quote Cowper, ‘is impossible’. This,
however, is merely an accidental objection to rhyme. If this were all,
it might be supposed, that if rhymes were more abundant Homer could be
adequately translated in rhyme. But this is not so; there is a deeper, a
substantial objection to rhyme in a translation of Homer. It is, that
rhyme inevitably tends to pair lines which in the original are
independent, and thus the movement of the poem is changed. In these
lines of Chapman, for instance, from Sarpedon’s speech to Glaucus, in
the twelfth book of the _Iliad_:

                      O friend, if keeping back
    Would keep back age from us, and death, and that we might not wrack
    In this life’s human sea at all, but that deferring now
    We shunned death ever,—nor would I half this vain valor show,
    Nor glorify a folly so, to wish thee to advance;
    But since we _must_ go, though not here, and that besides the chance
    Proposed now, there are infinite fates, etc.

Here the necessity of making the line,

              Nor glorify a folly so, to wish thee to advance,

rhyme with the line which follows it, entirely changes and spoils the
movement of the passage.

                οὔτε κεν αὐτὸς ἐνὶ πρώτοισι μαχοίμην,
        οὔτε κέ σε στέλλοιμι μάχην ἐς κυδιάνειραν·[4]

        Neither would I myself go forth to fight with the foremost,
        Nor would I urge thee on to enter the glorious battle,

says Homer; there he stops, and begins an opposed movement:

        νῦν δ’—ἔμπης γὰρ Κῆρες ἐφεστᾶσιν θανάτοιο—

        But—for a thousand fates of death stand close to us always—

This line, in which Homer wishes to go away with the most marked
rapidity from the line before, Chapman is forced, by the necessity of
rhyming, intimately to connect with the line before.

    But since we _must_ go, though not here, and that besides the

The moment the word _chance_ strikes our ear, we are irresistibly
carried back to _advance_ and to the whole previous line, which,
according to Homer’s own feeling, we ought to have left behind us
entirely, and to be moving farther and farther away from.

Rhyme certainly, by intensifying antithesis, can intensify separation,
and this is precisely what Pope does; but this balanced rhetorical
antithesis, though very effective, is entirely un-Homeric. And this is
what I mean by saying that Pope fails to render Homer, because he does
not render his plainness and directness of style and diction. Where
Homer marks separation by moving away, Pope marks it by antithesis. No
passage could show this better than the passage I have just quoted, on
which I will pause for a moment.

Robert Wood, whose _Essay on the Genius of Homer_ is mentioned by Goethe
as one of the books which fell into his hands when his powers were first
developing themselves, and strongly interested him, relates of this
passage a striking story. He says that in 1762, at the end of the Seven
Years’ War, being then Under-Secretary of State, he was directed to wait
upon the President of the Council, Lord Granville, a few days before he
died, with the preliminary articles of the Treaty of Paris. ‘I found
him’, he continues, ‘so languid, that I proposed postponing my business
for another time; but he insisted that I should stay, saying, it could
not prolong his life to neglect his duty; and repeating the following
passage out of Sarpedon’s speech, he dwelled with particular emphasis on
the third line, which recalled to his mind the distinguishing part he
had taken in public affairs:

             ὦ πέπον, εἰ μὲν γὰρ, πόλεμον περὶ τόνδε φυγόντε,
             αἰεὶ δὴ μέλλοιμεν ἀγήρω τ’ ἀθανάτω τε
             ἔσσεσθ’, οὔτε κεν αὐτὸς ἐνὶ πρώτοισι μαχοίμην,[5]
             οὔτε κέ σε στέλλοιμι μάχην ἐς κυδιάνειραν·
             νῦν δ’—ἔμπης γὰρ Κῆρες ἐφεστᾶσιν θανάτοιο
             μυρίαι, ἃς οὐκ ἔστι φυγεῖν βρότον, οὐδ’ ὑπαλύξαι—

His Lordship repeated the last word several times with a calm and
determinate resignation; and, after a serious pause of some minutes, he
desired to hear the Treaty read, to which he listened with great
attention, and recovered spirits enough to declare the approbation of a
dying statesman (I use his own words) “on the most glorious war, and
most honourable peace, this nation ever saw”’[6].

I quote this story, first, because it is interesting as exhibiting the
English aristocracy at its very height of culture, lofty spirit, and
greatness, towards the middle of the 18th century. I quote it, secondly,
because it seems to me to illustrate Goethe’s saying which I mentioned,
that our life, in Homer’s view of it, represents a conflict and a hell;
and it brings out, too, what there is tonic and fortifying in this
doctrine. I quote it, lastly, because it shows that the passage is just
one of those in translating which Pope will be at his best, a passage of
strong emotion and oratorical movement, not of simple narrative or

Pope translates the passage thus:

              Could all our care elude the gloomy grave
              Which claims no less the fearful than the brave,
              For lust of fame I should not vainly dare
              In fighting fields, nor urge thy soul to war:
              But since, alas! ignoble age must come,
              Disease, and death’s inexorable doom;
              The life which others pay, let us bestow,
              And give to fame what we to nature owe.

Nothing could better exhibit Pope’s prodigious talent; and nothing, too,
could be better in its own way. But, as Bentley said, ‘You must not call
it Homer’. One feels that Homer’s thought has passed through a literary
and rhetorical crucible, and come out highly intellectualised; come out
in a form which strongly impresses us, indeed, but which no longer
impresses us in the same way as when it was uttered by Homer. The
antithesis of the last two lines—

                 The life which others pay, let us bestow,
                 And give to fame what we to nature owe

is excellent, and is just suited to Pope’s heroic couplet; but neither
the antithesis itself, nor the couplet which conveys it, is suited to
the feeling or to the movement of the Homeric ἴομεν.

A literary and intellectualised language is, however, in its own way
well suited to grand matters; and Pope, with a language of this kind and
his own admirable talent, comes off well enough as long as he has
passion, or oratory, or a great crisis to deal with. Even here, as I
have been pointing out, he does not render Homer; but he and his style
are in themselves strong. It is when he comes to level passages,
passages of narrative or description, that he and his style are sorely
tried, and prove themselves weak. A perfectly plain direct style can of
course convey the simplest matter as naturally as the grandest; indeed,
it must be harder for it, one would say, to convey a grand matter
worthily and nobly, than to convey a common matter, as alone such a
matter should be conveyed, plainly and simply. But the style of Rasselas
is incomparably better fitted to describe a sage philosophising than a
soldier lighting his camp-fire. The style of Pope is not the style of
Rasselas; but it is equally a literary style, equally unfitted to
describe a simple matter with the plain naturalness of Homer.

Everyone knows the passage at the end of the eighth book of the _Iliad_,
where the fires of the Trojan encampment are likened to the stars. It is
very far from my wish to hold Pope up to ridicule, so I shall not quote
the commencement of the passage, which in the original is of great and
celebrated beauty, and in translating which Pope has been singularly and
notoriously fortunate. But the latter part of the passage, where Homer
leaves the stars, and comes to the Trojan fires, treats of the plainest,
most matter-of-fact subject possible, and deals with this, as Homer
always deals with every subject, in the plainest and most
straightforward style. ‘So many in number, between the ships and the
streams of Xanthus, shone forth in front of Troy the fires kindled by
the Trojans. There were kindled a thousand fires in the plain; and by
each one there sat fifty men in the light of the blazing fire. And the
horses, munching white barley and rye, and standing by the chariots,
waited for the bright-throned Morning[7]’.

In Pope’s translation, this plain story becomes the following:

             So many flames before proud Ilion blaze,
             And brighten glimmering Xanthus with their rays;
             The long reflections of the distant fires
             Gleam on the walls, and tremble on the spires.
             A thousand piles the dusky horrors gild,
             And shoot a shady lustre o’er the field.
             Full fifty guards each flaming pile attend,
             Whose umbered arms, by fits, thick flashes send;
             Loud neigh the coursers o’er their heaps of corn,
             And ardent warriors wait the rising morn.

It is for passages of this sort, which, after all, form the bulk of a
narrative poem, that Pope’s style is so bad. In elevated passages he is
powerful, as Homer is powerful, though not in the same way; but in plain
narrative, where Homer is still powerful and delightful, Pope, by the
inherent fault of his style, is ineffective and out of taste. Wordsworth
says somewhere, that wherever Virgil seems to have composed ‘with his
eye on the object’, Dryden fails to render him. Homer invariably
composes ‘with his eye on the object’, whether the object be a moral or
a material one: Pope composes with his eye on his style, into which he
translates his object, whatever it is. That, therefore, which Homer
conveys to us immediately, Pope conveys to us through a medium. He aims
at turning Homer’s sentiments pointedly and rhetorically; at investing
Homer’s description with ornament and dignity. A sentiment may be
changed by being put into a pointed and oratorical form, yet may still
be very effective in that form; but a description, the moment it takes
its eyes off that which it is to describe, and begins to think of
ornamenting itself, is worthless.

Therefore, I say, the translator of Homer should penetrate himself with
a sense of the plainness and directness of Homer’s style; of the
simplicity with which Homer’s thought is evolved and expressed. He has
Pope’s fate before his eyes, to show him what a divorce may be created
even between the most gifted translator and Homer by an artificial
evolution of thought and a literary cast of style.

Chapman’s style is not artificial and literary like Pope’s nor his
movement elaborate and self-retarding like the Miltonic movement of
Cowper. He is plain-spoken, fresh, vigorous, and, to a certain degree,
rapid; and all these are Homeric qualities. I cannot say that I think
the movement of his fourteen-syllable line, which has been so much
commended, Homeric; but on this point I shall have more to say by and
by, when I come to speak of Mr Newman’s metrical exploits. But it is not
distinctly anti-Homeric, like the movement of Milton’s blank verse; and
it has a rapidity of its own. Chapman’s diction, too, is generally good,
that is, appropriate to Homer; above all, the syntactical character of
his style is appropriate. With these merits, what prevents his
translation from being a satisfactory version of Homer? Is it merely the
want of literal faithfulness to his original, imposed upon him, it is
said, by the exigencies of rhyme? Has this celebrated version, which has
so many advantages, no other and deeper defect than that? Its author is
a poet, and a poet, too, of the Elizabethan age; the golden age of
English literature as it is called, and on the whole truly called; for,
whatever be the defects of Elizabethan literature (and they are great),
we have no development of our literature to compare with it for vigour
and richness. This age, too, showed what it could do in translating, by
producing a master-piece, its version of the Bible.

Chapman’s translation has often been praised as eminently Homeric.
Keats’s fine sonnet in its honour everyone knows; but Keats could not
read the original, and therefore could not really judge the translation.
Coleridge, in praising Chapman’s version, says at the same time, ‘It
will give you small idea of Homer’. But the grave authority of Mr Hallum
pronounces this translation to be ‘often exceedingly Homeric’; and its
latest editor boldly declares that by what, with a deplorable style, he
calls ‘his own innative Homeric genius’, Chapman ‘has thoroughly
identified himself with Homer’; and that ‘we pardon him even for his
digressions, for they are such as we feel Homer himself would have

I confess that I can never read twenty lines of Chapman’s version
without recurring to Bentley’s cry, ‘This is not Homer!’ and that from a
deeper cause than any unfaithfulness occasioned by the fetters of rhyme.

I said that there were four things which eminently distinguished Homer,
and with a sense of which Homer’s translator should penetrate himself as
fully as possible. One of these four things was, the plainness and
directness of Homer’s ideas. I have just been speaking of the plainness
and directness of his style; but the plainness and directness of the
contents of his style, of his ideas themselves, is not less remarkable.
But as eminently as Homer is plain, so eminently is the Elizabethan
literature in general, and Chapman in particular, fanciful. Steeped in
humours and fantasticality up to its very lips, the Elizabethan age,
newly arrived at the free use of the human faculties after their long
term of bondage, and delighting to exercise them freely, suffers from
its own extravagance in this first exercise of them, can hardly bring
itself to see an object quietly or to describe it temperately. Happily,
in the translation of the Bible, the sacred character of their original
inspired the translators with such respect that they did not dare to
give the rein to their own fancies in dealing with it. But, in dealing
with works of profane literature, in dealing with poetical works above
all, which highly stimulated them, one may say that the minds of the
Elizabethan translators were _too_ active; that they could not forbear
importing so much of their own, and this of a most peculiar and
Elizabethan character, into their original, that they effaced the
character of the original itself.

Take merely the opening pages to Chapman’s translation, the introductory
verses, and the dedications. You will find:

                An Anagram of the name of our Dread Prince,
                My most gracious and sacred Mæcenas,
                Henry, Prince of Wales,
                Our Sunn, Heyr, Peace, Life,

Henry, son of James the First, to whom the work is dedicated. Then comes
an address,

               To the sacred Fountain of Princes,
               Sole Empress of Beauty and Virtue, Anne, Queen
                             Of England, etc.

All the Middle Age, with its grotesqueness, its conceits, its
irrationality, is still in these opening pages; they by themselves are
sufficient to indicate to us what a gulf divides Chapman from the
‘clearest-souled’ of poets, from Homer, almost as great a gulf as that
which divides him from Voltaire. Pope has been sneered at for saying
that Chapman writes ‘somewhat as one might imagine Homer himself to have
written before he arrived at years of discretion’. But the remark is
excellent: Homer expresses himself like a man of adult reason, Chapman
like a man whose reason has not yet cleared itself. For instance, if
Homer had had to say of a poet, that he hoped his merit was now about to
be fully established in the opinion of good judges, he was as incapable
of saying this as Chapman says it,—‘Though truth in her very nakedness
sits in so deep a pit, that from Gades to Aurora, and Ganges, few eyes
can sound her, I hope yet those few here will so discover and confirm
that the date being out of her darkness in this morning of our poet, he
shall now gird his temples with the sun’,—I say, Homer was as incapable
of saying this in that manner, as Voltaire himself would have been.
Homer, indeed, has actually an affinity with Voltaire in the unrivalled
clearness and straightforwardness of his thinking; in the way in which
he keeps to one thought at a time, and puts that thought forth in its
complete natural plainness, instead of being led away from it by some
fancy striking him in connection with it, and being beguiled to wander
off with this fancy till his original thought, in its natural reality,
knows him no more. What could better show us how gifted a race was this
Greek race? The same member of it has not only the power of profoundly
touching that natural heart of humanity which it is Voltaire’s weakness
that he cannot reach, but can also address the understanding with all
Voltaire’s admirable simplicity and rationality.

My limits will not allow me to do more than shortly illustrate, from
Chapman’s version of the _Iliad_, what I mean when I speak of this vital
difference between Homer and an Elizabethan poet in the quality of their
thought; between the plain simplicity of the thought of the one, and the
curious complexity of the thought of the other. As in Pope’s case, I
carefully abstain from choosing passages for the express purpose of
making Chapman appear ridiculous; Chapman, like Pope, merits in himself
all respect, though he too, like Pope, fails to render Homer.

In that tonic speech of Sarpedon, of which I have said so much, Homer,
you may remember, has:

               εἰ μὲν γὰρ, πόλεμον περὶ τόνδε φυγόντε,
         αἰεὶ δὴ μέλλοιμεν ἀγήρω τ’ ἀθανάτω τε

                     if indeed, but once _this_ battle avoided,
         We were for ever to live without growing old and immortal—

Chapman cannot be satisfied with this, but must add a fancy to it:

                            if keeping back
    Would keep back age from us, and death, and _that we might not wrack
    In this life’s human sea at all_;

and so on. Again; in another passage which I have before quoted, where
Zeus says to the horses of Peleus,

                     τί σφῶϊ δόμεν Πηλῆϊ ἀνάκτι
               θνητῷ; ὑμεῖς δ’ ἐστὸν ἀγήρω τ’ ἀθανάτω τε·[8]

               Why gave we you to royal Peleus, to a mortal?
               but ye are without old age, and immortal.

Chapman sophisticates this into:

             Why gave we you t’ a mortal king, when immortality
             And _incapacity of age so dignifies your states_?

Again; in the speech of Achilles to his horses, where Achilles,
according to Homer, says simply ‘Take heed that ye bring your master
safe back to the host of the Danaans, in some other sort than the last
time, when the battle is ended’, Chapman sophisticates this into:

    _When with blood, for this day’s fast observed, revenge shall yield
    Our heart satiety_, bring us off.

In Hector’s famous speech, again, at his parting from Andromache, Homer
makes him say: ‘Nor does my own heart so bid me’ (to keep safe behind
the walls), ‘since I have learned to be staunch always, and to fight
among the foremost of the Trojans, busy on behalf of my father’s great
glory, and my own[9]’. In Chapman’s hands this becomes:

                      The spirit I first did breathe
      Did never teach me that; much less, since the contempt of death
      Was settled in me, _and my mind knew what a worthy was,
      Whose office is to lead in fight, and give no danger pass
      Without improvement. In this fire must Hector’s trial shine:
      Here must his country, father, friends, be in him made divine._

You see how ingeniously Homer’s plain thought is _tormented_, as the
French would say, here. Homer goes on: ‘For well I know this in my mind
and in my heart, the day will be, when sacred Troy shall perish’—

                 ἔσσεται ἦμαρ, ὅτ’ ἄν ποτ’ ὀλώλῃ Ἴλιος ἱρή.

Chapman makes this:

     And such a _stormy_ day shall come, in mind and soul I know,
     When sacred Troy _shall shed her towers, for tears of overthrow_.

I might go on for ever, but I could not give you a better illustration
than this last, of what I mean by saying that the Elizabethan poet fails
to render Homer because he cannot forbear to interpose a play of thought
between his object and its expression. Chapman translates his object
into Elizabethan, as Pope translates it into the Augustan of Queen Anne;
both convey it to us through a medium. Homer, on the other hand, sees
his object and conveys it to us immediately.

And yet, in spite of this perfect plainness and directness of Homer’s
style, in spite of this perfect plainness and directness of his ideas,
he is eminently _noble_; he works as entirely in the grand style, he is
as grandiose, as Phidias, or Dante, or Michael Angelo. This is what
makes his translators despair. ‘To give relief’, says Cowper, ‘to
prosaic subjects’ (such as dressing, eating, drinking, harnessing,
travelling, going to bed), that is to treat such subjects nobly, in the
grand style, ‘without seeming unreasonably tumid, is extremely
difficult’. It _is_ difficult, but Homer has done it. Homer is precisely
the incomparable poet he is, because he has done it. His translator must
not be tumid, must not be artificial, must not be literary; true: but
then also he must not be commonplace, must not be ignoble. I have shown
you how translators of Homer fail by wanting rapidity, by wanting
simplicity of style, by wanting plainness of thought: in a second
lecture I will show you how a translator fails by wanting nobility.

Footnote 1:

  _Iliad_, iii. 243.

Footnote 2:

  _Briefwechsel zwischen Schiller und Goethe_, vi. 230.

Footnote 3:

  _Iliad_, xix. 420.

Footnote 4:

  _Iliad_, xii. 324.

Footnote 5:

  These are the words on which Lord Granville ‘dwelled with particular

Footnote 6:

  Robert Wood, _Essay on the Original Genius and Writings of Homer_,
  London, 1775, p. vii.

Footnote 7:

  _Iliad_, viii. 560.

Footnote 8:

  _Iliad_, xvii. 443.

Footnote 9:

  _Iliad_, vi. 444.


I must repeat what I said in beginning, that the translator of Homer
ought steadily to keep in mind where lies the real test of the success
of his translation, what judges he is to try to satisfy. He is to try to
satisfy _scholars_, because scholars alone have the means of really
judging him. A scholar may be a pedant, it is true, and then his
judgment will be worthless; but a scholar may also have poetical
feeling, and then he can judge him truly; whereas all the poetical
feeling in the world will not enable a man who is not a scholar to judge
him truly. For the translator is to reproduce Homer, and the scholar
alone has the means of knowing that Homer who is to be reproduced. He
knows him but imperfectly, for he is separated from him by time, race,
and language; but he alone knows him at all. Yet people speak as if
there were two real tribunals in this matter,—the scholar’s tribunal,
and that of the general public. They speak as if the scholar’s judgment
was one thing, and the general public’s judgment another; both with
their shortcomings, both with their liability to error; but both to be
regarded by the translator. The translator who makes verbal literalness
his chief care ‘will’, says a writer in the _National Review_ whom I
have already quoted, ‘be appreciated by the scholar accustomed to test a
translation rigidly by comparison with the original, to look perhaps
with excessive care to finish in detail rather than boldness and general
effect, and find pardon even for a version that seems bare and bold, so
it be scholastic and faithful’. But, if the scholar in judging a
translation looks to detail rather than to general effect, he judges it
pedantically and ill. The appeal, however, lies not from the pedantic
scholar to the general public, which can only like or dislike Chapman’s
version, or Pope’s, or Mr Newman’s, but cannot _judge_ them; it lies
from the pedantic scholar to the scholar who is not pedantic, who knows
that Homer is Homer by his general effect, and not by his single words,
and who demands but one thing in a translation,—that it shall, as nearly
as possible, reproduce for him the _general effect_ of Homer. This,
then, remains the one proper aim of the translator: to reproduce on the
intelligent scholar, as nearly as possible, the general effect of Homer.
Except so far as he reproduces this, he loses his labour, even though he
may make a spirited _Iliad_ of his own, like Pope, or translate Homer’s
_Iliad_ word for word, like Mr Newman. If his proper aim were to
stimulate in any manner possible the general public, he might be right
in following Pope’s example; if his proper aim were to help schoolboys
to construe Homer, he might be right in following Mr Newman’s. But it is
not: his proper aim is, I repeat it yet once more, to reproduce on the
intelligent scholar, as nearly as he can, the general effect of Homer.

When, therefore, Cowper says, ‘My chief boast is that I have adhered
closely to my original’; when Mr Newman says, ‘My aim is to retain every
peculiarity of the original, to be _faithful_, exactly as is the case
with the draughtsman of the Elgin marbles’; their real judge only
replies: ‘It may be so: reproduce then upon us, reproduce the effect of
Homer, as a good copy reproduces the effect of the Elgin marbles’.

When, again, Mr Newman tells us that ‘by an exhaustive process of
argument and experiment’ he has found a metre which is at once the metre
of ‘the modern Greek epic’, and a metre ‘like in moral genius’ to
Homer’s metre, his judge has still but the same answer for him: ‘It may
be so: reproduce then on our ear something of the effect produced by the
movement of Homer’.

But what is the general effect which Homer produces on Mr Newman
himself? because, when we know this, we shall know whether he and his
judges are agreed at the outset, whether we may expect him, if he can
reproduce the effect he feels, if his hand does not betray him in the
execution, to satisfy his judges and to succeed. If, however, Mr
Newman’s impression from Homer is something quite different from that of
his judges, then it can hardly be expected that any amount of labour or
talent will enable him to reproduce for them _their_ Homer.

Mr Newman does not leave us in doubt as to the general effect which
Homer makes upon him. As I have told you what is the general effect
which Homer makes upon me,—that of a most rapidly moving poet, that of a
poet most plain and direct in his style, that of a poet most plain and
direct in his ideas, that of a poet eminently noble,—so Mr Newman tells
us his general impression of Homer. ‘Homer’s style’, he says, ‘is
direct, popular, forcible, quaint, flowing, garrulous’. Again: ‘Homer
rises and sinks with his subject, is prosaic when it is tame, is low
when it is mean’.

I lay my finger on four words in these two sentences of Mr Newman, and I
say that the man who could apply those words to Homer can never render
Homer truly. The four words are these: _quaint_, _garrulous_, _prosaic_,
_low_. Search the English language for a word which does not apply to
Homer, and you could not fix on a better than _quaint_, unless perhaps
you fixed on one of the other three.

Again; ‘to translate Homer suitably’, says Mr Newman, ‘we need a diction
sufficiently antiquated to obtain pardon of the reader for its frequent
homeliness’. ‘I am concerned’, he says again, ‘with the artistic problem
of attaining a plausible aspect of moderate antiquity, while remaining
easily intelligible’. And again, he speaks of ‘the more antiquated style
suited to this subject’. Quaint! antiquated!—but to whom? Sir Thomas
Browne is quaint, and the diction of Chaucer is antiquated: does Mr
Newman suppose that Homer seemed quaint to Sophocles, when he read him,
as Sir Thomas Browne seems quaint to us, when we read him? or that
Homer’s diction seemed antiquated to Sophocles, as Chaucer’s diction
seems antiquated to us? But we cannot really know, I confess, how Homer
seemed to Sophocles: well then, to those who can tell us how he seems to
them, to the living scholar, to our only present witness on this
matter,—does Homer make on the Provost of Eton, when he reads him, the
impression of a poet quaint and antiquated? does he make this impression
on Professor Thompson or Professor Jowett. When Shakspeare says, ‘The
princes _orgulous_’, meaning ‘the proud princes’, we say, ‘This is
antiquated’; when he says of the Trojan gates, that they

                                 With massy staples
                   And corresponsive and fulfilling bolts
                   _Sperr_ up the sons of Troy,

we say, ‘This is both quaint and antiquated’. But does Homer ever
compose in a language which produces on the scholar at all the same
impression as this language which I have quoted from Shakspeare? Never
once. Shakspeare is quaint and antiquated in the lines which I have just
quoted; but Shakspeare—need I say it?—can compose, when he likes, when
he is at his best, in a language perfectly simple, perfectly
intelligible; in a language which, in spite of the two centuries and a
half which part its author from us, stops us or surprises us as little
as the language of a contemporary. And Homer has not Shakspeare’s
variations: Homer always composes as Shakspeare composes at his best;
Homer is always simple and intelligible, as Shakspeare is often; Homer
is never quaint and antiquated, as Shakspeare is sometimes.

When Mr Newman says that Homer is garrulous, he seems, perhaps, to
depart less widely from the common opinion than when he calls him
quaint; for is there not Horace’s authority for asserting that ‘the good
Homer sometimes nods’, _bonus dormitat Homerus_? and a great many people
have come, from the currency of this well-known criticism, to represent
Homer to themselves as a diffuse old man, with the full-stocked mind,
but also with the occasional slips and weaknesses of old age. Horace has
said better things than his ‘bonus dormitat Homerus’; but he never meant
by this, as I need not remind anyone who knows the passage, that Homer
was garrulous, or anything of the kind. Instead, however, of either
discussing what Horace meant, or discussing Homer’s garrulity as a
general question, I prefer to bring to my mind some style which is
garrulous, and to ask myself, to ask you, whether anything at all of the
impression made by that style is ever made by the style of Homer. The
mediæval romancers, for instance, are garrulous; the following, to take
out of a thousand instances the first which comes to hand, is in a
garrulous manner. It is from the romance of Richard Cœur de Lion.

                    Of my tale be not a-wondered!
                    The French says he slew an hundred
                    (Whereof is made this English saw)
                    Or he rested him any thraw.
                    Him followed many an English knight
                    That eagerly holp him for to fight

and so on. Now the manner of that composition I call garrulous; everyone
will feel it to be garrulous; everyone will understand what is meant
when it is called garrulous. Then I ask the scholar,—does Homer’s manner
ever make upon you, I do not say, the same impression of its garrulity
as that passage, but does it make, ever for one moment, an impression in
the slightest way resembling, in the remotest degree akin to, the
impression made by that passage of the mediæval poet? I have no fear of
the answer.

I follow the same method with Mr Newman’s two other epithets, _prosaic_
and _low_. ‘Homer rises and sinks with his subject’, says Mr Newman; ‘is
prosaic when it is tame, is low when it is mean’. First I say, Homer is
never, in any sense, to be with truth called prosaic; he is never to be
called low. He does not rise and sink with his subject; on the contrary,
his manner invests his subject, whatever his subject be, with nobleness.
Then I look for an author of whom it may with truth be said, that he
‘rises and sinks with his subject, is prosaic when it is tame, is low
when it is mean’. Defoe is eminently such an author; of Defoe’s manner
it may with perfect precision be said, that it follows his matter; his
lifelike composition takes its character from the facts which it
conveys, not from the nobleness of the composer. In _Moll Flanders_ and
_Colonel Jack_, Defoe is undoubtedly prosaic when his subject is tame,
low when his subject is mean. Does Homer’s manner in the _Iliad_, I ask
the scholar, ever make upon him an impression at all like the impression
made by Defoe’s manner in _Moll Flanders_ and _Colonel Jack_? Does it
not, on the contrary, leave him with an impression of nobleness, even
when it deals with Thersites or with Irus?

Well then, Homer is neither quaint, nor garrulous, nor prosaic, nor
mean: and Mr Newman, in seeing him so, sees him differently from those
who are to judge Mr Newman’s rendering of him. By pointing out how a
wrong conception of Homer affects Mr Newman’s translation, I hope to
place in still clearer light those four cardinal truths which I
pronounce essential for him who would have a right conception of Homer:
that Homer is rapid, that he is plain and direct in word and style, that
he is plain and direct in his ideas, and that he is noble.

Mr Newman says that in fixing on a style for suitably rendering Homer,
as he conceives him, he ‘alights on the delicate line which separates
the _quaint_ from the _grotesque_’. ‘I ought to be quaint’, he says, ‘I
ought not to be grotesque’. This is a most unfortunate sentence. Mr
Newman is grotesque, which he himself says he ought not to be; and he
ought not to be quaint, which he himself says he ought to be.

‘No two persons will agree’, says Mr Newman, ‘as to where the quaint
ends and the grotesque begins’; and perhaps this is true. But, in order
to avoid all ambiguity in the use of the two words, it is enough to say,
that most persons would call an expression which produced on them a very
strong sense of its incongruity, and which violently surprised them,
_grotesque_; and an expression, which produced on them a slighter sense
of its incongruity, and which more gently surprised them, _quaint_.
Using the two words in this manner, I say, that when Mr Newman
translates Helen’s words to Hector in the sixth book,

          Δᾶερ ἐμεῖο, κυνὸς κακομηχάνου, ὀκρυοέσσης[10],

          O, brother thou of me, who am a mischief-working vixen,
          A numbing horror,

he is grotesque; that is, he expresses himself in a manner which
produces on us a very strong sense of its incongruity, and which
violently surprises us. I say, again, that when Mr Newman translates the
common line,

       Τὴν δ’ ἠμείβετ’ ἔπειτα μέγας κορυθαίολος Ἕκτωρ,

       Great Hector of the motley helm then spake to her responsive,

or the common expression, ἐϋκνήμιδες Ἀχαιοί, ‘dapper-greaved Achaians’,
he is quaint; that is, he expresses himself in a manner which produces
on us a slighter sense of incongruity, and which more gently surprises
us. But violent and gentle surprise are alike far from the scholar’s
spirit when he reads in Homer κυνὸς κακομηχάνου, or κορυθαίολος Ἕκτωρ,
or, ἐϋκνήμιδες Ἀχαιοί. These expressions no more seem odd to him than
the simplest expressions in English. He is not more checked by any
feeling of strangeness, strong or weak, when he reads them, than when he
reads in an English book ‘the painted savage’, or, ‘the phlegmatic
Dutchman’. Mr Newman’s renderings of them must, therefore, be wrong
expressions in a translation of Homer, because they excite in the
scholar, their only competent judge, a feeling quite alien to that
excited in him by what they profess to render.

Mr Newman, by expressions of this kind, is false to his original in two
ways. He is false to him inasmuch as he is ignoble; for a noble air, and
a grotesque air, the air of the address,

                 Δᾶερ ἐμεῖο, κυνὸς κακομηχάνου, ὀκρυοέσσης,

and the air of the address,

          O, brother thou of me, who am a mischief-working vixen,
          A numbing horror,

are just contrary the one to the other: and he is false to him inasmuch
as he is odd; for an odd diction like Mr Newman’s, and a perfectly plain
natural diction like Homer’s,—‘dapper-greaved Achaians’ and ἐϋκνήμιδες
Ἀχαιοί,—are also just contrary the one to the other. Where, indeed, Mr
Newman got his diction, with whom he can have lived, what can be his
test of antiquity and rarity for words, are questions which I ask myself
with bewilderment. He has prefixed to his translation a list of what he
calls ‘the more antiquated or rarer words’ which he has used. In this
list appear, on the one hand, such words as _doughty_, _grisly_,
_lusty_, _noisome_, _ravin_, which are familiar, one would think, to all
the world; on the other hand such words as _bragly_, meaning, Mr Newman
tells us, ‘proudly fine’; _bulkin_, ‘a calf’; _plump_, a ‘mass’; and so
on. ‘I am concerned’, says Mr Newman, ‘with the artistic problem of
attaining a plausible aspect of moderate antiquity, while remaining
easily intelligible’. But it seems to me that _lusty_ is not antiquated:
and that _bragly_ is not a word readily understood. That this word,
indeed, and _bulkin_, may have ‘a plausible aspect of moderate
antiquity’, I admit; but that they are ‘easily intelligible’, I deny.

Mr Newman’s syntax has, I say it with pleasure, a much more Homeric cast
than his vocabulary; his syntax, the mode in which his thought is
evolved, although not the actual words in which it is expressed, seems
to me right in its general character, and the best feature of his
version. It is not artificial or rhetorical like Cowper’s syntax or
Pope’s: it is simple, direct, and natural, and so far it is like
Homer’s. It fails, however, just where, from the inherent fault of Mr
Newman’s conception of Homer, one might expect it to fail,—it fails in
nobleness. It presents the thought in a way which is something more than
unconstrained,—over-familiar; something more than easy,—free and easy.
In this respect it is like the movement of Mr Newman’s version, like his
rhythm, for this, too, fails, in spite of some qualities, by not being
noble enough; this, while it avoids the faults of being slow and
elaborate, falls into a fault in the opposite direction, and is
slip-shod. Homer presents his thought naturally; but when Mr Newman has,

    A thousand fires along the plain, _I say_, that night were burning,

he presents his thought familiarly; in a style which may be the genuine
style of ballad-poetry, but which is not the style of Homer. Homer moves
freely; but when Mr Newman has,

          Infatuate! O that thou wert lord to some other army[11],

he gives himself too much freedom; he leaves us too much to do for his
rhythm ourselves, instead of giving to us a rhythm like Homer’s, easy
indeed, but mastering our ear with a fulness of power which is

I said that a certain style might be the genuine style of ballad-poetry,
but yet not the style of Homer. The analogy of the ballad is ever
present to Mr Newman’s thoughts in considering Homer; and perhaps
nothing has more caused his faults than this analogy,—this popular, but,
it is time to say, this erroneous analogy. ‘The moral qualities of
Homer’s style’, says Mr Newman, ‘being like to those of the English
ballad, we need a metre of the same genius. Only those metres, which by
the very possession of these qualities are liable to degenerate into
_doggerel_, are suitable to reproduce the ancient epic’. ‘The style of
Homer’, he says, in a passage which I have before quoted, ‘is direct,
popular, forcible, quaint, flowing, garrulous: in all these respects it
is similar to the old English ballad’. Mr Newman, I need not say, is by
no means alone in this opinion. ‘The most really and truly Homeric of
all the creations of the English muse is’, says Mr Newman’s critic in
the _National Review_, ‘the ballad-poetry of ancient times; and the
association between metre and subject is one that it would be true
wisdom to preserve’. ‘It is confessed’, says Chapman’s last editor, Mr
Hooper, ‘that the fourteen-syllable verse’ (that is, a ballad-verse) ‘is
peculiarly fitting for Homeric translation’. And the editor of Dr
Maginn’s clever and popular _Homeric Ballads_ assumes it as one of his
author’s greatest and most undisputable merits, that he was ‘the first
who consciously realised to himself the truth that Greek ballads can be
really represented in English only by a similar measure’.

This proposition that Homer’s poetry is _ballad-poetry_, analogous to
the well-known ballad-poetry of the English and other nations, has a
certain small portion of truth in it, and at one time probably served a
useful purpose, when it was employed to discredit the artificial and
literary manner in which Pope and his school rendered Homer. But it has
been so extravagantly over-used, the mistake which it was useful in
combating has so entirely lost the public favour, that it is now much
more important to insist on the large part of error contained in it,
than to extol its small part of truth. It is time to say plainly that,
whatever the admirers of our old ballads may think, the supreme form of
epic poetry, the genuine Homeric mould, is not the form of the Ballad of
Lord Bateman. I have myself shown the broad difference between Milton’s
manner and Homer’s; but, after a course of Mr Newman and Dr Maginn, I
turn round in desperation upon them and upon the balladists who have
misled them, and I exclaim: ‘Compared with you, Milton is Homer’s
double; there is, whatever you may think, ten thousand times more of the
real strain of Homer in

                  Blind Thamyris, and blind Mæonides,
                  And Tiresias, and Phineus, prophets old,

than in

                  Now Christ thee save, thou proud portèr,
                  Now Christ thee save and see[12],

or in

           While the tinker did dine, he had plenty of wine[13].

For Homer is not only rapid in movement, simple in style, plain in
language, natural in thought; he is also, and above all, _noble_. I have
advised the translator not to go into the vexed question of Homer’s
identity. Yet I will just remind him that the grand argument—or rather,
not argument, for the matter affords no data for arguing, but the grand
source from which conviction, as we read the _Iliad_, keeps pressing in
upon us, that there is one poet of the _Iliad_, one Homer—is precisely
this nobleness of the poet, this grand manner; we feel that the analogy
drawn from other joint compositions does not hold good here, because
those works do not bear, like the _Iliad_, the magic stamp of a master;
and the moment you have _anything_ less than a masterwork, the
co-operation or consolidation of several poets becomes possible, for
talent is not uncommon; the moment you have _much_ less than a
masterwork, they become easy, for mediocrity is everywhere. I can
imagine fifty Bradies joined with as many Tates to make the New Version
of the Psalms. I can imagine several poets having contributed to any one
of the old English ballads in Percy’s collection. I can imagine several
poets, possessing, like Chapman, the Elizabethan vigour and the
Elizabethan mannerism, united with Chapman to produce his version of the
_Iliad_. I can imagine several poets, with the literary knack of the
twelfth century, united to produce the _Nibelungen Lay_ in the form in
which we have it,—a work which the Germans, in their joy at discovering
a national epic of their own, have rated vastly higher than it deserves.
And lastly, though Mr Newman’s translation of Homer bears the strong
mark of his own idiosyncrasy, yet I can imagine Mr Newman and a school
of adepts trained by him in his art of poetry, jointly producing that
work, so that Aristarchus himself should have difficulty in pronouncing
which line was the master’s, and which a pupil’s. But I cannot imagine
several poets, or one poet, joined with Dante in the composition of his
_Inferno_, though many poets have taken for their subject a descent into
Hell. Many artists, again, have represented Moses; but there is only one
Moses of Michael Angelo. So the insurmountable obstacle to believing the
_Iliad_ a consolidated work of several poets is this: that the work of
great masters is unique; and the _Iliad_ has a great master’s genuine
stamp, and that stamp is _the grand style_.

Poets who cannot work in the grand style instinctively seek a style in
which their comparative inferiority may feel itself at ease, a manner
which may be, so to speak, indulgent to their inequalities. The
ballad-style offers to an epic poet, quite unable to fill the canvas of
Homer, or Dante, or Milton, a canvas which he is capable of filling. The
ballad-measure is quite able to give due effect to the vigour and spirit
which its employer, when at his very best, may be able to exhibit; and,
when he is not at his best, when he is a little trivial, or a little
dull, it will not betray him, it will not bring out his weakness into
broad relief. This is a convenience; but it is a convenience which the
ballad-style purchases by resigning all pretensions to the highest, to
the grand manner. It is true of its movement, as it is _not_ true of
Homer’s, that it is ‘liable to degenerate into doggerel’. It is true of
its ‘moral qualities’, as it is _not_ true of Homer’s, that ‘quaintness’
and ‘garrulity’ are among them. It is true of its employers, as it is
_not_ true of Homer, that they ‘rise and sink with their subject, are
prosaic when it is tame, are low when it is mean’. For this reason the
ballad-style and the ballad-measure are eminently _in_appropriate to
render Homer. Homer’s manner and movement are always both noble and
powerful: the ballad-manner and movement are often either jaunty and
smart, so not noble; or jog-trot and hum-drum, so not powerful.

The _Nibelungen Lay_ affords a good illustration of the qualities of the
ballad-manner. Based on grand traditions, which had found expression in
a grand lyric poetry, the German epic poem of the _Nibelungen Lay_,
though it is interesting, and though it has good passages, is itself
anything rather than a grand poem. It is a poem of which the composer
is, to speak the truth, a very ordinary mortal, and often, therefore,
like other ordinary mortals, very prosy. It is in a measure which
eminently adapts itself to this commonplace personality of its composer,
which has much the movement of the well-known measures of Tate and
Brady, and can jog on, for hundreds of lines at a time, with a level
ease which reminds one of Sheridan’s saying that easy writing may be
often such hard reading. But, instead of occupying myself with the
_Nibelungen Lay_, I prefer to look at the ballad-style as directly
applied to Homer, in Chapman’s version and Mr Newman’s, and in the
_Homeric Ballads_ of Dr. Maginn.

First I take Chapman. I have already shown that Chapman’s conceits are
un-Homeric, and that his rhyme is un-Homeric; I will now show how his
manner and movement are un-Homeric. Chapman’s diction, I have said, is
generally good; but it must be called good with this reserve, that,
though it has Homer’s plainness and directness, it often offends him who
knows Homer, by wanting Homer’s nobleness. In a passage which I have
already quoted, the address of Zeus to the horses of Achilles, where
Homer has,

              ἆ δειλώ, τι σφῶϊ δόμεν Πηλῆϊ ἄνακτι
              θνητῷ; ὑμεῖς δ’ ἐστὸν ἀγήρω τ’ ἀθανάτω τε!
              ἦ ἵνα δυστήνοισι μετ’ ἀνδράσιν ἄλγε’ ἔχητον[14];

Chapman has,

                          _Poor wretched beasts_, said he,
        Why gave we you to a mortal king, when immortality
        And incapacity of age so dignifies your states?
        Was it to haste[15] the miseries poured out on human fates?

