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CRITICISM ON MR. PALEY'S PROPERTIUS. By ARTHUR
PALMER, A. M., Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin.
The first edition of Mr. Paley's Propertius, published in 1853, can hardly be said to have been a valuable work, although it was in this respect valuable, that it was an attempt at a critical edition of an author who had been treated with unmerited neglect in England. As a popular compendium of the results of previous criticism, the edition deserved some praise. The works of German scholars, from the judicious edition of Barth (1777), to the elaborate volumes of Hertzberg (1844), had been compared, and the results placed before the reader in the notes. The readings of the manuscripts were, as a rule, noted in corrupt places; no very difficult passage was passed over without an explanation being attempted. But this is all that can be said in favour of the first edition. As an independent work it must be considered a total failure. Very little original interpretation, and that generally erroneous, still less original criticism was attempted. When Mr. Paley had told the reader what Kuinoel, Barth, Lachmann, Jacob, and Hertzberg had written, he seemed to think he had done his duty. The notes assumed the character of a history of the opinions of previous commentators, and were overloaded with contending interpretations, among which the true one was often conspicuous by its absence. Accordingly, the edition, though a useful hand-book for a future editor, was extremely disappointing to the student, by whom the obscurity of the commentary was often found to be as great as that of the text.
The second edition, however, has at last made its appearance, nineteen years after the first. During this long interval “it may be supposed that I have been enabled to make many important improvements,” says Mr. Paley. Room for improvement, we grant, was not absolutely excluded : and we do observe with pleasure a certain improvement actually attained. Take, for instance, III. xvii. 35:
At si saecla forent antiquis grata puellis. On this not very difficult line, in the first edition, there is a long note after the manner of that edition. In it we are told that Kuinoel's view of the passage is startling (which it is), that Lachmann gives up the verse altogether, that Jacob suggests an explanation, which is not given, but which it is impossible to recommend to the reader;' and that Hertzberg alone gives a plausible explanation, and “acutely observes' something which is not now apparently thought acute by Mr. Paley, for it has disappeared from the notes, and then a wrong explanation is offered. In the new edition the note is shortened by one-half, the true explanation is given, and the reference to previous commentators reduced to a minimum. The line, by the way, hardly wants a note at all, if a comma be placed after forent, to show it is the predicate : 'If the times (or fashions) now were, which girls of old liked well.'
But though the present edition is a great improvement on its predecessor, it is far from being perfect. Much more might have been done in the long interval since the first edition. The recension is by no means thorough; although some positive errors of interpretation have been corrected, there are still many remaining, and some new ones have been introduced; so that, on the whole, the edition can hardly yet be considered perfect, or even satisfactory.
Mr. Paley, indeed, is himself sensible of his shortcomings, and apologises for them on the ground that the work of editing is so hard.' This statement will surprise most people as coming from Mr. Paley. He is by far the most voluminous of classical writers in England, and it is like Gracchus complaining of sedition, for Mr. Paley to complain of the labour of editing. If editing was not originally a labour of love, it ought to have become easy by practice to the editor of Aeschylus, Euripides, Hesiod, Homer, Theocritus, Propertius, and Martial—the editions of which authors by Mr. Paley are the regular text-books of classical students throughout the three kingdoms. Indeed, Mr. Paley has done so much for classical studies that it is a pity that the highest praise cannot be awarded to all his works. But I protest against his apologising for deficiencies on the ground of difficulty. The task which Mr. Paley essayed was a difficult one, no doubt; but it was self-imposed; and if it would be absurd for a practising barrister to accept a brief and refuse to read it on the ground that 'reading briefs was so hard,' it is not less so for an editor to defend deficiencies in his work by pleading the difficulty of editing. I willingly admit, however, that the labour spent by Mr. Paley on Propertius has been both considerable and fruitful. It is no disparagement to what he has done to say he might have done more.
