« AnteriorContinuar »
Art. I. The Principal Orations of Cicero translated, with Notes
Claffical and Original. By Captain John Rutherford. 4to. Royal Paper. il. 48. in Sheets. Cadell. 1781.
HE harmonious arrangement of words in prosaic compo
sition, was an art to which the ancients paid much attention. In the writings of Cicero, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, and
Quintilian, we meet with a minute detail of observations and rules respecting prosaic numbers, from which it appears, that the subject was pursued into all the refinement of which it was capable. Such was the excess of accuracy with which this kind of harmony was studied in the time of Quintilian, and such the delicacy of taste in this species of oratorical embellishment to which many writers had then attained, that (as we are informed by this judicious critic) there were grammarians who had reduced prose works into Lyric or other measures, and eloquence was every day enfeebled by the injudicious attempts of orators to foften down their periods to notes more suitable to dancing than speaking.
It will admit of debate, whether it was at all necessary to have recourse to the artificial methods made use of by the ancients, in order to produce the harmony of numbers in compofition. The ancients appear to have been sensible, that nature is capable of doing much towards producing the melody proper to prosaic writing, without the assistance of rules. Cicero himself, who every where lays so much stress upon this art, acknowledges, that the ear is naturally capable of distinguilhing, with great exactness, the different degrees of melody in the structure of periods. Aures, vel animus aurium nuntio, naturalem quandam in se continet vocum omnium menfionem. Itaque et longiora et breVOL, LXIV,
viora judicat, et perfecta ac moderata semper expectat.
And Quintilian speaks more fully to the same purpose *.
It is also exceedingly doubtful, whether the eloquence of the ancients derived any considerable degree of its efficacy from this source. If it be considered, what a great variety and extent of attainments they required in order to form the perfect orator, and what a compass of knowledge, strength of genius, and command of language the more eminent among the orators of antiquity displayed; it will perhaps appear, that harmony of diction contributed' but in a very inconsiderable degree towards producing those wonderful effects which have been afcribed to eloquence.
The present Translator of Cicero's Orations is, however, of a different opinion. He maintains, with exceeding labour, that harmony of period is the leading principle of oratory,' and
that the greater part of Cicero's success, as an orator, was due [owing] to the well turned sentence, and the harmonizing (harmonious) period.'-> What (fays he) supported and crowned him with success, when defending a bad cause, but a delusion of the imagination, a fascination of the judgment of his audience, by false, but sweet impressions upon the ear? By what means did he prevail upon Cæsar, a man of the most consummate penetration, to absolve Ligarius, to pardon and restore Marcellus, in both cases evidently to Cæsar's disadvantage, and in oppofition to his own [dele own] judgment and predetermination? What influence prevailed there, but the sweetly-flowing period, the beauteous fimile, the balmy panegyric, all conveyed in sounds that over-powered reason, rendered judgment torpid, and made the most exalted understanding the dupe of the ear?'
In the particular cafe here referred to, can it be supposed, that a man of Cæsar's exalted understanding, who was withal acquainted with the secrets of oratory, and practised in its arts, could be liable to those sudden and violent impressions which eloquence produces on the minds of the vulgar? Cæsar was not a man who'acted under the instantaneous impulse of paffion. With that deep penetration, and cool felf-poffeffion, by which he was so eminently distinguished, it is much more probable, that he was wrought upon by some secret motive of policy, than that the breath even of Cicero's eloquence could, in an instant, change his opinion, and turn him from his purpose.
With respect to the general question, it is obvious to ask, were there no accomplishments, no powers, in this eminent orator, to which he was at least as much indebted for his fuc. cess, 'as to the musical flow of his periods ? Had his extenlive knowledge of mankind, bis accurate acquaintance with
* Vide Lib. ix, cap. 4.
the laws and political interests of his country, his skill in the business of the senate and the forum, his penetrating judgment, lively fancy, and ready invention, the ardour of his feelings, and the bold and animated expression of his pronunciation and action, had all these only an inferior share in the powerful opefation of his eloquence? With this extraordinary combination of talents, must his success be principally ascribed to melodious sounds, and well-turned periods ?
This paradoxical position, however, our Translator maintains with much warmth of declamation; and he even attempts to establish the opinion universally, by giving an historical detail of the powerful effects of harmonious compofition. In this detail, speaking of the primitive Fathers of the Church, he says, The faculty which most aided their cause, and evidently their fupea rior talent, was elocution. Harmonious language, and a deluding utterance, were the properties that rendered their success fo great, their profelytes fo numerous, and procured them that ranke in literature, which succeeding ages have confirmed. Such, we may safely affert, have been the excellent effects of an harmo-. nious elocution, in the propagation of the Christian religion !
On this passage we cannot help remarking, by the way, how greatly the cause in which these Christian Fathers were engaged is indebted to our Author, for ascribing its success to harmoni. ous language and a deluding utterance.
Proceeding in the narrative, he says, How many instances from the Roman history, and our own, might also be produced to demonstrate, that flowing periods, and an harmonious utterance, are the leading properties which deluded that people into repeated acts of evident injustice !'~-What! does our own history afford instances to prove, that flowing periods deluded the Roman people? -But let us not scrutinize the Author's meaning too rigoroufly: melody is of more consequence than fense; and the period would have flowed lets harmoniously, if the clause and our own had been omitted.