There are many faults in this rendering of Chapman’s, but what I
particularly wish to notice in it is the expression ‘Poor wretched
beasts’ for ἆ δειλώ. This expression just illustrates the difference
between the ballad-manner and Homer’s. The ballad-manner—Chapman’s
manner—is, I say, pitched sensibly lower than Homer’s. The ballad-manner
requires that an expression shall be plain and natural, and then it asks
no more. Homer’s manner requires that an expression shall be plain and
natural, but it also requires that it shall be noble. Ἆ δειλώ is as
plain, as simple as ‘Poor wretched beasts’; but it is also noble, which
‘Poor wretched beasts’ is not. ‘Poor wretched beasts’ is, in truth, a
little over-familiar, but this is no objection to it for the
ballad-manner; it is good enough for the old English ballad, good enough
for the _Nibelungen Lay_, good enough for Chapman’s _Iliad_, good enough
for Mr Newman’s _Iliad_, good enough for Dr Maginn’s _Homeric Ballads_;
but it is not good enough for Homer.

To feel that Chapman’s measure, though natural, is not Homeric; that,
though tolerably rapid, it has not Homer’s rapidity; that it has a
jogging rapidity rather than a flowing rapidity; and a movement familiar
rather than nobly easy, one has only, I think, to read half a dozen
lines in any part of his version. I prefer to keep as much as possible
to passages which I have already noticed, so I will quote the conclusion
of the nineteenth book, where Achilles answers his horse Xanthus, who
has prophesied his death to him[16].

                          Achilles, far in rage,
    Thus answered him:—It fits not thee thus proudly to presage
    My overthrow. I know myself it is my fate to fall
    Thus far from Phthia; yet that fate shall fail to vent her gall
    Till mine vent thousands.—These words said, he fell to horrid deeds,
    Gave dreadful signal, and forthright made fly his one-hoofed steeds.

For what regards the manner of this passage, the words ‘Achilles Thus
answered him’, and ‘I know myself it is my fate to fall Thus far from
Phthia’, are in Homer’s manner, and all the rest is out of it. But for
what regards its movement, who, after being jolted by Chapman through
such verse as this,

            These words said, he fell to horrid deeds,
    Gave dreadful signal, and forthright made fly his one-hoofed steeds,

who does not feel the vital difference of the movement of Homer,

              ἦ ῥα, καὶ ἐν πρώτοις ἰάχων ἔχε μώνυχας ἵππο υς?

To pass from Chapman to Dr Maginn. His _Homeric Ballads_ are vigorous
and genuine poems in their own way; they are not one continual falsetto,
like the pinch-beck _Roman Ballads_ of Lord Macaulay; but just because
they are ballads in their manner and movement, just because, to use the
words of his applauding editor, Dr Maginn has ‘consciously realised to
himself the truth that Greek ballads can be really represented in
English only by a similar manner’,—just for this very reason they are
not at all Homeric, they have not the least in the world the manner of
Homer. There is a celebrated incident in the nineteenth book of the
_Odyssey_, the recognition by the old nurse Eurycleia of a scar on the
leg of her master Ulysses, who has entered his own hall as an unknown
wanderer, and whose feet she has been set to wash. ‘Then she came near’,
says Homer, ‘and began to wash her master; and straightway she
recognised a scar which he had got in former days from the white tusk of
a wild boar, when he went to Parnassus unto Autolycus and the sons of
Autolycus, his mother’s father and brethren’[17]. This, ‘really
represented’ by Dr Maginn, in ‘a measure similar’ to Homer’s, becomes:

               And scarcely had she begun to wash
               Ere she was aware of the grisly gash
                   Above his knee that lay.
               It was a wound from a wild boar’s tooth,
               All on Parnassus’ slope,
               Where he went to hunt in the days of his youth
               With his mother’s sire,

and so on. That is the true ballad-manner, no one can deny; ‘all on
Parnassus’ slope’ is, I was going to say, the true ballad-slang; but
never again shall I be able to read

             νίζε δ’ ἄῤ ἆσσον ἴουσα ἄναχθ’ ἑόν· αὐτίκα δ’ ἔγνω

without having the destestable dance of Dr Maginn’s

                   And scarcely had she begun to wash
                   Ere she was aware of the grisly gash,

jigging in my ears, to spoil the effect of Homer, and to torture me. To
apply that manner and that rhythm to Homer’s incidents, is not to
imitate Homer, but to travesty him.

Lastly I come to Mr Newman. His rhythm, like Chapman’s and Dr Maginn’s,
is a ballad-rhythm, but with a modification of his own. ‘Holding it’, he
tells us, ‘as an axiom, that rhyme must be abandoned’, he found, on
abandoning it, ‘an unpleasant void until he gave a double ending to the
verse’. In short, instead of saying

                      Good people all with one accord
                      Give ear unto my _tale_,

Mr Newman would say

                      Good people all with one accord
                      Give ear unto my _story_.

A recent American writer[18] gravely observes that for his countrymen
this rhythm has a disadvantage in being like the rhythm of the American
national air _Yankee Doodle_, and thus provoking ludicrous associations.
_Yankee Doodle_ is not our national air: for us Mr Newman’s rhythm has
not this disadvantage. He himself gives us several plausible reasons why
this rhythm of his really ought to be successful: let us examine how far
it _is_ successful.

Mr Newman joins to a bad rhythm so bad a diction that it is difficult to
distinguish exactly whether in any given passage it is his words or his
measure which produces a total impression of such an unpleasant kind.
But with a little attention we may analyse our total impression, and
find the share which each element has in producing it. To take the
passage which I have so often mentioned, Sarpedon’s speech to Glaucus.
Mr Newman translates this as follows:

      O gentle friend! if thou and I, from this encounter ’scaping,
      Hereafter might for ever be from Eld and Death exempted
      As heavenly gods, not I in sooth would fight among the foremost,
      Nor liefly thee would I advance to man-ennobling battle.
      Now,—sith ten thousand shapes of Death do any-gait pursue us
      Which never mortal may evade, though sly of foot and nimble;—
      Onward! and glory let us earn, or glory yield to someone.

      Could all our care elude the gloomy grave
      Which claims no less the fearful than the brave.

I am not going to quote Pope’s version over again, but I must remark in
passing, how much more, with all Pope’s radical difference of manner
from Homer, it gives us of the real effect of

                   εἰ μὲν γὰρ, πόλεμον περὶ τόνδε φυγόντε

than Mr Newman’s lines. And now, why are Mr Newman’s lines faulty? They
are faulty, first, because, as a matter of diction, the expressions ‘O
gentle friend’, ‘eld’, ‘in sooth’, ‘liefly’, ‘advance’, ‘man-ennobling’,
‘sith’, ‘any-gait’, and ‘sly of foot’, are all bad; some of them worse
than others, but all bad: that is, they all of them as here used excite
in the scholar, their sole judge,—excite, I will boldly affirm, in
Professor Thompson or Professor Jowett,—a feeling totally different from
that excited in them by the words of Homer which these expressions
profess to render. The lines are faulty, secondly, because, as a matter
of rhythm, any and every line among them has to the ear of the same
judges (I affirm it with equal boldness) a movement as unlike Homer’s
movement in the corresponding line as the single words are unlike
Homer’s words. Οὔτε κέ σε στέλλοιμαι μάχην ἐς κυδιάνειρν,—‘Nor liefly
thee would I advance to man-ennobling battle’;—for whose ears do those
two rhythms produce impressions of, to use Mr Newman’s own words,
‘similar moral genius’?

I will by no means make search in Mr Newman’s version for passages
likely to raise a laugh; that search, alas! would be far too easy. I
will quote but one other passage from him, and that a passage where the
diction is comparatively inoffensive, in order that disapproval of the
words may not unfairly heighten disapproval of the rhythm. The end of
the nineteenth book, the answer of Achilles to his horse Xanthus, Mr
Newman gives thus:

      Chestnut! why bodest death to me? from thee this was not needed.
      Myself right surely know alsó, that ’t is my doom to perish,
      From mother and from father dear apart, in Troy; but never
      Pause will I make of war, until the Trojans be glutted.
        He spake, and yelling, held afront the single-hoofed horses.

Here Mr Newman calls Xanthus _Chestnut_, indeed, as he calls Balius
_Spotted_, and Podarga _Spry-foot_; which is as if a Frenchman were to
call Miss Nightingale _Mdlle. Rossignol_, or Mr Bright _M. Clair_. And
several other expressions, too, ‘yelling’, ‘held afront’,
‘single-hoofed’,—leave, to say the very least, much to be desired.
Still, for Mr Newman, the diction of this passage is pure. All the more
clearly appears the profound vice of a rhythm, which, with comparatively
few faults of words, can leave a sense of such incurable alienation from
Homer’s manner as, ‘Myself right surely know also that ’tis my doom to
perish compared with the εὖ νύ τοι οἶδα καὶ αὐτὸς, ὅ μοι μόρος ἐνθάδ’
ὀλέσθαι of Homer.

But so deeply seated is the difference between the ballad-manner and
Homer’s, that even a man of the highest powers, even a man of the
greatest vigour of spirit and of true genius—the Coryphæus of
balladists, Sir Walter Scott—fails with a manner of this kind to produce
an effect at all like the effect of Homer. ‘I am not so rash’, declares
Mr Newman, ‘as to say that if _freedom_ be given to rhyme as in Walter
Scott’s poetry’,—‘Walter Scott, by far the most Homeric of our poets’,
as in another place he calls him,—‘a genius may not arise who will
translate Homer into the melodies of _Marmion_’. ‘The _truly_ classical
and _truly_ romantic’, says Dr Maginn, ‘are one; the moss-trooping
Nestor reappears in the moss-trooping heroes of Percy’s _Reliques_’; and
a description by Scott, which he quotes, he calls ‘graphic, and
therefore Homeric’. He forgets our fourth axiom,—that Homer is not
_only_ graphic; he is also noble, and has the grand style. Human nature
under like circumstances is probably in all stages much the same; and so
far it may be said that ‘the truly classical and the truly romantic are
one’; but it is of little use to tell us this, because we know the human
nature of other ages only through the representations of them which have
come down to us, and the classical and the romantic modes of
representation are so far from being ‘one’, that they remain eternally
distinct, and have created for us a separation between the two worlds
which they respectively represent. Therefore to call Nestor the
‘moss-trooping Nestor’ is absurd, because, though Nestor may possibly
have been much the same sort of man as many a moss-trooper, he has yet
come to us through a mode of representation so unlike that of Percy’s
_Reliques_, that instead of ‘reappearing in the moss-trooping heroes’ of
these poems, he exists in our imagination as something utterly unlike
them, and as belonging to another world. So the Greeks in Shakspeare’s
_Troilus and Cressida_ are no longer the Greeks whom we have known in
Homer, because they come to us through a mode of representation of the
romantic world. But I must not forget Scott.

I suppose that when Scott is in what may be called full ballad swing, no
one will hesitate to pronounce his manner neither Homeric nor the grand
manner. When he says, for instance,

                      I do not rhyme to that dull elf
                      Who cannot image to himself[19],

and so on, any scholar will feel that _this_ is not Homer’s manner. But
let us take Scott’s poetry at its best; and when it is at its best, it
is undoubtedly very good indeed:

                 Tunstall lies dead upon the field,
                 His life-blood stains the spotless shield;
                 Edmund is down,—my life is reft,—
                 The Admiral alone is left.
                 Let Stanley charge with spur of fire,—
                 With Chester charge, and Lancashire,
                 Full upon Scotland’s central host,
                 Or victory and England’s lost[20].

That is, no doubt, as vigorous as possible, as spirited as possible; it
is exceedingly fine poetry. And still I say, it is not in the grand
manner, and therefore it is not like Homer’s poetry. Now, how shall I
make him who doubts this feel that I say true; that these lines of Scott
are essentially neither in Homer’s style nor in the grand style? I may
point out to him that the movement of Scott’s lines, while it is rapid,
is also at the same time what the French call _saccadé_, its rapidity is
‘jerky’; whereas Homer’s rapidity is a flowing rapidity. But this is
something external and material; it is but the outward and visible sign
of an inward and spiritual diversity. I may discuss what, in the
abstract, constitutes the grand style; but that sort of general
discussion never much helps our judgment of particular instances. I may
say that the presence or absence of the grand style can only be
spiritually discerned; and this is true, but to plead this looks like
evading the difficulty. My best way is to take eminent specimens of the
grand style, and to put them side by side with this of Scott. For
example, when Homer says:

             άλλά, φίλος, θάνε καὶ σύ· τίη ὀλυφύρεαι οὕτως;
             κάθανε καὶ Πάτροκλος, ὅπερ σέο πολλὸν ἀμείνων[21],

that is in the grand style. When Virgil says:

               Disce, puer, virtutem ex me verumque laborem,
               Fortunam ex aliis[22],

that is in the grand style. When Dante says:

              Lascio lo fele, et vo pei dolci pomi
              Promessi a me per lo verace Duca;
              Ma fino al centro pria convien ch’ io tomi[23],

that is in the grand style. When Milton says:

                               His form had yet not lost
                 All her original brightness, nor appeared
                 Less than archangel ruined, and the excess
                 Of glory obscured[24],

that, finally, is in the grand style. Now let anyone after repeating to
himself these four passages, repeat again the passage of Scott, and he
will perceive that there is something in style which the four first have
in common, and which the last is without; and this something is
precisely the grand manner. It is no disrespect to Scott to say that he
does not attain to this manner in his poetry; to say so, is merely to
say that he is not among the five or six supreme poets of the world.
Among these he is not; but, being a man of far greater powers than the
ballad-poets, he has tried to give to their instrument a compass and an
elevation which it does not naturally possess, in order to enable him to
come nearer to the effect of the instrument used by the great epic
poets—an instrument which he felt he could not truly use,—and in this
attempt he has but imperfectly succeeded. The poetic style of Scott
is—(it becomes necessary to say so when it is proposed to ‘translate
Homer into the melodies of _Marmion_’)—it is, tried by the highest
standard, a bastard epic style; and that is why, out of his own powerful
hands, it has had so little success. It is a less natural, and therefore
a less good style, than the original ballad-style; while it shares with
the ballad-style the inherent incapacity of rising into the grand style,
of adequately rendering Homer. Scott is certainly at his best in his
battles. Of Homer you could not say this; he is not better in his
battles than elsewhere; but even between the battle-pieces of the two
there exists all the difference which there is between an able work and
a masterpiece.

                 Tunstall lies dead upon the field,
                 His life-blood stains the spotless shield:
                 Edmund is down,—my life is reft—
                 The Admiral alone is left.

—‘For not in the hands of Diomede the son of Tydeus rages the spear, to
ward off destruction from the Danaans; neither as yet have I heard the
voice of the son of Atreus, shouting out of his hated mouth; but the
voice of Hector the slayer of men bursts round me, as he cheers on the
Trojans; and they with their yellings fill all the plain, overcoming the
Achaians in the battle’.—I protest that, to my feeling, Homer’s
performance, even through that pale and far-off shadow of a prose
translation, still has a hundred times more of the grand manner about
it, than the original poetry of Scott.

Well, then, the ballad-manner and the ballad-measure, whether in the
hands of the old ballad-poets, or arranged by Chapman, or arranged by Mr
Newman, or, even, arranged by Sir Walter Scott, cannot worthily render
Homer. And for one reason: Homer is plain, so are they; Homer is
natural, so are they; Homer is spirited, so are they; but Homer is
sustainedly noble, and they are not. Homer and they are both of them
natural, and therefore touching and stirring; but the grand style, which
is Homer’s, is something more than touching and stirring; it can form
the character, it is edifying. The old English balladist may stir Sir
Philip Sidney’s heart like a trumpet, and this is much: but Homer, but
the few artists in the grand style, can do more; they can refine the raw
natural man, they can transmute him. So it is not without cause that I
say, and say again, to the translator of Homer: ‘Never for a moment
suffer yourself to forget our fourth fundamental proposition, _Homer is
noble_’. For it is seen how large a share this nobleness has in
producing that general effect of his, which it is the main business of a
translator to _re_produce.

I shall have to try your patience yet once more upon this subject, and
then my task will be completed. I have shown what the four axioms
respecting Homer which I have laid down, exclude, what they bid a
translator not to do; I have still to show what they supply, what
positive help they can give to the translator in his work. I will even,
with their aid, myself try my fortune with some of those passages of
Homer which I have already noticed; not indeed with any confidence that
I more than others can succeed in adequately rendering Homer, but in the
hope of satisfying competent judges, in the hope of making it clear to
the future translator, that I at any rate follow a right method, and
that, in coming short, I come short from weakness of execution, not from
original vice of design. This is why I have so long occupied myself with
Mr Newman’s version; that, apart from all faults of execution, his
original design was wrong, and that he has done us the good service of
declaring that design in its naked wrongness. To bad practice he has
prefixed the bad theory which made the practice bad; he has given us a
false theory in his preface, and he has exemplified the bad effects of
that false theory in his translation. It is because his starting-point
is so bad that he runs so badly; and to save others from taking so false
a starting-point, may be to save them from running so futile a course.

Mr Newman, indeed, says in his preface, that if anyone dislikes his
translation, ‘he has his easy remedy; to keep aloof from it’. But Mr
Newman is a writer of considerable and deserved reputation; he is also a
Professor of the University of London, an institution which by its
position and by its merits acquires every year greater importance. It
would be a very grave thing if the authority of so eminent a Professor
led his students to misconceive entirely the chief work of the Greek
world; that work which, whatever the other works of classical antiquity
have to give us, gives it more abundantly than they all. The
eccentricity too, the arbitrariness, of which Mr Newman’s conception of
Homer offers so signal an example, are not a peculiar failing of Mr
Newman’s own; in varying degrees they are the great defect of English
intellect the great blemish of English literature. Our literature of the
eighteenth century, the literature of the school of Dryden, Addison,
Pope, Johnson, is a long reaction against this eccentricity, this
arbitrariness; that reaction perished by its own faults, and its enemies
are left once more masters of the field. It is much more likely that any
new English version of Homer will have Mr Newman’s faults than Pope’s.
Our present literature, which is very far, certainly, from having the
spirit and power of Elizabethan genius, yet has in its own way these
faults, eccentricity, and arbitrariness, quite as much as the
Elizabethan literature ever had. They are the cause that, while upon
none, perhaps, of the modern literatures has so great a sum of force
been expended as upon the English literature, at the present hour this
literature, regarded not as an object of mere literary interest but as a
living intellectual instrument, ranks only third in European effect and
importance among the literatures of Europe; it ranks after the
literatures of France and Germany. Of these two literatures, as of the
intellect of Europe in general, the main effort, for now many years, has
been a _critical_ effort; the endeavour, in all branches of knowledge,
theology, philosophy, history, art, science,—to see the object as in
itself it really is. But, owing to the presence in English literature of
this eccentric and arbitrary spirit, owing to the strong tendency of
English writers to bring to the consideration of their object some
individual fancy, almost the last thing for which one would come to
English literature is just that very thing which now Europe most
desires—_criticism_. It is useful to notice any signal manifestation of
those faults, which thus limit and impair the action of our literature.
And therefore I have pointed out how widely, in translating Homer, a man
even of real ability and learning may go astray, unless he brings to the
study of this clearest of poets one quality in which our English
authors, with all their great gifts, are apt to be somewhat
wanting—simple lucidity of mind.

Footnote 10:

  _Iliad_, vi. 344.

Footnote 11:

  From the reproachful answer of Ulysses to Agamemnon, who had proposed
  an abandonment of their expedition. This is one of the ‘tonic’
  passages of the _Iliad_, so I quote it:

      Ah, unworthy king, some other inglorious army
      Should’st thou command, not rule over _us_, whose portion for ever
      Zeus hath made it, from youth right up to age, to be winding
      Skeins of grievous wars, till every soul of us perish.

  _Iliad_, xiv. 84.

Footnote 12:

  From the ballad of _King Estmere_, in Percy’s _Reliques of Ancient
  English Poetry_, i. 69 (edit. of 1767).

Footnote 13:

  _Reliques_, i. 241

Footnote 14:

  _Iliad_, xvii. 443.

Footnote 15:

  All the editions which I have seen have ‘haste’, but the right reading
  must certainly be ‘taste’.

Footnote 16:

  _Iliad_, xix. 419.

Footnote 17:

  _Odyssey_, xix. 392.

Footnote 18:

  Mr Marsh, in his _Lectures on the English Language_, New York, 1860,
  p. 520.

Footnote 19:

  _Marmion_, canto vi. 38.

Footnote 20:

  _Marmion_, canto vi. 29.

Footnote 21:

  ‘Be content, good friend, die also thou! why lamentest thou thyself on
  this wise? Patroclus, too, died, who was a far better than
  thou.’—_Iliad_, xxi. 106.

Footnote 22:

  ‘From me, young man, learn nobleness of soul and true effort: learn
  success from others.’—_Æneid_, xii. 435.

Footnote 23:

  ‘I leave the gall of bitterness, and I go for the apples of sweetness
  promised unto me by my faithful Guide; but far as the centre it
  behoves me first to fall.’—_Hell_, xvi. 61.

Footnote 24:

  _Paradise Lost_, i. 591.


Homer is rapid in his movement, Homer is plain in his words and style,
Homer is simple in his ideas, Homer is noble in his manner. Cowper
renders him ill because he is slow in his movement, and elaborate in his
style; Pope renders him ill because he is artificial both in his style
and in his words; Chapman renders him ill because he is fantastic in his
ideas; Mr Newman renders him ill because he is odd in his words and
ignoble in his manner. All four translators diverge from their original
at other points besides those named; but it is at the points thus named
that their divergence is greatest. For instance, Cowper’s diction is not
as Homer’s diction, nor his nobleness as Homer’s nobleness; but it is in
movement and grammatical style that he is most unlike Homer. Pope’s
rapidity is not of the same sort as Homer’s rapidity, nor are his
plainness of ideas and his nobleness as Homer’s plainness of ideas and
nobleness: but it is in the artificial character of his style and
diction that he is most unlike Homer. Chapman’s movement, words, style,
and manner, are often far enough from resembling Homer’s movement,
words, style, and manner; but it is the fantasticality of his ideas
which puts him farthest from resembling Homer. Mr Newman’s movement,
grammatical style, and ideas, are a thousand times in strong contrast
with Homer’s; still it is by the oddness of his diction and the
ignobleness of his manner that he contrasts with Homer the most

Therefore the translator must not say to himself: ‘Cowper is noble, Pope
is rapid, Chapman has a good diction, Mr Newman has a good cast of
sentence; I will avoid Cowper’s slowness, Pope’s artificiality,
Chapman’s conceits, Mr Newman’s oddity; I will take Cowper’s dignified
manner, Pope’s impetuous movement, Chapman’s vocabulary, Mr Newman’s
syntax, and so make a perfect translation of Homer’. Undoubtedly in
certain points the versions of Chapman, Cowper, Pope, and Mr Newman, all
of them have merit; some of them very high merit, others a lower merit;
but even in these points they have none of them precisely the same kind
of merit as Homer, and therefore the new translator, even if he can
imitate them in their good points, will still not satisfy his judge, the
scholar, who asks him for Homer and Homer’s kind of merit, or, at least,
for as much of them as it is possible to give.

So the translator really has no good model before him for any part of
his work, and has to invent everything for himself. He is to be rapid in
movement, plain in speech, simple in thought, and noble; and _how_ he is
to be either rapid, or plain, or simple, or noble, no one yet has shown
him. I shall try to-day to establish some practical suggestions which
may help the translator of Homer’s poetry to comply with the four grand
requirements which we make of him.

His version is to be rapid; and of course, to make a man’s poetry rapid,
as to make it noble, nothing can serve him so much as to have, in his
own nature, rapidity and nobleness. _It is the spirit that quickeneth_;
and no one will so well render Homer’s swift-flowing movement as he who
has himself something of the swift-moving spirit of Homer. Yet even this
is not quite enough. Pope certainly had a quick and darting spirit, as
he had, also, real nobleness; yet Pope does not render the movement of
Homer. To render this the translator must have, besides his natural
qualifications, an appropriate metre.

I have sufficiently shown why I think all forms of our ballad-metre
unsuited to Homer. It seems to me to be beyond question that, for epic
poetry, only three metres can seriously claim to be accounted capable of
the grand style. Two of these will at once occur to everyone,—the
ten-syllable, or so-called _heroic_, couplet, and blank verse. I do not
add to these the Spenserian stanza, although Dr Maginn, whose metrical
eccentricities I have already criticised, pronounces this stanza the one
right measure for a translation of Homer. It is enough to observe that
if Pope’s couplet, with the simple system of correspondences that its
rhymes introduce, changes the movement of Homer, in which no such
correspondences are found, and is therefore a bad measure for a
translator of Homer to employ, Spenser’s stanza, with its far more
intricate system of correspondences, must change Homer’s movement far
more profoundly, and must therefore be for the translator a far worse
measure than the couplet of Pope. Yet I will say, at the same time, that
the verse of Spenser is more fluid, slips more easily and quickly along,
than the verse of almost any other English poet.

              By this the northern wagoner had set
              His seven-fold team behind the steadfast star
              That was in ocean waves yet never wet,
              But firm is fixt, and sendeth light from far
              To all that in the wide deep wandering are[25].

One cannot but feel that English verse has not often moved with the
fluidity and sweet ease of these lines. It is possible that it may have
been this quality of Spenser’s poetry which made Dr Maginn think that
the stanza of _The Faery Queen_ must be a good measure for rendering
Homer. This it is not: Spenser’s verse is fluid and rapid, no doubt, but
there are more ways than one of being fluid and rapid, and Homer is
fluid and rapid in quite another way than Spenser. Spenser’s manner is
no more Homeric than is the manner of the one modern inheritor of
Spenser’s beautiful gift,—the poet, who evidently caught from Spenser
his sweet and easy-slipping movement, and who has exquisitely employed
it; a Spenserian genius, nay, a genius by natural endowment richer
probably than even Spenser; that light which shines so unexpectedly and
without fellow in our century, an Elizabethan born too late, the early
lost and admirably gifted Keats.

I say then that there are really but three metres,—the ten-syllable
couplet, blank verse, and a third metre which I will not yet name,
but which is neither the Spenserian stanza nor any form of
ballad-verse,—between which, as vehicles for Homer’s poetry, the
translator has to make his choice. Everyone will at once remember a
thousand passages in which both the ten-syllable couplet and blank
verse prove themselves to have nobleness. Undoubtedly the movement
and manner of this,

              Still raise for good the supplicating voice,
              But leave to Heaven the measure and the choice,

are noble. Undoubtedly, the movement and manner of this:

                 High on a throne of royal state, which far
                 Outshone the wealth of Ormus and of Ind,

are noble also. But the first is in a rhymed metre; and the unfitness of
a rhymed metre for rendering Homer I have already shown. I will observe
too, that the fine couplet which I have quoted comes out of a satire, a
didactic poem; and that it is in didactic poetry that the ten-syllable
couplet has most successfully essayed the grand style. In narrative
poetry this metre has succeeded best when it essayed a sensibly lower
style, the style of Chaucer, for instance; whose narrative manner,
though a very good and sound manner, is certainly neither the grand
manner nor the manner of Homer.

The rhymed ten-syllable couplet being thus excluded, blank verse offers
itself for the translator’s use. The first kind of blank verse which
naturally occurs to us is the blank verse of Milton, which has been
employed, with more or less modification, by Mr Cary in translating
Dante, by Cowper, and by Mr Wright in translating Homer. How noble this
metre is in Milton’s hands, how completely it shows itself capable of
the grand, nay, of the grandest, style, I need not say. To this metre,
as used in the _Paradise Lost_, our country owes the glory of having
produced one of the only two poetical works in the grand style which are
to be found in the modern languages; the _Divine Comedy_ of Dante is the
other. England and Italy here stand alone; Spain, France, and Germany,
have produced great poets, but neither Calderon, nor Corneille, nor
Schiller, nor even Goethe, has produced a body of poetry in the true
grand style, in the sense in which the style of the body of Homer’s
poetry, or Pindar’s, or Sophocles’s, is grand. But Dante has, and so has
Milton; and in this respect Milton possesses a distinction which even
Shakspeare, undoubtedly the supreme poetical power in our literature,
does not share with him. Not a tragedy of Shakspeare but contains
passages in the worst of all styles, the affected style; and the grand
style, although it may be harsh, or obscure, or cumbrous, or
over-laboured, is never affected. In spite, therefore, of objections
which may justly be urged against the plan and treatment of the
_Paradise Lost_, in spite of its possessing, certainly, a far less
enthralling force of interest to attract and to carry forward the reader
than the _Iliad_ or the _Divine Comedy_, it fully deserves, it can never
lose, its immense reputation; for, like the _Iliad_ and the _Divine
Comedy_, nay, in some respects to a higher degree than either of them,
it is in the grand style.

But the grandeur of Milton is one thing, and the grandeur of Homer is
another. Homer’s movement, I have said again and again, is a flowing, a
rapid movement; Milton’s, on the other hand, is a laboured, a
self-retarding movement. In each case, the movement, the metrical cast,
corresponds with the mode of evolution of the thought, with the
syntactical cast, and is indeed determined by it. Milton charges himself
so full with thought, imagination, knowledge, that his style will hardly
contain them. He is too full-stored to show us in much detail one
conception, one piece of knowledge; he just shows it to us in a pregnant
allusive way, and then he presses on to another; and all this fulness,
this pressure, this condensation, this self-constraint, enters into his
movement, and makes it what it is,—noble, but difficult and austere.
Homer is quite different; he says a thing, and says it to the end, and
then begins another, while Milton is trying to press a thousand things
into one. So that whereas, in reading Milton, you never lose the sense
of laborious and condensed fulness, in reading Homer you never lose the
sense of flowing and abounding ease. With Milton line runs into line,
and all is straitly bound together: with Homer line runs off from line,
and all hurries away onward. Homer begins, Μῆνιν ἄειδε, Θεά,—at the
second word announcing the proposed action: Milton begins:

               Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit
               Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
               Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
               With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
               Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,
               Sing, heavenly muse.

So chary of a sentence is he, so resolute not to let it escape him till
he has crowded into it all he can, that it is not till the thirty-ninth
word in the sentence that he will give us the key to it, the word of
action, the verb. Milton says:

                O for that warning voice, which he, who saw
                The Apocalypse, heard cry in heaven aloud.

He is not satisfied, unless he can tell us, all in one sentence, and
without permitting himself to actually mention the name, that the man
who had the warning voice was the same man who saw the Apocalypse. Homer
would have said, ‘O for that warning voice, which _John_ heard’—and if
it had suited him to say that John also saw the Apocalypse, he would
have given us that in another sentence. The effect of this allusive and
compressed manner of Milton is, I need not say, often very powerful; and
it is an effect which other great poets have often sought to obtain much
in the same way: Dante is full of it, Horace is full of it; but wherever
it exists, it is always an un-Homeric effect. ‘The losses of the
heavens’, says Horace, ‘fresh moons speedily repair; we, when we have
gone down where the pious Æneas, where the rich Tullus and Ancus
are,—_pulvis et umbra sumus_[26]’. He never actually says _where_ we go
to; he only indicates it by saying that it is that place where Æneas,
Tullus, and Ancus are. But Homer, when he has to speak of going down to
the grave, says, definitely, _ἐς Ἐλύσιοv πεδιον_—ἀθάνατοι
πέμψουσιν[27],—‘The immortals shall send thee _to the Elysian plain_’;
and it is not till after he has definitely said this, that he adds, that
it is there that the abode of departed worthies is placed: ὅθι ξανθὸς
Ῥαδάμανθυς—‘Where the yellow-haired Rhadamanthus is’. Again; Horace,
having to say that punishment sooner or later overtakes crime, says it

                       Raro antecedentem scelestum
                       Deseruit pede Pœna claudo[28].

The thought itself of these lines is familiar enough to Homer and
Hesiod; but neither Homer nor Hesiod, in expressing it, could possibly
have so complicated its expression as Horace complicates it, and
purposely complicates it, by his use of the word _deseruit_. I say that
this complicated evolution of the thought necessarily complicates the
movement and rhythm of a poet; and that the Miltonic blank verse, of
course the first model of blank verse which suggests itself to an
English translator of Homer, bears the strongest marks of such
complication, and is therefore entirely unfit to render Homer.

If blank verse is used in translating Homer, it must be a blank verse of
which English poetry, naturally swayed much by Milton’s treatment of
this metre, offers at present hardly any examples. It must not be
Cowper’s blank verse, who has studied Milton’s pregnant manner with such
effect, that, having to say of Mr Throckmorton that he spares his
avenue, although it is the fashion with other people to cut down theirs,
he says that Benevolus ‘reprieves the obsolete prolixity of shade’. It
must not be Mr Tennyson’s blank verse.

            For all experience is an arch, wherethrough
            Gleams that untravelled world, whose distance fades
            For ever and for ever, as we gaze.

It is no blame to the thought of those lines, which belongs to another
order of ideas than Homer’s, but it is true, that Homer would certainly
have said of them, ‘It is to consider too curiously to consider so’. It
is no blame to their rhythm, which belongs to another order of movement
than Homer’s, but it is true that these three lines by themselves take
up nearly as much time as a whole book of the _Iliad_. No; the blank
verse used in rendering Homer must be a blank verse of which perhaps the
best specimens are to be found in some of the most rapid passages of
Shakspeare’s plays,—a blank verse which does not dovetail its lines into
one another, and which habitually ends its lines with monosyllables.
Such a blank verse might no doubt be very rapid in its movement, and
might perfectly adapt itself to a thought plainly and directly evolved;
and it would be interesting to see it well applied to Homer. But the
translator who determines to use it, must not conceal from himself that
in order to pour Homer into the mould of this metre, he will have
entirely to break him up and melt him down, with the hope of then
successfully composing him afresh; and this is a process which is full
of risks. It may, no doubt, be the real Homer that issues new from it;
it is not certain beforehand that it cannot be the real Homer, as it is
certain that from the mould of Pope’s couplet or Cowper’s Miltonic verse
it cannot be the real Homer that will issue; still, the chances of
disappointment are great. The result of such an attempt to renovate the
old poet may be an Æson; but it may also, and more probably will be a

When I say this, I point to the metre which seems to me to give the
translator the best chance of preserving the general effect of
Homer,—that third metre which I have not yet expressly named, the
hexameter. I know all that is said against the use of hexameters in
English poetry; but it comes only to this, that, among us, they have not
yet been used on any considerable scale with success. _Solvitur
ambulando_: this is an objection which can best be met by _producing_
good English hexameters. And there is no reason in the nature of the
English language why it should not adapt itself to hexameters as well as
the German language does; nay, the English language, from its greater
rapidity, is in itself better suited than the German for them. The
hexameter, whether alone or with the pentameter, possesses a movement,
an expression, which no metre hitherto in common use amongst us
possesses, and which I am convinced English poetry, as our mental wants
multiply, will not always be content to forgo. Applied to Homer, this
metre affords to the translator the immense support of keeping him more
nearly than any other metre to Homer’s movement; and, since a poet’s
movement makes so large a part of his general effect, and to reproduce
this general effect is at once the translator’s indispensable business
and so difficult for him, it is a great thing to have this part of your
model’s general effect already given you in your metre, instead of
having to get it entirely for yourself.

These are general considerations; but there are also one or two
particular considerations which confirm me in the opinion that for
translating Homer into English verse the hexameter should be used. The
most successful attempt hitherto made at rendering Homer into English,
the attempt in which Homer’s general effect has been best retained, is
an attempt made in the hexameter measure. It is a version of the famous
lines in the third book of the _Iliad_, which end with that mention of
Castor and Pollux from which Mr Ruskin extracts the sentimental
consolation already noticed by me. The author is the accomplished
Provost of Eton, Dr Hawtrey; and this performance of his must be my
excuse for having taken the liberty to single him out for mention, as
one of the natural judges of a translation of Homer, along with
Professor Thompson and Professor Jowett, whose connection with Greek
literature is official. The passage is short[29]; and Dr Hawtrey’s
version of it is suffused with a pensive grace which is, perhaps, rather
more Virgilian than Homeric; still it is the one version of any part of
the _Iliad_ which in some degree reproduces for me the original effect
of Homer: it is the best, and it is in hexameters.

This is one of the particular considerations that incline me to prefer
the hexameter, for translating Homer, to our established metres. There
is another. Most of you, probably, have some knowledge of a poem by Mr
Clough, _The Bothie of Toper-na-fuosich_, a long-vacation pastoral, in
hexameters. The general merits of that poem I am not going to discuss:
it is a serio-comic poem, and, therefore, of essentially different
nature from the _Iliad_. Still in two things it is, more than any other
English poem which I can call to mind, like the _Iliad_: in the rapidity
of its movement, and the plainness and directness of its style. The
thought of this poem is often curious and subtle, and that is not
Homeric; the diction is often grotesque, and that is not Homeric. Still
by its rapidity of movement, and plain and direct manner of presenting
the thought however curious in itself, this poem, which, being as I say
a serio-comic poem, has a right to be grotesque, is grotesque _truly_,
not, like Mr Newman’s version of the _Iliad_, _falsely_. Mr Clough’s odd
epithets, ‘The grave man nicknamed Adam’, ‘The hairy Aldrich’, and so
on, grow vitally and appear naturally in their place; while Mr Newman’s
‘dapper-greaved Achaians’, and ‘motley-helmed Hector’, have all the air
of being mechanically elaborated and artificially stuck in. Mr Clough’s
hexameters are excessively, needlessly rough; still owing to the native
rapidity of this measure, and to the directness of style which so well
allies itself with it, his composition produces a sense in the reader
which Homer’s composition also produces, and which Homer’s translator
ought to _re_-produce,—the sense of having, within short limits of time,
a large portion of human life presented to him, instead of a small

Mr Clough’s hexameters are, as I have just said, too rough and
irregular; and indeed a good model, on any considerable scale, of this
metre, the English translator will nowhere find. He must not follow the
model offered by Mr Longfellow in his pleasing and popular poem of
_Evangeline_; for the merit of the manner and movement of _Evangeline_,
when they are at their best, is to be tenderly elegant; and their fault,
when they are at their worst, is to be lumbering; but Homer’s defect is
not lumberingness, neither is tender elegance his excellence. The
lumbering effect of most English hexameters is caused by their being
much too dactylic[30]; the translator must learn to use spondees freely.
Mr Clough has done this, but he has not sufficiently observed another
rule which the translator cannot follow too strictly; and that is, to
have no lines which will not, as it is familiarly said, _read
themselves_. This is of the last importance for rhythms with which the
ear of the English public is not thoroughly acquainted. Lord Redesdale,
in two papers on the subject of Greek and Roman metres, has some good
remarks on the outrageous disregard of quantity in which English verse,
trusting to its force of accent, is apt to indulge itself. The
predominance of accent in our language is so great, that it would be
pedantic not to avail oneself of it; and Lord Redesdale suggests rules
which might easily be pushed too far. Still, it is undeniable that in
English hexameters we generally force the quantity far too much; we rely
on justification by accent with a security which is excessive. But not
only do we abuse accent by shortening long syllables and lengthening
short ones; we perpetually commit a far worse fault, by requiring the
removal of the accent from its natural place to an unnatural one, in
order to make our line scan. This is a fault, even when our metre is one
which every English reader knows, and when we can see what we want and
can correct the rhythm according to our wish; although it is a fault
which a great master may sometimes commit knowingly to produce a desired
effect, as Milton changes the natural accent on the word _Tiresias_ in
the line:

                  And Tíresias and Phineus, prophets old;

and then it ceases to be a fault, and becomes a beauty. But it is a real
fault, when Chapman has:

        By him the golden-throned Queen slept, the Queen of Deities;

for in this line, to make it scan, you have to take away the accent from
the word _Queen_, on which it naturally falls, and to place it on
_throned_, which would naturally be unaccented; and yet, after all, you
get no peculiar effect or beauty of cadence to reward you. It is a real
fault, when Mr Newman has:

            Infatuate! O that thou wert lord to some other army—

for here again the reader is required, not for any special advantage to
himself, but simply to save Mr Newman trouble, to place the accent on
the insignificant word _wert_, where it has no business whatever. But it
is still a greater fault, when Spenser has (to take a striking

          Wot ye why his mother with a veil hath covered his face?

for a hexameter; because here not only is the reader causelessly
required to make havoc with the natural accentuation of the line in
order to get it to run as a hexameter; but also he, in nine cases out of
ten, will be utterly at a loss how to perform the process required, and
the line will remain a mere monster for him. I repeat, it is advisable
to construct _all_ verses so that by reading them naturally—that is,
according to the sense and legitimate accent,—the reader gets the right
rhythm; but, for English hexameters, that they be so constructed is

If the hexameter best helps the translator to the Homeric rapidity, what
style may best help him to the Homeric plainness and directness? It is
the merit of a metre appropriate to your subject, that it in some degree
suggests and carries with itself a style appropriate to the subject; the
elaborate and self-retarding style, which comes so naturally when your
metre is the Miltonic blank verse, does not come naturally with the
hexameter; is, indeed, alien to it. On the other hand, the hexameter has
a natural dignity which repels both the jaunty style and the jog-trot
style, to both of which the ballad-measure so easily lends itself. These
are great advantages; and, perhaps, it is nearly enough to say to the
translator who uses the hexameter that he cannot too religiously follow,
in style, the inspiration of his metre. He will find that a loose and
idiomatic grammar—a grammar which follows the essential rather than the
formal logic of the thought—allies itself excellently with the
hexameter; and that, while this sort of grammar ensures plainness and
naturalness, it by no means comes short in nobleness. It is difficult to
pronounce, certainly, what is idiomatic in the ancient literature of a
language which, though still spoken, has long since entirely adopted, as
modern Greek has adopted, modern idioms. Still one may, I think, clearly
perceive that Homer’s grammatical style is idiomatic,—that it may even
be called, not improperly, a loose grammatical style[31]. Examples,
however, of what I mean by a loose grammatical style, will be of more
use to the translator if taken from English poetry than if taken from
Homer. I call it, then, a loose and idiomatic grammar which Shakspeare
uses in the last line of the following three:

                              He’s here in double trust:
                First, as I am his kinsman and his subject,
                _Strong both against the deed_;

or in this:—

                            Wit, _whither wilt_?