One of the most striking features in Mr. Paley's notes is indecision, or unwillingness to decide between contending interpretations or readings. Of course passages will occur where arguments on both sides so nearly balance each other as to puzzle an editor, but this ought to occur very seldom. With Mr. Paley this hesitation occurs very often. Now it is evident that, as there can be but one true interpretation of a passage, he approaches most nearly to the idea of an editor who produces the most plausible arguments in favour of one interpretation, while mentioning and refuting others. But there is too often a iudicent peritiores' to be understood after Mr. Paley's notes. One instance, among a multitude, is his note on I. vi. 34 :
Ibis et accepti pars eris imperii.
Mr. Paley tells us Hertzberg's explanation is satisfactory :
'pars eris imperii grati tibi, utpote viro bellicoso : unus imperantium eris.'
If an explanation be satisfactory, no other can be wanted. But Mr. Paley proceeds : accepti might, perhaps, be explained, accepti a te, i. e. tibi commissi,' and he quotes in support of his interpretation, V. xi. 34, which passage, by the way, he appears to misunderstand. In my opinion, Hertzberg's translation should have been refuted, or, at least, not praised, when another, inconsistent with it, was put forward. As to the interpretations themselves, I think they are both wrong, and that accepti means “accepti a sociis, you will form one unit in the governing staff received (or welcomed) by our allies.' So Juvenal, ' Exspectata diu tandem provincia quum te Rectorem accipiet, Sat. viii. 87. In the magnificent passage which there follows, the satirist was only developing two lines of this very elegy, 19, 20:
Tu patrui meritis conare anteire secures,
Et vetera oblitis iura refer sociis. Mr. Paley's explanation is inconsistent with pars ; at least, he should have explained how a man can be said to form a part of an office received by himself. The same objection applies to Hertzberg's interpretation. This indecision is an old fault of Mr. Paley's; many, I am aware, may not consider it a fault. I had lately occasion to consult his Aeschylus as to a disputed reading in Supp. 247. His oracular sentence was: 'although Canter's suggestion Islaoyòs is highly probable, yet we should take care lest in rejecting lledao yoû we may be altering the very words of Aeschylus.'
There is a notable lack of illustration from Latin authors in the notes. This is a grievous fault.
It may arise from the fact that parallel passages are so fresh in Mr. Paley's memory, that he thinks they are equally familiar to the reader, and that therefore it would be superfluous to remind him of them. But this is far from being the case: it is difficult to err on the side of excess in illustration. The old editors of the school of Ruhnken hoc stabant hoc sunt imitandi.' Mr. Paley seems not to value this portion of an editor's work, for he often tells the reader the commentators refer to such and such a passage, without quoting it. Thus, on I. xix. 5:
Non adeo leviter nostris puer haesit ocellis, he says: 'The metaphor, according to Hertzberg,who quotes from the Greek Anthology to prove it, is taken from aucupium or birdlime. This is, perhaps, correct, and the image is worth attention. The lover goes about with his eyes smeared to catch Cupid as he flies, and so is unable to shake him off again.' If this curious conceit is intended, the passages from the Anthology that establish it ought not to have been withheld.
On the other hand, there is much matter in the notes that might be left out. It is hard to see what is the object of so frequently expressing a simple Greek myth in the original words of Apollodorus, unless it is to give a learned look to the note. I
refer to the notes on I. 15, 17,; I. 20, 20, for illustrations of this absurd practice.
Sometimes, I admit, the Greek version may be used with advantage, as in the note on III. 18, 47, where the myth is less known than usual, or where terseness, or the veil of a learned language, is desired. But can anything be more ridiculous than this: “Helle was the daughter of Athamas. Apollodor., i. 9. Ι, των δε Αιόλου παίδων Αθάμας δυναστεύων Βοιωτίας εκ Νεφέλης τεκνοι μεν παίδα Φρίξον θυγατέρα δε "Ελλην.”
We could also spare the scraps of philology which we meet with occasionally, chiefly from Donaldson's Varronianus; and I doubt if any reader will have his knowledge of Roman antiquities much increased by the information that the “ flabellum was used as it is now in hot countries for making a cool breeze;" or this, “that the government of a Roman province was a most lucrative one, is certain