Wednesday, January 18, 2023


The Despair of Translators

Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, "Brief Mention," American Journal of Philology 21.1 (1900) 107-112 (at 108):
It is nearly thirty years since I undertook to show, at unnecessary length, Lord Lytton's eminent unfitness for the task. 'Horace,' I said in the New Eclectic Magazine, April, 1870, 'is the despair of translators. His Muse, like his own Lyde, has her hair gathered into a tidy knot after the Laconic fashion. His English copies are either bald or buried under a horse-hair wig'—and Lord Lytton's copy seemed to me exceptionally bad. 'The tightly twisted toils, through which only a Marsian boar could burst, are ravelled out into a thin gauze which irritates without detaining.' The verse is 'rugged and inharmonious,' 'an Indian jungle of cretics, antispasts, molossi and proceleusmatics.' 'The rendering is needlessly verbose and abounds in Bulwerian capitals.' Adjectives are multiplied in defiance of Horace's well-known parsimony. The false picturesque is coupled with the tamest commonplace, and so on through the whole register of leaden coins which the critic of that day nailed remorselessly to the counter.
See B.L. Gildersleeve, "Lord Lytton's Horace," New Eclectic Magazine 6.4 (April, 1870) 471-481.

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