What Shakspeare means is perfectly clear, clearer, probably, than if he
had said it in a more formal and regular manner; but his grammar is
loose and idiomatic, because he leaves out the subject of the verb
‘wilt’ in the second passage quoted, and because, in the first, a
prodigious addition to the sentence has to be, as we used to say in our
old Latin grammar days, _understood_, before the word ‘both’ can be
properly parsed. So, again, Chapman’s grammar is loose and idiomatic
where he says,

     Even share hath he that keeps his tent, and _he to field_ doth go,

because he leaves out, in the second clause, the relative which in
formal writing would be required. But Chapman here does not lose dignity
by this idiomatic way of expressing himself, any more than Shakspeare
loses it by neglecting to confer on ‘both’ the blessings of a regular
government: neither loses dignity, but each gives that impression of a
plain, direct, and natural mode of speaking, which Homer, too, gives,
and which it is so important, as I say, that Homer’s translator should
succeed in giving. Cowper calls blank verse ‘a style further removed
than rhyme from the vernacular idiom, both in the language itself and in
the arrangement of it’; and just in proportion as blank verse is removed
from the vernacular idiom, from that idiomatic style which is of all
styles the plainest and most natural, blank verse is unsuited to render

Shakspeare is not only idiomatic in his grammar or style, he is also
idiomatic in his words or diction; and here too, his example is valuable
for the translator of Homer. The translator must not, indeed, allow
himself all the liberty that Shakspeare allows himself; for Shakspeare
sometimes uses expressions which pass perfectly well as he uses them,
because Shakspeare thinks so fast and so powerfully, that in reading him
we are borne over single words as by a mighty current; but, if our mind
were less excited,—and who may rely on exciting our mind like
Shakspeare?—they would check us. ‘To grunt and sweat under a weary
load’;—that does perfectly well where it comes in Shakspeare; but if the
translator of Homer, who will hardly have wound our minds up to the
pitch at which these words of Hamlet find them, were to employ, when he
has to speak of one of Homer’s heroes under the load of calamity, this
figure of ‘grunting’ and ‘sweating’ we should say, _He Newmanises_, and
his diction would offend us. For he is to be noble; and no plea of
wishing to be plain and natural can get him excused from being this:
only, as he is to be also, like Homer, perfectly simple and free from
artificiality, and as the use of idiomatic expressions undoubtedly gives
this effect[32], he should be as idiomatic as he can be without ceasing
to be noble. Therefore the idiomatic language of Shakspeare—such
language as, ‘prate of his _whereabout_’; ‘_jump_ the life to come’;
‘the damnation of his _taking-off_’; ‘his _quietus make_ with a bare
_bodkin_’—should be carefully observed by the translator of Homer,
although in every case he will have to decide for himself whether the
use, by him, of Shakspeare’s liberty, will or will not clash with his
indispensable duty of nobleness. He will find one English book and one
only, where, as in the _Iliad_ itself, perfect plainness of speech is
allied with perfect nobleness; and that book is the Bible. No one could
see this more clearly than Pope saw it: ‘This pure and noble
simplicity’, he says, ‘is nowhere in such perfection as in the Scripture
and Homer’: yet even with Pope a woman is a ‘fair’, a father is a ‘sire’
and an old man a ‘reverend sage’, and so on through all the phrases of
that pseudo-Augustan, and most unbiblical, vocabulary. The Bible,
however, is undoubtedly the grand mine of diction for the translator of
Homer; and, if he knows how to discriminate truly between what will suit
him and what will not, the Bible may afford him also invaluable lessons
of style.

I said that Homer, besides being plain in style and diction, was plain
in the quality of his thought. It is possible that a thought may be
expressed with idiomatic plainness, and yet not be in itself a plain
thought. For example, in Mr Clough’s poem, already mentioned, the style
and diction is almost always idiomatic and plain, but the thought itself
is often of a quality which is not plain; it is _curious_. But the grand
instance of the union of idiomatic expression with curious or difficult
thought is in Shakspeare’s poetry. Such, indeed, is the force and power
of Shakspeare’s idiomatic expression, that it gives an effect of
clearness and vividness even to a thought which is imperfect and
incoherent; for instance, when Hamlet says,

                  To take arms against a sea of troubles,

the figure there is undoubtedly most faulty, it by no means runs on four
legs; but the thing is said so freely and idiomatically, that it passes.
This, however, is not a point to which I now want to call your
attention; I want you to remark, in Shakspeare and others, only that
which we may directly apply to Homer. I say, then, that in Shakspeare
the thought is often, while most idiomatically uttered, nay, while good
and sound in itself, yet of a quality which is curious and difficult;
and that this quality of thought is something entirely un-Homeric. For
example, when Lady Macbeth says:

                     Memory, the warder of the brain,
                 Shall be a fume, and the receipt of reason
                 A limbeck only,

this figure is a perfectly sound and correct figure, no doubt; Mr Knight
even calls it a ‘happy’ figure; but it is a _difficult_ figure: Homer
would not have used it. Again, when Lady Macbeth says,

               When you durst do it, then you were a man;
               And, to be more than what you were, you would
               Be so much more the man,

the thought in the two last of these lines is, when you seize it, a
perfectly clear thought, and a fine thought; but it is a _curious_
thought: Homer would not have used it. These are favourable instances of
the union of plain style and words with a thought not plain in quality;
but take stronger instances of this union,—let the thought be not only
not plain in quality, but highly fanciful: and you have the Elizabethan
conceits; you have, in spite of idiomatic style and idiomatic diction,
everything which is most un-Homeric; you have such atrocities as this of

                         Fate shall fail to vent her gall
                   Till mine vent thousands.

I say, the poets of a nation which has produced such conceit as that,
must purify themselves seven times in the fire before they can hope to
render Homer. They must expel their nature with a fork, and keep crying
to one another night and day: ‘Homer not only moves rapidly, not only
speaks idiomatically; he is, also, _free from fancifulness_’.

So essentially characteristic of Homer is his plainness and naturalness
of thought, that to the preservation of this in his own version the
translator must without scruple sacrifice, where it is necessary, verbal
fidelity to his original, rather than run any risk of producing, by
literalness, an odd and unnatural effect. The double epithets so
constantly occurring in Homer must be dealt with according to this rule;
these epithets come quite naturally in Homer’s poetry; in English poetry
they, in nine cases out of ten, come, when literally rendered, quite
unnaturally. I will not now discuss why this is so, I assume it as an
indisputable fact that it is so; that Homer’s μερόπων ἀνθρώπων comes to
the reader as something perfectly natural, while Mr Newman’s
‘voice-dividing mortals’ comes to him as something perfectly unnatural.
Well then, as it is Homer’s general effect which we are to reproduce, it
is to be false to Homer to be so verbally faithful to him as that we
lose this effect: and by the English translator Homer’s double epithets
must be, in many places, renounced altogether; in all places where they
are rendered, rendered by equivalents which come naturally. Instead of
rendering θέτι τανύπεπλε by Mr Newman’s ‘Thetis trailing-robed’, which
brings to one’s mind long petticoats sweeping a dirty pavement, the
translator must render the Greek by English words which come as
naturally to us as Milton’s words when he says, ‘Let gorgeous Tragedy
With sceptred pall come sweeping by’. Instead of rendering μώνυχας
ἵππους by Chapman’s ‘one-hoofed steeds’, or Mr Newman’s ‘single-hoofed
horses’, he must speak of horses in a way which surprises us as little
as Shakspeare surprises when he says, ‘Gallop apace, you fiery-footed
steeds’. Instead of rendering μελιηδέα θυμόν by ‘life as honey
pleasant’, he must characterise life with the simple pathos of Gray’s
‘warm precincts of the cheerful day’. Instead of converting ποῖόν σε
ἔπoς φύγεν ἔρκος ὀδόντων; into the portentous remonstrance, ‘Betwixt the
outwork of thy teeth what word hath split’? he must remonstrate in
English as straightforward as this of St Peter, ‘Be it far from thee,
Lord: this shall not be unto thee’; or as this of the disciples, ‘What
is this that he saith, a little while? we cannot tell what he saith’.
Homer’s Greek, in each of the places quoted, reads as naturally as any
of those English passages: the expression no more calls away the
attention from the sense in the Greek than in the English. But when, in
order to render literally in English one of Homer’s double epithets, a
strange unfamiliar adjective is invented,—such as ‘voice-dividing’ for
μέρψς,—an improper share of the reader’s attention is necessarily
diverted to this ancillary word, to this word which Homer never intended
should receive so much notice; and a total effect quite different from
Homer’s is thus produced. Therefore Mr Newman, though he does not
purposely import, like Chapman, conceits of his own into the _Iliad_,
does actually import them; for the result of his singular diction is to
raise ideas, and odd ideas, not raised by the corresponding diction in
Homer; and Chapman himself does no more. Cowper says: ‘I have cautiously
avoided all terms of new invention, with an abundance of which persons
of more ingenuity than judgment have not enriched our language but
encumbered it’; and this criticism so exactly hits the diction of Mr
Newman that one is irresistibly led to imagine his present appearance in
the flesh to be at least his second.

A translator cannot well have a Homeric rapidity, style, diction, and
quality of thought, without at the same time having what is the result
of these in Homer,—nobleness. Therefore I do not attempt to lay down any
rules for obtaining this effect of nobleness,—the effect, too, of all
others the most impalpable, the most irreducible to rule, and which most
depends on the individual personality of the artist. So I proceed at
once to give you, in conclusion, one or two passages in which I have
tried to follow those principles of Homeric translation which I have
laid down. I give them, it must be remembered, not as specimens of
perfect translation, but as specimens of an attempt to translate Homer
on certain principles; specimens which may very aptly illustrate those
principles by falling short as well as by succeeding.

I take first a passage of which I have already spoken, the comparison of
the Trojan fires to the stars. The first part of that passage is, I have
said, of splendid beauty; and to begin with a lame version of that would
be the height of imprudence in me. It is the last and more level part
with which I shall concern myself. I have already quoted Cowper’s
version of this part in order to show you how unlike his stiff and
Miltonic manner of telling a plain story is to Homer’s easy and rapid

              So numerous seemed those fires the bank between
              Of Xanthus, blazing, and the fleet of Greece,
              In prospect all of Troy—

I need not continue to the end. I have also quoted Pope’s version of it,
to show you how unlike his ornate and artificial manner is to Homer’s
plain and natural manner:

              So many flames before proud Ilion blaze,
              And brighten glimmering Xanthus with their rays;
              The long reflections of the distant fires
              Gleam on the walls, and tremble on the spires,

and much more of the same kind. I want to show you that it is possible,
in a plain passage of this sort, to keep Homer’s simplicity without
being heavy and dull; and to keep his dignity without bringing in pomp
and ornament. ‘As numerous as are the stars on a clear night’, says

      So shone forth, in front of Troy, by the bed of Xanthus,
      Between that and the ships, the Trojans’ numerous fires.
      In the plain there were kindled a thousand fires: by each one
      There sat fifty men, in the ruddy light of the fire:
      By their chariots stood the steeds, and champed the white barley
      While their masters sat by the fire, and waited for Morning.

Here, in order to keep Homer’s effect of perfect plainness and
directness, I repeat the word ‘fires’ as he repeats πυρά without
scruple; although in a more elaborate and literary style of poetry this
recurrence of the same word would be a fault to be avoided. I omit the
epithet of Morning, and whereas Homer says that the steeds ‘waited for
Morning’, I prefer to attribute this expectation of Morning to the
master and not to the horse. Very likely in this particular, as in any
other single particular, I may be wrong: what I wish you to remark is my
endeavour after absolute plainness of speech, my care to avoid anything
which may the least check or surprise the reader, whom Homer does not
check or surprise. Homer’s lively personal familiarity with war, and
with the war-horse as his master’s companion, is such that, as it seems
to me, his attributing to the one the other’s feelings comes to us quite
naturally; but, from a poet without this familiarity, the attribution
strikes as a little unnatural; and therefore, as everything the least
unnatural is un-Homeric, I avoid it.

Again, in the address of Zeus to the horses of Achilles, Cowper has:

              Jove saw their grief with pity, and his brows
              Shaking, within himself thus, pensive, said.
                    ‘Ah hapless pair! wherefore by gift divine
              Were ye to Peleus given, a mortal king,
              Yourselves immortal and from age exempt?’

There is no want of dignity here, as in the versions of Chapman and Mr
Newman, which I have already quoted: but the whole effect is much too
slow. Take Pope:

                Nor Jove disdained to cast a pitying look
                While thus relenting to the steeds he spoke.
                      ‘Unhappy coursers of immortal strain!
                Exempt from age and deathless now in vain;
                Did we your race on mortal man bestow
                Only, alas! to share in mortal woe?’

Here there is no want either of dignity or rapidity, but all is too
artificial. ‘Nor Jove disdained’, for instance, is a very artificial and
literary way of rendering Homer’s words and so is, ‘coursers of immortal

      Μυρομένω δ’ ἄρα τώ γε ἰδὼν, ἐλέησε Κρονίων.

      And with pity the son of Saturn saw them bewailing,
      And he shook his head, and thus addressed his own bosom.
            ‘Ah, unhappy pair, to Peleus why did we give you,
      To a mortal? but ye are without old age and immortal.
      Was it that ye, with man, might have your thousands of sorrows?
      For than man, indeed, there breathes no wretcheder creature,
      Of all living things, that on earth are breathing and moving’.

Here I will observe that the use of ‘own’, in the second line for the
last syllable of a dactyl, and the use of ‘To a’, in the fourth, for a
complete spondee, though they do not, I think, actually spoil the run of
the hexameter, are yet undoubtedly instances of that over-reliance on
accent, and too free disregard of quantity, which Lord Redesdale visits
with just reprehension[33].

I now take two longer passages in order to try my method more fully; but
I still keep to passages which have already come under our notice. I
quoted Chapman’s version of some passages in the speech of Hector at his
parting with Andromache. One astounding conceit will probably still be
in your remembrance,

      When sacred Troy shall _shed her tow’rs for tears of overthrow_,

as a translation of ὅτ’ ἄν ποτ’ ὀλώλῃ Ἴλιος ἰρή. I will quote a few
lines which will give you, also, the key-note to the Anglo-Augustan
manner of rendering this passage and to the Miltonic manner of rendering
it. What Mr Newman’s manner of rendering it would be, you can by this
time sufficiently imagine for yourselves. Mr Wright,—to quote for once
from his meritorious version instead of Cowper’s, whose strong and weak
points are those of Mr Wright also,—Mr Wright begins his version of this
passage thus:

              All these thy anxious cares are also mine,
              Partner beloved; but how could I endure
              The scorn of Trojans and their long-robed wives,
              Should they behold their Hector shrink from war,
              And act the coward’s part! Nor doth my soul
              Prompt the base thought.

_Ex pede Herculem_: you see just what the manner is. Mr Sotheby, on the
other hand (to take a disciple of Pope instead of Pope himself), begins

            ‘What moves thee, moves my mind,’ brave Hector said,
            ‘Yet Troy’s upbraiding scorn I deeply dread,
            If, like a slave, where chiefs with chiefs engage,
            The warrior Hector fears the war to wage.
            Not thus my heart inclines.’

From that specimen, too, you can easily divine what, with such a manner,
will become of the whole passage. But Homer has neither

                      What moves thee, moves my mind,

nor has he

            All these thy anxious cares are also mine.

            Ἦ καὶ ἐμοὶ τάδε πάντα μέλει, γύναι· ἀλλὰ μάλ’ αἰνῶς,

that is what Homer has, that is his style and movement, if one could but
catch it. Andromache, as you know, has been entreating Hector to defend
Troy from within the walls, instead of exposing his life, and, with his
own life, the safety of all those dearest to him, by fighting in the
open plain. Hector replies:

    Woman, I too take thought for this; but then I bethink me
    What the Trojan men and Trojan women might murmur,
    If like a coward I skulked behind, apart from the battle.
    Nor would my own heart let me; my heart, which has bid me be valiant
    Always, and always fighting among the first of the Trojans,
    Busy for Priam’s fame and my own, in spite of the future.
    For that day will come, my soul is assured of its coming,
    It will come, when sacred Troy shall go to destruction,
    Troy, and warlike Priam too, and the people of Priam.
    And yet not that grief, which then will be, of the Trojans,
    Moves me so much—not Hecuba’s grief, nor Priam my father’s,
    Nor my brethren’s, many and brave, who then will be lying
    In the bloody dust, beneath the feet of their foemen—
    As thy grief, when, in tears, some brazen-coated Achaian
    Shall transport thee away, and the day of thy freedom be ended.
    Then, perhaps, thou shalt work at the loom of another, in Argos,
    Or bear pails to the well of Messeïs, or Hypereia,
    Sorely against thy will, by strong Necessity’s order.
    And some man may say, as he looks and sees thy tears falling:
    _See, the wife of Hector, that great pre-eminent captain
    Of the horsemen of Troy, in the day they fought for their city_.
    So some man will say; and then thy grief will redouble
    At thy want of a man like me, to save thee from bondage.
    But let me be dead, and the earth be mounded above me,
    Ere I hear thy cries, and thy captivity told of.

The main question, whether or no this version reproduces for him the
movement and general effect of Homer better than other versions[34] of
the same passage, I leave for the judgment of the scholar. But the
particular points, in which the operation of my own rules is manifested,
are as follows. In the second line I leave out the epithet of the Trojan
women ἑλκεσιπέπλους, altogether. In the sixth line I put in five words
‘in spite of the future’, which are in the original by implication only,
and are not there actually expressed. This I do, because Homer, as I
have before said, is so remote from one who reads him in English, that
the English translator must be even plainer, if possible, and more
unambiguous than Homer himself; the connection of meaning must be even
more distinctly marked in the translation than in the original. For in
the Greek language itself there is something which brings one nearer to
Homer, which gives one a clue to his thought, which makes a hint enough;
but in the English language this sense of nearness, this clue, is gone;
hints are insufficient, everything must be stated with full
distinctness. In the ninth line Homer’s epithet for Priam is
ἐυμμελίω,—‘armed with good ashen spear’, say the dictionaries;
‘ashen-speared’, translates Mr Newman, following his own rule to ‘retain
every peculiarity of his original’,—I say, on the other hand, that
ἐυμμελίω has not the effect of a ‘peculiarity’ in the original, while
‘ashen-speared’ has the effect of a ‘peculiarity’ in English; and
‘warlike’ is as marking an equivalent as I dare give for ἐυμμελίω, for
fear of disturbing the balance of expression in Homer’s sentence. In the
fourteenth line, again, I translate χαλκοχιτώνων by ‘brazen-coated’. Mr
Newman, meaning to be perfectly literal, translates it by
‘brazen-cloaked’, an expression which comes to the reader oddly and
unnaturally, while Homer’s word comes to him quite naturally; but I
venture to go as near to a literal rendering as ‘brazen-coated’, because
a ‘coat of brass’ is familiar to us all from the Bible, and familiar,
too, as distinctly specified in connection with the wearer. Finally, let
me further illustrate from the twentieth line the value which I attach,
in a question of diction, to the authority of the Bible. The word
‘pre-eminent’ occurs in that line; I was a little in doubt whether that
was not too bookish an expression to be used in rendering Homer, as I
can imagine Mr Newman to have been a little in doubt whether his
‘responsively accosted’ for ἀμειβόμενος προσέφη, was not too bookish an
expression. Let us both, I say, consult our Bibles: Mr Newman will
nowhere find it in his Bible that David, for instance, ‘_responsively
accosted_ Goliath’; but I do find in mine that ‘the right hand of the
Lord hath the _pre-eminence_’; and forthwith I use ‘pre-eminent’,
without scruple. My Bibliolatry is perhaps excessive; and no doubt a
true poetic feeling is the Homeric translator’s best guide in the use of
words; but where this feeling does not exist, or is at fault, I think he
cannot do better than take for a mechanical guide Cruden’s
_Concordance_. To be sure, here as elsewhere, the consulter must know
how to consult,—must know how very slight a variation of word or
circumstance makes the difference between an authority in his favour,
and an authority which gives him no countenance at all; for instance,
the ‘Great simpleton!’ (for μέγα νήπιος) of Mr Newman, and the ‘Thou
fool!’ of the Bible, are something alike; but ‘Thou fool!’ is very
grand, and ‘Great simpleton!’ is an atrocity. So, too, Chapman’s ‘Poor
wretched beasts’ is pitched many degrees too low; but Shakspeare’s ‘Poor
venomous fool, Be angry and despatch!’ is in the grand style.

One more piece of translation and I have done. I will take the passage
in which both Chapman and Mr Newman have already so much excited our
astonishment, the passage at the end of the nineteenth book of the
_Iliad_, the dialogue between Achilles and his horse Xanthus, after the
death of Patroclus. Achilles begins:

    ‘Xanthus and Balius both, ye far-famed seed of Podarga!
    See that ye bring your master home to the host of the Argives
    In some other sort than your last, when the battle is ended;
    And not leave him behind, a corpse on the plain, like Patroclus’.
          Then, from beneath the yoke, the fleet horse Xanthus addressed
    Sudden he bowed his head, and all his mane, as he bowed it,
    Streamed to the ground by the yoke, escaping from under the collar;
    And he was given a voice by the white-armed Goddess Hera.
          ‘Truly, yet this time will we save thee, mighty Achilles!
    But thy day of death is at hand; nor shall _we_ be the reason—
    No, but the will of heaven, and Fate’s invincible power.
    For by no slow pace or want of swiftness of ours
    Did the Trojans obtain to strip the arms from Patroclus;
    But that prince among Gods, the son of the lovely-haired Leto,
    Slew him fighting in front of the fray, and glorified Hector.
    But, for us, we vie in speed with the breath of the West-Wind,
    Which, men say, is the fleetest of winds; ’tis thou who art fated
    To lie low in death, by the hand of a God and a Mortal’.
          Thus far he; and here his voice was stopped by the Furies.
    Then, with a troubled heart, the swift Achilles addressed him:
          ‘Why dost thou prophesy so my death to me, Xanthus? It needs
    I of myself know well, that here I am destined to perish,
    Far from my father and mother dear: for all that I will not
    Stay this hand from fight, till the Trojans are utterly routed

          So he spake, and drove with a cry his steeds into battle.

Here the only particular remark which I will make is, that in the fourth
and eighth line the grammar is what I call a loose and idiomatic
grammar. In writing a regular and literary style, one would in the
fourth line have to repeat before ‘leave’ the words ‘that ye’ from the
second line, and to insert the word ‘do’; and in the eighth line one
would not use such an expression as ‘he was given a voice’. But I will
make one general remark on the character of my own translations, as I
have made so many on that of the translations of others. It is, that
over the graver passages there is shed an air somewhat too strenuous and
severe, by comparison with that lovely ease and sweetness which Homer,
for all his noble and masculine way of thinking, never loses.

Here I stop. I have said so much, because I think that the task of
translating Homer into English verse both will be reattempted, and may
be reattempted successfully. There are great works composed of parts so
disparate that one translator is not likely to have the requisite gifts
for poetically rendering all of them. Such are the works of Shakspeare,
and Goethe’s _Faust_; and these it is best to attempt to render in prose
only. People praise Tieck and Schlegel’s version of Shakspeare. I, for
my part, would sooner read Shakspeare in the French prose translation,
and that is saying a great deal; but in the German poets’ hands
Shakspeare so often gets, especially where he is humorous, an air of
what the French call _niaiserie_! and can anything be more
un-Shakspearian than that? Again; Mr Hayward’s prose translation of the
first part of _Faust_—so good that it makes one regret Mr Hayward should
have abandoned the line of translation for a kind of literature which
is, to say the least, somewhat slight—is not likely to be surpassed by
any translation in verse. But poems like the _Iliad_, which, in the
main, are in one manner, may hope to find a poetical translator so
gifted and so trained as to be able to learn that one manner, and to
reproduce it. Only, the poet who would reproduce this must cultivate in
himself a Greek virtue by no means common among the moderns in general,
and the English in particular,—_moderation_. For Homer has not only the
English vigour, he has the Greek grace; and when one observes the
bolstering, rollicking way in which his English admirers—even men of
genius like the late Professor Wilson—love to talk of Homer and his
poetry, one cannot help feeling that there is no very deep community of
nature between them and the object of their enthusiasm. ‘It is very
well, my good friends’, I always imagine Homer saying to them: if he
could hear them: ‘you do me a great deal of honour, but somehow or other
you praise me too like barbarians’. For Homer’s grandeur is not the
mixed and turbid grandeur of the great poets of the north, of the
authors of _Othello_ and _Faust_; it is a perfect, a lovely grandeur.
Certainly his poetry has all the energy and power of the poetry of our
ruder climates; but it has, besides, the pure lines of an Ionian
horizon, the liquid clearness of an Ionian sky.

Footnote 25:

  _The Faery Queen_, Canto ii. stanza I.

Footnote 26:

  _Odes_, IV. vii. 13.

Footnote 27:

  _Odyssey_ iv. 563.

Footnote 28:

  _Odes_, III. ii. 31.

Footnote 29:

  So short, that I quote it entire:

      Clearly the rest I behold of the dark-eyed sons of Achaia;
      Known to me well are the faces of all; their names I remember;
      Two, two only remain, whom I see not among the commanders,
      Castor fleet in the car,—Polydeukes brave with the cestus,—
      Own dear brethren of mine,—one parent loved us as infants.
      Are they not here in the host, from the shores of loved Lacedæmon,
      Or, though they came with the rest in ships that bound through the
      Dare they not enter the fight or stand in the council of Heroes,
      All for fear of the shame and the taunts my crime has awakened?
        So said she;—they long since in Earth’s soft arms were reposing,
      There, in their own dear land, their Fatherland, Lacedæmon.

      _English Hexameter Translations_, London,
      1847, p. 242.

  I have changed Dr Hawtrey’s ‘Kastor’, ‘Lakedaimon’, back to the
  familiar ‘Castor’, ‘Lacedæmon’, in obedience to my own rule that
  everything _odd_ is to be avoided in rendering Homer, the most natural
  and least odd of poets. I see Mr Newman’s critic in the _National
  Review_ urges our generation to bear with the unnatural effect of
  these rewritten Greek names, in the hope that by this means the effect
  of them may have to the next generation become natural. For my part, I
  feel no disposition to pass all my own life in the wilderness of
  pedantry, in order that a posterity which I shall never see may one
  day enter an orthographical Canaan; and, after all, the real question
  is this: whether our living apprehension of the Greek world is more
  checked by meeting in an English book about the Greeks, names not
  spelt letter for letter as in the original Greek, or by meeting names
  which make us rub our eyes and call out, ‘How exceedingly odd!’

  The Latin names of the Greek deities raise in most cases the idea of
  quite distinct personages from the personages whose idea is raised by
  the Greek names. Hera and Juno are actually, to every scholar’s
  imagination, two different people. So in all these cases the Latin
  names must, at any inconvenience, be abandoned when we are dealing
  with the Greek world. But I think it can be in the sensitive
  imagination of Mr Grote only, that ‘Thucydides’ raises the idea of a
  different man from =Θουκυδίδης=.

Footnote 30:

  For instance; in a version (I believe, by the late Mr Lockhart) of
  Homer’s description of the parting of Hector and Andromache, there
  occurs, in the first five lines, but one spondee besides the necessary
  spondees in the sixth place; in the corresponding five lines of Homer
  there occur ten. See _English Hexameter Translations_, 244.

Footnote 31:

  See for instance, in the _Iliad_, the loose construction of =ὅστε=,
  xvii. 658; that of =ἴδοιτο=, xvii. 681; that of =οἵτε=, xviii. 209;
  and the elliptical construction at xix. 42, 43; also the idiomatic
  construction of =ἐγὼν ὅδε παρασχεῖν=, xix. 140. These instances are
  all taken within a range of a thousand lines; anyone may easily
  multiply them for himself.

Footnote 32:

  Our knowledge of Homer’s Greek is hardly such as to enable us to
  pronounce quite confidently what is idiomatic in his diction, and what
  is not, any more than in his grammar; but I seem to myself clearly to
  recognise an idiomatic stamp in such expressions as =τολυπεύειν
  πολέμους=, xiv. 86; =φάος ἐν νήεσσιν θήῃς=, xvi. 94; =τιν’ οἴω
  ἀσπασίως αὐτῶν γόνυ κάμψειν=, xix. 71; =κλοτοπεύειν=, xix. 149; and
  many others. The first-quoted expression, =τολυπεύειν ἀργαλέους
  πολέμους=, seems to me to have just about the same degree of freedom
  as the ‘_jump_ the life to come’, or the ‘_shuffle off_ this mortal
  coil’, of Shakspeare.

Footnote 33:

  It must be remembered, however, that, if we disregard quantity too
  much in constructing English hexameters, we also disregard accent too
  much in reading Greek hexameters. We read every Greek dactyl so as to
  make a pure dactyl of it; but, to a Greek, the accent must have
  hindered many dactyls from sounding as pure dactyls. When we read
  =αἰόλος= ἵππος, for instance, or =αἰγιόχοιο=, the dactyl in each of
  these cases is made by us as pure a dactyl as ‘Tityre’, or ‘dignity’;
  but to a Greek it was not so. To him αἰόλος must have been nearly as
  impure a dactyl as ‘death-destined’ is to us; and αἰγιόχ nearly as
  impure as the ‘dressed his own’ of my text. Nor, I think, does this
  right mode of pronouncing the two words at all spoil the run of the
  line as a hexameter. The effect of =αἰόλλος= ἵππος (or something like
  that), though not _our_ effect, is not a disagreeable one. On the
  other hand, κορυθαιόλος as a paroxytonon, although it has the
  respectable authority of Liddell and Scott’s _Lexicon_ (following
  Heyne), is certainly wrong; for then the word cannot be pronounced
  without throwing an accent on the first syllable as well as the third,
  and μέγας =κοῤῥυθαιόλλος= Ἕκτωρ would have been to a Greek as
  intolerable an ending for a hexameter line as ‘accurst
  _orphanhood-destined_ houses’ would be to us. The best authorities,
  accordingly, accent κορυθαίολος as a proparoxytonon.

Footnote 34:

  Dr Hawtrey also has translated this passage; but here, he has not, I
  think, been so successful as in his ‘Helen on the walls of Troy’.

               Homeric Translation in Theory and Practice
                       A Reply to Matthew Arnold
                          By Francis W. Newman

It is so difficult, amid the press of literature, for a mere versifier
and translator to gain notice at all, that an assailant may even do one
a service, if he so conduct his assault as to enable the reader to sit
in intelligent judgment on the merits of the book assailed. But when the
critic deals out to the readers only so much knowledge as may propagate
his own contempt of the book, he has undoubtedly immense power to
dissuade them from wishing to open it. Mr Arnold writes as openly aiming
at this end. He begins by complimenting me, as ‘a man of great ability
and genuine learning’; but on questions of learning, as well as of
taste, he puts me down as bluntly, as if he had meant, ‘a man totally
void both of learning and of sagacity’. He again and again takes for
granted that he has ‘the scholar’ on his side, ‘the living scholar’, the
man who has learning and taste without pedantry. He bids me please ‘the
scholars’, and go to ‘the scholars’ tribunal’; and does not know that I
did this, to the extent of my opportunity, before committing myself to a
laborious, expensive and perhaps thankless task. Of course he cannot
guess, what is the fact, that scholars of fastidious refinement, but of
a judgment which I think far more masculine than Mr Arnold’s, have
passed a most encouraging sentence on large specimens of my
translations. I at this moment count eight such names, though of course
I must not here adduce them: nor will I further allude to it, than to
say, that I have no such sense either of pride or of despondency, as
those are liable to, who are consciously isolated in their taste.

Scholars are the tribunal of Erudition, but of Taste the educated but
unlearned public is the only rightful judge; and to it I wish to appeal.
Even scholars collectively have no right, and much less have single
scholars, to pronounce a final sentence on questions of taste in their
court. Where I differ in Taste from Mr Arnold, it is very difficult to
find ‘the scholars’ tribunal even if I acknowledged its absolute
jurisdiction: but as regards Erudition, this difficulty does not occur,
and I shall fully reply to the numerous dogmatisms by which he settles
the case against me.

But I must first avow to the reader my own moderate pretensions. Mr
Arnold begins by instilling two errors which he does not commit himself
to assert. He says that my work will _not_ take rank as _the_ standard
translation of Homer, but _other translations will be made_: as if I
thought otherwise! If I have set the example of the right direction in
which translators ought to aim, of course those who follow me will
improve upon me and supersede me. A man would be rash indeed to withhold
his version of a poem of fifteen thousand lines, until he had, to his
best ability, imparted to them all their final perfection. He might
spend the leisure of his life upon it. He would possibly be in his grave
before it could see the light. If it then were published, and it was
founded on any new principle, there would be no one to defend it from
the attacks of ignorance and prejudice. In the nature of the case, his
wisdom is to elaborate in the first instance all the high and noble
parts _carefully_, and get through the inferior parts _somehow_; leaving
of necessity very much to be done in successive editions, if possibly it
please general taste sufficiently to reach them. A generous and
intelligent critic will test such a work mainly or solely by the most
noble parts, and as to the rest, will consider whether the metre and
style adapts itself naturally to them also.

Next, Mr Arnold asks, ‘Who is to assure Mr Newman, that when he has
tried to retain every peculiarity of his original, he has done that for
which Mr Newman enjoins this to be done—adhered closely to Homer’s
manner and habit of thought? Evidently the translator needs more
practical directions than these’. The tendency of this is, to suggest to
the reader that I am not aware of the difficulty of rightly applying
good principles; whereas I have in this very connection said expressly,
that even when a translator has got right principles, he is liable to go
wrong in the detail of their application. This is as true of all the
principles which Mr Arnold can possibly give, as of those which I have
given; nor do I for a moment assume, that in writing fifteen thousand
lines of verse I have not made hundreds of blots.

At the same time Mr Arnold has overlooked the point of my remark. Nearly
every translator before me has _knowingly_, _purposely_, _habitually_
shrunk from Homer’s thoughts and Homer’s manner. The reader will
afterwards see whether Mr Arnold does not justify them in their course.
It is not for those who are purposely unfaithful to taunt me with the
difficulty of being truly faithful.

I have alleged, and, against Mr Arnold’s flat denial, I deliberately
repeat, that Homer rises and sinks with his subject, and is often homely
or prosaic. I have professed as my principle, to follow my original in
this matter. It is unfair to expect of me grandeur in trivial passages.
If in any place where Homer is _confessedly_ grand and noble, I have
marred and ruined his greatness, let me be reproved. But I shall have
occasion to protest, that Stateliness is not Grandeur, Picturesqueness
is not Stately, Wild Beauty is not to be confounded with Elegance: a
Forest has its swamps and brushwood, as well as its tall trees.

The duty of one who _publishes_ his censures on me is, to select noble,
greatly admired passages, and confront me both with a prose translation
of the original (for the public cannot go to the Greek) and also with
that which he judges to be a more successful version than mine.
Translation being matter of compromise, and being certain to fall below
the original, when this is of the highest type of grandeur; the question
is not, What translator is perfect? but, Who is least imperfect? Hence
the only fair test is by comparison, when comparison is possible. But Mr
Arnold has not put me to this test. He has quoted two very short
passages, and various single lines, half lines and single words, from
me; and chooses to _tell_ his readers that I ruin Homer’s nobleness,
when (if his censure is just) he might make them _feel_ it by quoting me
upon the most admired pieces. Now with the warmest sincerity I say: If
any English reader, after perusing my version of four or five eminently
noble passages of sufficient length, side by side with those of other
translators, and (better still) with a prose version also, finds in them
high qualities which I have destroyed; I am foremost to advise him to
shut my book, or to consult it only (as Mr Arnold suggests) as a
schoolboy’s ‘help to construe’, if such it can be. My sole object is, to
bring Homer before the unlearned public: I seek no self-glorification:
the sooner I am superseded by a really better translation, the greater
will be my pleasure.

It was not until I more closely read Mr Arnold’s own versions, that I
understood how necessary is his repugnance to mine. I am unwilling to
speak of his metrical efforts. I shall not say more than my argument
strictly demands. It here suffices to state the simple fact, that for
awhile I seriously doubted whether he meant his first specimen for metre
at all. He seems distinctly to say, he is going to give us English
Hexameters; but it was long before I could believe that he had written
the following for that metre:

     So shone forth, in front of Troy, by the bed of Xanthus,
     Between that and the ships, the Trojans’ numerous fires.
     In the plain there were kindled a thousand fires: by each one
     There sate fifty men, in the ruddy light of the fire.
     By their chariots stood the steeds, and champ’d the white barley,
     While their masters sate by the fire, and waited for Morning.

I sincerely thought, this was meant for prose; at length the two last
lines opened my eyes. He _does_ mean them for Hexameters! ‘Fire’ ( =
feuer) with him is a spondee or trochee. The first line, I now see,
begins with three (quantitative) spondees, and is meant to be spondaic
in the fifth foot. ‘Bed of, Between, In the’,—are meant for spondees! So
are ‘There sate’, ‘_By_ their’; though ‘Troy _by_ the’ was a dactyl.
‘Champ’d the white’ is a dactyl. My ‘metrical exploits’ amaze Mr Arnold
(p. 23); but my courage is timidity itself compared to his.

His second specimen stands thus:

       And with pity the son of Saturn saw them bewailing,
       And he shook his head, and thus address’d his own bosom:
       Ah, unhappy pair! to Peleus why did we give you,
       To a mortal? but ye are without old age and immortal.
       Was it that ye with man, might have your thousands of sorrows?
       For than man indeed there breathes no wretcheder creature,
       Of all living things, that on earth are breathing and moving.

Upon this he apologises for ‘To a’, intended as a spondee in the fourth
line, and ‘-dress’d his own’ for a dactyl in the second; liberties
which, he admits, go rather far, but ‘do not actually spoil the run of
the hexameter’. In a note, he attempts to palliate his deeds by
recriminating on Homer, though he will not allow to me the same excuse.
The accent (it seems) on the second syllable of αἰόλος makes it as
impure a dactyl to a Greek as ‘death-destin’d’ is to us! Mr Arnold’s
erudition in Greek metres is very curious, if he can establish that they
take any cognisance _at all_ of the prose accent, or that αἰολος is
quantitatively more or less of a dactyl, according as the prose accent
is on one or other syllable. His ear also must be of a very unusual
kind, if it makes out that ‘death-destin’d’ is anything but a downright
Molossus. Write it _dethdestind_, as it is pronounced, and the eye,
equally with the ear, decides it to be of the same type as the word
_persistunt_. In the lines just quoted, most readers will be slow to
believe, that they have to place an impetus of the voice (an ictus
metricus at least) on Bétween, In´ the, Thére sate, By´ their, A´nd
with, A´nd he, Tó a, Fór than, O´f all. Here, in the course of thirteen
lines, _composed as a specimen of style_, is found the same offence nine
times repeated, to say nothing here of other deformities. Now contrast
Mr Arnold’s severity against me[35], p. 87: ‘It is a real fault when Mr
Newman has:

          Infátuáte! óh that thou wért | lord to some other army—

for here the reader is required, not for any special advantage to
himself, but _simply to save Mr Newman trouble_, to place the accent on
the insignificant word _wert_, where it has _no business whatever_’.
Thus to the flaw which Mr Arnold admits nine times in thirteen pattern
lines, he shows no mercy in me, who have toiled through fifteen
thousand. Besides, on _wert_ we are free at pleasure to place or not to
place the accent; but in Mr Arnold’s _Bétween_, _Tó a_, etc., it is
impossible or offensive.

To avoid a needlessly personal argument, I enlarge on the general
question of hexameters. Others, scholars of repute, have given example
and authority to English hexameters. As matter of curiosity, as erudite
sport, such experiments may have their value. I do not mean to express
indiscriminate disapproval, much less contempt. I have myself privately
tried the same in Alcaics; and find the chief objection to be, not that
the task is impossible, but that to execute it _well_ is too difficult
for a language like ours, overladen with consonants, and abounding with
syllables neither distinctly long nor distinctly short, but of every
intermediate length. Singing to a tune was essential to keep even Greek
or Roman poetry to true _time_; to the English language it is of tenfold
necessity. But if _time_ is abandoned (as in fact it always is), and the
prose accent has to do duty for the ictus metricus, the moral genius of
the metre is fundamentally subverted. What previously was steady
duplicate time (‘march-time’, as Professor Blackie calls it) vacillates
between duplicate and triplicate. With Homer, a dactyl had nothing in it
_more tripping_ than a spondee: a crotchet followed by two quavers
belongs to as grave an anthem as two crotchets. But Mr Arnold himself
(p. 55) calls the introduction of anapæsts by Dr Maginn into our ballad
measure, ‘a detestable dance’: as in:

                   And scarcely hád shĕ bĕgún to wash,
                   Ere shé wăs ăwáre ŏf thĕ grisly gash.

I will not assert that this is everywhere improper in the Odyssey; but
no part of the Iliad occurs to me in which it is proper, and I have
totally excluded it in my own practice. I notice it but once in Mr
Gladstone’s specimens, and it certainly offends my taste as out of
harmony with the gravity of the rest, viz.

