« AnteriorContinuar »
WHEN Albinus requested that some allowance might be made by his readers for the badness of the Greek in which his Roman History was written, he was met by Cato with the obvious answer that he had no right to claim indulgence for a work which he had taken upon himself to perform without any external pressure. I should be open to much the same retort were I to claim any indulgence for the present essay at rendering Catullus into English verse, but it is as an attempt, however feeble, to popularize still further the productions of so unique and radiant a genius that the present version is in all humility offered.
In cti discant et ament meminisse periti. At all events, though the task be self-imposed, the conditions under which these translations were produced may reasonably claim some forbearance for their shortcomings. Written, for the most part, during the not too frequent leisure hours of an Indian official life, and at times when I was often necessarily reduced to even less than the one 'capsula' of books which Catullus had with him at Verona, these versions can at any rate, claim perfect originality, though an originality dearly purchased at the hazard of committing mistakes from which the perusal of a wider circle of authorities might have Ger
saved me. It cannot be said that the world is overstocked with translations of Catullus. In comparison with the other great writers of antiquity his merits can hardly be said to have been duly recognized, and, compared with the numerous versions which exist of Virgil and Horace, the translations of Catullus are markedly few in number. With Mr Theodore Martin's admirable and scholarly rendering of the poems the present version does not, of course, pretend to enter into any competition, but one brilliant success should hardly be considered a bar to all subsequent enterprise, and it can scarcely be said that the other translations of the entire series, such as Lamb's and Elton's, are altogether satisfactory. Some individual poems have been more translated and imitated than any similar works in any language, but few extant versions embody the whole of Catullus' writings, as with the exception of a few passages I have attempted to do in the present volume.
I need hardly premise that Catullus is peculiarly untranslatable. Mr Lewes in his 'Life of Goethe' has expatiated so fully on the impossibility of any translation conveying an adequate idea of the original, that the illustrations and arguments to prove the point need not be re-stated, and it cannot be denied that Catullus is beyond all other poets difficult to render. The subtle charm of his dainty versification must necessarily evaporate in the process of transcription into another language, and at the best only a faint adumbra