Imagens da página

of Pluto, in the second book; and the forebodings of Ceres, and her visit to the deserted dwelling of her daughter (iii. 67), which are described with a tenderness almost Virgilian. The slow melancholy march of Virgil's pathetic passages is happily imitated. Claudian's conception of Proserpine, though not without beauty, wants playfulness. Here and there the poet attempts to elevate his subject by introducing the philosophy of his own times; to make the effect complete, however, the undercurrent of mysticism should have run through the whole. This poem is unfinished.

Of the fragment on the Gigantomachia, we need only observe, that it is extravagant without being grand.

Claudian's minor poems are not in general his happiest efforts. He wanted lightness and pliancy for trivial subjects. Of bis Epistles, that to Hadrian is interesting as an expression of personal feeling. The Idyls, especially the Phenix and the Nilus, are happy specimens of his characteristic style of florid and luxo uriant description. His occasional pieces are beavy, excepting one or two of the satirical epigrams, and the celebrated lines « De Sene Veronensi,” which stand alone among his poems in simplicity and natural beauty. The few fragments of Greek verse which are intermixed, are in the usual ornate style of the Alexandrian poets, which is much less congenial to the Greek language than to the Latin. Of the Christian poems ascribed to Claudian we have spoken above."

For the deficiencies of the above article it is scarcely worth while to apologise. If in our estimate of the poet we have been betrayed into any excess of praise, it must be attributed to early predilections. Those, however, who are acquainted with Claudian, will probably agree with us in our opinion, that he deserved to have written in a better age, and on worthier subjects.

As a sequel to the above article, it may not be irrelevant to add a brief notice of several translations, either of detached

To most of the editions is subjoined a spurious poem, intitled “ Laudes Herculis," written in a strain of respectable mediocrity, but unlike Claudian in all respects.

2 Gibbon's character of Claudian is well drawn, (Vol. v. chap. xxx. ad fin.)

3 The Rape of Proserpine, with other Poems, from Claudian; translated into English Verse, by Jacob G. Strutt, 1814, Longman and Co.-The Works of Claudian, translated into English Verse, by A. Hawkins, Esq. F. H. S. in two volumes, 1817, J. Porter. Translations from Claudian. By the Hon. and Rev. Henry Howard, 1823, Murray.-Translations of

poems, or (as in one case) of the whole of Claudian, which have appeared within the last few years, differing in degrees of merit, although none of them can be considered as very adequate representations of the original; a deficiency which must be attributed chiefly to our translations, as among the various capabilities of our flexible language, it is exceedingly well adapted to express that style of florid amplification which is the peculiar character of Claudian. Mr. Strutt's, which is the earliest in time, contains the Rape of Proserpine, the Rufinus, and one or two smaller poems. He has chosen, injudiciously we think, to render the longer poems in blank verse. There is a certain severe dignity in this kind of verse, as it has been written by the best poets, which agrees ill with the pomp and exuberance of Claudian; the heroic couplet, as managed by Pope, is much more fitted for the purpose. The only advantage of blank verse (and it is in itself a considerable one) is the variety of pause it admits, which adapts it to represent the continuous and majeslic sweep of the Roman hexameter. If blank verse is thought a proper medium for a translation of Claudian, we think the model of Akenside is to be preferred (whose verse bears somewhat the same analogy to Milton's, as Claudian's to Virgil's), with some tinge of the luxuriant diction of Thomson. Mr. Strutt's defects are want of vigor and copiousness. We give the description of the vale of Enna, and Ceres' return to the residence of her lost daughter, as not unpleasing speciniens of his version.

obedient Zephyr shook
More heav'nly fragrance from his dewy wings,
And fertilised the earth; where'er he flies
The blushing Spring attends, and on the mold
Scatters fresh flow'rs, and scents the genial air;
He tinges ev'ry rose with softer hues,
And the blue violet paints with od'rous bloom.
What cinctured waist of oriental king
Can boast such gems? what choice Assyrian die
So brightly can distain the virgin fleece,
And emulate these purple flow'rs? less gay

short extracts and occasional poems are to be found in several of the English writers; as the Old Man of Verona by Cowley, the address of Pluto to Proserpine by Eusden (Guardian, No. 164), the palace of Venus by Budgell (we believe) in the Spectator, the Phenix by Tickell, and probably many others unknown to us, scattered among the voluminous works of our English poets.

Possibly, however, our objection may be founded on too narrow an estimate of the powers of blank verse.

The bird of Juno waves his splendid train,
And Iris with inferior colors weaves
Th'etherial woof, when the green fields and woods
Shine through the painted air. Yet not alone
Was Nature's pride display'd, in brilliant hues ;
More beauteous still her fair proportions seem'd,
The level lawns to gentle risings swelld,
And tow'ring hills by soft ascent were form’d;
The crystal fountains gush'd from marble rocks,
And through the dewy herbage winding rills
Play'd with melodious murmurs; lofty woods
Temper'd with grateful shade the noon-tide heat
To icy coolness, ev'ry various tree;
The fir for mariners, the corneil fit
For archers, and the statelier plant of Jove;
The mournful cypress, and the scarlet oak
Enrich'd by bees, and prescient laurels green.
Here roved the box, along the crisped paths;
Low ivies crept around, and flaunting vines
Bound their smooth tendrils to majestic elms.
Along the shady margin of the grove
A tranquil lake extends, whose clear profound
Invites the penetrating eye to trace
The secret wonders of its lucid caves.