                My ships shall bound ĭn thĕ morning’s light.

In Shakspeare we have _i’th’_ and _o’th’_ for monosyllables, but (so
scrupulous am I in the midst of my ‘atrocities’) I never dream of such a
liberty myself, much less of avowed ‘anapæsts’. So far do I go in the
opposite direction, as to prefer to make such words as _Danai_,
_victory_ three syllables, which even Mr Gladstone and Pope accept as
dissyllabic. Some reviewers have called my metre _lege solutum_; which
is as ridiculous a mistake as Horace made concerning Pindar. That, in
passing. But surely Mr Arnold’s severe blow at Dr Maginn rebounds with
double force upon himself.

                   To Péleus whý dĭd wĕ gíve you?—
                   Hécŭbă’s griéf nor Príăm my fáther’s—
                   Thoúsănds ŏf sórrows—

cannot be a _less_ detestable jig than that of Dr Maginn. And this
objection holds against every accentual hexameter, even to those of
Longfellow or Lockhart, if applied to grand poetry. For bombast, in a
wild whimsical poem, Mr Clough has proved it to be highly appropriate;
and I think, the more ‘rollicking’ is Mr Clough (if only I understand
the word) the more successful his metre. Mr Arnold himself _feels_ what
I say against ‘dactyls’, for on this very ground he advises largely
superseding them by spondees; and since what he calls a spondee is any
pair of syllables of which the former is accentuable, his precept
amounts to this, that the hexameter be converted into a line of six
accentual trochees, with free liberty left of diversifying it, in any
foot except the last, by Dr Maginn’s ‘detestable dance’. What more
severe condemnation of the metre is imaginable than this mere
description gives? ‘Six trochees’ seems to me the worst possible
foundation for an English metre. I cannot imagine that Mr Arnold will
give the slightest weight to this, as a judgment from me; but I do
advise him to search in Samson Agonistes, Thalaba, Kehama, and Shelley’s
works, for the phenomenon.

I have elsewhere insisted, but I here repeat, that for a long poem a
trochaic beginning of the verse is most unnatural and vexatious in
English, because so large a number of our sentences begin with
unaccented syllables, and the vigour of a trochaic line eminently
depends on the purity of its initial trochee. Mr Arnold’s feeble
trochees already quoted (from _Bétween_ to _Tó a_) are all the fatal
result of defying the tendencies of our language.

If by a happy combination any scholar could compose fifty _such_ English
hexameters, as would convey a living likeness of the Virgilian metre, I
should applaud it as valuable for initiating schoolboys into that metre:
but there its utility would end. The method could not be profitably used
for translating Homer or Virgil, plainly because it is impossible to say
for whose service such a translation would be executed. Those who can
read the original will never care to read _through_ any translation; and
the unlearned look on all, even the best hexameters, whether from
Southey, Lockhart or Longfellow, as odd and disagreeable prose. Mr
Arnold deprecates appeal to popular taste: well he may! yet if the
unlearned are to be our audience, we cannot defy them. I myself, before
venturing to print, sought to ascertain how unlearned women and children
would accept my verses. I could boast how children and half-educated
women have extolled them; how greedily a working man has inquired for
them, without knowing who was the translator; but I well know that this
is quite insufficient to establish the merits of a translation. It is
nevertheless _one_ point. ‘Homer is popular’, is one of the very few
matters of fact in this controversy on which Mr Arnold and I are agreed.
‘English hexameters are not popular’, is a truth so obvious, that I do
not yet believe he will deny it. Therefore, ‘Hexameters are not the
metre for translating Homer’. Q. E. D.

I cannot but think that the very respectable scholars who pertinaciously
adhere to the notion that English hexameters have something ‘epical’ in
them, have no vivid _feeling_ of the difference between Accent and
Quantity: and this is the less wonderful, since so very few persons have
ever actually _heard_ quantitative verse. I have; by listening to
Hungarian poems, read to me by my friend Mr Francis Pulszky, a native
Magyar. He had not finished a single page, before I complained gravely
of the monotony. He replied: ‘So do _we_ complain of it’: and then
showed me, by turning the pages, that the poet cut the knot which he
could not untie, by frequent changes of his metre. Whether it was a
change of mere length, as from Iambic senarian to Iambic dimeter; or
implied a fundamental change of time, as in music from _common_ to
_minuet_ time; I cannot say. But, to my ear, nothing but a tune can ever
save a quantitative metre from hideous monotony. It is like strumming a
piece of very simple music on a single note. Nor only so; but the most
beautiful of anthems, after it has been repeated a hundred times on a
hundred successive verses, begins to pall on the ear. How much more
would an entire book of Homer, if chanted at one sitting! I have the
conviction, though I will not undertake to impart it to another, that if
the living Homer could sing his lines to us, they would at first move in
us the same pleasing interest as an elegant and simple melody from an
African of the Gold Coast; but that, after hearing twenty lines, we
should complain of meagreness, sameness, and _loss of moral expression_;
and should judge the style to be _as_ inferior to our own oratorical
metres, as the music of Pindar to our third-rate modern music. But if
the poet, at our request, instead of singing the verses, read or spoke
them, then from the loss of well-marked time and the ascendency
reassumed by the prose-accent, we should be as helplessly unable to
_hear_ any metre in them, as are the modern Greeks.

I expect that Mr Arnold will reply to this, that he _reads_ and does not
_sing_ Homer, and yet he finds his verses to be melodious and not
monotonous. To this, I retort, that he begins by wilfully pronouncing
Greek falsely, according to the laws of _Latin_ accent, and artificially
assimilating the Homeric to the Virgilian line. Virgil has compromised
between the ictus metricus and the prose accent, by exacting that the
two coincide in the two last feet and generally forbidding it in the
second and third foot. What is called the ‘feminine cæsura’ gives (in
the Latin language) coincidence on the third foot. Our extreme
familiarity with these laws of compromise enables us to anticipate
recurring sounds and satisfies our ear. But the Greek prose accent, by
reason of oxytons and paroxytons, and accent on the ante-penultima in
spite of a long penultima, totally resists all such compromise; and
proves that particular form of melody, which our scholars enjoy in
Homer, to be an unhistoric imitation of Virgil.

I am aware, there is a bold theory, whispered if not published, that,—so
out-and-out _Æolian_ was Homer,—his laws of accent must have been almost
Latin. According to this, Erasmus, following the track of Virgil
blindly, has taught us to pronounce Euripides and Plato ridiculously
ill, but Homer, with an accuracy of accent which puts Aristarchus to
shame. This is no place for discussing so difficult a question. Suffice
it to say, _first_, that Mr Arnold cannot take refuge in such a theory,
since he does not admit that Homer was antiquated to Euripides; _next_,
that admitting the theory to him, still the loss of the Digamma destroys
to him the true rhythm of Homer. I shall recur to both questions below.
I here add, that our English pronunciation even of Virgil often so ruins
Virgil’s own _quantities_, that there is something either of delusion or
of pedantry in our scholars’ self-complacency in the rhythm which they

I think it fortunate for Mr Arnold, that he had _not_ ‘courage to
translate Homer’; for he must have failed to make it acceptable to the
unlearned. But if the public ear prefers ballad metres, still (Mr Arnold
assumes) ‘the scholar’ is with him in this whole controversy.
Nevertheless it gradually comes out that neither is this the case, but
he himself is in the minority. P. 110, he writes: ‘When one observes the
boistering, rollicking way in which Homer’s English admirers—even men of
genius, like the late Professor Wilson—love to talk of Homer and his
poetry, one cannot help feeling that there is no very deep community of
nature between them and the object of their enthusiasm.’ It does not
occur to Mr Arnold that the defect of perception lies with himself, and
that Homer has more sides than he has discovered. He deplores that Dr
Maginn, and others whom he names, err with me, in believing that our
ballad-style is the nearest approximation to that of Homer; and avows
that ‘_it is time to say plainly_’ (p. 46) that Homer is not of the
ballad-type. So in p. 45, ‘—this _popular_, but, _it is time to say_,
this erroneous analogy’ between the ballad and Homer. Since it is
reserved for Mr Arnold to turn the tide of opinion; since it is a task
not yet achieved, but remains to be achieved by his authoritative
enunciation; he confesses that hitherto I have with me the suffrage of
scholars. With this confession, a little more diffidence would be
becoming, if diffidence were possible to the fanaticism with which he
idolises hexameters. P. 88, he says: ‘The hexameter has a natural
dignity, which repels both the jaunty style and the jog-trot style,
etc.... _The translator who uses it cannot too religiously follow the_
INSPIRATION OF HIS METRE’ etc. Inspiration from a metre which has no
recognised type? from a metre which the _heart_ and _soul_ of the nation
ignores? I believe, if the metre can inspire anything, it is to frolic
and gambol with Mr Clough. Mr Arnold’s English hexameter cannot be a
higher inspiration to him, than the true hexameter was to a Greek: yet
that metre inspired strains of totally different essential genius and

But I claim Mr Arnold himself as confessing that our ballad _metre_ is
epical, when he says that Scott is ‘_bastard_-epic’. I do not admit that
his quotations from Scott are all Scott’s best, nor anything like it;
but if they were, it would only prove something against Scott’s genius
or talent, nothing about his metre. The Κύπρια ἔπη or Ἰλίου πέρσις were
probably very inferior to the Iliad; but no one would on that account
call them or the Frogs and Mice bastard-epic. No one would call a bad
tale of Dryden or of Crabbe bastard-epic. The application of the word to
Scott virtually concedes what I assert. Mr Arnold also calls Macaulay’s
ballads ‘pinchbeck’; but a man needs to produce something very noble
himself, before he can afford thus to sneer at Macaulay’s ‘Lars

Before I enter on my own ‘metrical exploits’, I must get rid of a
disagreeable topic. Mr Arnold’s repugnance to them has led him into
forms of attack, which I do not know how to characterize. I shall state
my complaints as concisely as I can, and so leave them.

1. I do not seek for any similarity of _sound_ in an English accentual
metre to that of a Greek quantitative metre; besides that Homer writes
in a highly vocalized tongue, while ours is overfilled with consonants.
I have disowned this notion of similar rhythm in the strongest terms (p.
xvii of my Preface), expressly because some critics had imputed this aim
to me in the case of Horace. I summed up: ‘It is not audible sameness of
metre, but a likeness of moral genius which is to be aimed at’. I
contrast the audible to the moral. Mr Arnold suppresses this contrast,
and writes as follows, p. 34. Mr Newman tells us that he has found a
metre like in moral genius to Homer’s. His judge has still the same
answer: reproduce THEN _on our ear_ something of ‘the effect produced by
the _movement_ of Homer’. He recurs to the same fallacy in p. 57. ‘For
whose EAR do those two _rhythms_ produce impressions of (_to use Mr
Newman’s own words_) “similar moral genius”’? His reader will naturally
suppose that ‘like in moral genius’ is with me an eccentric phrase for
‘like in musical cadence’. The only likeness to the ear which I have
admitted, is, that the one and the other are primitively made _for
music_. That, Mr Arnold knows, is a matter of fact, whether a ballad be
well or ill written. If he pleases, he may hold the rhythm of our metre
to be necessarily inferior to Homer’s and to his own; but when I fully
explained in my preface what were my tests of ‘like moral genius’, I
cannot understand his suppressing them, and perverting the sense of my

2. In p. 52, Mr Arnold quotes Chapman’s translation of ἆ δείλω, ‘Poor
wretched _beasts_’ (of Achilles’ horses), on which he comments severely.
He does _not_ quote me. Yet in p. 100, after exhibiting Cowper’s
translation of the same passage, he adds: ‘There is no want of dignity
here, as in the versions of Chapman and of _Mr Newman, which I have
already quoted_’. Thus he leads the reader to believe that I have the
same phrase as Chapman! In fact, my translation is:

                     Ha! why on Peleus, mortal prince,
                       Bestowed we _you_, unhappy!

If he had done me the justice of quoting, it is possible that some
readers would not have thought my rendering intrinsically ‘wanting in
dignity’, or less noble than Mr Arnold’s own, which is:

            Ah! unhappy pair! to Peleus[36] why did we give you,
            To a mortal?

In p. 52, he with very gratuitous insult remarks, that ‘Poor wretched
beasts’ is a little over-familiar; but this is no objection to it for
the ballad-manner[37]: _it is good enough_ ... _for Mr Newman’s Iliad_,
... etc.’ Yet I myself have _not_ thought it good enough for my Iliad.

3. In p. 107, Mr Arnold gives his own translation of the discourse
between Achilles and his horse; and prefaces it with the words, ‘I will
take the passage in which both Chapman and Mr Newman _have already so
much excited our astonishment_’. But he did not quote my translation of
the noble part of the passage, consisting of 19 lines; he has merely
quoted[38] the tail of it, 5 lines; which are altogether inferior. Of
this a sufficient indication is, that Mr Gladstone has translated the 19
and omitted the 5. I shall below give my translation parallel to Mr
Gladstone’s. The curious reader may compare it with Mr Arnold’s, if he

4. In p. 102, Mr Arnold quotes from Chapman as a translation of ὅταν
ποτ’ ὀλώλῃ Ιλιος ἱρὴ,

     ‘When sacred Troy shall _shed her tow’rs for tears of overthrow_’;

and adds: ‘What Mr Newman’s manner of rendering would be, you can by
this time sufficiently imagine for yourselves’. _Would be!_ Why does he
set his readers to ‘imagine’, when in fewer words he could tell them
what my version _is_? It stands thus:

           A day, when sacred Ilium | for overthrow is destin’d,—

which may have faults unperceived by me, but is in my opinion far better
than Mr Arnold’s, and certainly did not deserve to be censured side by
side with Chapman’s absurdity. I must say plainly; a critic has no right
to hide what I have written, and stimulate his readers to despise me by
these _indirect_ methods.

I proceed to my own metre. It is exhibited in this stanza of Campbell:

                    By this the storm grew loud apace:
                      The waterwraith was shrieking,
                    And in the scowl of heav’n each face
                      Grew dark as they were speaking.

Whether I use this metre well or ill, I maintain that it is essentially
a noble metre, a popular metre, a metre of great capacity. _It is
essentially the national ballad metre_, for the double rhyme is an
accident. Of _course_ it can be applied to low, as well as to high
subjects; else it would _not_ be popular: it would _not_ be ‘of a like
moral genius’ to the Homeric metre, which was available equally for the
comic poem _Margites_, for the precepts of Pythagoras, for the pious
prosaic hymn of Cleanthes, for the driest prose of a naval
catalogue[39], in short, _for all early thought_. Mr Arnold appears to
forget, though he cannot be ignorant, that prose-composition is later
than Homer, and that in the epical days every initial effort at prose
history was carried on in _Homeric doggerel_ by the Cyclic poets, who
traced the history of Troy _ab ovo_ in consecutive chronology. I say, he
is merely inadvertent, he cannot be ignorant, that the Homeric _metre_,
like my metre, subserves prosaic thought with the utmost facility; but I
hold it to be, not indavertence, but blindness, when he does not see
that Homer’s τὸν δ’ ἀπαμειβόμενος is a line of as thoroughly unaffected
_oratio pedestris_ as any verse of Pythagoras or Horace’s Satires. But
on diction I defer to speak, till I have finished the topic of metre.

I do not say that any measure is faultless. Every measure has its
foible: mine has that fault which every uniform line must have; it is
liable to monotony. This is evaded of course, as in the hexameter or
rather as in Milton’s line, first, by varying the cæsura, secondly, by
varying certain feet, within narrow and well understood limits, thirdly,
by irregularity in the strength of accents, fourthly, by varying the
weight of the unaccented syllables also. All these things are needed,
_for the mere sake of breaking uniformity_. I will not here assert that
Homer’s many marvellous freedoms, such as ἑκηβόλου Ἀπόλλωνος, were
dictated by this aim, like those in the _Paradise Lost_; but I do say,
that it is most unjust, most unintelligent, in critics, to produce
_single_ lines from me, and criticize them as rough or weak, instead of
examining them and presenting them as part of _a mass_. How would
Shakspeare stand this sort of test? nay, or Milton? The metrical laws of
a long poem cannot be the same as of a sonnet: single verses are organic
elements of a great whole. A crag must not be cut like a gem. Mr Arnold
should remember Aristotle’s maxim, that popular eloquence (and such is
Homer’s) should be broad, rough and highly coloured, like scene
painting, not polished into delicacy like miniature. But I speak now of
metre, not yet of diction. In _any_ long and popular poem it is a
mistake to wish every line to conform severely to a few types; but to
claim this of a translator of _Homer_ is a doubly unintelligent
exaction, when Homer’s own liberties transgress all bounds; many of them
being feebly disguised by later double spellings, as εἵως, εἷος,
invented for his special accommodation.

The Homeric verse has a rhythmical advantage over mine in less rigidity
of cæsura. Though the Hexameter was made out of two Doric lines, yet no
division of sense, no pause of the voice or thought, is exacted between
them. The chasm between two English verses is deeper. Perhaps, on the
side of syntax, a _four + three_ English metre drives harder towards
monotony than Homer’s own verse. For other reasons, it lies under a like
disadvantage, compared with Milton’s metre. The secondary cæsuras
possible in the four feet are of course less numerous than those in the
five feet, and the three-foot verse has still less variety. To my taste,
it is far more pleasing that the short line recur less regularly; just
as the parœmiac of Greek anapæsts is less pleasant in the Aristophanic
tetrameter, than when it comes frequent but not expected. This is a main
reason why I prefer Scott’s free metre to my own; yet, without rhyme, I
have not found how to use his freedom. Mr Arnold wrongly supposes me to
have overlooked his main and just objections to rhyming Homer; viz. that
so many Homeric lines are intrinsically made for isolation. In p. ix of
my Preface I called it a fatal embarrassment. But the objection applies
in its full strength only against Pope’s rhymes, not against Walter

Mr Gladstone has now laid before the public his own specimens of Homeric
translation. Their dates range from 1836 to 1859. It is possible that he
has as strong a distaste as Mr Arnold for my version; for he totally
ignores the archaic, the rugged, the boisterous element in Homer. But as
to metre, he gives me his full suffrage. He has lines with four accents,
with three, and a few with two; not one with five. On the whole, his
metre, his cadences, his varying rhymes, are those of Scott. He has more
trochaic lines than I approve. He is truthful to Homer on many sides;
and (such is the delicate grace and variety admitted by the rhyme) his
verses are more pleasing than mine. I do not hesitate to say, that if
_all_ Homer could be put before the public in the same style equally
well with his best pieces, a translation executed on my principles could
not live in the market at its side; and certainly I should spare my
labour. I add, that I myself prefer the former piece which I quote to my
own, even while I see his defects: for I hold that his graces, at which
I cannot afford to aim, more than make up for his losses. After this
confession, I frankly contrast his rendering of the two noblest passages
with mine, that the reader may see, what Mr Arnold does not show, my
weak and strong sides.

GLADSTONE, Iliad 4, 422

               As when the billow gathers fast
                 With slow and sullen roar
               Beneath the keen northwestern blast
                 Against the sounding shore:
               First far at sea it rears its crest,
                 Then bursts upon the beach,
               Or[40] with proud arch and swelling breast,
                 Where headlands outward reach,
               It smites their strength, and bellowing flings
                 Its silver foam afar;
               So, stern and thick, the Danaan kings
                 And soldiers marched to war.
               Each leader gave his men the word;
               Each warrior deep in silence heard.
               So mute they march’d, thou could’st not ken
               They were a mass of speaking men:
               And as they strode in martial might,
               Their flickering arms shot back the light.
               But as at even the folded sheep
                 Of some rich master stand,
               Ten thousand thick their place they keep,
                 And bide the milkman’s hand,
               And more and more they bleat, the more
                 They hear their lamblings cry;
               So, from the Trojan host, uproar
                 And din rose loud and high.
               They were a many-voicèd throng:
                 Discordant accents there,
               That sound from many a differing tongue,
                 Their differing race declare.
               These, Mars had kindled for the fight;
               Those, starry-ey’d Athenè’s might,
               And savage Terror and Affright,
               And Strife, insatiate of wars,
               The sister and the mate of Mars:
               Strife, that, a pigmy at her birth,
                 By gathering rumour fed,
               Soon plants her feet upon the earth,
                 And in the heav’n her head.

I add my own rendering of the same; somewhat corrected, but only in the
direction of my own principles and against Arnold’s.

    As when the surges of the deep,    by Western blore uphoven,
    Against the ever-booming strand     dash up in roll successive;
    A head of waters swelleth first     aloof; then under harried
    By the rough bottom, roars aloud;    till, hollow at the summit,
    Sputtering the briny foam abroad,    the huge crest tumbleth over:
    So then the lines of Danaï,     successive and unceasing,
    In battle’s close array mov’d on.     To his own troops each leader
    Gave order: dumbly went the rest      (nor mightèst thou discover,
    So vast a train of people held     a voice within their bosom),
    In silence their commanders fearing:     all the ranks
    Were clad in crafty panoply,      which glitter’d on their bodies.
    Meantime, as sheep within the yard     of some great cattle-master,
    While the white milk is drain’d from them,     stand round in number
    And, grievèd by their lambs’ complaint,     respond with bleat
    So then along their ample host     arose the Troian hurly.
    For neither common words spake théy,     nor kindred accent utter’d;
    But mingled was the tongue of men     from divers places summon’d.
    By Arès these were urgèd on,     those by grey-ey’d Athenè,
    By Fear, by Panic, and by Strife     immeasurably eager,
    The sister and companion[41]     of hero-slaying Arès,
    Who truly doth at first her crest     but humble rear; thereafter,
    Planting upon the ground her feet,     her head in heaven fixeth.

GLADSTONE, Iliad 19, 403

                   Hanging low his auburn head,
                     Sweeping with his mane the ground,
                   From beneath his collar shed,
                     Xanthus, hark! a voice hath found,
                   Xanthus of the flashing feet:
                   Whitearm’d Herè gave the sound.
                   ‘Lord Achilles, strong and fleet!
                   Trust us, we will bear thee home;
                   Yet cometh nigh thy day of doom:
                   No doom of ours, but doom that stands
                   By God and mighty Fate’s commands.
                   ’Twas not that we were slow or slack
                   Patroclus lay a corpse, his back
                   All stript of arms by Trojan hands.
                   The prince of gods, whom Leto bare,
                   Leto with the flowing hair,
                   He forward fighting did the deed,
                   And gave to Hector glory’s meed.
                   In toil for thee, we will not shun
                   Against e’en Zephyr’s breath to run,
                   Swiftest of winds: but all in vain:
                   By God and man shalt thou be slain.’
                     He spake: and here, his words among,
                   Erinnys bound his faltering tongue.

Beginning with Achilles’ speech, I render the passage parallel to
Gladstone thus.

    ‘_Chestnut_ and _Spotted_! noble pair!     farfamous brood of
    In other guise now ponder ye     your charioteer to rescue
    Back to the troop of Danaï,     when we have done with battle:
    Nor leave him dead upon the field,     as late ye left Patroclus’.
    But him the dapplefooted steed     under the yoke accosted;
    (And droop’d his auburn head aside     straightway; and through the
    His full mane, streaming to the ground,     over the yoke was
    Him Juno, whitearm’d goddess, then     with voice Of man endowèd):
    ‘Now and again we verily     will save and more than save thee,
    Dreadful Achilles! yet for thee     the deadly day approacheth.
    Not ours the guilt; but mighty God     and stubborn Fate are guilty.
    Not by the slowness of our feet     or dulness of our spirit
    The Troians did thy armour strip     from shoulders of Patroclus;
    But the exalted god, for whom     brighthair’d Latona travail’d,
    Slew him amid the foremost rank     and glory gave to Hector.
    Now we, in coursing, pace would keep     even with breeze of Zephyr,
    Which speediest they say to be:     but for thyself ’tis fated
    By hand of hero and of God     in mighty strife to perish
    So much he spake: thereat his voice     the Furies stopp’d for ever.

Now if any fool ask, Why does not Mr Gladstone translate _all_ Homer?
any fool can reply with me, Because he is Chancellor of the Exchequer. A
man who has talents and acquirements adequate to translate Homer _well_
into _rhyme_, is almost certain to have other far more urgent calls for
the exercise of such talents.

So much of metre. At length I come to the topic of Diction, where Mr
Arnold and I are at variance not only as to taste, but as to the main
facts of Greek literature. I had called Homer’s style quaint and
garrulous; and said that he rises and falls with his subject, being
prosaic when it is tame, and low when it is mean. I added no proof; for
I did not dream that it was needed. Mr Arnold not only absolutely denies
all this, and denies it without proof; but adds, that these assertions
prove my incompetence, and account for my total and conspicuous failure.
His whole attack upon my diction is grounded on a passage which I must
quote at length; for it is so confused in logic, that I may otherwise be
thought to garble it, pp. 36, 37.

‘Mr Newman speaks of the more antiquated style suited to this subject.
Quaint! Antiquated! but to whom? Sir Thomas Browne is quaint, and the
diction of Chaucer is antiquated: does Mr Newman suppose that Homer
seemed quaint to Sophocles, as Chaucer’s diction seems antiquated to us?
But we cannot really know, I confess (!!), how Homer seemed to
Sophocles. Well then, to those who can tell us how he seems to them, to
the living scholar, to our only present witness on this matter—does
Homer make on the Provost of Eton, when he reads him, the impression of
a poet quaint and antiquated! does he make this impression on Professor
Thompson or Professor Jowett? When Shakspeare says, “The Princes
orgulous”, meaning “the proud princes”, we say, “This is antiquated”.
When he says of the Trojan gates, that they,

                                 With massy staples
                   And corresponsive and fulfilling bolts
                   _Sperr_ up the sons of Troy,

we say, “This is both quaint and antiquated”. But does Homer ever
compose in a language, which produces on the scholar at all the same
impression as this language which I have quoted from Shakspeare? Never
once. Shakspeare is quaint and antiquated in the lines I have just
quoted; but Shakspeare, need I say it? can compose, when he likes, when
he is at his best, in a language perfectly simple, perfectly
intelligible; in a language, which, in spite of the two centuries and a
half which part its author from us, stops or surprises us as little as
the language of a contemporary. And Homer has not Shakspeare’s
variations. Homer always composes, as Shakspeare composes at his best.
Homer is always simple and intelligible, as Shakspeare is often; Homer
is never quaint and antiquated, as Shakspeare is sometimes’.

If Mr Arnold were to lay before none but Oxford students assertions
concerning Greek literature so startlingly erroneous as are here
contained, it would not concern me to refute or protest against them.
The young men who read Homer and Sophocles and Thucydides, nay, the boys
who read Homer and Xenophon, would know his statements to be against the
most notorious and elementary fact: and the Professors, whom he quotes,
would only lose credit, if they sanctioned the use he makes of their
names. But when he publishes the book for the unlearned in Greek, among
whom I must include a great number of editors of magazines, I find Mr
Arnold to do a public wrong to literature, and a private wrong to my
book. If I am silent, such editors may easily believe that I have made
an enormous blunder in treating the dialect of Homer as antiquated. If
those who are ostensibly scholars, thus assail my version, and the great
majority of magazines and reviews ignore it, its existence can never
become known to the public; or it will exist not to be read, but to be
despised without being opened; and it must perish as many meritorious
books perish. I but lately picked up, new, and for a fraction of its
price, at a second-hand stall, a translation of the Iliad by T. S.
Brandreth, Esq. (Pickering, London), into Cowper’s metre, which is, as I
judge, immensely superior to Cowper. Its date is 1846: I had never heard
of it. It seems to have perished uncriticized, unreproved, unwept,
unknown. I do not wish my progeny to die of neglect, though I am willing
that it should be slain in battle. However, just because I address
myself to the public _unlearned_ in Greek, and because Mr Arnold lays
before _them_ a new, paradoxical, monstrously erroneous representation
of facts, with the avowed object of staying the plague of my Homer; I am
forced to reply to him.

Knowingly or unknowingly, he leads his readers to confuse four different
questions: 1. whether Homer is thoroughly intelligible to modern
scholars; 2. whether Homer was antiquated to the Athenians of
Themistocles and Pericles; 3. whether he was thoroughly understood by
them; 4. whether he is, absolutely, an antique poet.

I feel it rather odd, that Mr Arnold begins by complimenting me with
‘genuine learning’, and proceeds to appeal from me to the ‘living
scholar’. (What if I were bluntly to reply: ‘Well! I am the living
scholar’?) After starting the question, how Homer’s style appeared to
Sophocles, he suddenly enters a plea, under form of a concession [‘I
confess’!], as a pretence for carrying the cause into a new court, that
of the Provost of Eton and two Professors, into which court I have no
admission; and then, of his own will, pronounces a sentence in the name
of these learned men. Whether they are pleased with this parading of
their name in behalf of paradoxical error, I may well doubt: and until
they indorse it themselves, I shall treat Mr Arnold’s process as a piece
of forgery. But, be this as it may, I cannot allow him to ‘confess’ for
me against me: let him confess for himself that he does not know, and
not for me, who know perfectly well, whether Homer seemed quaint or
antiquated to Sophocles. Of course he did, as every beginner must know.
Why, if I were to write _mon_ for _man_, _londis_ for _lands_, _nesties_
for _nests_, _libbard_ for _leopard_, _muchel_ for _much_, _nap_ for
_snap_, _green-wood shaw_ for _greenwood shade_, Mr Arnold would call me
antiquated, although every word would be intelligible. Can he possibly
be ignorant, that this exhibits but the smallest part of the chasm which
separates the Homeric dialect not merely from the Attic prose, but from
Æschylus when he borrows most from Homer? Every sentence of Homer was
more or less antiquated to Sophocles, who could no more help feeling at
every instant the foreign and antiquated character of the poetry, than
an Englishman can help feeling the same in reading Burns’ poems. Would
_mon_, _londis_, _libbard_, _withouten_, _muchel_ be antiquated or
foreign, and are Πηληϊάδαο for Πηλείδου, ὁσσάτιος for ὅσος, ἤϋτε for ὡς,
στήῃ for στῇ, τεκέεσσι for τέκνοις, τοῖσδεσσι for τοῖσδε, πολέες for
πολλοὶ, μεσοηγὺς for μεταξὺ, αἶα for γῆ, εἴβω for λείβω, and five
hundred others, less antiquated or less foreign? Homer has archaisms in
every variety; some rather recent to the Athenians, and carrying their
minds back only to Solon, as βασιλῆος for βασίλεως; others harsher, yet
varying as dialect still, as ξεῖνος for ξένος, τίε for ἐτίμα, ἀνθεμόεις
for ἀνθηρὸς, κέκλυθι for κλύε or ἄκουσον, θαμὺς for θαμινὸς or συχνὸς,
ναιετάοντες for ναίοντες or οἰκοῦντες: others varying in the root, like
a new language, as ἄφενος for πλοῦτος, ἰότης for βούλημα, τῆ for δέξαι,
under which head are heaps of strange words, as ἀκὴν, χώομαι, βιὸς,
κῆλα, μέμβλωκε, γέντο, πέπον, etc. etc. Finally comes a goodly lot of
words which to this day are most uncertain in sense. My learned
colleague Mr Malden has printed a paper on Homeric words, misunderstood
by the later poets. Buttmann has written an octavo volume (I have the
English translation, _containing 548 pages_) to discuss 106
ill-explained Homeric words. Some of these Sophocles may have
understood, though we do not; but even if so, they were not the less
antiquated to him. If there has been any perfect traditional
understanding of Homer, we should not need to deal with so many words by
elaborate argument. On the face of the Iliad alone every learner must
know how many difficult adjectives occur: I write down on the spur of
the moment and without reference, κρήγυον, ἀργὸς, ἀδινὸς, ἄητος, αἴητος,
νώροψ, ἦνοψ, εἰλίποδες, ἕλιξ, ἑλικῶπες, ἔλλοπες, μέροπες, ἠλίβατος,
ἠλέκτωρ, αἰγίλιψ, σιγαλόεις, ἰόμωρος, ἐγχεσίμωρος, πέπονες, ἠθεῖος. If
Mr Arnold thought himself wiser than all the world of Greek scholars, he
would not appeal to them, but would surely enlighten us all: he would
tell me, for instance, what ἔλλοπες means, which Liddell and Scott do
not pretend to understand; or ἠθεῖος, of which they give three different
explanations. But he does not write as claiming an independent opinion,
when he flatly opposes me and sets me down; he does but use
surreptitiously the name of the ‘living scholar’ against me.

But I have only begun to describe the marked chasm often separating
Homer’s dialect from everything Attic. It has a wide diversity of
grammatical inflections, far beyond such vowel changes of dialect as
answer to our provincial pronunciations. This begins with new
case-endings to the nouns; in -θι, -θεν, -δε, -φι, proceeds to very
peculiar pronominal forms, and then to strange or irregular verbal
inflections, infinitives in -μεν, -μεναι, imperfects in -εσκε, presents
in -αθω, and an immensity of strange adverbs and conjunctions. In
Thiersch’s Greek Grammar, after the Accidence of common Greek is added
as supplement an Homeric Grammar: and in it the Homeric Noun and Verb
occupy (in the English Translation) 206 octavo pages. Who ever heard of
a Spenserian Grammar? How many pages could be needed to explain
Chaucer’s grammatical deviations from modern English? The bare fact of
Thiersch having written so copious a grammar will enable even the
unlearned to understand the monstrous misrepresentation of Homer’s
dialect, on which Mr Arnold has based his condemnation of my Homeric
diction. Not wishing to face the plain and undeniable facts which I have
here recounted, Mr Arnold makes a ‘confession’ that we know nothing
about them! and then appeals to three learned men whether Homer is
antiquated to _them_; and expounds this to mean, _intelligible to them_!
Well: if they have learned _modern_ Greek, of course they may understand
it; but Attic Greek alone will not teach it to them. Neither will it
teach them _Homer’s_ Greek. The difference of the two is in some
directions so vast, that they may deserve to be called two languages as
much as Portuguese and Spanish.

Much as I have written, a large side of the argument remains still
untouched. The orthography of Homer was revolutionized in adapting it to
Hellenic use, and in the process not only were the grammatical forms
tampered with, but at least one consonant was suppressed. I am sure Mr
Arnold has heard of the Digamma, though he does not see it in the
current Homeric text. By the re-establishment of this letter, no small
addition would be made to the ‘oddity’ of the sound to the ears of
Sophocles. That the unlearned in Greek may understand this, I add, that
what with us is written _eoika_, _oikon_, _oinos_, _hekas_, _eorga_,
_eeipe_, _eleli_χθη, were with the poet _wewoika_, _wīkon_, _wīnos_,
_wekas_ (or _swekas_?), _weworga_, _eweipe_, _eweli_χθη[42]; and so with
very many other words, in which either the metre or the grammatical
formation helps us to detect a lost consonant, and the analogy of other
dialects or languages assures us that it is _w_ which has been lost. Nor
is this all; but in certain words _sw_ seems to have vanished. What in
our text is _hoi_, _heos_, _hekuros_, were probably _woi_ and _swoi_,
_weos_ and _sweos_, _swekuros_. Moreover the received spelling of many
other words is corrupt: for instance, _deos_, _deidoika_, _eddeisen_,
_periddeisas_, _addees_. The true root must have had the form _dwe_ or
_dre_ or _dhe_. That the consonant lost was really _w_, is asserted by
Benfey from the Sanscrit _dvish_. Hence the true forms are _dweos_,
_dedwoika_, _edweisen_, etc.... Next, the initial _l_ of Homer had in
some words a stronger pronunciation, whether λλ or χλ, as in λλιταὶ,
λλίσσομαι, λλωτὸς, λλιτανεύω. I have met with the opinion that the
consonant lost in _anax_ is not _w_ but _k_; and that Homer’s _kanax_ is
connected with English _king_. The relations of _wergon_, _weworga_,
_wrexai_, to English _work_ and _wrought_ must strike everyone; but I do
not here press the phenomena of the Homeric _r_ (although it became _br_
in strong Æolism), because they do not differ from those in Attic. The
Attic forms εἴληφα, εἴλεγμαι for λέληφα, etc., point to a time when the
initial λ of the roots was a double letter. A root λλαβ would explain
Homer’s ἔλλαβε. If λλ[43] approached to its Welsh sound, that is, to χλ,
it is not wonderful that such a pronunciation as οφρᾰ λλαβωμεν was
possible: but it is singular that the ὕδατι χλιαρῷ of Attic is written
λιαρῷ in our Homeric text, though the metre needs a double consonant.
Such phenomena as χλιαρὸς and λιαρὸς, εἴβω and λειβω, ἴα and μία,
εἴμαρμαι and ἔμμορε, αἶα and γαῖα, γέντο for ἕλετο, ἰωκὴ and ἴωξις with
διώκω, need to be reconsidered in connection. The εἰς ἅλα ἇλτο of our
Homer was perhaps εἰς ἅλα σάλλτο: when λλ was changed into λ, they
compensated by circumflexing the vowel. I might add the query, Is it so
certain that his θεαων was θ_eāwōn_, and not θ_eārōn_, analogous to
Latin _dearum_? But dropping here everything that has the slightest
uncertainty, the mere restoration of the _w_ where it is most necessary,
makes a startling addition to the antiquated sound of the Homeric text.
The reciters of Homer in Athens must have dropped the _w_, since it is
never written. Nor indeed would Sophocles have introduced in his
_Trachiniæ_, ἁ δέ οἱ φίλα δάμαρ ... leaving a hiatus most offensive to
the Attics, in mere imitation of Homer, if he had been accustomed to
hear from the reciters, _de woi_ or _de swoi_. In other words also, as
in οὐλόμενος for ὀλόμενος, later poets have slavishly followed Homer
into irregularities suggested by his peculiar metre. Whether Homer’s
ᾱθανατος, αμμορος ... rose out of ανθάνατος, ἄνμορος ... is wholly
unimportant when we remember his Ᾱπόλλωνος.

But this leads to remark on the acuteness of Mr Arnold’s ear. I need not
ask whether he recites the Α differently in Ἆρες, Ἄρες, and in, Ᾰπόλλων
Ᾱπολλωνος. He will not allow anything antiquated in Homer; and therefore
it is certain that he recites,

                 αιδοιος τε μοι εσσι, φιλε εκυρε, δεινος τε
                 and—ουδε εοικε—

as they are printed, and admires the rhythm. When he endures with
exemplary patience such hiatuses, such dactyls as ἑεκυ, ουδεε, such a
spondee as ρε δει, I can hardly wonder at his complacency in his own
spondees “Between,” “To a.” He finds nothing wrong in και πεδια λωτευντα
or πολλα λισσομενη. But Homer sang,

                 φιλε swεκυρε δwεινος τε—ουδε wεwοικε—
                 και πεδια λλωτευντα ... πολλα λλισσομενη.

Mr Arnold is not satisfied with destroying Quantity alone. After
theoretically substituting Accent for it in his hexameters, he robs us
of Accent also; and presents to us the syllables “to a,” _both short_
and _both necessarily unaccented_, for a Spondee, in a pattern piece
seven lines long, and with an express and gratuitous remark, that in
using ‘to a’ for a Spondee, he has perhaps relied too much on accent. I
hold up these phenomena in Mr Arnold as a warning to all scholars, of
the pit of delusion into which they will fall, if they allow themselves
to talk fine about the ‘Homeric rhythm’ _as now heard_, and the duty of
a translator to reproduce something of it.

It is not merely the sound and the metre of Homer, which are impaired by
the loss of his radical _w_; in extreme cases the sense also is
confused. Thus if a scholar be asked, what is the meaning of ἐείσατο in
the Iliad? he will have to reply: If it stands for _eweisato_, it means,
‘he was like’, and is related to the English root _wis_ and _wit_, Germ.
_wiss_, Lat. _vid_; but it may also mean ‘he went’—a very eccentric
Homerism,—in which case we should perhaps write it _eyeisato_, as in old
English we have _he yode_ or _yede_ instead of _he goed_, _gaed_, since
too the current root in Greek and Latin _i_ (go) may be accepted as
_ye_, answering to German _geh_, English _go_. Thus two words,
_eweisato_, ‘he was like’, _eyeisato_, ‘he went’, are confounded in our
text. I will add, that in the Homeric

    —ἤϋτε wέθνεα (_y_)εῖσι—(_Il._ 2, 87)

    —διὰ πρὸ δὲ (_y_)είσατο καὶ τῆς (_Il._ 4, 138)

_my_ ear misses the consonant, though Mr Arnold’s (it seems) does not.
If we were ordered to read _dat ting_ in Chaucer for _that thing_, it
would at first ‘surprise’ us as ‘grotesque’, but after this objection
had vanished, we should still feel it ‘antiquated’. The confusion of
_thick_ and _tick_, _thread_ and _tread_, may illustrate the possible
effect of dropping the _w_ in Homer. I observe that Benfey’s Greek Root
Lexicon has a list of 454 digammated words, most of which are Homeric.
But it is quite needless to press the argument to its full.

If as much learning had been spent on the double λ and on the _y_ and
_h_ of Homer, as on the digamma, it might perhaps now be conceded that
we have lost, not one, but three or four consonants from his text. That
λ in λύω or λούω was ever a complex sound in Greek, I see nothing to
indicate; hence _that_ λ, and the λ of λιταὶ, λιαρὸς, seem to have been
different consonants in Homer, as _l_ and _ll_ in Welsh. As to _h_ and
_y_ I assert nothing, except that critics appear too hastily to infer,
that if a consonant has disappeared, it must needs be _w_. It is
credible that the Greek _h_ was once strong enough to stop hiatus or
elision, as the English, and much more the Asiatic _h_. The later
Greeks, after turning the character H into a vowel, seem to have had no
idea of a consonant _h_ in the middle of a word, nor any means of
writing the consonant _y_. Since G passes through _gh_ into the sounds
_h_, _w_, _y_, _f_ (as in English and German is obvious), it is easy to
confound them all under the compendious word ‘digamma’. I should be glad
to know that Homer’s forms were as well understood by modern scholars as
Mr Arnold lays down.

