G H I J K L M 

Total read books on site:
more than 10 000

You can read its for free!

Text on one page: Few Medium Many



Caius Valerius Catullus

Now first completely Englished into Verse
and Prose, the Metrical Part by Capt.
Sir Richard F. Burton, R.C.M.G.,
F.R.G.S., etc., etc., etc., and the
Prose Portion, Introduction,
and Notes Explanatory
and Illustrative by
Leonard C.




* * * * *


By every right I ought to choose you to edit and bring out Sir Richard
Burton's translation of Catullus, because you collaborated with him on this
work by a correspondence of many months before he died. If I have hesitated
so long as to its production, it was because his notes, which are mostly
like pencilled cobwebs, strewn all over his Latin edition, were headed,
remark was, that in all his writings, his first copy, his first thought,
was always the best and the most powerful. Like many a painter who will go
on improving and touching up his picture till he has destroyed the
likeness, and the startling realistic nature of his subject, so would Sir
Richard go on weakening his first copy by improvements, and then appeal to
me to say which was the best. I was almost invariably obliged, in
conscience, to induce him to stick to the first thought, which had grasped
the whole meaning like a flash. These notes were made in a most curious
way. He used to bring his Latin Catullus down to _table d'hôte_ with him,
and he used to come and sit by me, but the moment he got a person on the
other side, who did not interest him, he used to whisper to me, "Talk, that
I may do my Catullus," and between the courses he wrote what I now give
you. The public school-boy is taught that the Atys was unique in subject
and metre, that it was the greatest and most remarkable poem in Latin
literature, famous for the fiery vehemence of the Greek dithyramb, that it
was the only specimen in Latin of the Galliambic measure, so called,
because sung by the Gallæ--and I suspect that the school-boy now learns
that there are half a dozen others, which you can doubtless name. To _my_
mind the gems of the whole translation are the Epithalamium or Epos of the
marriage of Vinia and Manlius, and the Parcae in that of Peleus and Thetis.
Sir Richard laid great stress on the following in his notes, headed
"Compare with Catullus, the sweet and tender little Villanelle, by Mr.
Edmund Gosse," for the Viol and Flute--the XIX cent. with the I^{st.}

"Little mistress mine, good-bye!
I have been your sparrow true;
Dig my grave, for I must die.

Waste no tear, and heave no sigh;
Life should still be blithe for you,
Little mistress mine, good-bye!

In your garden let me lie
Underneath the pointed yew,
Dig my grave, for I must die.

We have loved the quiet sky
With its tender arch of blue;
Little mistress mine, good-bye!

That I still may feel you nigh,
In your virgin bosom, too,
Dig my grave, for I must die.

Let our garden friends that fly
Be the mourners, fit and few.
Little mistress mine, good-bye!
Dig my grave, for I must die."

Sir Richard seriously began his Catullus on Feb. 18th, 1890, at Hamman
R'irha, in North Africa. He had finished the first rough copy on March
31st, 1890, at Trieste. He made a second copy beginning May 23rd, 1890, at
Trieste, which was finished July 21st, 1890, at Zurich. He then writes a
margin. "Work incomplete, but as soon as I receive Mr. Smithers' prose, I
will fill in the words I now leave in stars, in order that we may not use
the same expressions, and I will then make a third, fair, and complete
copy." But, alas! then he was surprised by Death.

I am afraid that Sir Richard's readers may be disappointed to find that,
unlike Mr. Grant Allen, there is no excursus on the origin of Tree-worship,
and therefore that, perhaps, through ignorance, I have omitted something.
Sir Richard did write in the sixties and seventies on Tree-alphabets, the
Ogham Runes and El Mushajjar, the Arabic Tree-alphabet,--and had theories
and opinions as to its origin; but he did not, I know, connect them in any
way, however remote, with Catullus. I therefore venture to think you will
quite agree with me, that they have no business here, but should appear in
connection with my future work, "Labours and Wisdom of Sir Richard Burton."

All these three and a half years, I have hesitated what to do, but after
seeing other men's translations, his _incomplete_ work is, in my humble
estimation, too good to be consigned to oblivion, so that I will no longer
defer to send you a type-written copy, and to ask you to bring it through
the press, supplying the Latin text, and adding thereto your own prose,
which we never saw.