Having at length closed the historical detail, and thus adduced what he calls cogent and immediate proois, that the great and almost fole influence of oratory results from harmonious diction, Captain Rutherford places the principal merit of bis tranfJation in a sedulous imitation of this quality in his Author ; and * flatters himself that the unremitting attention to this indispensably requisite property in a translation, will excuse defects which may arise in other particulars of the work.'
In another part of this elaborate Preface, having afferted that harmony of period, being the leading principle of oratory, is the first thing to be considered in rendering the orations of Cicero into another language, he says:
off then the leading operation, the immediate attack of oratory is to be principally directed to the ear; if Cicero directed this batcery more strongly than any other orator against chat deceitful friend, that deluding organ; can his translator hesitate a moment in what manner he should proceed ? His mode of attack is thereby delineated and arranged ; let him use, the fame engine, give it the same line of direction, and he must be egregioufly deficient in the common properties of the undertanding, if he should fail. Hunting for points, commas, and colons; attempting to settle inexplicable difficulties, and solve irreconcileable absurdities, the result of original inartention, or, perhaps, the errors of transcript and the typographer; waste ing days and months to discover, whether a verb should be in the fubjunctive or indicative mood, the present or definite, the preter or pluperfect tenfe; are pursuits, not only unworthy of Cicero's coadjutor, they disgrace genius, and in nowise aflift the cause of literature.'
After so profufe an expence of harmonious periods, to prove that harmonious periods constitute the chief mérit of orations, whether original or translated, can we hesitate to conclude that the only effential qualification in a translator of Cicero is a mufical ear; and consequently, that there is a greater probability of finding persons qualified to do justice to these admired remains of antiquity at the opera-house, or in the musical band of a regiment, than in the cloisters of a college? The reason why every attempt to transplant them into the English language hath hitherto been so unsuccessful, is now sufficiently clear. It is because the translators have so far mistaken the nature of their undertaking, as to suppose it necessary, that they should examine with critical accuracy the grammatical construction, and investigate with minute attention the true meaning of every paffage they translated :- it is because they have been so weak as to imagine, that deep reflection and folid judgment were qualities essential to a good translator, and always the more necessary, the greater depth of penetration, fire of genius, or command of language, the original writer had discovered in his work. It was reserved for Captain Rutherford to discover, that the difficulty of translation is inversely as the merit of the original; and to inform the world, that the unsuccessfulness of for. mer translators of Cicero's Orations has arisen from their employing crudition, induftry, and judgment, on a subject which required nothing more than strong feelings and a musical ear. But, left our representation should give the Readers of the prefent Article an imperfect idea of this extraordinary discovery, we fhall lay it before them in his own words :
• The great original, indeed, provides such a fund of sense, spirit, and language, that nothing seems to be required but a mere transfufion of those properties. · Reflection or judgment is scarcely necesfary, to a successful reftitution of the original. - Strong feelings, and a juâ fusceptibility, are the true, the only requifites. We mult therefore lament, that profound erudition, laborious researches, and ingenious minds, should have explored the orations of Cicero, with inadequate success.
• Why then should others of less eminence, perhaps unknown in the circle of literature, hope to succeed, where great and acknowledged talents have engaged without acquiring proportionate repatation : Reasons have been already assigned, that partly anfover this question. To chofe might be added, that oratory is an art, like mulic, or versification, incommunicable but to dispositions particularly gifted, or predisposed by nature to receive it. Confummate knowledge, general talents, however great and extensive, unaided by this particular predisposition, can no more receive just impressions of the oratorial art, than an uninformed ear discover the peculiar graces of a complicated and elaborate musical fugue. Oratory, indeed, cannot be more properly classed, than with the musical at. They are twin fifters. The object and pursuit of both, in many respects, are also fimilar. To please the imagination, and thereby convey to the mind such propensities and difpofitions as the artift has conceived, is congenial to both; the intermediate agent is the ear; the instrument of conveyance the same in boch, delusive founds.'
After all our Author's declamation in praise of musical periods (however satisfactory it may appear to the tuneful fools, with whom smooth and rough is right and wrong'), those who have formed their taste on the principles of good sense and sound criticism, will require, in a translator of Cicero, other qualities, besides that particular predisposition, which would enable him to captivate the ear with sweetly-flowing periods ;' and will not accept of the most melliAuous current of soft and soothing sounds, instead of a just and full representation of the meaning and spirit of the original.
How far this translation is distinguished by the property which the Writer holds in such high eftimation, and what use he has condescended to make of those other qualities which he has so injudiciously treated with contempt, will be best seen from a quotation or two.
At the close of the third Oration against Catiline, Cicero, (peaking of the services he had rendered to the State, says,
Quibus pro tantis rebus, Quirites, nullum ego à vobis præmium virtutis, nullum infigne honoris, nullum monumentum laudis poftulo, præterquam hujus diei memoriam fempiternam. In animis ego veftris omnes triumphos meos, omnia ornamenta honoris, monumenta glo. riæ, laudis insignia, condi & collocari volo; gihil me inutum poteft delectare, nihil tacitum, nihil denique hujusmodi, quod etiam minus digni affequi poffint. Memoria veftra, Quirites, noftræ res alentur, fermonibus crescent, literarum monumentis inveterascent & corroborabuntur: eandemque diem intelligo, quam fpero æternam fore, & ad falutem urbis, & ad memoriam confulatûs mei propagatam : unoque tempore in hac republica duos cives exstitisse, quorum alter fines veftri imperii, non terræ, fed cæli regionibus terminaret; alter ejufdem imperii domicilium fedemque fervaret, R 3