On his quotation from Shakspeare, I remark, 1. ‘Orgulous’, from French
‘orgueilleux’, is intelligible to all who know French, and is comparable
to Sicilian words in Æschylus. 2. It is contrary to fact to say, that
Homer has not words, and words in great plenty, as unintelligible to
later Greeks, as ‘orgulous’ to us. 3. _Sperr_, for _Bar_, as _Splash_
for _Plash_, is much less than the diversity which separates Homer from
the spoken Attic. What is σμικρὸς for μικρὸς to compare with ἠβαιὸς for
μικρός? 4. Mr Arnold (as I understand him) blames Shakspeare for being
sometimes antiquated: I do not blame him, nor yet Homer for the same;
but neither can I admit the contrast which he asserts. He says:
‘Shakspeare can compose, when he is at his best, in a language perfectly
intelligible, in spite of the two centuries and a half which part him
from us. _Homer has not Shakspeare’s variations_: he is never
antiquated, as Shakspeare is sometimes’. I certainly find the very same
variations in Homer, as Mr Arnold finds in Shakspeare. My reader
unlearned in Greek might hastily infer from the facts just laid before
him, that Homer is always equally strange to a purely Attic ear: but is
not so. The dialects of Greece did indeed differ strongly, as broad
Scotch from English; yet as we know, Burns is sometimes perfectly
intelligible to an Englishman, sometimes quite unintelligible. In spite
of Homer’s occasional wide receding from Attic speech, he as often comes
close to it. For instance, in the first piece quoted above from
Gladstone, the simile occupying five (Homeric) lines would _almost_ go
down in Sophocles, if the Tragedian had chosen to use the metre. There
is but one out-and-out Homeric word in it (ἐπασσύτερος): and even that
is used once in an Æschylean chorus. There are no strange inflections,
and not a single digamma is sensibly lost. Its peculiarities are only
-εϊ for ει, ἐὸν for ὂν, and δέ τε for δέ, which could not embarrass the
hearer as to the sense. I myself reproduce much the same result. Thus in
my translation of these five lines I have the antiquated words _blore_
for _blast_, _harry_ for _harass_ (_harrow_, _worry_), and the
antiquated participle _hoven_ from _heave_, as _cloven_, _woven_ from
_cleave_, _weave_. The whole has thus just a tinge of antiquity, as had
the Homeric passage to the Attics, without any need of aid from a
Glossary. But at other times the aid is occasionally convenient, just as
in Homer or Shakspeare.

Mr Arnold plays fallaciously on the words familiar and unfamiliar.
Homer’s words may have been _familiar_ to the Athenians (_i.e._ often
heard), even when they were _not_ understood, but, at most, were guessed
at; or when, being understood, they were still felt and known to be
utterly foreign. Of course, when thus ‘familiar’, they could not
‘surprise’ the Athenians, as Mr Arnold complains that my renderings
surprise the English. Let mine be heard as Pope or even Cowper has been
heard, and no one will be ‘surprised’.

Antiquated words are understood well by some, ill by others, not at all
by a third class; hence it is difficult to decide the limits of a
glossary. Mr Arnold speaks scornfully of me (he wonders _with whom Mr
Newman can have lived_), that I use the words which I use, and explain
those which I explain. He censures my little Glossary, for containing
three words which he did not know, and some others, which, he says, are
‘familiar to all the world’. It is clear, he will never want a stone to
throw at me. I suppose I am often guilty of keeping low company. I have
found ladies whom no one would guess to be so ill-educated, who yet do
not distinctly know what _lusty_ means; but have an uncomfortable
feeling that it is very near to _lustful_; and understand _grisly_ only
in the sense of _grizzled_, _grey_. Great numbers mistake the sense of
Buxom, Imp, Dapper, deplorably. I no more wrote my Glossary than my
translation for persons so highly educated as Mr Arnold.

But I must proceed to remark: Homer might have been as unintelligible to
Pericles, as was the court poet of king Crœsus, and yet it might be
highly improper to translate him into an old English dialect; namely, if
he had been the typical poet of a logical and refined age. _Here is the
real question_;—is he absolutely antique, or only antiquated relatively,
as Euripides is now antiquated? A modern Greek statesman, accomplished
for every purpose of modern business, might find himself quite perplexed
by the infinitives, the numerous participles, the optatives, the
datives, by the particle ἂν, and by the whole syntax of Euripides, as
also by many special words; but this would never justify us in
translating Euripides into any but a most refined style. Was Homer of
this class? I say, that he _not only was_ antiquated, relatively to
Pericles, but _is also_ absolutely antique, being the poet of a
barbarian age. Antiquity in poets is not (as Horace stupidly imagines in
the argument of the horse’s tail) a question of years, but of intrinsic
qualities. Homer sang to a wholly unfastidious audience, very
susceptible to the marvellous, very unalive to the ridiculous, capable
of swallowing with reverence the most grotesque conceptions. Hence
nothing is easier than to turn Homer to ridicule. The fun which Lucian
made of his mythology, a rhetorical critic like Mr Arnold could make of
his diction, if he understood it as he understands mine. He takes credit
to himself for _not_ ridiculing me; and is not aware, that I could not
be like Homer without being easy to ridicule. An intelligent child is
the second-best reader of Homer. The best of all is a scholar of highly
masculine taste; the worst of all is a fastidious and refined man, to
whom everything quaint seems ignoble and contemptible.

I might have supposed that Mr Arnold thinks Homer to be a polished
drawing-room poet, like Pope, when I read in him this astonishing
sentence, p. 35. ‘Search the English language for a word which does
_not_ apply to Homer, and you could not fix on a better word than
_quaint_’. But I am taken aback at finding him praise the diction of
Chapman’s translation in contrast to mine. Now I never open Chapman,
without being offended at his pushing Homer’s quaintness most
unnecessarily into the grotesque. Thus in Mr Gladstone’s first passage
above, where Homer says that the sea ‘sputters out the foam’, Chapman
makes it, ‘_all her back in bristles set, spits_ every way _her_ foam’,
obtruding what may remind one of a cat or a stoat. I hold _sputter_ to
be epical[44], because it is strong; but _spit_ is feeble and mean. In
passing, I observe that the universal praise given to Chapman as
‘Homeric’ (a praise which I have too absolutely repeated, perhaps
through false shame of depreciating my only rival) is a testimony to me
that I rightly appreciate Homeric style; for my style is Chapman’s
softened, purged of conceits and made far more melodious. Mr Arnold
leaves me to wonder, how, with his disgust at me, he can avoid feeling
tenfold disgust at Chapman; and to wonder also what he _means_, by so
blankly contradicting my statement that Homer is quaint; and why he so
vehemently resents it. He does not vouchsafe to me or to his readers one
particle of disproof or of explanation.

I regard it as quaint in Homer to call Juno _white-arm’d goddess_ and
_large-ey’d_. (I have not rendered βοῶπις _ox-ey’d_, because in a case
of doubt I shrank to obtrude anything so grotesque to us.) It is quaint
to say, ‘the lord of bright-haired Juno lightens’ for ‘it lightens’; or
‘my heart in my _shaggy_ bosom is divided’, for ‘I doubt’: quaint to
call waves _wet_, milk _white_, blood _dusky_, horses _singlehoofed_, a
hero’s hand _broad_, words _winged_, Vulcan _Lobfoot_ (Κυλλοποδίων), a
maiden _fair-ankled_, the Greeks _wellgreav’d_, a spear _longshadowy_,
battle and council _man-ennobling_, one’s knees _dear_, and many other
epithets. Mr Arnold most gratuitously asserts that the sense of these
had evaporated to the Athenians. If that were true, it would not signify
to this argument. Δαιμόνιος (possessed by an elf or dæmon) so lost its
sense in Attic talk, that although Æschylus has it in its true meaning,
some college tutors (I am told) render ὦ δαιμόνιε in Plato, ‘my very
good sir!’ This is surely no good reason for mistranslating the word in
Homer. If Mr Arnold could prove (what he certainly cannot) that
Sophocles had forgotten the derivation of ἐϋκνημῖδες and ἐϋμμελίης, and
understood by the former nothing but ‘full armed’ and by the latter (as
he says) nothing but ‘war-like’, this would not justify his blame of me
for rendering the words correctly. If the whole Greek nation by long
familiarity had become inobservant of Homer’s ‘oddities’ (conceding this
for the moment), that also would be no fault of mine. That Homer _is_
extremely peculiar, even if the Greeks had become deadened to the sense
of it, the proof on all sides is overpowering.

It is very quaint to say, ‘the outwork (or rampart) of the teeth’
instead of ‘the lips’. If Mr Arnold will call it ‘portentous’ in my
English, let him produce some shadow of reason for denying it to be
portentous in Greek. Many phrases are so quaint as to be almost
untranslatable, as μήστωρ φόβοιο (deviser of fear?) μήστωρ ἀϋτῆς
(deviser of outcry?): others are quaint to the verge of being comical,
as to call a man an _equipoise_ (ἀτάλαντος) to a god, and to praise eyes
for having a _curl_ in them[45]. It is quaint to make Juno call Jupiter
αἰνότατε (grimmest? direst?), whether she is in good or bad humour with
him, and to call a Vision _ghastly_, when it is sent with a pleasant
message. It is astonishingly quaint to tell how many oxen every fringe
of Athene’s ægis was worth.—It is quaint to call Patroclus ‘a great
simpleton’, for not foreseeing that he would lose his life in rushing to
the rescue of his countrymen. (I cannot receive Mr Arnold’s suggested
Biblical correction ‘Thou fool’! which he thinks grander: first, because
grave moral rebuke is utterly out of place; secondly, because the Greek
cannot mean this;—it means infantine simplicity, and has precisely the
colour of the word which I have used.)—It is quaint to say: ‘Patroclus
kindled a great fire, _godlike man_’! or, ‘Automedon held up the meat,
_divine_ Achilles slic’d it’: quaint to address a young friend as
‘Oh[46] pippin’! or ‘Oh softheart’! or ‘Oh pet’! whichever is the true
translation. It is quaint to compare Ajax to an ass whom boys are
belabouring, Ulysses to a pet ram, Agamemnon in two lines to three gods,
and in the third line to a bull; the Myrmidons to wasps, Achilles to a
grampus chasing little fishes, Antilochus to a wolf which kills a dog
and runs away. Menelaus striding over Patroclus’s body to a heifer
defending her first-born. It is quaint to say that Menelaus was as brave
as a bloodsucking fly, that Agamemnon’s sobs came thick as flashes of
lightning; and that the Trojan mares, while running, groaned like
overflowing rivers. All such similes come from a mind quick to discern
similarities, but _very dull to feel incongruities_; unaware therefore
that it is on a verge where the sublime easily turns into the ludicrous;
a mind and heart inevitably quaint to the very core. What is it in
Vulcan, when he would comfort his mother under Jupiter’s threat, to make
jokes about the severe mauling which he himself formerly received, and
his terror lest she should be now beaten? Still more quaint (if
_rollicking_ is not the word), is the address by which Jupiter tries to
ingratiate himself with Juno: viz. he recounts to her all his unlawful
amours, declaring that in none of them was he so smitten as now. I have
not enough of the γενναῖος εὐηθεία, the barbarian simple-heartedness,
needed by a reader of Homer, to get through this speech with gravity.
What shall I call it, certainly much worse than quaint, that the poet
adds: Jupiter was more enamoured than at his _stolen_ embrace in their
first bed ‘secretly from their dear parents’? But to develop Homer’s
inexhaustible quaintnesses, of which Mr Arnold denies the existence,
seems to me to need a long treatise. It is not to be expected, that one
who is blind to superficial facts so very prominent as those which I
have recounted, should retain any delicate perception of the highly
coloured, intense, and very eccentric diction of Homer, even if he has
ever understood it, which he forces me to doubt. He sees nothing ‘odd’
in κυνὸς κακομηχάνου, or in κυνόμυια, ‘thou dogfly’! He replaces to his
imagination the flesh and blood of the noble barbarian by a dim feeble
spiritless outline.

I have not adduced, in proof of Homer’s quaintness, the monstrous simile
given to us in Iliad 13, 754; viz. Hector ‘darted forward screaming like
a snowy mountain, and flew through the Trojans and allies’: for I cannot
believe that the poet wrote anything so absurd. Rather than admit this,
I have suggested that the text is corrupt, and that for ὄρεϊ νιφόεντι we
should read ὀρνέῳ θύοντι, ‘darted forth screaming _like a raging bird_’.
Yet, as far as I know, I am the first man that has here impugned the
text. Mr Brandreth is faithful in his rendering, except that he says
_shouting_ for _screaming_:

              ‘He said; and like a snowy mountain, rush’d
              Shouting; and flew through Trojans and allies.’

Chapman, Cowper, and Pope strain and twist the words to an impossible
sense, putting in something about _white plume_, which they fancy
suggested a snowy mountain; but they evidently accept the Greek as it
stands, unhesitatingly. I claim this phenomenon in proof that to all
commentators and interpreters hitherto Homer’s quaintness has been such
an _axiom_, that they have even acquiesced unsuspiciously in an
extravagance which goes far beyond oddity. Moreover the reader may augur
by my opposite treatment of the passage, with what discernment Mr Arnold
condemns me of obtruding upon Homer gratuitous oddities which equal the
conceits of Chapman.

But, while thus vindicating _Quaintness_ as an essential quality of
Homer, do I regard it as a weakness to be apologized for? Certainly not;
for it is a condition of his cardinal excellences. He could not
otherwise be _Picturesque_ as he is. So volatile is his mind, that what
would be a Metaphor in a more logical and cultivated age, with him riots
in Simile which overflows its banks. His similes not merely go
beyond[47] the mark of likeness; in extreme cases they even turn into
contrariety. If he were not so carried away by his illustration, as to
forget what he is illustrating (which belongs to a quaint mind), he
would never paint for us such full and splendid pictures. Where a
logical later poet would have said that Menelaus

                    With _eagle-eye_ survey’d the field,

the mere metaphor contenting him; Homer says:

    Gazing around on every side,     in fashion of an eagle,
    Which, of all heaven’s fowl, they say,     to scan the earth is
    Whose eye, when loftiest he hangs,     not the swift hare escapeth,
    Lurking amid a leaf-clad bush:     but straight at it he souseth,
    Unerring; and with crooked gripe     doth quickly rieve its spirit.

I feel this long simile to be a disturbance of the logical balance, such
as belongs to the lively eye of the savage, whose observation is
intense, his concentration of reasoning powers feeble. Without this, we
should never have got anything so picturesque.

Homer never sees things _in the same proportions_ as we see them. To
omit his digressions, and what I may call his ‘impertinences’, in order
to give to his argument that which Mr Arnold is pleased to call the
proper ‘balance’, is to value our own logical minds, more than his
picturesque[48] but illogical mind.

Mr Arnold says that I am not quaint, but grotesque, in my rendering of
κυνὸς κακομηχάνου. I do not hold the phrase to be quaint: to me it is
excessively coarse. When Jupiter calls Juno ‘a bitch’, of course he
means a snarling cur; hence my rendering, ‘vixen’ (or she-fox), is there
perfect, since we say _vixen_ of an irascible woman. But Helen had no
such evil tempers, and beyond a doubt she meant to ascribe impurity to
herself. I have twice committed a pious fraud by making her call herself
‘a vixen’, where ‘bitch’ is the only faithful rendering; and Mr Arnold,
instead of thanking me for throwing a thin veil over Homer’s deformity,
assails me for my phrase as intolerably grotesque.

He further forbids me to invent new compound adjectives, as
fair-thron’d, rill-bestream’d; because they strike us as new, though
Homer’s epithets (he says) did not so strike the Greeks: hence they
derange attention from the main question. I hold this doctrine of his
(conceding his fact for a moment) to be destructive of all translation
whatever, into prose or poetry. When Homer tells us that Achilles’
horses were munching lotus and parsley, Pope renders it by ‘the horses
grazed’, and does not say on what. Using Mr Arnold’s principles, he
might defend himself by arguing: ‘The Greeks, being familiar with such
horsefood, were not struck by it as new, as my reader would be. I was
afraid of telling him _what_ the horses were eating, lest it should
derange the balance of his mind, and injuriously divert him from the
main idea of the sentence’. But, I find, readers are indignant on
learning Pope’s suppression: they feel that he has defrauded them of a
piece of interesting information.—In short, how _can_ an Englishman read
any Greek composition and be affected by it as Greeks were? In a piece
of Euripides my imagination is caught by many things, which he never
intended or calculated for the prominence which they actually get in my
mind. This or that absurdity in mythology, which passed with him as
matter of course, may monopolize my main attention. Our minds are not
passive recipients of this or that poet’s influence; but the poet is the
material on which our minds actively work. If an unlearned reader thinks
it very ‘odd’ of Homer (the first time he hears it) to call Aurora
‘fair-thron’d’, so does a boy learning Greek think it odd to call her
εὔθρονος. Mr Arnold ought to blot every odd Homeric epithet out of his
_Greek_ Homer (or never lend the copy to a youthful learner) if he
desires me to expunge ‘fair-thron’d’ from the translation. Nay, I think
he should conceal that the Morning was esteemed as a goddess, though she
had no altars or sacrifice. It is _all_ odd. But that is just why people
want to read an English Homer,—to know all his oddities, exactly as
learned men do. He is the phenomenon to be studied. His peculiarities,
pleasant or unpleasant, are to be made known, precisely because of his
great eminence and his substantial deeply seated worth. Mr Arnold writes
like a timid biographer, fearful to let too much of his friend come out.
So much as to the substance. As to mere words, here also I hold the very
reverse of Mr Arnold’s doctrine. I do not feel free to translate
οὐρανομήκης by ‘heaven-kissing’, precisely _because_ Shakspeare has used
the last word. It is his property, as ἐϋκνημῖδες, ἐϋμμελίης, κυδιάνειρα,
etc., are Homer’s property. I could not use it without being felt to
_quote_ Shakspeare, which would be highly inappropriate in a Homeric
translation. But _if_ nobody had ever yet used the phrase
‘heaven-kissing’ (or if it were current without any proprietor) _then_ I
should be quite free to use it as a rendering of οὐρανομήκης. I cannot
assent to a critic killing the vital powers of our tongue. If Shakspeare
might invent the compound ‘heaven-kissing’, or ‘man-ennobling’, so might
William Wordsworth or Matthew Arnold; and so might I. Inspiration is not
dead, nor yet is the English language.

Mr Arnold is slow to understand what I think very obvious. Let me then
put a case. What if I were to scold a missionary for rendering in Feejee
the phrase ‘kingdom of heaven’ and ‘Lamb of God’ accurately; also
‘saints’ and other words _characteristic of the New Testament_? I might
urge against him: ‘This and that sounds very _odd_ to the Feejees: that
cannot be right, for it did _not_ seem odd to the Nicene bishops. The
latter had forgotten that βασιλεία meant “kingdom”; they took the phrase
“kingdom of God” collectively to mean “the Church”. The phrase did not
surprise them. As to “Lambs”, the Feejees are not accustomed to
sacrifice, and cannot be expected to know of themselves what “Lamb of
God” means, as Hebrews did. The courtiers of Constantine thought it very
natural to be called ἅγιοι, for they were accustomed to think every
baptised person ἅγιος; but to the baptised courtiers of Feejee it really
seems very _odd_ to be called _saints_. You disturb the balance of their

The missionary might reply: ‘You seemed to be ashamed of the oddities of
the Gospel. I am not. They grow out of its excellences and cannot be
separated. By avoiding a few eccentric phrases you will do little to
remove the deep-seated eccentricity of its very essence. Odd and
eccentric it will remain, unless you despoil it of its heart, and reduce
it to a fashionable philosophy’. And just so do I reply to Mr Arnold.
The Homeric style (whether it be that of an individual or of an age) is
peculiar, is ‘odd’, if Mr Arnold like the word, to the very core. Its
eccentricities in epithet are mere efflorescences of its essential
eccentricity. If Homer could cry out to us, I doubt not he would say, as
Oliver Cromwell to the painter, ‘Paint me just I am, _wart and all_’:
but if the true Homer could reappear, I am sure Mr Arnold would start
from him just as a bishop of Rome from a fisherman apostle. If a
translator of the Bible honours the book by his close rendering of its
characteristics, however ‘odd’, so do I honour Homer by the same. Those
characteristics, the moment I produce them, Mr Arnold calls _ignoble_.
Well: be it so; but I am not to blame for them. They exist whether Mr
Arnold likes them or not.

I will here observe that he bids me paraphrase τανύπεπλος
(trailing-robed) into something like, ‘Let gorgeous Tragedy With
sceptred pall come sweeping by’. I deliberately judge, that to
paraphrase an otiose epithet is the very worst thing that can be done:
to omit it entirely would be better. I object even to Mr Gladstone’s

                              ... whom Leto bare,
                        Leto with the flowing hair.

For the repetition overdoes the prominence of the epithet. Still more
extravagant is Mr Arnold in wishing me to turn ‘single-hoofed horses’ in
to ‘something which _as little surprises us_ as “Gallop apace, you
fiery-footed steeds”’: p. 96. To reproduce Shakspeare would be in any
case a ‘surprising’ mode of translating Homer: but the principle which
changes ‘single-hoofed’ into a different epithet which the translator
thinks _better_, is precisely that which for more than two centuries has
made nearly all English translation worthless. To throw the poet into
your crucible, and bring out old Pelias young, is not a hopeful process.
I had thought, the manly taste of this day had outgrown the idea that a
translator’s business is to melt up the old coin and stamp it with a
modern image. I am wondering that I should have to write against such
notions: I would not take the trouble, only that they come against me
from an Oxford Professor of Poetry.

At the same time, his doctrine, as I have said, goes far beyond compound
epithets. Whether I say ‘motley-helmèd Hector’ or ‘Hector of the motley
helm’, ‘silver-footed Thetis’ or ‘Thetis of the silver foot’,
‘man-ennobling combat’ or ‘combat which ennobles man’, the novelty is so
nearly on a par, that he cannot condemn one and justify the other on
this score. Even Pope falls far short of the false taste which would
plane down every Homeric prominence: for he prizes an elegant epithet
like ‘silver-footed’, however new and odd.

From such a Homer as Mr Arnold’s specimens and principles would give us,
no one could _learn_ anything; no one could have any motive for reading
the translation. He smooths down the stamp of Homer’s coin, till nothing
is left even for microscopic examination. When he forbids me (p. 96) to
let my reader know that Homer calls horses ‘single-hoofed’, of course he
would suppress also the epithets ‘white milk’, ‘dusky blood’, ‘dear
knees’, ‘dear life’, etc. His process obliterates everything
characteristic, great or small.

Mr Arnold condemns my translating certain names of horses. He says (p.
58): ‘Mr Newman calls Xanthus _Chesnut_; as he calls Balius _Spotted_
and Podarga _Spry-foot_: which is as if a Frenchman were to call Miss
Nightingale _Mdelle. Rossignol_, or Mr Bright _M. Clair_’. He is very
wanting in discrimination. If I had translated Hector into _Possessor_
or Agamemnon into _Highmind_, his censure would be just. A Miss White
may be a brunette, a Miss Brown may be a blonde: we utter the proper
names of men and women without any remembrance of their intrinsic
meaning. But it is different with many names of domestic animals. We
never call a dog _Spot_, unless he is spotted; nor without consciousness
that the name expresses his peculiarity. No one would give to a black
horse the name Chesnut; nor, if he had called a chesnut horse by the
name Chesnut, would he ever forget the meaning of the name while he used
it. The Greeks called a chesnut horse _xanthos_ and a spotted horse
_balios_; therefore, until Mr Arnold proves the contrary, I believe that
they never read the names of Achilles’ two horses without a sense of
their meaning. Hence the names ought to be translated; while Hector and
Laomedon ought not. The same reasoning applies to Podarga, though I do
not certainly understand ἀργός. I have taken it to mean _sprightly_.

Mr Arnold further asserts, that Homer is never ‘garrulous’. Allowing
that too many others agree with me, he attributes our error to giving
too much weight to a sentence in Horace! I admire Horace as an
ode-writer, but I do not revere him as a critic, any more than as a
moral philosopher. I say that Homer is garrulous, because I see and feel
it. Mr Arnold puts me into a most unwelcome position. I have a right to
say, I have some enthusiasm for Homer. In the midst of numerous urgent
calls of duty and taste, I devoted every possible quarter of an hour for
two years and a half to translate the Iliad, toiling unremittingly in my
vacations and in my walks, and going to large expenses of money, in
order to put the book before the unlearned; and this, though I am not a
Professor of Poetry nor even of Greek. Yet now I am forced to appear as
Homer’s disparager and accuser! But if Homer were always a poet, he
could not be, what he is, so many other things beside poet. As the
Egyptians paint in their tombs processes of art, not because they are
beautiful or grand, but from a mere love of imitating; so Homer narrates
perpetually from a mere love of chatting. In how thoroughly Egyptian a
way does he tell the process of cutting up an ox and making _kebâb_; the
process of bringing a boat to anchor and carefully putting by the
tackle; the process of taking out a shawl from a chest, where it lies at
the very bottom! With what glee he repeats the secret talk of the gods;
and can tell all about the toilet of Juno. Every particular of trifling
actions comes out with him, as, the opening of a door or box with a key.
He tells who made Juno’s earrings or veil or the shield of Ajax, the
history of Agamemnon’s breast-plate, and in what detail a hero puts on
his pieces of armour. I would not press the chattiness of Pandarus,
Glaucus, Nestor, Æneas, in the midst of battle; I might press his
description of wounds. Indeed I have said enough, and more than enough,
against Mr Arnold’s novel, unsupported, paradoxical assertion.—But this
is connected with another subject. I called Homer’s manner ‘direct’: Mr
Arnold (if I understand) would supersede this by his own epithet
‘rapid’. But I cannot admit the exchange: Homer is often the opposite of
rapid. Amplification is his characteristic, as it must be of every
improvisatore, every popular orator: condensation indeed is improper for
anything but written style; written to be read privately. But I regard
as Homer’s worst defect, his lingering over scenes of endless carnage
and painful wounds. He knows to half an inch where one hero hits another
and how deep. They arm: they approach: they encounter: we have to listen
to stereotype details again and again. Such a style is anything but
‘rapid’. Homer’s garrulity often leads him into it; yet he can do far
better, as in a part of the fight over Patroclus’s body, and other
splendid passages.

Garrulity often vents itself in expletives. Mr Arnold selects for
animadversion this line of mine (p. 41),

    ‘A thousand fires along the plain, _I say_, that night were

He says: ‘This may be the genuine style of ballad poetry, but it is
_not_ the style of Homer’. I reply; my use of expletives is moderate
indeed compared to Homer’s. Mr Arnold writes, as if quite unaware that
such words as the intensely prosaic ἄρα, and its abbreviations ἂρ, ῥα,
with τοι, τε, δὴ, μάλα, ἦ, ἦ ῥα νυ, περ, overflow in epic style; and
that a pupil who has mastered the very copious stock of Attic particles,
is taken quite aback by the extravagant number in Homer. Our expletives
are generally more offensive, because longer. My principle is, to admit
only such expletives as _add energy_, and savour of antiquity. To the
feeble expletives of mean ditties I am not prone. I once heard from an
eminent counsellor the first lesson of young lawyers, in the following

                 He who holds his lands in fee,
                   Need neither quake nor quiver:
                 For I humbly conceive, look ye, do ye see?
                   He holds his lands for ever.

The ‘humbly conceiving’ certainly outdoes Homer. Yet if the poet had
chosen (as he _might_ have chosen) to make Polydamas or Glaucus say:

             Ὅστις ἐπετράφθη τέμενος πίστει βασιλῆος,
             φημί τοι, οὗτος ἀνὴρ οὔτ’ ἂρ τρέμει οὔτε φοβεῖται·
             δὴ μάλα γάρ ῥα ἑὰς κρατέοι κεν ἐσαιὲν ἀρούρας:

I rather think the following would be a fair prose rendering: ‘Whoso
hath been entrusted with a demesne under pledge with the king (I tell
you); this man neither trembleth (you see) nor feareth: for (look ye!)
he (verily) may hold (you see) his lands for ever’.

Since Mr Arnold momentarily appeals to me on the chasm between Attic and
Homeric Greek, I turn the last piece into a style _far less_ widely
separated from modern English than Homer from Thucydides.

                    Dat mon, quhich hauldeth Kyngis-af
                      Londis yn féo, niver
                    (I tell ’e) feereth aught; sith hee
                      Doth hauld hys londis yver.

I certainly do _not_ recommend this style to a translator, yet it would
have its advantage. Even with a smaller change of dialect it would aid
us over Helen’s self-piercing denunciation, ‘approaching to Christian
penitence’, as some have judged it.

                     Quoth she, I am a gramsome bitch,
                       If woman bitch may bee.

But in behalf of the poet I must avow: when one considers how dramatic
he is, it is marvellous how little in him can offend. For this very
reason he is above needing tender treatment from a translator, but can
bear faithful rendering, not only better than Shakspeare but better than
Pindar or Sophocles.

When Mr Arnold denies that Homer is ever prosaic or homely, his own
specimens of translation put me into despair of convincing him; for they
seem to me a very anthology of prosaic flatness. Phrases, which are not
in themselves bad, if they were elevated by something in the syntax or
rhythm distinguishing them from prose, become in him prose out-and-out.
‘To Peleus why did we give you, to a mortal’? ‘In the plain _there_ were
kindled a thousand fires; by each one _there_ sate fifty men’. [At least
he might have left out the expletive.] ‘By their chariots stood the
steeds, and champed the white barley; while their masters sate by the
fire and waited for morning’. ‘Us, whose portion for ever Zeus has made
it, from youth _right up_ to age, to be winding skeins of grievous wars,
till _every soul of us_ perish’. The words which I here italicize, seem
to me below noble ballad. What shall I say of ‘I bethink me what the
Trojan men and Trojan women might murmur’. ‘Sacred Troy shall _go to
destruction_’. ‘Or bear pails to the well of Messeϊs’. ‘See, the wife of
Hector, that great pre-eminent captain of the horsemen of Troy, _in the
day they fought_ for their city’, for, ‘_who was_ captain in the day _on
which_——’. ‘Let me be dead and the earth be mounded (?) above me, ere I
hear thy cries, and thy captivity[49] _told of_’. ‘By no slow pace or
want of swiftness _of ours_[50] did the Trojans _obtain to strip_ the
arms of Patroclus’. ‘Here I am destined to perish, far from my father
and mother dear; _for all that_, I will not’, etc. ‘Dare they not enter
the fight, or stand in the council of heroes, _all_ for fear of the
shame and the _taunts my crime_ has awakened?’ One who regards all this
to be high poetry,—emphatically ‘noble’,—may well think τὸν δ’
ἀπαμειβόμενος or ‘with him there came forty black galleys’, or the
broiling of the beef collops, to be such. When Mr Arnold regards ‘no
want of swiftness of _ours_’; ‘for all that’, in the sense of
nevertheless; ‘_all_ for fear’, _i.e._ because of the fear; _not_ to be
prosaic: my readers, however ignorant of Greek, will dispense with
further argument from me. Mr Arnold’s inability to discern prose in
Greek is not to be trusted.

But I see something more in this phenomenon. Mr Arnold is an original
poet; and, as such, certainly uses a diction far more elevated than he
here puts forward to represent Homer. He calls his Homeric diction
_plain_ and _simple_. Interpreting these words from the contrast of Mr
Arnold’s own poems, I claim his suffrage as on my side, that Homer is
often in a style much lower than what the moderns esteem to be poetical.
But I protest, that he carries it _very much_ too far, and levels the
noblest down to the most negligent style of Homer. The poet is _not_
always so ‘ignoble’, as the unlearned might infer from my critic’s
specimens. He never drops so low as Shakspeare; yet if he were as
sustained as Virgil or Milton, he would with it lose his vast
superiority over these, his rich variety. That the whole first book of
the Iliad is pitched lower than the rest, though it has vigorous
descriptions, is denoted by the total absence of simile in it: for
Homer’s kindling is always indicated by simile. The second book rises on
the first, until the catalogue of ships, which (as if to atone for its
flatness) is ushered in by five consecutive similes. In the third and
fourth books the poet continues to rise, and almost culminates in the
fifth; but then seems to restrain himself, lest nothing grander be left
for Achilles. Although I do not believe in a unity of authorship between
the Odyssey and the Iliad, yet in the Iliad itself I see such unity,
that I cannot doubt its negligences to be from art. (The monstrous
speech of Nestor in the 11th book is a case by itself. About 100 lines
have perhaps been added later, for reasons other than literary.) I
observe that just before the poet is about to bring out Achilles in his
utmost splendour, he has three-quarters of a book comparatively tame,
with a ridiculous legend told by Agamemnon in order to cast his own sins
upon Fate. If Shakspeare introduces coarse wrangling, buffoonery, or
mean superstition, no one claims or wishes this to be in a high diction
or tragic rhythm; and why should anyone wish such a thing from Homer or
Homer’s translator? I find nothing here in the poet to apologize for;
but much cause for indignation, when the unlearned public is misled by
translators or by critics to expect delicacy and elegance out of place.
But I beg the unlearned to judge for himself whether Homer _can_ have
intended such lines as the following for poetry, and whether I am bound
to make them any better than I do.

              Then visiting he urged each man with words,
              Mesthles and Glaucus and Medon and Thersilochus
              And Asteropæus and Deisenor and Hippothoüs
              And Phorkys and Chromius and Ennomus the augur.

He has lines in plenty as little elevated. If they came often in masses,
it would be best to translate them into avowed prose: but since gleams
of poetry break out amid what is flattest, I have no choice but to
imitate Homer in retaining a uniform, but easy and unpretending metre.
Mr Arnold calls my metre ‘slip-shod’: if it can rise into grandeur when
needful, the epithet is a praise.

Of course I hold the Iliad to be _generally_ noble and grand. Very many
of the poet’s conceptions were grand to him, mean to us: especially is
he mean and absurd in scenes of conflict between the gods. Besides, he
is disgusting and horrible occasionally in word and thought; as when
Hecuba wishes to ‘cling on Achilles and eat up his liver’; when (as
Jupiter says) Juno would gladly eat Priam’s children raw; when Jupiter
hanged Juno up and fastened a pair of anvils to her feet; also in the
description of dreadful wounds, and the treatment which (Priam says)
dogs give to an old man’s corpse. The descriptions of Vulcan and
Thersites are ignoble; so is the mode of mourning for Hector adopted by
Priam; so is the treatment of the populace by Ulysses, which does but
reflect the manners of the day. I am not now blaming Homer for these
things; but I say no treatment can elevate the subject; the translator
must not be expected to make noble what is not so intrinsically.

If anyone think that I am disparaging Homer, let me remind him of the
horrid grossnesses of Shakspeare, which yet are not allowed to lessen
our admiration of Shakspeare’s grandeur. The Homer of the Iliad is
morally pure and often very tender; but to expect refinement and
universal delicacy of expression in that stage of civilization is quite
anachronistic and unreasonable. As in earlier England, so in Homeric
Greece, even high poetry partook of the coarseness of society. This was
probably inevitable, precisely because Greek epic poetry was so

Mr Arnold says that I make Homer’s nobleness _eminently ignoble_. This
suggests to me to quote a passage, not because I think myself
particularly successful in it, but because the poet is evidently aiming
to be grand, when his mightiest hero puts forth mighty boastings,
offensive to some of the gods. It is the speech of Achilles over the
dead body of Asteropæus (Iliad 21, 184). Whether I make it ignoble, by
my diction or my metre, the reader must judge.

    Lie as thou art. ’Tis hard for thee     to strive against the
    Of overmatching Saturn’s son,     tho’ offspring of a River.
    Thou boastest, that thy origin     is from a Stream broad-flówing;
    I boast, from mighty Jupiter     to trace my first beginning.
    A man who o’er the Myrmidons     holdeth wide rule, begat me,
    Peleus; whose father Æacus     by Jupiter was gotten.
    Rivers, that trickle to the sea,     than Jupiter are weaker;
    So, than the progeny of Jove,     weaker a River’s offspring.
    Yea, if he aught avail’d to help,     behold! a mighty River
    Beside thee here: but none can fight     with Jove, the child of
    Not royal Acheloïus     with him may play the equal.
    Nor e’en the amplebosom’d strength     of deeply-flowing Ocean:
    Tho’ from his fulness every Sea     and every River welleth,
    And all the ever-bubbling springs     and eke their vasty sources.
    Yet at the lightning-bolt of Jove     doth even Ocean shudder,
    And at the direful thunder-clap,     when from the sky it crasheth.

Mr Arnold has in some respects attacked me discreetly; I mean, where he
has said that which damages me with his readers, and yet leaves me no
possible reply. What is easier than for one to call another ignoble?
what more damaging? what harder to refute? Then when he speaks of my
‘metrical exploits’ how can I be offended? to what have I to reply? His
words are expressive either of compliment or of contempt; but in either
case are untangible. Again: when he would show how tender he has been of
my honour, and how unwilling to expose my enormities, he says: p. 57: ‘I
will by no means search in Mr Newman’s version for passages likely to
raise a laugh: that search, _alas!_ would be far too easy’; I find the
pity which the word _alas!_ expresses, to be very clever, and very
effective against me. But, I think, he was not discreet, but very
unwise, in making dogmatic statements on the ground of erudition, many
of which I have exposed; and about which much more remains to be said
than space will allow me.

In his denial that Homer is ‘garrulous’, he complains that so many think
him to be ‘diffuse’. Mr Arnold, it seems, is unaware of that very
prominent peculiarity; which suits ill even to Mr Gladstone’s style.
Thus, where Homer said (and I said) in a passage quoted above, ‘people
that have _a voice in their bosom_’, Mr Gladstone has only ‘_speaking_
men’. I have noticed the epithet _shaggy_ as quaint, in ‘His heart in
his shaggy bosom was divided’, where, in a moral thought, a physical
epithet is obtruded. But even if ‘shaggy’ be dropped, it remains diffuse
(and characteristically so) to say ‘my _heart in my bosom_ is divided’,
for ‘I doubt’. So—‘I will speak what _my heart in my bosom_ bids me’.
So, Homer makes men think κατὰ φρένα καὶ κατὰ θυμὸν, ‘in their heart
_and mind_’; and deprives them of ‘mind and soul’. Also: ‘this appeared
to him _in his mind_ to be the best counsel’. Mr Arnold assumes tones of
great superiority; but every school-boy knows that diffuseness is a
distinguishing characteristic of Homer. Again, the poet’s epithets are
often selected by their convenience for his metre; sometimes perhaps
even appropriated for no other cause. No one has ever given any better
reason why Diomedes and Menelaus are almost exclusively called βοὴν
ἀγαθὸς, except that it suits the metre. This belongs to the
improvisatore, the negligent, the ballad style. The word ἐϋμμελίης,
which I with others render ‘ashen-speared’, is said of Priam, of
Panthus, and of sons of Panthus. Mr Arnold rebukes me, p. 106, for
violating my own principles. ‘I say, on the other hand, that εὐμμελίω
has _not_ the effect[51] of a peculiarity in the original, while
“ashen-speared” _has_ the effect of a peculiarity in the English: and
“warlike” is as marking an equivalent as I dare give for ἐϋμμελίω, _for
fear of disturbing the balance of expression_ in Homer’s sentence’. Mr
Arnold cannot write a sentence on Greek, without showing an ignorance
hard to excuse in one who thus comes forward as a vituperating censor.
_Warlike_ is a word current in the lips and books of all Englishmen:
ἐϋμμελίης is a word _never_ used, never, I believe, in all Greek
literature, by anyone but Homer. If he does but turn to Liddell and
Scott, he will see their statement, that the Attic form εὐμελίας is only
to be found in grammars. He is here, as always, wrong in his facts. The
word is most singular in Greek; more singular by far than
‘ashen-spear’d’ in English, because it is more obscure, as is its
special application to one or two persons: and in truth I have doubted
whether we any better understand Eumelian Priam than Gerenian Nestor.—Mr
Arnold presently imputes to me the opinion that χιτὼν means ‘a cloak’,
_which he does not dispute_; but if I had thought it necessary to be
literal, I must have rendered χαλκοχίτωνες brazen-shirted. He suggests
to me the rendering ‘brazen-coated’, which I have used in Il. 4, 285 and
elsewhere. I have also used ‘brazen-clad’, and I now prefer
‘brazen-mail’d’. I here wish only to press that Mr Arnold’s criticism
proceeds on a false fact. Homer’s epithet was _not_ a familiar word at
Athens (in any other sense than as Burns or Virgil may be familiar to Mr
Arnold), but was strange, unknown even to their poets; hence his demand
that I shall use a word already familiar in English poetry is doubly
baseless. The later poets of Greece have plenty of words beginning with
χαλκο-; but this one word is exclusively Homer’s.—Everything that I have
now said, may be repeated still more pointedly concerning ἐϋκνημῖδες,
inasmuch as directing attention to leg-armour is peculiarly quaint. No
one in all Greek literature (as far as I know) names the word but Homer;
and yet Mr Arnold turns on me with his ever reiterated, ever
unsupported, assertions and censures, of course assuming that ‘the
scholar’ is with him. (I have no theory at hand, to explain why he
regards his own word to suffice without attempt at proof.) The epithet
is intensely peculiar; and I observe that Mr Arnold has not dared to
suggest a translation. It is clear to me that he is ashamed of my poet’s
oddities; and has no mode of escaping from them but by bluntly denying
facts. Equally peculiar to Homer are the words κυδιάνειρα, τανύπεπλος
and twenty others, equally unknown to Attic the peculiar compound
μελιήδης (adopted from Homer by Pindar), about all which he carps at me
on false grounds. But I pass these, and speak a little more at length
about μέροπες.