Yours truly,


_July 11th, 1894._

* * * * *


A scholar lively, remembered to me, that _Catullus_ translated word for
word, is an anachronism, and that a literal English rendering in the
nineteenth century could be true to the poet's letter, but false to his
spirit. I was compelled to admit that something of this is true; but it is
not the whole truth. "Consulting modern taste" means really a mere
imitation, a re-cast of the ancient past in modern material. It is
presenting the toga'd citizen, rough, haughty, and careless of any
approbation not his own, in the costume of to-day,--boiled shirt,
dove-tailed coat, black-cloth clothes, white pocket-handkerchief, and
diamond ring. Moreover, of these transmogrifications we have already enough
and to spare. But we have not, as far as I know, any version of Catullus
which can transport the English reader from the teachings of our century to
that preceding the Christian Era. As discovery is mostly my mania, I have
hit upon a bastard-urging to indulge it, by a presenting to the public of
certain classics in the nude Roman poetry, like the Arab, and of the same


_Trieste, 1890._

[The Foreword just given is an unfinished pencilling on the margin of
Sir Richard's Latin text of Catullus. I reproduce below, a portion of
his Foreword to a previous translation from the Latin on which we
collaborated and which was issued in the summer of 1890.--L. C. S.]

A 'cute French publisher lately remarked to me that, as a rule, versions in
verse are as enjoyable to the writer as they are unenjoyed by the reader,
who vehemently doubts their truth and trustworthiness. These pages hold in
view one object sole and simple, namely, to prove that a translation,
metrical and literal, may be true and may be trustworthy.

As I told the public (Camoens: Life and Lusiads ii. 185-198), it has ever
been my ambition to reverse the late Mr. Matthew Arnold's peremptory
dictum:--"In a verse translation no original work is any longer
recognisable." And here I may be allowed to borrow from my Supplemental
Arabian Nights (Vol. vi., Appendix pp. 411-412, a book known to few and
never to be reprinted) my vision of the ideal translation which should not
be relegated to the Limbus of Intentions.

"My estimate of a translator's office has never been of the low level
generally assigned to it even in the days when Englishmen were in the habit
of translating every work, interesting or important, published out of
England, and of thus giving a continental and cosmopolitan flavour to their
literature. We cannot at this period expect much from a 'man of letters'
who must produce a monthly volume for a pittance of £20: of him we need not
speak. But the translator at his best, works, when reproducing the matter
and the manner of his original, upon two distinct lines. His prime and
primary object is to please his reader, edifying him and gratifying his
taste; the second is to produce an honest and faithful copy, adding naught
to the sense or abating aught of its especial _cachet_. He has, however, or
should have, another aim wherein is displayed the acme of hermeneutic art.
Every language can profitably lend something to and take somewhat from its
neighbours--an epithet, a metaphor, a naïf idiom, a turn of phrase. And the
translator of original mind who notes the innumerable shades of tone,
manner and complexion will not neglect the frequent opportunities of
enriching his mother-tongue with novel and alien ornaments which shall
justly be accounted barbarisms until formally naturalized and adopted. Nor
will any modern versionist relegate to a foot-note, as is the malpractice
of his banal brotherhood, the striking and often startling phases of the
foreign author's phraseology and dull the text with well-worn and
commonplace English equivalents, thus doing the clean reverse of what he
should do. It was this _beau idéal_ of a translator's success which made
Eustache Deschamps write of his contemporary and brother bard,

_Grand Translateur, noble Geoffroy Chaucier._


'The firste finder of our fair langage'

is styled 'a Socrates in philosophy, a Seneca in morals, an Angel in
conduct and a great Translator,'--a seeming anti-climax which has
scandalized not a little sundry inditers of 'Lives' and 'Memoirs.' The
title is no bathos: it is given simply because Chaucer _translated_ (using
the term in its best and highest sense) into his pure, simple and strong
English tongue with all its linguistic peculiarities, the thoughts and
fancies of his foreign models, the very letter and spirit of Petrarch and

For the humble literary status of translation in modern England and for the
short-comings of the average English translator, public taste or rather
caprice is mainly to be blamed. The "general reader," the man not in the
street but the man who makes up the educated mass, greatly relishes a
novelty in the way of "plot" or story or catastrophe while he has a natural
dislike to novelties of style and diction, demanding a certain dilution of
the unfamiliar with the familiar. Hence our translations in verse,
especially when rhymed, become for the most part deflorations or excerpts,
adaptations or periphrases more or less meritorious and the "translator"
was justly enough dubbed "traitor" by critics of the severer sort.

Pages: | 1 | | 2 | | 3 | | 4 | | 5 | | 6 | | 7 | | 8 | | 9 | | 10 | | 11 | | 12 | | 13 | | 14 | | 15 | | 16 | | 17 | | 18 | | 19 | | 20 | | 21 | | 22 | | 23 | | 24 | | 25 | | 26 | | 27 | | 28 | | 29 | | 30 | | 31 | | 32 | | 33 | | 34 | | 35 | | 36 | | 37 | | 38 | | 39 | | 40 | | 41 | | Next |

U V W X Y Z 

Your last read book:

You dont read books at this site.