Now in the flow'ring fields the virgin train
Gaily disport. Venus persuades to cull
The scented blooms. Come,” she exclaims, “ while now
The morning sky glows with light's earliest ray,
And yonder star, shedding sweet influence,
Heralds th' approach of day's more fiery orb,
Come, sister-nymphs !" She spoke, and reach'd her hand,
And pluck'd her fav'site grief-inwoven fow'r.
Meanwhile, dispersed around, the roving maids
Thrung in each various path, as when a swarm
Of bees, led from their waxen citadel,
Built in some hollow oak, following their queen
O’er beds of thyme, cluster with pleasing hum,
And visit ev'ry flow'r in search of sweets.

They spoil the treasures of the field; some chuse Pale lilies to entwine with violet buds; Some seek the rich Amaracus; some walk With roses crown'd; some deck'd with woodbine wreaths; They spare not thee, sad Hyacinth, nor thee, Pallid Narcissus, pride of all the plain; Once graceful youths: the fatal disk to one Brought timeless fate, and him Apollo mourns With clouded beauty: Love the other doom'd To end his being by a fountain side, Pining for shadowy bliss, and him e'en now Cephisus sad deplores' with broken reed.

[ocr errors]

So homeward late
Th' empassion'd bird from search of food returns,

Anxious, and pond'ring o'er the various ills
That may betide her tender brood; she dreads
Lest storms have torn her humble nest; or man,
With furtive cruelty; or gilded snake.
Now the neglected dwelling meets her eye;
Fled are its guardians, and the careless gates
Wide open; melancholy stilness reigns
Around-silent destruction! At this sight,
In wild amazement, Ceres rends her robes,
And casts her golden chaplet on the ground;
Tears rush into her eyes; no speech her tongue,
No life her cheek, betrays; with falt'ring steps,
And trembling, through the halls and lonely courts
She hastes, and soon perceives the gorgeous woof,
With threads neglected and confused, and marks
The intercepted labor of the loom:
The costly work seem'd perishing, and o'er
Th' unfinish'd vacancy, the spider's art
Had drawn unhallow'd lines. Deep is her woe,
And silent; on the senseless web she prints
Fond kisses, and her mute affliction pours
Upon the moisten'd colors; to her breast
She folds each dear memorial of her child;
Each scatter'd implement of pleasing toil;
And mournfully surveys the spot where late
She sate beside her loom-her couch forlorn,

Her desolated bed. We think he has succeeded best in the shorter pieces, which are rendered in rhyme.'

We cannot say much in praise of Mr. Hawkins's translation; it is flat, negligent, and extremely deficient in dignity; besides being defaced by such rhymes as the following:

And apt Thalia, in the native grot,
From kind Mnemosyne pure precepts got.-Hon. and Mar. 360,
This said, her feet op Ætna's height she set,

For course nocturnal, lighted torch to get.- Pros. iii. 480. The description of Stilicho's battle-array in Ruf. ii. is a favorable specimen of his work, which has the merit of being the only complete translation of Claudian in our language.

As Stilicho approach'd the foe,
His breast with rapt'rous joy began to glow;
A narrow space between the camps appear'd :-
The hero's voice his eager cohorts cheerd:
Th’ Armenians on the left-Gauls held the right;-
The noble coursers' reins with foam were white:

!! Mr. S. in his preface, considers the Rufinus as the model of Milton's miniature epic De Quinto Novembris,

Thick clouds of dust obscured the beams of day;
Rich purple serpents v'er the lañces lay,
And Hoated in the air: the glitt'ring arms
Filld Thessaly with tersible alarms;
Sage Chiron's grot; the young Achilles' stream,
Where first his eyes beheld the solar beam :
Th’Etæan wood a glowing aspect bore,
And snowy Ossa thunder's with the roar;
Through high Olympus spread the boist'rous sound,

Whichi with redoubled echoes rang around. The last, and we think the most successful, of the translators is the Hon. and Rev. Henry Howard, a name early distinguished among poetical translators. His volume contains the Rutinus, the Third Consulate of Honorius, the Nuptial poem, the Gildonic War, and the Consulship of Mallius. His style is graceful and equable, his diction polished, though not sufficiently rich for Claudian; he, has also attained considerable mastery in the construction of the heroic couplet, on the Popian model; and his translation is generally correct. The Third Consulship, and the Fescennina, are the best rendered. We wish, however, that instead of some of the poems which he has inserted in his collection, he had given us the Proserpine.

We do not much like Mr. Howard's María, though countenanced by the original; it is however better than his predecessor's Mary, inasmuch as it has a heathenish sound, and may be taken for the feminine of Marius.

Note.- We have omitted to notice the prefatory addresses to Claudian's poems. They possess little merit, except that of ingenuity and polished expression. Claudian seldom succeeds in elegiac verse; his forte was in hexameters. The absence of egotism in them is very exemplary, from one who could say with truth, “ Omnibus audimur terris, mundique per oras Ibimus. Those prefixed to the Third Consulship of Honorius, and to the first and second books of the Proserpine, are among the best.


Cl. JI.



« AnteriorContinuar »