Will the reader allow me to vary these tedious details, by imagining a
conversation between the Aristophanic Socrates and his clownish pupil
Strepsiades. I suppose the philosopher to be instructing him in the
higher Greek, Homer being the text.

_Soc._ Now Streppy, tell me what μέροπες ἄνθρωποι means?

_Strep._ Let me see: μέροπες? that must mean ‘half-faced’.

_Soc._ Nonsense, silly fellow: think again.

_Strep._ Well then: μέροπες, half-eyed, squinting.

_Soc._ No; you are playing the fool: it is not our ὀπ in ὄψις, ὄψομαι,
κάτοπτρον, but another sort of ὀπ.

_Strep._ Why, you yesterday told me that οἴνοπα was ‘wine-faced’, and
αἴθοπα ‘blazing-faced’, something like our αἰθίοψ.

_Soc._ Ah! well: it is not so wonderful that you go wrong. It is true,
there is also νῶροψ, στέροψ, ἦνοψ. Those might mislead you: μέροψ is
rather peculiar. Now cannot you think of any characteristic of mankind,
which μέροπες will express. How do men differ from other animals?

_Strep._ I have it! I heard it from your young friend Euclid. Μέροψ
ἐστὶν ἄνθρωπος, ‘man is a cooking animal’.

_Soc._ You stupid lout! what are you at? what do you mean?

_Strep._ Why, μέροψ, from μείρω, I distribute, ὄψον sauce.

_Soc._ No, no: ὄψον has the ὀψ, with radical immovable ς in it; but here
ὀπ is the root, and ς is movable.

_Strep._ Now I have got it; μείρω, I distribute, ὀπὸν, juice, rennet.

_Soc._ Wretched man! you must forget your larder and your dairy, if ever
you are to learn grammar.—Come Streppy: leave rustic words, and think of
the language of the gods. Did you ever hear of the brilliant goddess
Circe and of her ὄπα καλὴν?

_Strep._ Oh yes; Circe and her beautiful face.

_Soc._ I told you, _no_! you forgetful fellow. It is ANOTHER ὀπ. Now I
will ask you in a different way. Do you know why we call fishes ἔλλοπες?

_Strep._ I suppose, because they are cased in scales.

_Soc._ That is not it. (And yet I am not sure. Perhaps the fellow is
right, after all.) Well, we will not speak any more of ἔλλοπες. But did
you never hear in Euripides, οὐκ ἔχω γεγωνεῖν ὄπα? What does that mean?

_Strep._ ‘I am not able to shout out, ὦ πόποι’.

_Soc._ No, no, Streppy: but Euripides often uses ὄπα. He takes it from
Homer, and it is akin to ἐπ, not to _our_ ὀπ and much less to πόποι.
What does ἔπη mean?

_Strep._ It means such lines as the diviners sing.

_Soc._ So it does in Attic, but Homer uses it for ῥήματα, words; indeed
we also sometimes.

_Strep._ Yes, yes, I do know it. All is right.

_Soc._ I think you do: well, and ὂψ means a voice, φωνὴ.

_Strep._ How you learned men like to puzzle us! I often have heard ὀπι,
ὄπα in the Tragedies, but never quite understood it. What a pity they do
not say φωνὴ when they mean φωνή.

_Soc._ We have at last made one step. Now what is μέροψ? μέροπες

_Strep._ Μείρω, I divide, ὄπα, φωνὴν, voice; ‘voice-dividing’: what
_can_ that mean?

_Soc._ You have heard a wild dog howl, and a tame dog bark: tell me how
they differ.

_Strep._ The wild dog gives a long long _oo-oo_, which changes like a
trumpet if you push your hand up and down it; and the tame dog says
_bow, wow, wow_, like two or three panpipes blown one after another.

_Soc._ Exactly; you see the tame dog is humanized: he _divides his
voice_ into syllables, as men do. ‘Voice-dividing’ means ‘speaking in

_Strep._ Oh, how clever you are!

_Soc._ Well then, you understand; ‘Voice-dividing’ means _articulating_.

Mr Arnold will see in the Scholiast on Iliad 1, 250, precisely this
order of analysis for μέροπες. It seems to me to give not a traditional
but a grammatical explanation. Be that as it may, it indicates that a
Greek had to pass through _exactly the same process_ in order to expound
μέροπες, as an Englishman to get sense out of ‘voice-dividing’. The word
is twice used by Æschylus, who affects Homeric words, and once by
Euripides (Iph. T.) in the connection πολέσιν μερόπων, where the very
unusual Ionism πολέσιν shows in how Homeric a region is the poet’s
fancy. No other word ending in οψ except μέροψ can be confidently
assigned to the root ὂψ, a voice. Ἦνοψ in Homer (itself of most
uncertain sense and derivation) is generally referred to the other ὄψ.
The sense of ἔλλοψ again[52] is very uncertain. Every way therefore
μέροψ is ‘odd’ and obscure. The phrase ‘articulating’ is utterly prosaic
and inadmissible. _Vocal_ is rather too Latinized for my style, and
besides, is apt to mean _melodious_. The phrase ‘voice-dividing’ is
indeed easier to us than μέροπες can have been to the Athenians, because
we all know what _voice_ means, but they had to be taught scholastically
what ὄπα meant; nor would easily guess that ὂψ in μέροψ had a sense,
differing from ὂψ in (ἀ)στέροψ οἶνοψ, αἶθοψ, αἶθίοψ, νῶροψ (ἦνοψ),
χάροψ. Finally, since μέροπες is only found in the plural, it remains an
open question, whether it does not mean ‘speaking various languages’. Mr
Arnold will find that Stephanus and Scapula treat it as doubtful, though
Liddell and Scott do not name the second interpretation. I desired to
leave in the English all the uncertainty of the Greek: but my critic is
unencumbered with such cares.

Hitherto I have been unwillingly thrown into nothing but antagonism to
Mr Arnold, who thereby at least adds tenfold value to his praise, and
makes me proud when he declares that the _structure_ of my sentences is
good and Homeric. For this I give the credit to my metre, which alone
confers on me this cardinal advantage. But in turn I will compliment Mr
Arnold at the expense of some other critics. He does know, and they do
not, the difference of _flowing_ and _smooth_. A mountain torrent is
flowing, but often very rough; such is Homer. The ‘staircases of
Neptune’ on the canal of Languedoc are smooth, but do not flow: you have
to descend abruptly from each level to the next. It would be unjust to
say absolutely, that such is Pope’s smoothness; yet often, I feel, this
censure would not be too severe. The rhyme forces him to so frequent a
change of the nominative, that he becomes painfully discontinuous, where
Homer is what Aristotle calls ‘long-linked’. At the same time, in our
language, in order to impart a flowing style, good structure does not
suffice. A principle is needed, unknown to the Greeks; viz. the natural
divisions of the sentence oratorically, must coincide with the divisions
of the verse musically. To attain this _always_ in a long poem, is very
difficult to a translator who is scrupulous as to tampering with the
sense. I have not always been successful in this. But before any critic
passes on me the general sentence that I am ‘deficient in flow’, let him
count up the proportion of instances in which he can justly make the
complaint, and mark whether they occur in elevated passages.

I shall now speak of the peculiarities of my diction, under three heads:
1. old or antiquated words; 2. coarse words expressive of outward
actions, but having no moral colour; 3. words of which the sense has
degenerated in modern days.

1. Mr Arnold appears to regard what is _antiquated_ as _ignoble_. I
think him, as usual, in fundamental error. In general the nobler words
come from ancient style, and in no case can it be said that old words
(as such) are ignoble. To introduce such terms as _whereat_,
_therefrom_, _quoth_, _beholden_, _steed_, _erst_, _anon_, _anent_, into
the midst of style which in all other respects is modern and prosaic,
would be like to that which we often hear from half-educated people. The
want of harmony makes us regard it as low-minded and uncouth. From this
cause (as I suspect) has stolen into Mr Arnold’s mind the fallacy, that
the words themselves are uncouth[53]. But the words are excellent, if
only they are in proper keeping with the general style.—Now it is very
possible, that in some passages, few or many, I am open to the charge of
having mixed old and new style unskilfully; but I cannot admit that the
old words (as such) are ignoble. No one speaks of Spenser’s dialect,
nay, nor of Thomson’s; although with Thomson it was assumed, exactly as
by me, but to a far greater extent, and without any such necessity as
urges me. As I have stated in my preface, a broad tinge of antiquity in
the style is essential, to make Homer’s barbaric puerilities and
eccentricities less offensive. (Even Mr Arnold would admit this, if he
admitted my _facts_: but he denies that there is anything eccentric,
antique, quaint, barbaric in Homer: that is his _only_ way of resisting
my conclusion.) If Mr Gladstone were able to give his valuable time to
work out an entire Iliad in his refined modern style, I feel confident
that he would find it impossible to deal faithfully with the eccentric
phraseology and with the negligent parts of the poem. I have the
testimony of an unfriendly reviewer, that I am the first and _only_
translator that has dared to give Homer’s constant epithets and not
conceal his forms of thought: of course I could not have done this in
modern style. The lisping of a child is well enough from a child, but is
disgusting in a full-grown man. Cowper and Pope systematically cut out
from Homer whatever they cannot make _stately_, and harmonize with
modern style: even Mr Brandreth often shrinks, though he is brave enough
to say _ox-eyed Juno_. Who then can doubt the extreme unfitness of their
metre and of their modern diction? My opposers never fairly meet the
argument. Mr Arnold, when most gratuitously censuring my mild rendering
of κυνὸς κακομηχάνου ὀκρυοέσσης, _does not dare to suggest any English
for it himself_. Even Mr Brandreth skips it. It is not merely offensive
words; but the purest and simplest phrases, as a man’s ‘dear life’,
‘dear knees’, or his ‘tightly-built house’, are a stumbling-block to
translators. No stronger proof is necessary, or perhaps is possible,
than these phenomena give, that to shed an antique hue over Homer is of
first necessity to a translator: without it, _injustice_ is done both to
the reader and to the poet. Whether I have managed the style well, is a
separate question, and is matter of detail. I may have sometimes done
well, sometimes ill; but I claim that my critics shall judge me from a
broader ground, and shall not pertinaciously go on comparing my version
with modern style, and condemning me as (what they are pleased to call)
_inelegant_ because it is not like refined modern poetry, when it
specially avoids to be such. They never deal thus with Thomson or
Chatterton, any more than with Shakspeare or Spenser.

There is no sharp distinction possible between the foreign and the
antiquated in language. What is obsolete with us, may still live
somewhere: as, what in Greek is called Poetic or Homeric, may at the
same time be living Æolic. So, whether I take a word from Spenser or
from Scotland, is generally unimportant. I do not remember more than
four Scotch words, which I have occasionally adopted for convenience;
viz. Callant, young man; Canny, right-minded; Bonny, handsome; to Skirl,
to cry shrilly. A trochaic word, which I cannot get in English, is
sometimes urgently needed. It is astonishing to me that those who ought
to know both what a large mass of antique and foreign-sounding words an
Athenian found in Homer, and how many Doric or Sicilian forms as well as
Homeric words the Greek tragedians _on principle_ brought into their
songs, should make the outcry that they do against my very limited use
of that which has an antique or Scotch sound. Classical scholars ought
to set their faces against the double heresy, of trying to enforce, that
foreign poetry, however various, shall be all rendered into one English
dialect, and that this shall, in order of words and in diction, closely
approximate to polished prose. From an Oxford Professor I should have
expected the very opposite spirit to that which Mr Arnold shows. He
ought to know and feel that one glory of Greek poetry is its great
internal variety. He admits the principle that old words are a source of
ennoblement for diction, when he extols the Bible as his standard: for
surely he claims no rhetorical inspiration for the translators. Words
which have come to us in a sacred connection, no doubt, gain a sacred
hue, but they must not be allowed to desecrate other old and excellent
words. Mr Arnold informs his Oxford hearers that ‘his Bibliolatry is
perhaps excessive’. So the public will judge, if he say that _wench_,
_whore_, _pate_, _pot_, _gin_, _damn_, _busybody_, _audience_,
_principality_, _generation_, are epical noble words because they are in
the Bible, and that _lief_, _ken_, _in sooth_, _grim_, _stalwart_,
_gait_, _guise_, _eld_, _hie_, _erst_, are bad, because they are not
there. Nine times out of ten, what are called ‘poetical’ words, are
nothing but antique words, and are made ignoble by Mr Arnold’s doctrine.
His very arbitrary condemnation of _eld_, _lief_, _in sooth_, _gait_,
_gentle friend_ in one passage of mine as ‘bad words’, is probably due
to his monomaniac fancy that there is nothing quaint and nothing antique
in Homer. Excellent and noble as are these words which he rebukes,
excellent even for Æschylus, I should doubt the propriety of using them
in the dialogue of Euripides; on the level of which he seems to think
Homer to be.

2. Our language, especially the Saxon part of it, abounds with vigorous
monosyllabic verbs, and dissyllabic frequentatives derived from them,
indicative of strong physical action. For these words (which, I make no
doubt, Mr Arnold regards as ignoble plebeians), I claim Quiritarian
rights: but I do not wish them to displace patricians from high service.
Such verbs as _sweat_, _haul_, _plump_, _maul_, _yell_, _bang_,
_splash_, _smash_, _thump_, _tug_, _scud_, _sprawl_, _spank_, etc., I
hold (in their purely physical sense) to be eminently epical: for the
epic revels in descriptions of violent action to which they are suited.
Intense muscular exertion in every form, intense physical action of the
surrounding elements, with intense ascription or description of size or
colour;—together make up an immense fraction of the poem. To cut out
these words is to emasculate the epic. Even Pope admits such words. My
eye in turning his pages was just now caught by: ‘They tug, they sweat’.
Who will say that ‘tug’, ‘sweat’ are admissible, but ‘bang’, ‘smash’,
‘sputter’ are inadmissible? Mr Arnold resents my saying that Homer is
often homely. He is homely expressly because he is natural. The epical
diction admits both the gigantesque and the homely: it inexorably
refuses the conventional, under which is comprised a vast mass of what
some wrongly call elegant. But while I justify the use of homely words
in a primary physical, I depreciate them in a secondary moral sense. Mr
Arnold clearly is dull to this distinction, or he would not utter
against me the following taunt, p. 91:

‘_To grunt and sweat under a weary load_ does perfectly well where it
comes in Shakspeare: but if the translator of Homer, who will hardly
have wound up our minds to the pitch at which these words of Hamlet find
them, were to employ, when he has to speak of Homer’s heroes under the
load of calamity, this figure of “grunting” and “sweating”, we should
say, _He Newmanizes_’.

Mr Arnold here not only makes a mistake, he propagates a slander; as if
I had ever used such words as _grunt_ and _sweat_ morally. If Homer in
the Iliad spoke of grunting swine, as he does of sweating steeds, so
should I. As the coarse metaphors here quoted from Shakspeare are
utterly opposed to Homer’s style, to obtrude them on him would be a
gross offence. Mr Arnold sends his readers away with the belief that
this is my practice, though he has not dared to assert it. I _bear_ such
coarseness in Shakspeare, not because I am ‘wound up to a high pitch’ by
him, ‘borne away by a mighty current’ (which Mr Arnold, with ingenious
unfairness to me, assumes to be certain in a reader of Shakspeare and
all but impossible in a reader of Homer), but because I know, that in
Shakspeare’s time all literature was coarse, as was the speech of
courtiers and of the queen herself. Mr Arnold imputes to me Shakspeare’s
coarseness, from which I instinctively shrink; and when his logic leads
to the conclusion, ‘he Shakspearizes’, he with gratuitous rancour turns
it into ‘he Newmanizes’.

Some words which with the Biblical translators seem to have been noble,
I should not now dare to use in the primitive sense. For instance, ‘His
iniquity shall fall upon his own _pate_’. Yet I think _pate_ a good
metaphorical word and have used it of the sea-waves, in a bold passage,
Il. 13, 795:

    Then ón rush’d théy, with weight and mass     like to a troublous
    Which from the thundercloud of Jove     down on the campaign
    And doth the briny flood bestir     with an unearthly uproar:
    Then in the everbrawling sea     full many a billow splasheth,
    Hollow, and bald with hoary _pate_,     one racing after other.

Is there really no ‘mighty current’ here, to sweep off petty criticism?

I have a remark on the strong physical word ‘plumpeth’ here used. It is
fundamentally Milton’s, ‘plump down he drops ten thousand fathom deep’;
_plumb_ and _plump_ in this sense are clearly the same root. I confess I
have not been able to find the _verb_ in an old writer, though it is so
common now. Old writers do not say ‘to plumb down’, but ‘to _drop_ plumb
down’. Perhaps in a second edition (if I reach to it), I may alter the
words to ‘plumb ... droppeth’, on this ground; but I do turn sick at the
mawkishness of critics, one of whom, who ought to know better, tells me
that the word _plump_ reminds him ‘of the crinolined hoyden of a
boarding-school’!! If he had said, ‘It is too like the phrase of a
sailor, of a peasant, of a schoolboy’, this objection would be at least
intelligible. However: the word is intended to express the _violent
impact of a body descending from aloft_, and it _does_ express it.

Mr Arnold censures me for representing Achilles as _yelling_. He is
depicted by the poet as in the most violent physical rage, boiling over
with passion and wholly uncontrouled. He smacks his two thighs at once;
he rolls on the ground, μέγας μεγαλωστὶ; he defiles his hair with dust;
he rends it; he grinds his teeth; fire flashes from his eyes; but—he may
not ‘yell’, that would not be _comme il faut_! We shall agree, that in
peace nothing so becomes a hero as modest stillness; but that ‘Peleus’
son, insatiate of combat’, full of the fiercest pent-up passion, should
vent a little of it in a _yell_, seems to me quite in place. That the
Greek ἰάχων is not necessarily to be so rendered, I am aware; but it is
a very vigorous word, like _peal_ and _shriek_; neither of which would
here suit. I sometimes render it _skirl_: but ‘battle-yell’ is a
received rightful phrase. Achilles is not a stately Virgilian _pius
Æneas_, but is a far wilder barbarian.

After Mr Arnold has laid upon me the sins of Shakspeare, he amazes me by
adding, p. 92: ‘The idiomatic language of Shakspeare, such language as
“prate of his _whereabout_”, “_jump_ the life to come”, “the damnation
of his _taking-off_”, “_quietus make_ with a bare bodkin”, should be
carefully observed by the translator of Homer; although in every case he
will have to decide for himself, whether the use, by him, of
Shakspeare’s liberty, will or will not clash with his indispensable duty
of nobleness’.

Of the Shakspearianisms here italicized by Mr Arnold, there is not one
which I could endure to adopt. ‘His whereabout’, I regard as the
flattest prose. (The word _prate_ is a plebeian which I admit in its own
low places; but how Mr Arnold can approve of it, consistently with his
attacks on me, I do not understand.) Damnation and Taking-off (for Guilt
and Murder), and Jump, I absolutely reject; and ‘quietus make’ would be
nothing but an utterly inadmissible _quotation_ from Shakspeare. _Jump_
as an active verb is to me monstrous, but _Jump_ is just the sort of
modern prose word which is not noble. _Leap_, _Bound_, for great action,
_Skip_, _Frisk_, _Gambol_ for smaller, are all good.

I have shown against Mr Arnold—(1) that Homer was out-and-out antiquated
to the Athenians, even when perfectly understood by them; (2) that his
conceptions, similes, phraseology and epithets are habitually quaint,
strange, unparalleled in Greek literature; and pardonable only to
semibarbarism; (3) that they are intimately related to his noblest
excellences; (4) that many words are so peculiar as to be still doubtful
to us; (5) I have indicated that some of his descriptions and
conceptions are horrible to us, though they are not so to his barbaric
auditors; (6) that considerable portions of the poem are not poetry, but
rhythmical prose like Horace’s Satires, and are interesting to us not as
poetry but as portraying the manners or sentiments of the day. I now add
(7) what is inevitable in all high and barbaric poetry, perhaps in all
high poetry, many of his energetic descriptions are expressed in _coarse
physical words_. I do not here attempt proof, for it might need a
treatise: but I give one illustration; Il. 13, 136, Τρῶες προὒτυψαν
ἀολλέες. Cowper, misled by the _ignis fatuus_ of ‘stateliness’, renders
it absurdly

               _The pow’rs of Ilium_ gave the first assault,
               _Embattled_ close;

but it is strictly, ‘The Trojans _knocked-forward_ (or, thumped,
_butted_, forward) in close pack’. The verb is too coarse for later
polished prose, and even the adjective is very strong (_packed
together_). I believe, that ‘Forward in _pack_ the Troians _pitch’d_’,
would not be really unfaithful to the Homeric colour; and I maintain
that ‘Forward in mass the Troians pitch’d’, would be an irreprovable

Dryden in this respect is in entire harmony with Homeric style. No
critic deals fairly with me in isolating any of these strong words, and
then appealing to his readers whether I am not ignoble. Hereby he
deprives me of the ἀγὼν, the ‘mighty current’ of Mr Arnold, and he
misstates the problem; which is, whether the word is suitable, _then_
and _there_, for the work required of it, as the coalman at the pit, the
clown in the furrow, the huntsman in the open field.

3. There is a small number of words not natural plebeians, but
patricians on which a most unjust bill of attainder has been passed,
which I seek to reverse. On the first which I name, Mr Arnold will side
with me, because it is a Biblical word, _wench_. In Lancashire I believe
that at the age of about sixteen a ‘girl’ turns into ‘a wench’, or as we
say ‘a young woman’. In Homer, ‘girl’ and ‘young woman’ are alike
inadmissible; ‘maid’ or ‘maiden’ will not always suit, and ‘wench’ is
the natural word. I do not know that I have used it three times, but I
claim a right of using it, and protest against allowing the heroes of
slang to deprive us of excellent words by their perverse misuse. If the
imaginations of some men are always in satire and in low slang, so much
the worse for them: but the more we yield to such demands, the more will
be exacted. I expect, before long, to be told that _brick_ is an ignoble
word, meaning a jolly fellow, and that _sell_, _cut_ are out of place in
Homer. My metre, it seems, is inadmissible with some, because it is the
metre of Yankee Doodle! as if Homer’s metre were not that of the
Margites. Every noble poem is liable to be travestied, as the Iliad and
Æschylus and Shakspeare have been. Every burlesque writer uses the noble
metre, and caricatures the noble style. Mr Arnold says, I must not
render τανύπεπλος ‘trailing-rob’d’, because it reminds him of ‘long
petticoats sweeping a dirty pavement’. What a confession as to the state
of his imagination! Why not, of ‘a queen’s robe trailing on a marble
pavement’? Did he never read

                πέπλον μὲν κατέχευεν ἑανὸν πατρὸς ἐτ’ οὔδει?

I have digressed: I return to words which have been misunderstood. A
second word is of more importance, _Imp_; which properly means a Graft.
The best translation of ὦ Λήδας ἔρνος to my mind, is, ‘O Imp of Leda’!
for neither ‘bud of Leda’, nor ‘scion of Leda’ satisfy me: much less
‘sprig’ or ‘shoot of Leda’. The theological writers so often used the
phrase ‘imp of Satan’ for ‘child of the devil’, that (since Bunyan?) the
vulgar no longer understand that _imp_ means _scion_, _child_, and
suppose it to mean ‘little devil’. A Reviewer has omitted to give his
unlearned readers any explanation of the word (though I carefully
explained it) and calls down their indignation upon me by his censures,
which I hope proceeded from carelessness and ignorance.

Even in Spenser’s Fairy Queen the word retains its rightful and noble

                Well worthy _imp_! then said the lady, etc.,

and in North’s Plutarch,

‘He took upon him to protect him from them all, and not to suffer so
goodly an _imp_ [Alcibiades] to lose the good fruit of his youth’.

Dryden uses the verb, To imp; to graft, insert.

I was quite aware that I claimed of my readers a certain strength of
mind, when I bid them to forget the defilements which vulgarity has shed
over the noble word Imp, and carry their imaginations back two or three
centuries: but I did not calculate that any critic would call Dainty
grotesque. This word is equivalent in meaning to Delicate and Nice, but
has precisely the epical character in which both those words are
deficient. For instance, I say, that after the death of Patroclus, the
coursers ‘stood motionless’,

    Drooping tōwārd the ground their heads,     and down their plaintive
    Did warm tears trickle to the ground,     their charioteer
    Defilèd were their _dainty_ manes,     over the yoke-strap dropping.

A critic who objects to this, has to learn English from my translation.
Does he imagine that Dainty can mean nothing but ‘over-particular as to

In the compound Dainty-cheek’d, Homer shows his own epic peculiarity. It
is imitated in the similar word εὐπάρᾳος applied to the Gorgon Medusa by
Pindar: but not in the Attics. I have somewhere read, that the rudest
conception of female beauty is that of a brilliant red _plump_ cheek;
such as an English clown admires (was this what Pindar meant?); the
second stage looks to the delicacy of tint in the cheek (this is Homer’s
καλλιπάρῃος:) the third looks to shape (this is the εὒμορφος of the
Attics, the _formosus_ of the Latins, and is seen in the Greek
sculpture); the fourth and highest looks to moral expression: this is
the idea of Christian Europe. That Homer rests exclusively in the second
or semibarbaric stage, it is not for me to say, but, as far as I am
able, to give to the readers of my translation materials for their own
judgment. From the vague word εἶδος, _species_, _appearance_, it cannot
be positively inferred whether the poet had an eye for Shape. The
epithets curl-eyed and fine-ankled decidedly suggest that he had; except
that his application of the former to the entire nation of the Greeks
makes it seem to be of foreign tradition, and as unreal as

Another word which has been ill-understood and ill-used, is _dapper_. Of
the epithet dappergreav’d for ἐϋκνημὶς I certainly am not enamoured, but
I have not yet found a better rendering. It is easier to carp at my
phrase, than to suggest a better. The word _dapper_ in Dutch = German
_tapfer_; and like the Scotch _braw_ or _brave_ means with us _fine_,
_gallant_, _elegant_. I have read the line of an old poet,

                     The dapper words which lovers use,

for _elegant_, I suppose; and so ‘the dapper does’ and ‘dapper elves’ of
Milton must refer to elegance or refined beauty. What is there[54]
ignoble in such a word? ‘Elegant’ and ‘pretty’ are inadmissible in epic
poetry: ‘dapper’ is logically equivalent, and _has the epic colour_.
Neither ‘fair’ nor ‘comely’ here suit. As to the school translation of
‘wellgreav’d’, every common Englishman on hearing the sound receives it
as ‘wellgrieved’, and to me it is very unpleasing. A part of the
mischief, a large part of it, is in the word _greave_; for
_dapper-girdled_ is on the whole well-received. But what else can we say
for _greave_? leggings? gambados?

Much perhaps remains to be learnt concerning Homer’s perpetual epithets.
My very learned colleague Goldstücke, Professor of Sanscrit, is
convinced that the epithet _cow-eyed_ of the Homeric Juno is an echo of
the notion of Hindoo poets, that (if I remember his statement) ‘the
sun-beams are the _cows_ of heaven’. The sacred qualities of the Hindoo
cow are perhaps not to be forgotten. I have myself been struck by the
phrase διϊπετέος ποτάμοιο as akin to the idea that the Ganges falls from
Mount Meru, the Hindoo Olympus. Also the meaning of two other epithets
has been revealed to me from the pictures of Hindoo ladies. First,
_curl-eyed_, to which I have referred above; secondly, _rosy-fingered
Aurora_. For Aurora is an ‘Eastern lady’; and, as such, has the tips of
her fingers dyed rosy-red, whether by henna or by some more brilliant
drug. Who shall say that the kings and warriors of Homer do not derive
from the East their epithet ‘Jove-nurtured’? or that this or that
goddess is not called ‘golden-throned’ or ‘fair-throned’ in allusion to
Assyrian sculptures or painting, as Rivers probably drew their later
poetical attribute ‘bull-headed’ from the sculpture of fountains? It is
a familiar remark, that Homer’s poetry presupposes a vast pre-existing
art and material. Much in him was traditional. Many of his wild legends
came from Asia. He is to us much beside a poet; and that a translator
should assume to cut him down to the standard of modern taste, is a
thought which all the higher minds of this age have outgrown. How much
better is that reverential Docility, which with simple and innocent
wonder, receives the oddest notions of antiquity as material of
instruction yet to be revealed, than the self-complacent Criticism,
which pronouncing everything against modern taste to be grotesque[55]
and contemptible, squares the facts to its own ‘Axioms’! _Homer is
noble: but this or that epithet is not noble: therefore we must explode
it from Homer!_ I value, I maintain, I struggle for the ‘high a priori
road’ in its own place; but certainly not in historical literature. To
read Homer’s own thoughts is to wander in a world abounding with
freshness: but if we insist on treading round and round in our own
footsteps, we shall never ascend those heights whence the strange region
is to be seen. Surely an intelligent learned critic ought to inculcate
on the unlearned, that if they would get instruction from Homer, they
must not expect to have their ears tickled by a musical sound as of a
namby-pamby poetaster; but must look on a metre as doing its duty, when
it ‘strings the mind up to the necessary pitch’ in elevated passages;
and that instead of demanding of a translator everywhere a rhythmical
perfection which perhaps can only be attained by a great sacrifice of
higher qualities, they should be willing to submit to a small part of
that ruggedness, which Mr Arnold cheerfully bears in Homer himself
through the loss of the Digamma. And now, for a final protest. To be
_stately_ is not to be _grand_. Nicolas of Russia may have been stately
like Cowper, Garibaldi is grand like the true Homer. A diplomatic
address is stately; it is not grand, nor often noble. To expect a
translation of Homer to be _pervadingly elegant_, is absurd; Homer is
not such, any more than is the side of an Alpine mountain. The elegant
and the picturesque are seldom identical, however much of delicate
beauty may be interstudded in the picturesque; but this has always got
plenty of what is shaggy and uncouth, without which contrast the full
delight of beauty would not be attained. I think Moore in his
characteristic way tells of a beauty

            Shining on, shining on, by no shadow made tender,
            Till love falls asleep in the sameness of splendour.

Such certainly is not Homer’s. His beauty, when at its height, is _wild_
beauty: it smells of the mountain and of the sea. If he be compared to a
noble animal, it is not to such a spruce rubbed-down Newmarket racer as
our smooth translators would pretend, but to a wild horse of the Don
Cossacks: and if I, instead of this, present to the reader nothing but a
Dandie Dinmont’s pony, this, as a first approximation, is a valuable
step towards the true solution.

Before the best translation of the Iliad of which our language is
capable can be produced, the English public has to unlearn the false
notion of Homer which his _deliberately faithless_ versifiers have
infused. Chapman’s conceits unfit his translation for instructing the
public, even if his rhythm ‘jolted’ less, if his structure were simpler,
and his dialect more intelligible. My version, if allowed to be read,
will prepare the public to receive a version better than mine. I regard
it as a question about to open hereafter, whether a translator of Homer
ought not to adopt the old dissyllabic _landis_, _houndis_, _hartis_,
etc., instead of our modern unmelodious _lands_, _hounds_, _harts_;
whether the _ye_ or _y_ before the past participle may not be restored;
the want of which confounds that participle with the past tense. Even
the final -en of the plural of verbs (we dancen, they singen, etc.)
still subsists in Lancashire. It deserves consideration whether by a
_few_ such slight grammatical retrogressions into antiquity a translator
of Homer might not add much melody to his poem and do good service to
the language.

Footnote 35:

  He attacks the same line also in p. 44; but I do not claim this as a
  mark, how free I am from the fault.

Footnote 36:

  If I had used such a double dative, as ‘to Peleus to a mortal’, what
  would he have said of my syntax?

Footnote 37:

  Ballad-_manner_! The prevalent ballad-_metre_ is the Common Metre of
  our Psalm tunes: and yet he assumes that whatever is in this metre
  must be on the same level. I have professed (Pref. p. x) that our
  _existing_ old ballads are ‘poor and mean’, and are not my pattern.

Footnote 38:

  He has also overlooked the misprint _Trojans_, where I wrote _Troïans_
  (in three syllables), and has thus spoiled one verse out of the five.

Footnote 39:

  As a literary curiosity I append the sentence of a learned reviewer
  concerning this metre of Campbell. ‘It is a metre fit for introducing
  anything or translating anything; a metre that _nothing can elevate,
  or degrade, or improve, or spoil_; in which all subjects will sound
  alike. A theorem of Euclid, a leading article from the _Times_, a
  dialogue from the last new novel, could all be reduced to it with the
  slightest possible verbal alteration’. [Quite true of Greek hexameter
  or Shakspeare’s line. It is a _virtue_ in the metres]. ‘To such a mill
  all would be grist that came near it, and _in no grain that had once
  passed through it would human ingenuity ever detect again a
  characteristic quality_’. This writer is a stout maintainer that
  English ballad metre is the right one for translating Homer: only,
  somehow, he shuts his eyes to the fact that Campbell’s _is_ ballad
  metre! Sad to say, extravagant and absurd assertions, like these,
  though anonymous, can, by a parade of learning, do much damage to the
  sale of a book in verse.

Footnote 40:

  I think he has mistaken the _summit_ of the wave for a _headland_, and
  has made a single description into two, by the word _Or_: but I now
  confine my regard to the metre and general effect of the style.

Footnote 41:

  _Companion_, in four syllables, is in Shakspeare’s style; with whom
  habitually the termination _-tion_ is two.

Footnote 42:

  By corrupting the past tenses of _welisso_ into a false similarity to
  the past tenses of _elelizo_, the old editors superimposed a new and
  false sense on the latter verb; which still holds its place in our
  dictionaries, as it deceived the Greeks themselves.

Footnote 43:

  That λλ _in Attic_ was sounded like French _l mouillée_, is judged
  probable by the learned writer of the article L (Penny Cyclop.), who
  urges that μᾶλλον is for μάλιον, and compares φυλλο with _folio_, αλλο
  with _alio_, ἁλλ with _sali_.

Footnote 44:

  Men who can bear ‘belch’ in poetry, nowadays pretend that ‘sputter’ is
  indelicate. They find Homer’s ἀποπτύει to be ‘elegant’, but
  _sputter_—not! ‘No one would guess from Mr Newman’s coarse phrases how
  _elegant_ is Homer’!!

Footnote 45:

  In a Note to my translation (overlooked by more than one critic) I
  have explained _curl-ey’d_, carefully, but not very accurately
  perhaps; as I had not before me the picture of the Hindoo lady to
  which I referred. The whole _upper eyelid_, when _open_, may be called
  the curl; for it is shaped like a buffalo’s horns. This accounts for
  ἑλικοβλέφαρος, ‘having a curly eye_lid_’.

Footnote 46:

  I thought I had toned it down pretty well, in rendering it ‘O gentle
  friend’! Mr Arnold rebukes me for this, without telling me what I
  ought to say, or what is my fault. One thing is certain, that the
  Greek is most _odd_ and peculiar.

Footnote 47:

  In the noble simile of the sea-tide, quoted p. 138 above, only the two
  first of its five lines are to the purpose. Mr Gladstone, seduced by
  rhyme, has so tapered off the point of the similitude, that only a
  microscopic reader will see it.

Footnote 48:

  It is very singular that Mr Gladstone should imagine such a poet to
  have no eye for colour. I totally protest against his turning Homer’s
  paintings into leadpencil drawings. I believe that γλαυκὸς is grey
  (silvergreen), χάροψ blue; and that πρασινὸς, ‘leek-colour’, was too
  mean a word for any poets, early or late, to use for ‘green’,
  therefore χλωρὸς does duty for it. Κῦμα πορφύρεον is surely ‘the
  purple wave’, and ἰοειδέα πόντον ‘the violet sea’.

Footnote 49:

  He pares down ἑλκηθμοῖο (the dragging away of a woman by the hair)
  into ‘captivity’! Better surely is my ‘ignoble’ version: ‘Ere-that I
  see thee _dragg’d away_, and hear thy shriek of anguish’.

Footnote 50:

  He means _ours_ for two syllables. ‘Swiftness of ours’ is surely
  ungrammatical. ‘A galley of my own’ = one of my own galleys; but ‘a
  father of mine’, is absurd, since each has but one father. I confess I
  have myself been seduced into writing ‘those two eyes of his’, to
  avoid ‘_those his_ two eyes’: but I have since condemned and altered

Footnote 51:

  Of course no peculiarity of phrase has _the effect_ of peculiarity on
  a man who has imperfect acquaintance with the delicacies of a
  language; who, for instance, thinks that ἑλκηθμὸς means δουλεία.

Footnote 52:

  Ἐλλὸς needs light and gives none. Benfey suggests that it is for
  ἐνεὸς, as ἄλλος, _alius_, for Sanscrit _anya_. He with me refers ἔλλοψ
  to λέπω. Cf. _squamigeri_ in Lucretius.

Footnote 53:

  I do not see that Mr Arnold has any right to reproach _me_, because
  _he_ does not know Spenser’s word ‘bragly’ (which I may have used
  twice in the Iliad), or Dryden’s word ‘plump’, for a mass. The former
  is so near in sound to _brag_ and _braw_, that an Englishman who is
  once told that it means ‘proudly fine’, ought thenceforward to find it
  very intelligible: the latter is a noble modification of the vulgar
  _lump_. That he can carp as he does against these words and against
  _bulkin_ (= young bullock) as unintelligible, is a testimony how
  little I have imposed of difficulty on my readers. Those who know
  _lambkin_ cannot find _bulkin_ very hard. Since writing the above, I
  see a learned writer in the Philological Museum illustrates ἴλη by the
  old English phrase ‘a plump of spears’.

Footnote 54:

  I observe that Lord Lyttelton renders Milton’s _dapper elf_ by ῥαδινὰ,
  ‘softly moving’.

Footnote 55:

  Mr Arnold calls it an unfortunate sentence of mine: ‘I ought to be
  quaint; I ought not to be grotesque’. I am disposed to think him
  right, but for reasons very opposite to those which he assigns. I have
  ‘unfortunately’ given to querulous critics a cue for attacking me
  unjustly. I should rather have said: ‘We ought to be _quaint_, and not
  to shrink from that which the fastidious modern will be sure to call
  _grotesque_ in English, when he is too blunted by habit, or too poor a
  scholar to discern it in the Greek’.

                    Last Words on Translating Homer
                      A Reply to Francis W. Newman
                           By Matthew Arnold

    ‘Multi, qui persequuntur me, et tribulant me: a testimoniis non

Buffon, the great French naturalist, imposed on himself the rule of
steadily abstaining from all answer to attacks made upon him. ‘Je n’ai
jamais répondu à aucune critique’, he said to one of his friends who, on
the occasion of a certain criticism, was eager to take up arms in his
behalf; ‘je n’ai jamais répondu à aucune critique, et je garderai le
même silence sur celle-ci’. On another occasion, when accused of
plagiarism, and pressed by his friends to answer, ‘Il vaut mieux’, he
said, ‘laisser ces mauvaises gens dans l’incertitude’. Even when reply
to an attack was made successfully, he disapproved of it, he regretted
that those he esteemed should make it. Montesquieu, more sensitive to
criticism than Buffon, had answered, and successfully answered, an
attack made upon his great work, the _Esprit des Lois_, by the _Gazetier
Janséniste_. This Jansenist Gazetteer was a periodical of those times, a
periodical such as other times, also, have occasionally seen, very
pretentious, very aggressive, and, when the point to be seized was at
all a delicate one, very apt to miss it. ‘Notwithstanding this example’,
said Buffon, who, as well as Montesquieu, had been attacked by the
Jansenist Gazetteer, ‘notwithstanding this example, I think I may
promise my course will be different. I shall not answer a single word’.

And to anyone who has noticed the baneful effects of the controversy,
with all its train of personal rivalries and hatreds, on men of letters
or men of science; to anyone who has observed how it tends to impair,
not only their dignity and repose, but their productive force, their
genuine activity; how it always checks the free play of the spirit, and
often ends by stopping it altogether; it can hardly seem doubtful that
the rule thus imposed on himself by Buffon was a wise one. His own
career, indeed, admirably shows the wisdom of it. That career was as
glorious as it was serene; but it owed to its serenity no small part of
its glory. The regularity and completeness with which he gradually built
up the great work which he had designed, the air of equable majesty
which he shed over it, struck powerfully the imagination of his
contemporaries, and surrounded Buffon’s fame with a peculiar respect and
dignity. ‘He is’, said Frederick the Great of him, ‘the man who has best
deserved the great celebrity which he has acquired’. And this regularity
of production, this equableness of temper, he maintained by his resolute
disdain of personal controversy.

Buffon’s example seems to me worthy of all imitation, and in my humble
way I mean always to follow it. I never have replied, I never will
reply, to any literary assailant; in such encounters tempers are lost,
the world laughs, and truth is not served. Least of all should I think
of using this Chair as a place from which to carry on such a conflict.
But when a learned and estimable man thinks he has reason to complain of
language used by me in this Chair, when he attributes to me intentions
and feelings towards him which are far from my heart, I owe him some
explanation, and I am bound, too, to make the explanation as public as
the words which gave offence. This is the reason why I revert once more
to the subject of translating Homer. But being thus brought back to that
subject, and not wishing to occupy you solely with an explanation which,
after all, is Mr Newman’s affair and mine, not the public’s, I shall
take the opportunity, not certainly to enter into any conflict with
anyone, but to try to establish our old friend, the coming translator of
Homer, yet a little firmer in the positions which I hope we have now
secured for him; to protect him against the danger of relaxing, in the
confusion of dispute, his attention to those matters which alone I
consider important for him; to save him from losing sight, in the dust
of the attacks delivered over it, of the real body of Patroclus. He
will, probably, when he arrives, requite my solicitude very ill, and be
in haste to disown his benefactor: but my interest in him is so sincere
that I can disregard his probable ingratitude.

