« AnteriorContinuar »
STRICTURES ON CASTALIO.
Having shown, that it is impossible to do justice to an author, or to his subject, by attempting to track him, and always to be found in his footsteps, I shall now animadvert a little on those translators who are in the opposite extreme; whose manner is so loose, rambling, and desultory, that, though they movenearly in the same direction with their author, pointing to the same object, they keep scarcely within sight of his path. Of the former excess, Arias Montanus is a perfect model : the Vulgate is often too much so. Of the latter, the most remarkable example we have in Latin, is Castalio. Yet Castalio's work is no paraphrase, such as we have sometimes seen under the name of liberal translations : for in these, there are always interwoven with the thoughts of the author, those of his intepreter, under the notion of their importance, either for illustrating, or for enforcing, the sentiments of the original. The paraphrast does not confine himself to the humble task of the translator, who proposes to exhibit, pure and unmixed, the sentiments of another, clothed, indeed, in a different dress, namely, such as the country, into which he introduces them,
can supply him with. The paraphrast, on the contrary, claims to share with the author in the merit of the work, not in respect of the language merely, for to this every interpreter has a claim, but in respect of what is much more important, the sense : nay, further, if the sentiments of these two happen to jar, no uncommon case, it is easy to conjecture whose will predominate in the paraphrase. But it is not with paraphrasts that I have here to do. A loose manner of translating is sometimes adopted, not for the sake of insinuating, artfully, the translator's opinions, by blending them with the sentiments of the author, but merely for the sake of expressing with elegance, and in an oratorical manner, the sense of the original.
$ 2. This was acknowledged to be in a high degree Castalio's object in translating. He had observed, with grief, that great numbers were withheld from reading the Scriptures, that is, the Vulgate, the only version of any account then extant, by the rudeness, as well as the obscurity, of the style. To give the public a Bible more elegantly and perspicuously written, he considered as at least an innocent, if not a laudable, artifice for inducing students, especially those of the younger sort, to read the Scriptures with attention, and to throw aside books full of indecencies, then much in vogue, because recommended by the beauty and ornaments of language.
Cupiebam,” says he “,
41 Cast. Defens. Translat. &c. VOL. II,
“ Latiniorem aliquam, necnon fideliorem, et magis “perspicuam sacrarum literarum translationem, ex
qua posset eadem opera pietas cum Latino sermo
ne disci, ut hac ratione et tempori consuleretur, et “ homines ad legenda sacra pellicerentur.” The motive was surely commendable ; and the reason whereon it was founded, a general disuse of the Scriptures, on account of the badness of their language, is but too notorious.
Cardinal Bembo, a man of some note and literature under the pontificate of Leo X. in whose time the Reformation commenced, is said to have expressed himself strongly on this subject, that he durst not read the Bible, for fear of corrupting his style ; an expression which had a very unfavourable aspect, especially in a churchman. Nevertheless, when we consider that, by the Bible he meant the Vulgate, and by his style, his Latinity; this declaration, judged with candour, will not be found to merit all the censure which Brown and others, have bestowed upon it. For, surely no one who understands Latin, will say, that he wishes to form his style in that language on the Vulgate. Nor does any reflection on the language of that translation affect, in the smallest degree, the sacred writers. The character of Moses's style, in particular, is simplicity, seriousness, perspicuity, and purity. The first and second of these qualities are, in general, well exhibited in the Vulgate ; the third is sometimes violated, and the fourth often,
42 Essays on the Characteristics.
s 3. But, to return to Castalio : he was not entirely disappointed in his principal aim. Many Romanists, as well as Protestants, who could not endure the foreign idioms and obscurity of the Vulgate, attracted by the fluency, the perspicuity, and partly, no doubt, by the novelty of Castalio's diction, as employed for conveying the mind of the Spirit, were delighted with the performance; whilst the same quality of novelty, along with what looked like affectation in the change, exceedingly disgusted others. One thing is very evident, in regard to this translator, that when his work first made its appearance, nobody seemed to judge of it with coolness and moderation, Almost every person either admired, or abhorred, it. At this distant period, there is a greater probability of judging equitably, than there was when it was first published, and men's passions, from the circumstances of the times, were, on every new topic of discussion, wherein religion was concerned, so liable to be inflamed.
§ 4. If we examine this work by the three great ends of translating, above observed, we shall be qualified to form some judgment of his merit in this department. As to the first and principal end, con
ying the true sense of his author, I think he has succeeded, at least, as well as most other translators into Latin, and better than some of those who, with much virulence, traduced his character, and decried his work. He had, indeed, one great advantage, in being an excellent linguist, and knowing more of
the three languages, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, than most of the critics of his time. But that his immoderate passion for classical elocution, did some. times lead him to adopt expressions which were feeble, obscure, and improper, is very certain. And it must be owned, notwithstanding his plausible defence, that Beza had reason to affirm, that the words οτι επεσκέψατο και εποιησε λυτρωσιν τω λαώ αυτα, are but ambiguously and frigidly rendered, qui populi sui liberationem procuret. The difference is immense, between the notions of Pagans, concerning the agency of their gods in human affairs and the ideas which Scripture gives us, of the divine efficiency; and, therefore, even Cicero, in a case of this kind, is no authority. The following instance, cited by Houbigant, is an example of obscurity arising from the same cause 44: Tu isti populo terræ hæreditatem hercisceris 45. Hercisco is merely a juridical term which, though it might have been proper, in a treatise on the civil law, or in pleading in a court of judicature, no Roman author, of any name, would have used, in a work intended for the people. But, to no sort of style are technical terms more unsuitable than to that of holy writ. It was the more inexcusable, in this place, where the simple and natural expression was so obvious. Tu terram-dabis isti populo possidendam. Whereas, the phrase which Castalio has adopted, would have probably been unintelligible to the much greater part of the
43 Luke, i. 68.
45 Josh, i. 6.