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DISSERTATION THE TWELFTH.
AN ACCOUNT OF WHAT IS ATTEMPTED IN THE TRANSLATION OF THE
GOSPELS, AND IN THE NOTES HERE OFFERED TO THE PUBLIC.
The things which will be treated in this Dissertation
may, for the sake of order, be classed under the five following heads; the first comprehends all that concerns the essential qualities of the version; the second, what relates to the readings (where there is a diversity of reading in the original) which are here preferred; the third contains a few remarks on the particular dialect of our language employed in this version; the fourth, what regards the outward form in which it is exhibited ; and the fifth, some account of the notes with which it is accompanied.
THE ESSENTIAL QUALITIES OF THE VERSION.
The three principal objects to be attended to, by every translator, were explained in a former Dissertation! It is, perhaps, unnecessary to say, that te
1 Diss. X. Part I.
them I have endeavoured to give a constant attention. It is not, however, to be dissembled, that even those principal objects themselves sometimes interfere. And, though an order, in respect of importance, when they are compared together, has been also laid down, which will, in many cases, determine the preference; it will not always determine it. I may find a word, for example, which hits the sense of the author precisely, but which, not being in familiar use, is obscure. Though, therefore, in itself, a just expression of the sentiment, it may not clearly convey the sentiment to many readers, because they are unacquainted with it. It is, therefore, but ill fitted to represent the plain and familiar manner of the sacred writers, or, indeed, to answer the great end of translation, to convey distinctly, to the reader, the meaning of the original. Yet there may be a hazard, on the other hand, that a term more perspicuous, but less apposite, may convey somewhat of a different meaning, an error more to be avoided than the other. Recourse to circumlocution is sometimes necessary; for the terms of no two languages can be always made to correspond; but frequent recourse to this mode of rendering, effaces the native simplicity found in the original, and, in some measure, disfigures the work. Though, therefore, in general, an obscure, is preferable to an unfaithful, translation, there is a degree of precision, in the correspondence of the terms, which an interpreter ought to dispense with, rather than involve his version in such darkness, as will render it useless to the gene. .
rality of readers. This shows sufficiently, that no rule will universally answer the translator's
purpose; but that he must often carefully balance the degrees of perspicuity on one hand, against those of precision on the other, and determine, from the circum. stances of the case, concerning their comparative importance. I acknowledge that, in several instances, the counterpoise may be so equal, that the most judicious interpreters may be divided in opinion'; nay, the same interpreter may hesitate long in forming a decision, or even account it a matter of indifference to which side he inclines.
§ 2. I SHALL only say, in general, that, how. ever much a word may be adapted to express the sense, it is a strong objection against the use of it, that it is too fine å word, too learned, or too modern. For, though in the import of the term, there should be a suitableness to the principal idea intended to be conveyed, there is an unsuitableness in the associated or secondary ideas, which never fail to accompany such terms.
These tend to fix on the Evangelists the imputation of affecting elegance, depth in literature or science, or, at least, a modish and flowery phraseology, than which nothing can be more repugnant to the genuine character of their style, a style eminently natural, simple, and fami. liar. The sentiment of Jaques le Fevre d'Estaples”,
2 An old French commentator, who published a version of the Gospels into Latin in 1523 ; his words are: “sieurs estiment elegance, est inelegance et parole fardée de. " vant Dieu."
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which shows, at once, his good taste and knowledge of the subject, is here entirely apposite : “What
many think elegance is, in God's account, inelegance, and painted words.”
§ 3. On the other hand, a bad effect is also
pro. duced by words, which are too low and vulgar. The danger here is not, indeed, so great, provided there be nothing ludicrous in the expression, which is sometimes the case with terms of this denomination. When things themselves are of a kind which gives few. occasions of introducing the mention of them into the conversation of the higher ranks, and still fewer of naming them in books, their names are considered as partaking in the meanness of the use, and of the things signified. But this sort of vulgarity seems not to have been regarded by the inspired authors. When there was a just occasion to speak of the thing, they appear never to have been ashamed to employ the name by which it was commonly distinguished. They did not recur, as modern delicacy prompts us to do, to periphrasis, unusual, or figurative expressions, but always adopted such terms as most readily suggested themselves. There is nothing more indelicate, than an unseasonable dis. play of delicacy ; for which reason, the naked simplicity wherewith the sacred penmen express them. selves on particular subjects, has much more modesty in it than the artificial, but transparent, disguises
which, on like occasions, would be employed by modern writers.
A certain correctness of taste, as well as acute. ness of discernment, taught a late ingenious author * to remark this wonderful union of plainness and chas. tity in the language of the Bible, which a composer of these days, in any European tongue, would in vain attempt to imitate. Yet, it is manifest, that it is not to justness of taste, but to purity of mind in the sacred authors, that this happy singularity in their writings ought to be ascribed. This, however, is an evidence that they did not consider it as
3 I can scarely give a better illustration of this remark tharr in the correction proposed by Dr. Delany, of the phrase him that pisseth against the wall, which occurs sometimes in the Old Testament, and which, he thinks, should be changed into him that watereth against the wall. I am surprised that a correction like this should have the approbation of so excellent writer as the bishop of Waterford. (See the preface to his Version of the Minor Prophets.) To me the latter expression is much more exceptionable than the former.
The former may be compared to the simplicity of a savage who goes naked without appearing to know it, or ever thinking of clothes; the other is like the awkward and unsuccessful attempt of an Eu. ropean, to hide the nakedness of which, by the very attempt, he shews himself to be both conscious and ashamed. The same offensive idea is suggested by the word which Delany proposes, as is conveyed by the common term; but it is suggested in so affected a manner, as necessarily fixes a reader's attention upon it, and shows it to have been particularly thought of by the writer. Can any critic seriously think that more is necessary, in this case, than to say, Every male?