First, however, for the explanation. Mr Newman has published a reply to
the remarks which I made on his translation of the _Iliad_. He seems to
think that the respect which at the outset of those remarks I professed
for him must have been professed ironically; he says that I use ‘forms
of attack against him which he does not know how to characterize’; that
I ‘speak scornfully’ of him, treat him with ‘gratuitous insult,
gratuitous rancour’; that I ‘propagate slanders’ against him, that I
wish to ‘damage him with my readers’, to ‘stimulate my readers to
despise’ him. He is entirely mistaken. I respect Mr Newman sincerely; I
respect him as one of the few learned men we have, one of the few who
love learning for its own sake; this respect for him I had before I read
his translation of the _Iliad_, I retained it while I was commenting on
that translation, I have not lost it after reading his reply. Any
vivacities of expression which may have given him pain I sincerely
regret, and can only assure him that I used them without a thought of
insult or rancour. When I took the liberty of creating the verb _to
Newmanize_, my intentions were no more rancorous than if I had said to
_Miltonize_; when I exclaimed, in my astonishment at his vocabulary,
‘With whom can Mr Newman have lived’? I meant merely to convey, in a
familiar form of speech, the sense of bewilderment one has at finding a
person to whom words one thought all the world knew seem strange, and
words one thought entirely strange, intelligible. Yet this simple
expression of my bewilderment Mr Newman construes into an accusation
that he is ‘often guilty of keeping low company’, and says that I shall
‘never want a stone to throw at him’. And what is stranger still, one of
his friends gravely tells me that Mr Newman ‘lived with the fellows of
Balliol’. As if that made Mr Newman’s glossary less inexplicable to me!
As if he could have got his glossary from the fellows of Balliol! As if
I could believe that the members of that distinguished society, of whose
discourse, not so many years afterwards, I myself was an unworthy
hearer, were in Mr Newman’s time so far removed from the Attic purity of
speech which we all of us admired, that when one of them called a calf a
_bulkin_, the rest ‘easily understood’ him; or, when he wanted to say
that a newspaper-article was ‘proudly fine’, it mattered little whether
he said it was that or _bragly_! No; his having lived with the fellows
of Balliol does not explain Mr Newman’s glossary to me. I will no longer
ask ‘with whom he can have lived’, since that gives him offence; but I
must still declare that where he got his test of rarity or
intelligibility for words is a mystery to me.

That, however, does not prevent me from entertaining a very sincere
respect for Mr Newman, and since he doubts it, I am glad to reiterate my
expression of it. But the truth of the matter is this: I unfeignedly
admire Mr Newman’s ability and learning; but I think in his translation
of Homer he has employed that ability and learning quite amiss. I think
he has chosen quite the wrong field for turning his ability and learning
to account. I think that in England, partly from the want of an Academy,
partly from a national habit of intellect to which that want of an
Academy is itself due, there exists too little of what I may call a
public force of correct literary opinion, possessing within certain
limits a clear sense of what is right and wrong, sound and unsound, and
sharply recalling men of ability and learning from any flagrant
misdirection of these their advantages. I think, even, that in our
country a powerful misdirection of this kind is often more likely to
subjugate and pervert opinion than to be checked and corrected by
it[56]. Hence a chaos of false tendencies, wasted efforts, impotent
conclusions, works which ought never to have been undertaken. Anyone who
can introduce a little order into this chaos by establishing in any
quarter a single sound rule of criticism, a single rule which clearly
marks what is right as right, and what is wrong as wrong, does a good
deed; and his deed is so much the better the greater force he
counteracts of learning and ability applied to thicken the chaos. Of
course no one can be sure that he has fixed any such rules; he can only
do his best to fix them; but somewhere or other, in the literary opinion
of Europe, if not in the literary opinion of one nation, in fifty years,
if not in five, there is a final judgment on these matters, and the
critic’s work will at last stand or fall by its true merits.

Meanwhile, the charge of having in one instance misapplied his powers,
of having once followed a false tendency, is no such grievous charge to
bring against a man; it does not exclude a great respect for himself
personally, or for his powers in the happiest manifestations of them.
False tendency is, I have said, an evil to which the artist or the man
of letters in England is peculiarly prone; but everywhere in our time he
is liable to it,—the greatest as well as the humblest. ‘The first
beginnings of my _Wilhelm Meister_’, says Goethe, ‘arose out of an
obscure sense of the great truth that man will often attempt something
of which nature has denied him the proper powers, will undertake and
practise something in which he cannot become skilled. An inward feeling
warns him to desist’ (yes, but there are, unhappily, cases of absolute
judicial blindness!), ‘nevertheless he cannot get clear in himself about
it, and is driven along a false road to a false goal, without knowing
how it is with him. To this we may refer everything which goes by the
name of false tendency, dilettanteism, and so on. A great many men waste
in this way the fairest portion of their lives, and fall at last into
wonderful delusion’. Yet after all, Goethe adds, it sometimes happens
that even on this false road a man finds, not indeed that which he
sought, but something which is good and useful for him; ‘like Saul, the
son of Kish, who went forth to look for his father’s asses, and found a
kingdom’. And thus false tendency as well as true, vain effort as well
as fruitful, go together to produce that great movement of life, to
present that immense and magic spectacle of human affairs, which from
boyhood to old age fascinates the gaze of every man of imagination, and
which would be his terror, if it were not at the same time his delight.

So Mr Newman may see how wide-spread a danger it is, to which he has, as
I think, in setting himself to translate Homer, fallen a prey. He may be
well satisfied if he can escape from it by paying it the tribute of a
single work only. He may judge how unlikely it is that I should
‘despise’ him for once falling a prey to it. I know far too well how
exposed to it we all are; how exposed to it I myself am. At this very
moment, for example, I am fresh from reading Mr Newman’s Reply to my
Lectures, a reply full of that erudition in which (as I am so often and
so good-naturedly reminded, but indeed I know it without being reminded)
Mr Newman is immeasurably my superior. Well, the demon that pushes us
all to our ruin is even now prompting me to follow Mr Newman into a
discussion about the digamma, and I know not what providence holds me
back. And some day, I have no doubt, I shall lecture on the language of
the Berbers, and give him his entire revenge.

But Mr Newman does not confine himself to complaints on his own behalf,
he complains on Homer’s behalf too. He says that my ‘statements about
Greek literature are against the most notorious and elementary fact’;
that I ‘do a public wrong to literature by publishing them’; and that
the Professors to whom I appealed in my three Lectures, ‘would only lose
credit if they sanctioned the use I make of their names’. He does these
eminent men the kindness of adding, however, that ‘whether they are
pleased with this parading of their names in behalf of paradoxical
error, he may well doubt’, and that ‘until they endorse it themselves,
he shall treat my process as a piece of forgery’. He proceeds to discuss
my statements at great length, and with an erudition and ingenuity which
nobody can admire more than I do. And he ends by saying that my
ignorance is great.

Alas! that is very true. Much as Mr Newman was mistaken when he talked
of my rancour, he is entirely right when he talks of my ignorance. And
yet, perverse as it seems to say so, I sometimes find myself wishing,
when dealing with these matters of poetical criticism, that my ignorance
were even greater than it is. To handle these matters properly there is
needed a poise so perfect that the least overweight in any direction
tends to destroy the balance. Temper destroys it, a crotchet destroys
it, even erudition may destroy it. To press to the sense of the thing
itself with which one is dealing, not to go off on some collateral issue
about the thing, is the hardest matter in the world. The ‘thing itself’
with which one is here dealing, the critical perception of poetic truth,
is of all things the most volatile, elusive, and evanescent; by even
pressing too impetuously after it, one runs the risk of losing it. The
critic of poetry should have the finest tact, the nicest moderation, the
most free, flexible, and elastic spirit imaginable; he should be indeed
the ‘ondoyant et divers’, the _undulating and diverse_ being of
Montaigne. The less he can deal with his object simply and freely, the
more things he has to take into account in dealing with it, the more, in
short, he has to encumber himself, so much the greater force of spirit
he needs to retain his elasticity. But one cannot exactly have this
greater force by wishing for it; so, for the force of spirit one has,
the load put upon it is often heavier than it will well bear. The late
Duke of Wellington said of a certain peer that ‘it was a great pity his
education had been so far too much for his abilities’. In like manner,
one often sees erudition out of all proportion to its owner’s critical
faculty. Little as I know, therefore, I am always apprehensive, in
dealing with poetry, lest even that little should prove ‘too much for my

With this consciousness of my own lack of learning, nay, with this sort
of acquiescence in it, with this belief that for the labourer in the
field of poetical criticism learning has its disadvantages, I am not
likely to dispute with Mr Newman about matters of erudition. All that he
says on these matters in his Reply I read with great interest; in
general I agree with him; but only, I am sorry to say, up to a certain
point. Like all learned men, accustomed to desire definite rules, he
draws his conclusions too absolutely; he wants to include too much under
his rules; he does not quite perceive that in poetical criticism the
shade, the fine distinction, is everything; and that, when he has once
missed this, in all he says he is in truth but beating the air. For
instance: because I think Homer noble, he imagines I must think him
elegant; and in fact he says in plain words that I do think him so, that
to me Homer seems ‘pervadingly elegant’. But he does not. Virgil is
elegant, ‘pervadingly elegant’, even in passages of the highest emotion:

                                            O, ubi campi,
                Spercheosque, et virginibus bacchata Lacænis

Even there Virgil, though of a divine elegance, is still elegant, but
Homer is not elegant; the word is quite a wrong one to apply to him, and
Mr Newman is quite right in blaming anyone he finds so applying it.
Again; arguing against my assertion that Homer is not quaint, he says:
‘It is quaint to call waves _wet_, milk _white_, blood _dusky_, horses
_single-hoofed_, words winged, Vulcan _Lobfoot_ (Κυλλοποδίων), a spear
_longshadowy_‘, and so on. I find I know not how many distinctions to
draw here. I do not think it quaint to call waves _wet_, or milk
_white_, or words _winged_; but I do think it quaint to call horses
_single-hoofed_, or Vulcan _Lobfoot_, or a spear _longshadowy_. As to
calling blood _dusky_, I do not feel quite sure; I will tell Mr Newman
my opinion when I see the passage in which he calls it so. But then,
again, because it is quaint to call Vulcan _Lobfoot_, I cannot admit
that it was quaint to call him Κυλλοποδίων; nor that, because it is
quaint to call a spear _longshadowy_, it was quaint to call it
δολιχόσκιον. Here Mr Newman’s erudition misleads him: he knows the
literal value of the Greek so well, that he thinks his literal rendering
identical with the Greek, and that the Greek must stand or fall along
with his rendering. But the real question is, not whether he has given
us, so to speak, full change for the Greek, but _how_ he gives us our
change: we want it in gold, and he gives it us in copper. Again: ‘It is
quaint’, says Mr Newman, ‘to address a young friend as “O Pippin”! it is
quaint to compare Ajax to an ass whom boys are belabouring’. Here, too,
Mr Newman goes much too fast, and his category of quaintness is too
comprehensive. To address a young friend as ‘O Pippin’! is, I cordially
agree with him, very quaint; although I do not think it was quaint in
Sarpedon to address Glaucus as ὦ πέπον: but in comparing, whether in
Greek or in English, Ajax to an ass whom boys are belabouring, I do not
see that there is of necessity anything quaint at all. Again; because I
said that _eld_, _lief_, _in sooth_, and other words, are, as Mr Newman
uses them in certain places, bad words, he imagines that I must mean to
stamp these words with an absolute reprobation; and because I said that
‘my Bibliolatry is excessive’, he imagines that I brand all words as
ignoble which are not in the Bible. Nothing of the kind: there are no
such absolute rules to be laid down in these matters. The Bible
vocabulary is to be used as an assistance, not as an authority. Of the
words which, placed where Mr Newman places them, I have called bad
words, everyone may be excellent in some other place. Take _eld_, for
instance: when Shakspeare, reproaching man with the dependence in which
his youth is passed, says:

                               all thy blessed youth
                   Becomes as aged, and doth beg the alms
                   Of palsied _eld_, ...

it seems to me that _eld_ comes in excellently there, in a passage of
curious meditation; but when Mr Newman renders ἀγήρω τ’ ἀθανάτω τε by
‘from _Eld_ and Death exempted’, it seems to me he infuses a tinge of
quaintness into the transparent simplicity of Homer’s expression, and so
I call _eld_ a bad word in that place.

Once more. Mr Newman lays it down as a general rule that ‘many of
Homer’s energetic descriptions are expressed in coarse physical words’.
He goes on: ‘I give one illustration,—Τρῶες προὔτυψαν ἀολλέες. Cowper,
misled by the _ignis fatuus_ of “stateliness” renders it absurdly:

                 The powers of Ilium gave the first assault
                 Embattled close;

but it is, strictly, “The Trojans _knocked forward_ (or, thumped, butted
forward) _in close pack_”. The verb is too coarse for later polished
prose, and even the adjective is very strong (_packed together_). I
believe that “forward in pack the Trojans pitched”, would not be really
unfaithful to the Homeric colour; and I maintain that “forward in mass
the Trojans pitched”, would be an irreprovable rendering’. He actually
gives us all that as if it were a piece of scientific deduction; and as
if, at the end, he had arrived at an incontrovertible conclusion. But,
in truth, one cannot settle these matters quite in this way. Mr Newman’s
general rule may be true or false (I dislike to meddle with general
rules), but every part in what follows must stand or fall by itself, and
its soundness or unsoundness has nothing at all to do with the truth or
falsehood of Mr Newman’s general rule. He first gives, as a strict
rendering of the Greek, ‘The Trojans knocked forward (or, thumped,
butted forward), in close pack’. I need not say that, as a ‘strict
rendering of the Greek’, this is good; all Mr Newman’s ‘strict
renderings of the Greek’ are sure to be, as such, good; but ‘in close
pack’, for ἀολλέες, seems to me to be what Mr Newman’s renderings are
not always,—an excellent _poetical rendering_ of the Greek; a thousand
times better, certainly, than Cowper’s ‘embattled close’. Well, but Mr
Newman goes on: ‘I believe that, “forward in pack the Trojans pitched”,
would not be really unfaithful to the Homeric colour’. Here, I say, the
Homeric colour is half washed out of Mr Newman’s happy rendering of
ἀολλέες; while in ‘pitched’ for προὔτυψαν, the literal fidelity of the
first rendering is gone, while certainly no Homeric colour has come in
its place. Finally, Mr Newman concludes: ‘I maintain that “forward in
mass the Trojans pitched”, would be an irreprovable rendering’. Here, in
what Mr Newman fancies his final moment of triumph, Homeric colour and
literal fidelity have alike abandoned him altogether; the last stage of
his translation is much worse than the second, and immeasurably worse
than the first.

All this to show that a looser, easier method than Mr Newman’s must be
taken, if we are to arrive at any good result in these questions. I now
go on to follow Mr Newman a little further, not at all as wishing to
dispute with him, but as seeking (and this is the true fruit we may
gather from criticisms upon us) to gain hints from him for the
establishment of some useful truth about our subject, even when I think
him wrong. I still retain, I confess, my conviction that Homer’s
characteristic qualities are rapidity of movement, plainness of words
and style, simplicity and directness of ideas, and, above all,
nobleness, the grand manner. Whenever Mr Newman drops a word, awakens a
train of thought, which leads me to see any of these characteristics
more clearly, I am grateful to him; and one or two suggestions of this
kind which he affords, are all that now, having expressed my sorrow that
he should have misconceived my feelings towards him, and pointed out
what I think the vice of his method of criticism, I have to notice in
his Reply.

Such a suggestion I find in Mr Newman’s remarks on my assertion that the
translator of Homer must not adopt a quaint and antiquated style in
rendering him, because the impression which Homer makes upon the living
scholar is not that of a poet quaint and antiquated, but that of a poet
perfectly simple, perfectly intelligible. I added that we cannot, I
confess, really know how Homer seemed to Sophocles, but that it is
impossible to me to believe that he seemed to him quaint and antiquated.
Mr Newman asserts, on the other hand, that I am absurdly wrong here;
that Homer seemed ‘out and out’ quaint and antiquated to the Athenians;
that ‘every sentence of him was more or less antiquated to Sophocles,
who could no more help feeling at every instant the foreign and
antiquated character of the poetry than an Englishman can help feeling
the same in reading Burns’ poems’. And not only does Mr Newman say this,
but he has managed thoroughly to convince some of his readers of it.
‘Homer’s Greek’, says one of them, ‘certainly seemed antiquated to the
historical times of Greece. Mr Newman, taking a far broader historical
and philological view than Mr Arnold, stoutly maintains that it did seem
so.’ And another says: ‘Doubtless Homer’s dialect and diction were as
hard and obscure to a later Attic Greek as Chaucer to an Englishman of
our day.’

Mr Newman goes on to say, that not only was Homer antiquated relatively
to Pericles, but he is antiquated to the living scholar; and, indeed, is
in himself ‘absolutely antique, being the poet of a barbarian age’. He
tells us of his ‘inexhaustible quaintnesses’, of his ‘very eccentric
diction’; and he infers, of course, that he is perfectly right in
rendering him in a quaint and antiquated style.

Now this question, whether or no Homer seemed quaint and antiquated to
Sophocles, I call a delightful question to raise. It is not a barren
verbal dispute; it is a question ‘drenched in matter’, to use an
expression of Bacon; a question full of flesh and blood, and of which
the scrutiny, though I still think we cannot settle absolutely, may yet
give us a directly useful result. To scrutinize it may lead us to see
more clearly what sort of a style a modern translator of Homer ought to

Homer’s verses were some of the first words which a young Athenian
heard. He heard them from his mother or his nurse before he went to
school; and at school, when he went there, he was constantly occupied
with them. So much did he hear of them that Socrates proposes, in the
interests of morality, to have selections from Homer made, and placed in
the hands of mothers and nurses, in his model republic; in order that,
of an author with whom they were sure to be so perpetually conversant,
the young might learn only those parts which might do them good. His
language was as familiar to Sophocles, we may be quite sure, as the
language of the Bible is to us.

Nay, more. Homer’s language was not, of course, in the time of
Sophocles, the spoken or written language of ordinary life, any more
than the language of the Bible, any more than the language of poetry, is
with us; but for one great species of composition, epic poetry, it was
still the current language; it was the language in which everyone who
made that sort of poetry composed. Everyone at Athens who dabbled in
epic poetry, not only understood Homer’s language, he possessed it. He
possessed it as everyone who dabbles in poetry with us, possesses what
may be called the poetical vocabulary, as distinguished from the
vocabulary of common speech and of modern prose: I mean, such
expressions as _perchance_ for _perhaps_, _spake_ for _spoke_, _aye_ for
_ever_, _don_ for _put on_, _charméd_ for _charm’d_, and thousands of

I might go to Burns and Chaucer, and, taking words and passages from
them, ask if they afforded any parallel to a language so familiar and so
possessed. But this I will not do, for Mr Newman himself supplies me
with what he thinks a fair parallel, in its effect upon us, to the
language of Homer in its effect upon Sophocles. He says that such words
as _mon_, _londis_, _libbard_, _withouten_, _muchel_, give us a
tolerable but incomplete notion of this parallel; and he finally
exhibits the parallel in all its clearness, by this poetical specimen:

                    Dat mon, quhich hauldeth Kyngis af
                      Londis yn féo, niver
                    (I tell ’e) feereth aught; sith hee
                      Doth hauld hys londis yver.

Now, does Mr Newman really think that Sophocles could, as he says, ‘no
more help feeling at every instant the foreign and antiquated character
of Homer, than an Englishman can help feeling the same in hearing these
lines’? Is he quite sure of it? He says he is; he will not allow of any
doubt or hesitation in the matter. I had confessed we could not really
know how Homer seemed to Sophocles; ‘Let Mr Arnold confess for himself’,
cries Mr Newman, ‘and not for me, who know perfectly well’. And this is
what he knows!

Mr Newman says, however, that I ‘play fallaciously on the words familiar
and unfamiliar’; that ‘Homer’s words may have been familiar to the
Athenians (_i.e._ often heard) even when they were either not understood
by them or else, being understood, were yet felt and known to be utterly
foreign. Let my renderings’, he continues, ‘be heard, as Pope or even
Cowper has been heard, and no one will be “surprised”’.

But the whole question is here. The translator must not assume that to
have taken place which has not taken place, although, perhaps, he may
wish it to have taken place, namely, that his diction is become an
established possession of the minds of men, and therefore is, in its
proper place, familiar to them, will not ‘surprise’ them. If Homer’s
language was familiar, that is, often heard, then to his language words
like _londis_ and _libbard_, which are not familiar, offer, for the
translator’s purpose, no parallel. For some purpose of the philologer
they may offer a parallel to it; for the translator’s purpose they offer
none. The question is not, whether a diction is antiquated for current
speech, but whether it is antiquated for that particular purpose for
which it is employed. A diction that is antiquated for common speech and
common prose, may very well not be antiquated for poetry or certain
special kinds of prose. ‘Peradventure there shall be ten found there’,
is not antiquated for Biblical prose, though for conversation or for a
newspaper it is antiquated. ‘The trumpet spake not to the arméd throng’,
is not antiquated for poetry, although we should not write in a letter,
‘he _spake_ to me’, or say, ‘the British soldier is _arméd_ with the
Enfield rifle’. But when language is antiquated for that particular
purpose for which it is employed, as numbers of Chaucer’s words, for
instance, are antiquated for poetry, such language is a bad
representative of language which, like Homer’s, was never antiquated for
that particular purpose for which it was employed. I imagine that
Πηληϊάδεω for Πηλείδου, in Homer, no more sounded antiquated to
Sophocles, than _arméd_ for _arm’d_, in Milton, sounds antiquated to us;
but Mr Newman’s _withouten_ and _muchel_ do sound to us antiquated, even
for poetry, and therefore they do not correspond in their effect upon us
with Homer’s words in their effect upon Sophocles. When Chaucer, who
uses such words, is to pass current amongst us, to be familiar to us, as
Homer was familiar to the Athenians, he has to be modernized, as
Wordsworth and others set to work to modernize him; but an Athenian no
more needed to have Homer modernized, than we need to have the Bible
modernized, or Wordsworth himself.

Therefore, when Mr Newman’s words _bragly_, _bulkin_, and the rest, are
an established possession of our minds, as Homer’s words were an
established possession of an Athenian’s mind, he may use them; but not
till then. Chaucer’s words, the words of Burns, great poets as these
were, are yet not thus an established possession of an Englishman’s
mind, and therefore they must not be used in rendering Homer into

Mr Newman has been misled just by doing that which his admirer praises
him for doing, by taking a ‘far broader historical and philological view
than mine’. Precisely because he has done this, and has applied the
‘philological view’ where it was not applicable, but where the ‘poetical
view’ alone was rightly applicable, he has fallen into error.

It is the same with him in his remarks on the difficulty and obscurity
of Homer. Homer, I say, is perfectly plain in speech, simple, and
intelligible. And I infer from this that his translator, too, ought to
be perfectly plain in speech, simple, and intelligible; ought not to
say, for instance, in rendering

               Οὔτε κέ σε στέλλοιμι μάχην ἐς κυδιάνειραν ...

‘Nor liefly thee would I advance to man-ennobling battle’,—and things of
that kind. Mr Newman hands me a list of some twenty hard words, invokes
Buttmann, Mr Malden, and M. Benfey, and asks me if I think myself wiser
than all the world of Greek scholars, and if I am ready to supply the
deficiencies of Liddell and Scott’s _Lexicon_! But here, again, Mr
Newman errs by not perceiving that the question is not one of
scholarship, but of a poetical translation of Homer. This, I say, should
be perfectly simple and intelligible. He replies by telling me that
ἀδινὸς, εἰλίποδες, and σιγαλόεις are hard words. Well, but what does he
infer from that? That the poetical translation, in his rendering of
them, is to give us a sense of the difficulties of the scholar, and so
is to make his translation obscure? If he does not mean that, how, by
bringing forward these hard words, does he touch the question whether an
English version of Homer should be plain or not plain? If Homer’s
poetry, as poetry, is in its general effect on the poetical reader
perfectly simple and intelligible, the uncertainty of the scholar about
the true meaning of certain words can never change this general effect.
Rather will the poetry of Homer make us forget his philology, than his
philology make us forget his poetry. It may even be affirmed that
everyone who reads Homer perpetually for the sake of enjoying his poetry
(and no one who does not so read him will ever translate him well),
comes at last to form a perfectly clear sense in his own mind for every
important word in Homer, such as ἀδινὸς, or ἠλίβατος, whatever the
scholar’s doubts about the word may be. And this sense is present to his
mind with perfect clearness and fulness, whenever the word recurs,
although as a scholar he may know that he cannot be sure whether this
sense is the right one or not. But poetically he feels clearly about the
word, although philologically he may not. The scholar in him may
hesitate, like the father in Sheridan’s play; but the reader of poetry
in him is, like the governor, fixed. The same thing happens to us with
our own language. How many words occur in the Bible, for instance, to
which thousands of hearers do not feel sure they attach the precise real
meaning; but they make out _a_ meaning for them out of what materials
they have at hand; and the words, heard over and over again, come to
convey this meaning with a certainty which poetically is adequate,
though not philologically. How many have attached a clear and poetically
adequate sense to ‘_the beam_’ and ‘_the mote_’, though not precisely
the right one! How clearly, again, have readers got a sense from
Milton’s words, ‘grate on their _scrannel_ pipes’, who yet might have
been puzzled to write a commentary on the word _scrannel_ for the
dictionary! So we get a clear sense from ἀδινὸs as an epithet for grief,
after often meeting with it and finding out all we can about it, even
though that all be philologically insufficient; so we get a clear sense
from εἰλίποδες as an epithet for cows. And this his clear poetical sense
about the words, not his philological uncertainties about them, is what
the translator has to convey. Words like _bragly_ and _bulkin_ offer no
parallel to these words; because the reader, from his entire want of
familiarity with the words bragly and bulkin, has no clear sense of them

Perplexed by his knowledge of the philological aspect of Homer’s
language, encumbered by his own learning, Mr Newman, I say, misses the
poetical aspect, misses that with which alone we are here concerned.
‘Homer _is_ odd’, he persists, fixing his eyes on his own philological
analysis of μώνυξ, and μέροψς, and Κυλλοποδίων, and not on these words
in their synthetic character;—just as Professor Max Müller, going a
little farther back, and fixing his attention on the elementary value of
the word θυγάτηρ, might say Homer was ‘odd’ for using _that_ word;—‘if
the whole Greek nation, by long familiarity, had become inobservant of
Homer’s oddities’, of the oddities of this ‘noble barbarian’, as Mr
Newman elsewhere calls him, this ‘noble barbarian’ with the ‘lively eye
of the savage’, ‘that would be no fault of mine. That would not justify
Mr Arnold’s blame of me for rendering the words correctly’.
_Correctly_,—ah, but what _is_ correctness in this case? This
correctness of his is the very rock on which Mr Newman has split. He is
so correct that at last he finds peculiarity everywhere. The true
knowledge of Homer becomes at last, in his eyes, a knowledge of Homer’s
‘peculiarities, pleasant and unpleasant’. Learned men know these
‘peculiarities’, and Homer is to be translated because the unlearned are
impatient to know them too. ‘That’, he exclaims, ‘is just why people
want to read an English Homer, _to know all his oddities, just as
learned men do_’. Here I am obliged to shake my head, and to declare
that, in spite of all my respect for Mr Newman, I cannot go these
lengths with him. He talks of my ‘monomaniac fancy that there is nothing
quaint or antique in Homer’. Terrible learning, I cannot help in my turn
exclaiming, terrible learning, which discovers so much!

Here, then, I take my leave of Mr Newman, retaining my opinion that his
version of Homer is spoiled by his making Homer odd and ignoble; but
having, I hope, sufficient love for literature to be able to canvass
works without thinking of persons, and to hold this or that production
cheap, while retaining a sincere respect, on other grounds, for its

In fulfilment of my promise to take this opportunity for giving the
translator of Homer a little further advice, I proceed to notice one or
two other criticisms which I find, in like manner, _suggestive_; which
give us an opportunity, that is, of seeing more clearly, as we look into
them, the true principles on which translation of Homer should rest.
This is all I seek in criticisms; and, perhaps (as I have already said)
it is only as one seeks a positive result of this kind, that one can get
any fruit from them. Seeking a negative result from them, personal
altercation and wrangling, one gets no fruit; seeking a positive result,
the elucidation and establishment of one’s ideas, one may get much. Even
bad criticisms may thus be made suggestive and fruitful. I declared, in
a former lecture on this subject, my conviction that criticism is not
the strong point of our national literature. Well, even the bad
criticisms on our present topic which I meet with, serve to illustrate
this conviction for me. And thus one is enabled, even in reading remarks
which for Homeric criticism, for their immediate subject, have no value,
which are far too personal in spirit, far too immoderate in temper, and
far too heavy-handed in style, for the delicate matter they have to
treat, still to gain light and confirmation for a serious idea, and to
follow the Baconian injunction, _semper aliquid addiscere_, always to be
adding to one’s stock of observation and knowledge. Yes, even when we
have to do with writers who, to quote the words of an exquisite critic,
the master of us all in criticism, M. Sainte-Beuve, remind us, when they
handle such subjects as our present, of ‘Romans of the fourth or fifth
century, coming to hold forth, all at random, in African style, on
papers found in the desk of Augustus, Mæcenas, or Pollio’, even then we
may instruct ourselves if we may regard ideas and not persons; even then
we may enable ourselves to say, with the same critic describing the
effect made upon him by D’Argenson’s _Memoirs_: ‘My taste is revolted,
but I learn something; _Je suis choqué mais je suis instruit_’.

But let us pass to criticisms which are suggestive directly and not thus
indirectly only, criticisms by examining which we may be brought nearer
to what immediately interests us, the right way of translating Homer.

I said that Homer did not rise and sink with his subject, was never to
be called prosaic and low. This gives surprise to many persons, who
object that parts of the _Iliad_ are certainly pitched lower than
others, and who remind me of a number of absolutely level passages in
Homer. But I never denied that a _subject_ must rise and sink, that it
must have its elevated and its level regions; all I deny is, that a poet
can be said to rise and sink when all that he, as a poet, can do, is
perfectly well done; when he is perfectly sound and good, that is,
perfect as a poet, in the level regions of his subject as well as in its
elevated regions. Indeed, what distinguishes the greatest masters of
poetry from all others is, that they are perfectly sound and poetical in
these level regions of their subject, in these regions which are the
great difficulty of all poets but the very greatest, which they never
quite know what to do with. A poet may sink in these regions by being
falsely grand as well as by being low; he sinks, in short, whenever he
does not treat his matter, whatever it is, in a perfectly good and
poetic way. But, so long as he treats it in this way, he cannot be said
to _sink_, whatever his matter may do. A passage of the simplest
narrative is quoted to me from Homer:—

         ὤτρυνεν δὲ ἕκαστον ἐποιχόμενος ἐπέεσσιν,
         Μέσθλην τε, Γλαῦκόν τε, Μέδοντά τε, θερσιλοχόν τε ...[58]

and I am asked, whether Homer does not sink _there_; whether he ‘_can_
have intended such lines as those for poetry’? My answer is: Those lines
are very good poetry indeed, poetry of the best class, _in that place_.
But when Wordsworth, having to narrate a very plain matter, tries _not_
to sink in narrating it, tries, in short, to be what is falsely called
poetical, he does sink, although he sinks by being pompous, not by being

             Onward we drove beneath the Castle; caught,
             While crossing Magdalen Bridge, a glimpse of Cam,
             And at the Hoop alighted, famous inn.

That last line shows excellently how a poet may sink with his subject by
resolving not to sink with it. A page or two farther on, the subject
rises to grandeur, and then Wordsworth is nobly worthy of it:

              The antechapel, where the statue stood
              Of Newton with his prism and silent face,
              The marble index of a mind for ever
              Voyaging through strange seas of thought, alone.

But the supreme poet is he who is thoroughly sound and poetical, alike
when his subject is grand, and when it is plain: with him the subject
may sink, but never the poet. But a Dutch painter does not rise and sink
with his subject; Defoe, in _Moll Flanders_, does not rise and sink with
his subject, in so far as an artist cannot be said to sink who is sound
in his treatment of his subject, however plain it is: yet Defoe, yet a
Dutch painter, may in one sense be said to sink with their subject,
because though sound in their treatment of it, they are not _poetical_,
poetical in the true, not the false sense of the word; because, in fact,
they are not in the grand style. Homer can in no sense be said to sink
with his subject, because his soundness has something more than literal
naturalness about it; because his soundness is the soundness of Homer,
of a great epic poet; because, in fact, he is in the grand style. So he
sheds over the simplest matter he touches the charm of his grand manner;
he makes everything noble. Nothing has raised more questioning among my
critics than these words, _noble_, _the grand style_. People complain
that I do not define these words sufficiently, that I do not tell them
enough about them. ‘The grand style, but what _is_ the grand style’?
they cry; some with an inclination to believe in it, but puzzled; others
mockingly and with incredulity. Alas! the grand style is the last matter
in the world for verbal definition to deal with adequately. One may say
of it as is said of faith: ‘One must feel it in order to know what it
is’. But, as of faith, so too one may say of nobleness, of the grand
style: ‘Woe to those who know it not’! Yet this expression, though
indefinable, has a charm; one is the better for considering it; _bonum
est, nos hic esse_; nay, one loves to try to explain it, though one
knows that one must speak imperfectly. For those, then, who ask the
question, What is the grand style? with sincerity, I will try to make
some answer, inadequate as it must be. For those who ask it mockingly I
have no answer, except to repeat to them, with compassionate sorrow, the
Gospel words: _Moriemini in peccatis vestris_, Ye shall die in your

But let me, at any rate, have the pleasure of again giving, before I
begin to try and define the grand style, a specimen of what it _is_.

              Standing on earth, not wrapt above the pole,
              More safe I sing with mortal voice, unchanged
              To hoarse or mute, though fall’n on evil days,
              On evil days though fall’n, and evil tongues....

There is the grand style in perfection; and anyone who has a sense for
it, will feel it a thousand times better from repeating those lines than
from hearing anything I can say about it.

Let us try, however, what _can_ be said, controlling what we say by
examples. I think it will be found that the grand style arises in
poetry, _when a noble nature, poetically gifted, treats with simplicity
or with severity a serious subject_. I think this definition will be
found to cover all instances of the grand style in poetry which present
themselves. I think it will be found to exclude all poetry which is not
in the grand style. And I think it contains no terms which are obscure,
which themselves need defining. Even those who do not understand what is
meant by calling poetry noble, will understand, I imagine, what is meant
by speaking of a noble nature in a man. But the noble or powerful
nature—the _bedeutendes Individuum_ of Goethe—is not enough. For
instance, Mr Newman has zeal for learning, zeal for thinking, zeal for
liberty, and all these things are noble, they ennoble a man; but he has
not the poetical gift: there must be the poetical gift, the ‘divine
faculty’, also. And, besides all this, the subject must be a serious one
(for it is only by a kind of licence that we can speak of the grand
style in comedy); and it must be treated _with simplicity or severity_.
Here is the great difficulty: the poets of the world have been many;
there has been wanting neither abundance of poetical gift nor abundance
of noble natures; but a poetical gift so happy, in a noble nature so
circumstanced and trained, that the result is a continuous style,
perfect in simplicity or perfect in severity, has been extremely rare.
One poet has had the gifts of nature and faculty in unequalled fulness,
without the circumstances and training which make this sustained
perfection of style possible. Of other poets, some have caught this
perfect strain now and then, in short pieces or single lines, but have
not been able to maintain it through considerable works; others have
composed all their productions in a style which, by comparison with the
best, one must call secondary.

The best model of the grand style simple is Homer; perhaps the best
model of the grand style severe is Milton. But Dante is remarkable for
affording admirable examples of both styles; he has the grand style
which arises from simplicity, and he has the grand style which arises
from severity; and from him I will illustrate them both. In a former
lecture I pointed out what that severity of poetical style is, which
comes from saying a thing with a kind of intense compression, or in an
illusive, brief, almost haughty way, as if the poet’s mind were charged
with so many and such grave matters, that he would not deign to treat
any one of them explicitly. Of this severity the last line of the
following stanza of the _Purgatory_ is a good example. Dante has been
telling Forese that Virgil had guided him through Hell, and he goes on:

               Indi m’ han tratto su gli suoi conforti,
               Salendo e rigirando la Montagna
               _Che drizza voi che il mondo fece torti_[59].

‘Thence hath his comforting aid led me up, climbing and circling the
Mountain, _which straightens you whom the world made crooked_’. These
last words, ‘la Montagna _che drizza voi che il mondo fece torti_’, ‘the
Mountain _which straightens you whom the world made crooked_’, for the
Mountain of Purgatory, I call an excellent specimen of the grand style
in severity, where the poet’s mind is too full charged to suffer him to
speak more explicitly. But the very next stanza is a beautiful specimen
of the grand style in simplicity, where a noble nature and a poetical
gift unite to utter a thing with the most limpid plainness and

                  Tanto dice di farmi sua compagna
                  Ch’ io sarὸ là dove fia Beatrice;
                  Quivi convien che senza lui rimagna[60].

‘So long’, Dante continues, ‘so long he (Virgil) saith he will bear me
company, until I shall be there where Beatrice is; there it behoves that
without him I remain’. But the noble simplicity of that in the Italian
no words of mine can render.

Both these styles, the simple and the severe, are truly grand; the
severe seems, perhaps, the grandest, so long as we attend most to the
great personality, to the noble nature, in the poet its author; the
simple seems the grandest when we attend most to the exquisite faculty,
to the poetical gift. But the simple is no doubt to be preferred. It is
the more _magical_: in the other there is something intellectual,
something which gives scope for a play of thought which may exist where
the poetical gift is either wanting or present in only inferior degree:
the severe is much more imitable, and this a little spoils its charm. A
kind of semblance of this style keeps Young going, one may say, through
all the nine parts of that most indifferent production, the _Night
Thoughts_. But the grand style in simplicity is inimitable:

                          αἰὼν ἀσφαλὴς
              οὐκ ἔγεντ’ οὔτ’ Αἰακίδᾳ παρὰ Πηλεῖ,
              οὔτε παρ’ ἀντιθέῳ Κάδμῳ· λέγονται μὰν βροτῶν
              ὄλβον ὑπέρτατον οἱ σχεῖν, οἵ τε καὶ χρυσαμπύκων
              μελπομενᾶν ἐν ὄρει Μοισᾶν, καὶ ἐν ἑπταπύλοις
              ἄϊον Θήβαις ..[61]..

There is a limpidness in that, a want of salient points to seize and
transfer, which makes imitation impossible, except by a genius akin to
the genius which produced it.

Greek simplicity and Greek grace are inimitable; but it is said that the
_Iliad_ may still be ballad-poetry while infinitely superior to all
other ballads, and that, in my specimens of English ballad-poetry, I
have been unfair. Well, no doubt there are better things in English
ballad-poetry than

                Now Christ thee save, thou proud portér, ...

but the real strength of a chain, they say, is the strength of its
weakest link; and what I was trying to show you was, that the English
ballad-style is not an instrument of enough compass and force to
correspond to the Greek hexameter; that, owing to an inherent weakness
in it as an epic style, it easily runs into one or two faults, either it
is prosaic and humdrum, or, trying to avoid that fault, and to make
itself lively (_se faire vif_), it becomes pert and jaunty. To show
that, the passage about King Adland’s porter serves very well. But these
degradations are not proper to a true epic instrument, such as the Greek

You may say, if you like, when you find Homer’s verse, even in
describing the plainest matter, neither humdrum nor jaunty, that this is
because he is so incomparably better a poet than other balladists,
because he is Homer. But take the whole range of Greek epic poetry, take
the later poets, the poets of the last ages of this poetry, many of them
most indifferent, Coluthus, Tryphiodorus, Quintus of Smyrna, Nonnus.
Never will you find in this instrument of the hexameter, even in their
hands, the vices of the ballad-style in the weak moments of this last:
everywhere the hexameter, a noble, a truly epical instrument, rather
resists the weakness of its employer than lends itself to it. Quintus of
Smyrna is a poet of merit, but certainly not a poet of a high order:
with him, too, epic poetry, whether in the character of its prosody or
in that of its diction, is no longer the epic poetry of earlier and
better times, nor epic poetry as again restored by Nonnus: but even in
Quintus of Smyrna, I say, the hexameter is still the hexameter; it is a
style which the ballad-style, even in the hands of better poets, cannot
rival. And in the hands of inferior poets, the ballad-style sinks to
vices of which the hexameter, even in the hands of a Tryphiodorus, never
can become guilty.

But a critic, whom it is impossible to read without pleasure, and the
disguise of whose initials I am sure I may be allowed to penetrate, Mr
Spedding says that he ‘denies altogether that the metrical movement of
the English hexameter has any resemblance to that of the Greek’. Of
course, in that case, if the two metres in no respect correspond, praise
accorded to the Greek hexameter as an epical instrument will not extend
to the English. Mr Spedding seeks to establish his proposition by
pointing out that the system of accentuation differs in the English and
in the Virgilian hexameter; that in the first, the accent and the long
syllable (or what has to do duty as such) coincide, in the second they
do not. He says that we cannot be so sure of the accent with which Greek
verse should be read as of that with which Latin should; but that the
lines of Homer in which the accent and the long syllable coincide, as in
the English hexameter, are certainly very rare. He suggests a type of
English hexameter in agreement with the Virgilian model, and formed on
the supposition that ‘quantity is as distinguishable in English as in
Latin or Greek by any ear that will attend to it’. Of the truth of this
supposition he entertains no doubt. The new hexameter will, Mr Spedding
thinks, at least have the merit of resembling, in its metrical movement,
the classical hexameter, which merit the ordinary English hexameter has
not. But even with this improved hexameter he is not satisfied; and he
goes on, first to suggest other metres for rendering Homer, and finally
to suggest that rendering Homer is impossible.

A scholar to whom all who admire Lucretius owe a large debt of
gratitude, Mr Munro, has replied to Mr Spedding. Mr Munro declares that
‘the accent of the old Greeks and Romans resembled our accent only in
name, in reality was essentially different’; that ‘our English reading
of Homer and Virgil has in itself no meaning’; and that ‘accent has
nothing to do with the Virgilian hexameter’. If this be so, of course
the merit which Mr Spedding attributes to his own hexameter, of really
corresponding with the Virgilian hexameter, has no existence. Again; in
contradiction to Mr Spedding’s assertion that lines in which (in our
reading of them) the accent and the long syllable coincide[62], as in
the ordinary English hexameter, are ‘rare even in Homer’, Mr Munro
declares that such lines, ‘instead of being rare, are among the very
commonest types of Homeric rhythm’. Mr Spedding asserts that ‘quantity
is as distinguishable in English as in Latin or Greek by any ear that
will attend to it’; but Mr Munro replies, that in English ‘neither his
ear nor his reason recognises any real distinction of quantity except
that which is produced by accentuated and unaccentuated syllables’. He
therefore arrives at the conclusion that in constructing English
hexameters, ‘quantity must be utterly discarded; and longer or shorter
unaccentuated syllables can have no meaning, except so far as they may
be made to produce sweeter or harsher sounds in the hands of a master’.

It is not for me to interpose between two such combatants; and indeed my
way lies, not up the highroad where they are contending, but along a
bypath. With the absolute truth of their general propositions respecting
accent and quantity, I have nothing to do; it is most interesting and
instructive to me to hear such propositions discussed, when it is Mr
Munro or Mr Spedding who discusses them; but I have strictly limited
myself in these Lectures to the humble function of giving practical
advice to the translator of Homer. He, I still think, must not follow so
confidently, as makers of English hexameters have hitherto followed, Mr
Munro’s maxim, _quantity may be utterly discarded_. He must not, like Mr
Longfellow, make _seventeen_ a dactyl in spite of all the length of its
last syllable, even though he can plead that in counting we lay the
accent on the first syllable of this word. He may be far from attaining
Mr Spedding’s nicety of ear; may be unable to feel that ‘while
_quantity_ is a dactyl, _quiddity_ is a tribrach’, and that ‘_rapidly_
is a word to which we find no parallel in Latin’; but I think he must
bring himself to distinguish, with Mr Spedding, between ‘_th’
o’er_-wearied eyelid’, and ‘_the_ wearied eyelid’, as being, the one a
correct ending for a hexameter, the other an ending with a false
quantity in it; instead of finding, with Mr Munro, that this distinction
‘conveys to his mind no intelligible idea’. He must temper his belief in
Mr Munro’s dictum, _quantity must be utterly discarded_, by mixing with
it a belief in this other dictum of the same author, _two or more
consonants take longer time in enunciating than one_[63].

Criticism is so apt in general to be vague and impalpable, that when it
gives us a solid and definite possession, such as is Mr Spedding’s
parallel of the Virgilian and the English hexameter with their
difference of accentuation distinctly marked, we cannot be too grateful
to it. It is in the way in which Mr Spedding proceeds to press his
conclusions from the parallel which he has drawn out, that his criticism
seems to me to come a little short. Here even he, I think, shows (if he
will allow me to say so) a little of that want of pliancy and suppleness
so common among critics, but so dangerous to their criticism; he is a
little too absolute in imposing his metrical laws; he too much forgets
the excellent maxim of Menander, so applicable to literary criticism:—

             Καλὸν οἱ νόμοι σφόδρ’ εἰσίν· ὁ δ’ ὁρῶν τοὺς νόμους
             λίαν ἀκριβῶς, συκοφάντης φαίνεται·

‘Laws are admirable things; but he who keeps his eye too closely fixed
upon them, runs the risk of becoming’, let us say, a purist. Mr Spedding
is probably mistaken in supposing that Virgil pronounced his hexameters
as Mr Spedding pronounces them. He is almost certainly mistaken in
supposing that Homer pronounced his hexameters as Mr Spedding pronounces
Virgil’s. But this, as I have said, is not a question for us to treat;
all we are here concerned with is the imitation, by the English
hexameter, of the ancient hexameter _in its effect upon us moderns_.
Suppose we concede to Mr Spedding that his parallel proves our
accentuation of the English and of the Virgilian hexameter to be
different: what are we to conclude from that; how will a criticism, not
a formal, but a substantial criticism, deal with such a fact as that?
Will it infer, as Mr Spedding infers, that the English hexameter,
therefore, must not pretend to reproduce better than other rhythms the
movement of Homer’s hexameter for us, that there can be no
correspondence at all between the movement of these two hexameters, that
if we want to have such a correspondence, we must abandon the current
English hexameter altogether, and adopt in its place a new hexameter of
Mr Spedding’s Anglo-Latin type, substitute for lines like the

       Clearly the rest I behold of the dark-eyed sons of Achaia ...

of Dr Hawtrey, lines like the

           Procession, complex melodies, pause, quantity, accent,
           After Virgilian precedent and practice, in order ...

of Mr Spedding? To infer this, is to go, as I have complained of Mr
Newman for sometimes going, a great deal too fast. I think prudent
criticism must certainly recognise, in the current English hexameter, a
fact which cannot so lightly be set aside; it must acknowledge that by
this hexameter the English ear, the genius of the English language,
have, in their own way, adopted, have _translated_ for themselves the
Homeric hexameter; and that a rhythm which has thus grown up, which is
thus, in a manner, the production of nature, has in its general type
something necessary and inevitable, something which admits change only
within narrow limits, which precludes change that is sweeping and
essential. I think, therefore, the prudent critic will regard Mr
Spedding’s proposed revolution as simply impracticable. He will feel
that in English poetry the hexameter, if used at all, must be, in the
main, the English hexameter now current. He will perceive that its
having come into existence as the representative of the Homeric
hexameter, proves it to have, for the English ear, a certain
correspondence with the Homeric hexameter, although this correspondence
may be, from the difference of the Greek and English languages,
necessarily incomplete. This incompleteness he will endeavour[64], as he
may find or fancy himself able, gradually somewhat to lessen through
minor changes, suggested by the ancient hexameter, but respecting the
general constitution of the modern: the notion of making it disappear
altogether by the critic’s inventing in his closet a new constitution of
his own for the English hexameter, he will judge to be a chimerical

When, therefore, Mr Spedding objects to the English hexameter, that it
imperfectly represents the movement of the ancient hexameters, I answer:
We must work with the tools we have. The received English type, in its
general outlines, is, for England, the necessary given type of this
metre; it is by rendering the metrical beat of its pattern, not by
rendering the accentual beat of it, that the English language has
adapted the Greek hexameter. To render the metrical beat of its pattern
is something; by effecting so much as this the English hexameter puts
itself in closer relations with its original, it comes nearer to its
movement than any other metre which does not even effect so much as
this; but Mr Spedding is dissatisfied with it for not effecting more
still, for not rendering the accentual beat too. If he asks me _why_ the
English hexameter has not tried to render this too, _why_ it has
confined itself to rendering the metrical beat, _why_, in short, it is
itself, and not Mr Spedding’s new hexameter, that is a question which I,
whose only business is to give practical advice to a translator, am not
bound to answer; but I will not decline to answer it nevertheless. I
will suggest to Mr Spedding that, as I have already said, the modern
hexameter is merely an attempt to imitate the effect of the ancient
hexameter, as read by us moderns; that the great object of its imitation
has been the hexameter of Homer; that of this hexameter such lines as
those which Mr Spedding declares to be so rare, even in Homer, but which
are in truth so common, lines in which the quantity and the reader’s
accent coincide, are, for the English reader, just from that simplicity
(for him) of rhythm which they owe to this very coincidence, the
master-type; that so much is this the case that one may again and again
notice an English reader of Homer, in reading lines where his Virgilian
accent would not coincide with the quantity, abandoning this accent, and
reading the lines (as we say) _by quantity_, reading them as if he were
scanning them; while foreigners neglect our Virgilian accent even in
reading Virgil, read even Virgil by quantity, making the accents
coincide with the long syllables. And no doubt the hexameter of a
kindred language, the German, based on this mode of reading the ancient
hexameter, has had a powerful influence upon the type of its English
fellow. But all this shows how extremely powerful accent is for us
moderns, since we find not even Greek and Latin quantity perceptible
enough without it. Yet in these languages, where we have been accustomed
always to look for it, it is far more perceptible to us Englishmen than
in our own language, where we have not been accustomed to look for it.
And here is the true reason why Mr Spedding’s hexameter is not and
cannot be the current English hexameter, even though it is based on the
accentuation which Englishmen give to all Virgil’s lines, and to many of
Homer’s,—that the quantity which in Greek or Latin words we feel, or
imagine we feel, even though it be unsupported by accent, we do not feel
or imagine we feel in English words when it is thus unsupported. For
example, in repeating the Latin line

                Ipsa tibi blandos _fundent_ cunabula flores,

an Englishman feels the length of the second syllable of _fundent_,
although he lays the accent on the first; but in repeating Mr Spedding’s

          Softly cometh slumber _closing_ th’ o’erwearied eyelid,

the English ear, full of the accent on the first syllable of _closing_,
has really no sense at all of any length in its second. The metrical
beat of the line is thus quite destroyed.

So when Mr Spedding proposes a new Anglo-Virgilian hexameter he proposes
an impossibility; when he ‘denies altogether that the metrical movement
of the English hexameter has _any_ resemblance to that of the Greek’, he
denies too much; when he declares that, ‘were every other metre
impossible, an attempt to translate Homer into English hexameters might
be permitted, _but that such an attempt he himself would never read_’,
he exhibits, it seems to me, a little of that obduracy and
over-vehemence in liking and disliking,—a remnant, I suppose, of our
insular ferocity,—to which English criticism is so prone. He ought to be
enchanted to meet with a good attempt in any metre, even though he would
never have advised it, even though its success be contrary to all his
expectations; for it is the critic’s first duty—prior even to his duty
of stigmatizing what is bad—_to welcome everything that is good_. In
welcoming this, he must at all times be ready, like the Christian
convert, even to burn what he used to worship, and to worship what he
used to burn. Nay, but he need not be thus inconsistent in welcoming it;
he may retain all his principles: principles endure, circumstances
change; absolute success is one thing, relative success another.
Relative success may take place under the most diverse conditions; and
it is in appreciating the good in even relative success, it is in taking
into account the change of circumstances, that the critic’s judgment is
tested, that his versatility must display itself. He is to keep his idea
of the best, of perfection, and at the same time to be willingly
accessible to every second best which offers itself. So I enjoy the ease
and beauty of Mr Spedding’s stanza,

                 Therewith to all the gods in order due ...

I welcome it, in the absence of equally good poetry in another
metre[65], although I still think the stanza unfit to render Homer
thoroughly well, although I still think other metres fit to render him
better. So I concede to Mr Spedding that every form of translation,
prose or verse, must more or less break up Homer in order to reproduce
him; but then I urge that that form which needs to break him up least is
to be preferred. So I concede to him that the test proposed by me for
the translator—a competent scholar’s judgment whether the translation
more or less reproduces for him the effect of the original—is not
perfectly satisfactory; but I adopt it as the best we can get, as the
only test capable of being really applied; for Mr Spedding’s proposed
substitute, the translations making the same effect, more or less, upon
the unlearned which the original makes upon the scholar, is a test which
can never really be applied at all. These two impressions, that of the
scholar, and that of the unlearned reader, can, practically, never be
accurately compared; they are, and must remain, like those lines we read
of in Euclid, which, though produced ever so far, can never meet. So,
again, I concede that a good verse-translation of Homer, or, indeed, of
any poet, is very difficult, and that a good prose-translation is much
easier; but then I urge that a verse-translation, while giving the
pleasure which Pope’s has given, might at the same time render Homer
more faithfully than Pope’s; and that this being possible, we ought not
to cease wishing for a source of pleasure which no prose-translation can
ever hope to rival.

Wishing for such a verse-translation of Homer, believing that rhythms
have natural tendencies which, within certain limits, inevitably govern
them; having little faith, therefore, that rhythms which have manifested
tendencies utterly un-Homeric can so change themselves as to become well
adapted for rendering Homer, I have looked about for the rhythm which
seems to depart least from the tendencies of Homer’s rhythm. Such a
rhythm I think may be found in the English hexameter, somewhat modified.
I look with hope towards continued attempts at perfecting and employing
this rhythm; but my belief in the immediate success of such attempts is
far less confident than has been supposed. Between the recognition of
this rhythm as ideally the best, and the recommendation of it to the
translator for instant practical use, there must come all that
consideration of circumstances, all that pliancy in foregoing, under the
pressure of certain difficulties, the absolute best, which I have said
is so indispensable to the critic. The hexameter is, comparatively,
still unfamiliar in England; many people have a great dislike to it. A
certain degree of unfamiliarity, a certain degree of dislike, are
obstacles with which it is not wise to contend. It is difficult to say
at present whether the dislike to this rhythm is so strong and so
wide-spread that it will prevent its ever becoming thoroughly familiar.
I think not, but it is too soon to decide. I am inclined to think that
the dislike of it is rather among the professional critics than among
the general public; I think the reception which Mr Longfellow’s
_Evangeline_ has met with indicates this. I think that even now, if a
version of the _Iliad_ in English hexameters were made by a poet who,
like Mr Longfellow, has that indefinable quality which renders him
popular, something _attractive_ in his talent, which communicates itself
to his verses, it would have a great success among the general public.
Yet a version of Homer in hexameters of the _Evangeline_ type would not
satisfy the judicious, nor is the definite establishment of this type to
be desired; and one would regret that Mr Longfellow should, even to
popularise the hexameter, give the immense labour required for a
translation of Homer when one could not wish his work to stand. Rather
it is to be wished that by the efforts of poets like Mr Longfellow in
original poetry, and the efforts of less distinguished poets in the task
of translation, the hexameter may gradually be made familiar to the ear
of the English public; at the same time that there gradually arises, out
of all these efforts, an improved type of this rhythm; a type which some
man of genius may sign with the final stamp, and employ in rendering
Homer; a hexameter which may be as superior to Vosse’s as Shakspeare’s
blank verse is superior to Schiller’s. I am inclined to believe that all
this travail will actually take place, because I believe that modern
poetry is actually in want of such an instrument as the hexameter.

In the meantime, whether this rhythm be destined to success or not, let
us steadily keep in mind what originally made us turn to it. We turned
to it because we required certain Homeric characteristics in a
translation of Homer, and because all other rhythms seemed to find, from
different causes, great difficulties in satisfying this our requirement.
If the hexameter is impossible, if one of these other rhythms must be
used, let us keep this rhythm always in mind of our requirements and of
its own faults, let us compel it to get rid of these latter as much as
possible. It may be necessary to have recourse to blank verse; but then
blank verse must _de-Cowperize_ itself, must get rid of the habits of
stiff self-retardation which make it say ‘_Not fewer_ shone’, for ‘_So
many shone_’. Homer moves swiftly: blank verse _can_ move swiftly if it
likes, but it must remember that the movement of such lines as

               A thousand fires were burning, and by each ...

is just the slow movement which makes us despair of it. Homer moves with
noble ease: blank verse must not be suffered to forget that the movement

                Came they not over from sweet Lacedæmon ...

is ungainly. Homer’s expression of his thought is simple as light: we
know how blank verse affects such locutions as

              While the steeds _mouthed their corn aloof_ ...

and such models of expressing one’s thought are sophisticated and

One sees how needful it is to direct incessantly the English
translator’s attention to the essential characteristics of Homer’s
poetry, when so accomplished a person as Mr Spedding, recognising these
characteristics as indeed Homer’s, admitting them to be essential, is
led by the ingrained habits and tendencies of English blank verse thus
repeatedly to lose sight of them in translating even a few lines. One
sees this yet more clearly, when Mr Spedding, taking me to task for
saying that the blank verse used for rendering Homer ‘must not be Mr
Tennyson’s blank verse’, declares that in most of Mr Tennyson’s blank
verse all Homer’s essential characteristics, ‘rapidity of movement,
_plainness of words and style_, _simplicity and directness of ideas_,
and, above all, nobleness of manner, are as conspicuous as in Homer
himself’. This shows, it seems to me, how hard it is for English readers
of poetry, even the most accomplished, to feel deeply and permanently
what Greek plainness of thought and Greek simplicity of expression
really are: they admit the importance of these qualities in a general
way, but they have no ever-present sense of them; and they easily
attribute them to any poetry which has other excellent qualities, and
which they very much admire. No doubt there are plainer things in Mr
Tennyson’s poetry than the three lines I quoted; in choosing them, as in
choosing a specimen of ballad-poetry, I wished to bring out clearly, by
a strong instance, the qualities of thought and style to which I was
calling attention; but when Mr Spedding talks of a plainness of thought
_like Homer’s_, of a plainness of speech _like Homer’s_, and says that
he finds these constantly in Mr Tennyson’s poetry, I answer that these I
do not find there at all. Mr Tennyson is a most distinguished and
charming poet; but the very essential characteristic of his poetry is,
it seems to me, an extreme subtlety and curious elaborateness of
thought, an extreme subtlety and curious elaborateness of expression. In
the best and most characteristic productions of his genius, these
characteristics are most prominent. They are marked characteristics, as
we have seen, of the Elizabethan poets; they are marked, though not the
essential, characteristics of Shakspeare himself. Under the influences
of the nineteenth century, under wholly new conditions of thought and
culture, they manifest themselves in Mr Tennyson’s poetry in a wholly
new way. But they are still there. The essential bent of his poetry is
towards such expressions as

                 Now lies the Earth all Danaë to the stars;

                                    O’er the sun’s bright eye
              Drew the vast eyelid of an inky cloud;

               When the cairned mountain was a shadow, sunned
               The world to peace again;

          The fresh young captains flashed their glittering teeth,
          The huge bush-bearded barons heaved and blew;

                He bared the knotted column of his throat,
                The massive square of his heroic breast,
                And arms on which the standing muscle sloped
                As slopes a wild brook o’er a little stone,
                Running too vehemently to break upon it.

And this way of speaking is the least _plain_, the most _un-Homeric_,
which can possibly be conceived. Homer presents his thought to you just
as it wells from the source of his mind: Mr Tennyson carefully distils
his thought before he will part with it. Hence comes, in the expression
of the thought, a heightened and elaborate air. In Homer’s poetry it is
all natural thoughts in natural words; in Mr Tennyson’s poetry it is all
distilled thoughts in distilled words. Exactly this heightening and
elaboration may be observed in Mr Spedding’s

                While the steeds _mouthed their corn aloof_

(an expression which might have been Mr Tennyson’s), on which I have
already commented; and to one who is penetrated with a sense of the real
simplicity of Homer, this subtle sophistication of the thought is, I
think, very perceptible even in such lines as these,

                 And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
                 Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy,

which I have seen quoted as perfectly Homeric. Perfect simplicity can be
obtained only by a genius of which perfect simplicity is an essential

So true is this, that when a genius essentially subtle, or a genius
which, from whatever cause, is in its essence not truly and broadly
simple, determines to be perfectly plain, determines not to admit a
shade of subtlety or curiosity into its expression, it cannot ever then
attain real simplicity; it can only attain a semblance of
simplicity[66]. French criticism, richer in its vocabulary than ours,
has invented a useful word to distinguish this semblance (often very
beautiful and valuable) from the real quality. The real quality it calls
_simplicité_, the semblance _simplesse_. The one is natural simplicity,
the other is artificial simplicity. What is called simplicity in the
productions of a genius essentially not simple, is, in truth,
_simplesse_. The two are distinguishable from one another the moment
they appear in company. For instance, let us take the opening of the
narrative in Wordsworth’s _Michael_:

              Upon the forest-side in Grasmere Vale
              There dwelt a shepherd, Michael was his name;
              An old man, stout of heart, and strong of limb.
              His bodily frame had been from youth to age
              Of an unusual strength; his mind was keen,
              Intense, and frugal, apt for all affairs;
              And in his shepherd’s calling he was prompt
              And watchful more than ordinary men.

Now let us take the opening of the narrative in Mr Tennyson’s _Dora_:

             With Farmer Allan at the farm abode
             William and Dora. William was his son,
             And she his niece. He often looked at them,
             And often thought, ‘I’ll make them man and wife’.

The simplicity of the first of these passages is _simplicité_; that of
the second, _simplesse_. Let us take the end of the same two poems:
first, of _Michael_:

            The cottage which was named the Evening Star
            Is gone, the ploughshare has been through the ground
            On which it stood; great changes have been wrought
            In all the neighbourhood: yet the oak is left
            That grew beside their door: and the remains
            Of the unfinished sheepfold may be seen
            Beside the boisterous brook of Green-head Ghyll.

And now, of _Dora_:

                                  So those four abode
                  Within one house together; and as years
                  Went forward, Mary took another mate:
                  But Dora lived unmarried till her death.

A heedless critic may call both of these passages simple if he will.
Simple, in a certain sense, they both are; but between the simplicity of
the two there is all the difference that there is between the simplicity
of Homer and the simplicity of Moschus.

But, whether the hexameter establish itself or not, whether a truly
simple and rapid blank verse be obtained or not, as the vehicle for a
standard English translation of Homer, I feel sure that this vehicle
will not be furnished by the ballad-form. On this question about the
ballad-character of Homer’s poetry, I see that Professor Blackie
proposes a compromise: he suggests that those who say Homer’s poetry is
pure ballad-poetry, and those who deny that it is ballad-poetry at all,
should split the difference between them; that it should be agreed that
Homer’s poems are ballads _a little_, but not so much as some have said.
I am very sensible to the courtesy of the terms in which Mr Blackie
invites me to this compromise; but I cannot, I am sorry to say, accept
it; I cannot allow that Homer’s poetry is ballad-poetry at all. A want
of capacity for sustained nobleness seems to me inherent in the
ballad-form when employed for epic poetry. The more we examine this
proposition, the more certain, I think, will it become to us. Let us but
observe how a great poet, having to deliver a narrative very weighty and
serious, instinctively shrinks from the ballad-form as from a form not
commensurate with his subject-matter, a form too narrow and shallow for
it, and seeks for a form which has more amplitude and impressiveness.
Everyone knows the _Lucy Gray_ and the _Ruth_ of Wordsworth. Both poems
are excellent; but the subject-matter of the narrative of _Ruth_ is much
more weighty and impressive to the poet’s own feeling than that of the
narrative of _Lucy Gray_, for which latter, in its unpretending
simplicity, the ballad-form is quite adequate. Wordsworth, at the time
he composed _Ruth_, his great time, his _annus mirabilis_, about 1800,
strove to be simple; it was his mission to be simple; he loved the
ballad-form, he clung to it, because it was simple. Even in _Ruth_ he
tried, one may say, to use it; he would have used it if he could: but
the gravity of his matter is too much for this somewhat slight form; he
is obliged to give to his form more amplitude, more augustness, to shake
out its folds.

                   The wretched parents all that night
                     Went shouting far and wide;
                   But there was neither sound nor sight
                     To serve them for a guide.

That is beautiful, no doubt, and the form is adequate to the
subject-matter. But take this, on the other hand:

                   I, too, have passed her on the hills,
                   Setting her little water-mills
                     By spouts and fountains wild;
                   Such small machinery as she turned,
                   Ere she had wept, ere she had mourned,
                     A young and happy child.

Who does not perceive how the greater fulness and weight of his matter
has here compelled the true and feeling poet to adopt a form of more
_volume_ than the simple ballad-form?

It is of narrative poetry that I am speaking; the question is about the
use of the ballad-form for _this_. I say that for this poetry (when in
the grand style, as Homer’s is) the ballad-form is entirely inadequate;
and that Homer’s translator must not adopt it, because it even leads
him, by its own weakness, away from the grand style rather than towards
it. We must remember that the matter of narrative poetry stands in a
different relation to the vehicle which conveys it, is not so
independent of this vehicle, so absorbing and powerful in itself, as the
matter of purely emotional poetry. When there comes in poetry what I may
call the _lyrical cry_, this transfigures everything, makes everything
grand; the simplest form may be here even an advantage, because the
flame of the emotion glows through and through it more easily. To go
again for an illustration to Wordsworth; our great poet, since Milton,
by his performance, as Keats, I think, is our great poet by his gift and
promise; in one of his stanzas to the Cuckoo, we have:

                       And I can listen to thee yet;
                         Can lie upon the plain
                       And listen, till I do beget
                         That golden time again.

Here the lyrical cry, though taking the simple ballad-form, is as grand
as the lyrical cry coming in poetry of an ampler form, as grand as the

                     An innocent life, yet far astray!

of _Ruth_; as the

                 There is a comfort in the strength of love

of _Michael_. In this way, by the occurrence of this lyrical cry, the
ballad-poets themselves rise sometimes, though not so often as one might
perhaps have hoped, to the grand style.

                    O lang, lang may their ladies sit,
                    Wi’ their fans into their hand,
                    Or ere they see Sir Patrick Spence
                    Come sailing to the land.

                    O lang, lang may the ladies stand,
                    Wi’ their gold combs in their hair,
                    Waiting for their ain dear lords,
                    For they’ll see them nae mair.

But from this impressiveness of the ballad-form, when its subject-matter
fills it over and over again, is, indeed, in itself, all in all, one
must not infer its effectiveness when its subject-matter is not thus
overpowering, in the great body of a narrative.

But, after all, Homer is not a better poet than the balladists, because
he has taken in the hexameter a better instrument; he took this
instrument because he was a _different_ poet from them; so different,
not only so much better, but so essentially different, that he has not
to be classed with them at all. Poets receive their distinctive
character, not from their subject, but from their application to that
subject of the ideas (to quote the _Excursion_)

                   On God, on Nature, and on human life,

which they have acquired for themselves. In the ballad-poets in general,
as in men of a rude and early stage of the world, in whom their humanity
is not yet variously and fully developed, the stock of these ideas is
scanty, and the ideas themselves not very effective or profound. From
them the narrative itself is the great matter, not the spirit and
significance which underlies the narrative. Even in later times of
richly developed life and thought, poets appear who have what may be
called a _balladist’s mind_; in whom a fresh and lively curiosity for
the outward spectacle of the world is much more strong than their sense
of the inward significance of that spectacle. When they apply ideas to
their narrative of human events, you feel that they are, so to speak,
travelling out of their own province: in the best of them you feel this
perceptibly, but in those of a lower order you feel it very strongly.
Even Sir Walter Scott’s efforts of this kind, even, for instance, the

                 Breathes there the man with soul so dead,

or the

                       O woman! in our hours of ease,

even these leave, I think, as high poetry, much to be desired; far more
than the same poet’s descriptions of a hunt or a battle. But Lord

                      Then out spake brave Horatius,
                        The captain of the gate:
                      ‘To all the men upon this earth
                        Death cometh soon or late’.

(and here, since I have been reproached with undervaluing Lord
Macaulay’s _Lays of Ancient Rome_, let me frankly say that, to my mind,
a man’s power to detect the ring of false metal in those Lays is a good
measure of his fitness to give an opinion about poetical matters at
all), I say, Lord Macaulay’s

                       To all the men upon this earth
                         Death cometh soon or late,

it is hard to read without a cry of pain. But with Homer it is very
different. This ‘noble barbarian’, this ‘savage with the lively eye’,
whose verse, Mr Newman thinks, would affect us, if we could hear the
living Homer, ‘like an elegant and simple melody from an African of the
Gold Coast’, is never more at home, never more nobly himself, than in
applying profound ideas to his narrative. As a poet he belongs,
narrative as is his poetry, and early as is his date, to an incomparably
more developed spiritual and intellectual order than the balladists, or
than Scott and Macaulay; he is here as much to be distinguished from
them, and in the same way, as Milton is to be distinguished from them.
He is, indeed, rather to be classed with Milton than with the balladists
and Scott; for what he has in common with Milton, the noble and profound
application of ideas to life is the most essential part of poetic
greatness. The most essentially grand and characteristic things of Homer
are such things as

             ἔτλην δ’, οἷ’ οὔπω τις ἐπιχθόνιος βροτὸς ἂλλος,
             ἀνδρὸς παιδοφόνοιο ποτὶ στόμα χεῖρ’ ὀρέγεσθαι[67],

or as

           καὶ σὲ, γέρον, τὸ πρὶν μὲν ἀκούομεν ὄλβιον εἶναι[68],

or as

              ὥς γὰρ ἐπεκλώσαντο θεοὶ δειλοῖσι βροτοῖσιν,
              ζώειν ἀχνυμένους· αὐτοὶ δὲ τ’ ἀκηδέες εἰσίν[69],

and of these the tone is given, far better than by anything of the
balladists, by such things as the

                    Io no piangeva: sì dentro impietrai:
                    Piangevan elli ...[70]

of Dante; or the

                   Fall’n Cherub! to be weak is miserable

of Milton.

I suppose I must, before I conclude, say a word or two about my own
hexameters; and yet really, on such a topic, I am almost ashamed to
trouble you. From those perishable objects I feel, I can truly say, a
most Oriental detachment. You yourselves are witnesses how little
importance, when I offered them to you, I claimed for them, how humble a
function I designed them to fill. I offered them, not as specimens of a
competing translation of Homer, but as illustrations of certain canons
which I had been trying to establish for Homer’s poetry. I said that
these canons they might very well illustrate by failing as well as by
succeeding: if they illustrate them in any manner, I am satisfied. I was
thinking of the future translator of Homer, and trying to let him see as
clearly as possible what I meant by the combination of characteristics
which I assigned to Homer’s poetry, by saying that this poetry was at
once rapid in movement, plain in words and style, simple and direct in
its ideas, and noble in manner. I do not suppose that my own hexameters
are rapid in movement, plain in words and style, simple and direct in
their ideas, and noble in manner; but I am in hopes that a translator,
reading them with a genuine interest in his subject, and without the
slightest grain of personal feeling, may see more clearly, as he reads
them, what I meant by saying that Homer’s poetry is all these. I am in
hopes that he may be able to seize more distinctly, when he has before
him my

        So shone forth, in front of Troy, by the bed of the Xanthus,

or my

              Ah, unhappy pair, to Peleus why did we give you?

or my

         So he spake, and drove with a cry his steeds into battle,

the exact points which I wish him to avoid in Cowper’s

             So numerous seemed those fires the banks between,

or in Pope’s

                    Unhappy coursers of immortal strain,

or in Mr Newman’s

       He spake, and, yelling, held a-front his single-hoofed horses.

At the same time there may be innumerable points in mine which he ought
to avoid also. Of the merit of his own compositions no composer can be
admitted the judge.

But thus humbly useful to the future translator I still hope my
hexameters may prove; and he it is, above all, whom one has to regard.
The general public carries away little from discussions of this kind,
except some vague notion that one advocates English hexameters, or that
one has attacked Mr Newman. On the mind of an adversary one never makes
the faintest impression. Mr Newman reads all one can say about diction,
and his last word on the subject is, that he ‘regards it as a question
about to open hereafter, whether a translator of Homer ought not to
adopt the old dissyllabic _landis_, _houndis_, _hartis_’ (for lands,
hounds, harts), and also ‘the final _en_ of the plural of verbs (we
_dancen_, they _singen_, etc.), which still subsists in Lancashire’. A
certain critic reads all one can say about style, and at the end of it
arrives at the inference that, ‘after all, there is some style grander
than the grand style itself, since Shakspeare has not the grand manner,
and yet has the supremacy over Milton’; another critic reads all one can
say about rhythm, and the result is, that he thinks Scott’s rhythm, in
the description of the death of Marmion, all the better for being
_saccadé_, because the dying ejaculations of Marmion were likely to be
‘jerky’. How vain to rise up early, and to take rest late, from any zeal
for proving to Mr Newman that he must not, in translating Homer, say
_houndis_ and _dancen_; or to the first of the two critics above quoted,
that one poet may be a greater poetical force than another, and yet have
a more unequal style; or to the second, that the best art, having to
represent the death of a hero, does not set about imitating his dying
noises! Such critics, however, provide for an opponent’s vivacity the
charming excuse offered by Rivarol for his, when he was reproached with
giving offence by it: ‘Ah’! he exclaimed, ‘no one considers how much
pain every man of taste has had to _suffer_, before he ever inflicts

It is for the future translator that one must work. The successful
translator of Homer will have (or he cannot succeed) that true sense for
his subject, and that disinterested love for it, which are, both of
them, so rare in literature, and so precious; he will not be led off by
any false scent; he will have an eye for the real matter, and where he
thinks he may find any indication of this, no hint will be too slight
for him, no shade will be too fine, no imperfections will turn him
aside, he will go before his adviser’s thought, and help it out with his
own. This is the sort of student that a critic of Homer should always
have in his thoughts; but students of this sort are indeed rare.

And how, then, can I help being reminded what a student of this sort we
have just lost in Mr Clough, whose name I have already mentioned in
these lectures? He, too, was busy with Homer; but it is not on that
account that I now speak of him. Nor do I speak of him in order to call
attention to his qualities and powers in general, admirable as these
were. I mention him because, in so eminent a degree, he possessed these
two invaluable literary qualities, a true sense for his object of study,
and a single-hearted care for it. He had both; but he had the second
even more eminently than the first. He greatly developed the first
through means of the second. In the study of art, poetry, or philosophy,
he had the most undivided and disinterested love for his object in
itself, the greatest aversion to mixing up with it anything accidental
or personal. His interest was in literature itself; and it was this
which gave so rare a stamp to his character, which kept him so free from
all taint of littleness. In the saturnalia of ignoble personal passions,
of which the struggle for literary success, in old and crowded
communities, offers so sad a spectacle, he never mingled. He had not yet
traduced his friends, nor flattered his enemies, nor disparaged what he
admired, nor praised what he despised. Those who knew him well had the
conviction that, even with time, these literary arts would never be his.
His poem, of which I before spoke, has some admirable Homeric
qualities;—out-of-doors freshness, life, naturalness, buoyant rapidity.
Some of the expressions in that poem, ‘_Dangerous Corrievreckan ...
Where roads are unknown to Loch Nevish_’, come back now to my ear with
the true Homeric ring. But that in him of which I think oftenest is the
Homeric simplicity of his literary life.

Footnote 56:

  ‘It is the fact, that scholars of fastidious refinement, but of a
  judgment which I think far more masculine than Mr Arnold’s, have
  passed a most encouraging sentence on large specimens of my
  translation. I at present count eight such names’.—‘Before venturing
  to print, I sought to ascertain how unlearned women and children would
  accept my verses. I could boast how children and half-educated women
  have extolled them, how greedily a working man has inquired for them,
  without knowing who was the translator’.—MR NEWMAN’S Reply, pp. 113,
  124, _supra_.

Footnote 57:

  ‘O for the fields of Thessaly and the streams of Spercheios! O for the
  hills alive with the dances of the Laconian maidens, the hills of
  Taygetus’!—_Georgics_, ii. 486.

Footnote 58:

  _Iliad_, xvii, 216.

Footnote 59:

  _Purgatory_, xxiii, 124.

Footnote 60:

  _Purgatory_, xxiii, 127.

Footnote 61:

  ‘A secure time fell to the lot neither of Peleus the son of Æacus, nor
  of the godlike Cadmus; howbeit these are said to have had, of all
  mortals, the supreme of happiness, who heard the golden-snooded Muses
  sing, one of them on the mountain (Pelion), the other in seven-gated

Footnote 62:

  Lines such as the first of the _Odyssey_

            Ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, Μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὅς μάλα πολλὰ....

Footnote 63:

  Substantially, however, in the question at issue between Mr Munro and
  Mr Spedding, I agree with Mr Munro. By the italicized words in the
  following sentence, ‘The rhythm of the Virgilian hexameter depends
  entirely on _cæsura_, _pause_, and a due arrangement of words’, he has
  touched, it seems to me, in the constitution of this hexameter, the
  central point which Mr Spedding misses. The accent, or _heightened
  tone_, of Virgil in reading his own hexameters, was probably far from
  being the same thing as the accent or _stress_ with which we read
  them. The general effect of each line, in Virgil’s mouth, was probably
  therefore something widely different from what Mr Spedding assumes it
  to have been: an ancient’s accentual reading was something which
  allowed the metrical beat of the Latin line to be far more perceptible
  than our accentual reading allows it to be.

  On the question as to the _real_ rhythm of the ancient hexameter, Mr
  Newman has in his _Reply_ a page quite admirable for force and
  precision. Here he is in his element, and his ability and acuteness
  have their proper scope. But it is true that the _modern_ reading of
  the ancient hexameter is what the modern hexameter has to imitate, and
  that the English reading of the Virgilian hexameter is as Mr Spedding
  describes it. Why this reading has not been imitated by the English
  hexameter, I have tried to point out in the text.

Footnote 64:

  Such a minor change I have attempted by occasionally shifting, in the
  first foot of the hexameter, the accent from the first syllable to the
  second. In the current English hexameter, it is on the first. Mr
  Spedding, who proposes radically to subvert the constitution of this
  hexameter, seems not to understand that anyone can propose to modify
  it partially; he can comprehend revolution in this metre, but not
  reform. Accordingly he asks me how I can bring myself to say,
  ‘_Bé_tween that and the ships’, or ‘_Thére_ sat fifty men’; or how I
  can reconcile such forcing of the accent with my own rule, that
  ‘hexameters must _read themselves_’. Presently he says that he cannot
  believe I do pronounce these words so, but that he thinks I leave out
  the accent in the first foot altogether, and thus get a hexameter with
  only five accents. He will pardon me: I pronounce, as I suppose he
  himself does, if he reads the words naturally, ‘Be_tween_ that and the
  ships’, and ‘There _sát_ fifty men’. Mr Spedding is familiar enough
  with this accent on the second syllable in Virgil’s hexameters; in ‘et
  _té_ montosæ’, or ‘Ve_ló_ces jaculo’. Such a change is an attempt to
  relieve the monotony of the current English hexameter by occasionally
  altering the position of one of its accents; it is not an attempt to
  make a wholly new English hexameter by habitually altering the
  position of four of them. Very likely it is an unsuccessful attempt;
  but at any-rate it does not violate what I think is the fundamental
  rule for English hexameters, that may be such as to _read themselves_
  without necessitating, on the reader’s part, any non-natural
  putting-on or taking-off accent. Hexameters like these of Mr

      ‘In that delightful land which is washed by the Delaware’s


      ‘As if they fain would appease the Dryads, whose haunts they

  violate this rule; and they are very common. I think the blemish of Mr
  Dart’s recent meritorious version of the _Iliad_ is that it contains
  too many of them.

Footnote 65:

  As I welcome another more recent attempt in stanza,—Mr Worsley’s
  version of the _Odyssey_ in Spenser’s measure. Mr Worsley does me the
  honour to notice some remarks of mine on this measure: I had said that
  its greater intricacy made it a worse measure than even the
  ten-syllable couplet to employ for rendering Homer. He points out, in
  answer, that ‘the more complicated the correspondences in a poetical
  measure, the less obtrusive and absolute are the rhymes’. This is
  true, and subtly remarked; but I never denied that the single shocks
  of rhyme in the couplet were more _strongly felt_ than those in the
  stanza; I said that the more frequent recurrence of the same rhyme, in
  the stanza, necessarily made this measure more _intricate_. The stanza
  repacks Homer’s matter yet more arbitrarily, and therefore changes his
  movement yet more radically, than the couplet. Accordingly, I imagine
  a nearer approach to a perfect translation of Homer is possible in the
  couplet, well managed, than in the stanza, however well managed. But
  meanwhile Mr Worsley, applying the Spenserian stanza, that beautiful
  romantic measure, to the most romantic poem of the ancient world;
  making this stanza yield him, too (what it never yielded to Byron),
  its treasures of fluidity and sweet ease; above all, bringing to his
  task a truly poetical sense and skill, has produced a version of the
  _Odyssey_ much the most pleasing of those hitherto produced, and which
  is delightful to read.

  For the public this may well be enough, nay, more than enough; but for
  the critic even this is not yet quite enough.

Footnote 66:

  I speak of poetic genius as employing itself upon narrative or
  dramatic poetry,—poetry in which the poet has to go out of himself and
  to create. In lyrical poetry, in the direct expression of personal
  feeling, the most subtle genius may, under the momentary pressure of
  passion, express itself simply. Even here, however, the native
  tendency will generally be discernible.

Footnote 67:

  ‘And I have endured—the like whereof no soul upon the earth hath yet
  endured—to carry to my lips the hand of him who slew my
  child’.—_Iliad_, xxiv. 505.

Footnote 68:

  ‘Nay and thou too, old man, in times past wert, as we hear,
  happy’.—_Iliad_, xxiv. 543. In the original this line, for mingled
  pathos and dignity, is perhaps without a rival even in Homer.

Footnote 69:

  ’For so have the gods spun our destiny to us wretched mortals,—that we
  should live in sorrow; but they themselves are without
  trouble’.—_Iliad_, xxiv. 525.

Footnote 70:

  ‘_I_ wept not: so of stone grew I within:—_they_ wept’.—_Hell_,
  xxxiii. 49 (Carlyle’s Translation, slightly altered).


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Transcriber’s note:

    ○ Footnotes have been moved to follow the chapters in which they are

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