In the eighteenth century there came a Scot to London. It is only the dullest of races that ever held, as it yet holds, the fancy that Scotland is not a land of humourists. But nothing, after all, as George Eliot saw, divides mankind so much as a different sense or taste in humour. (1) The Scot who came to London was of course a humourist, but he had not quite the geniality that we associate to-day with his surname.
He conceived the idea of an experiment to see how far Milton's admirers would go in defence of their poet's originality, and he induced Dr. Johnson himself to favour with a preface his Essay on Milton's Use and Imitation of the Moderns in his Paradise Lost (1750). But if the English undervalue Scottish wit, the Scot sometimes undervalues the English clergy. Lauder's Essay was read by Mr. John Douglas, a clergyman in Shropshire--his name surely coming from another county. Mr. Douglas recognized in the Latin originals of Milton's great borrowed passages--along with settings taken from the Moderns of a pre-Miltonic date--lines from another source. Here in an extract from Staphorstius were eight lines not to be found in that poet's text at all, but taken from the work of Gulielmus Hogaeus. Masenius also had acquired a posthumous habit of quoting Gulielmus Hogaeus, precisely where Milton proposed to plagiarize from the Masenian Muse.
Now I am lucky enough to own a copy of Gulielmus Hogaeus, published in 1690; and its title-page describes it fairly accurately: Paraphrasis | Poetica | in tria | Johannis Miltoni, | Viri Clarissimi, | Poemata, | viz. | Paradisum Amissum | Paradisum Recuperatum | et | Samsonem Agonisten, | Autore | Gulielmo Hogaeo. No wonder there were likenesses between Milton and Staphorstius at this rate.
I have to own that I do not often read Hogaeus, though this may be the wrong moment for such a confession. Sometimes a translation (Ut vineta egomet caedam mea) does not so effectually transcend the original as the popular conceptions of Progress and Evolution might warrant us in expecting. However, it is for the reader to judge. Let him turn to the last lines of Milton's book xii. and compare Hogaeus' book x.; for William Hog, a prudent Scot, used the old edition. (I wish that he, or those who re-Scoticize him, had practised less economy on the letter G.)
Tum paucas fundunt lachrymas siccantque vicissim:Milton did it in five lines. "Line for line" was a rule of my youth, and I was brought up on another rule also:
Cernunt ante oculos vasti regna omnia mundi;
Queis, ubicunque libet, sedem sibi figere fas est.
Provida cura Dei dubios in tramite gressus
Dirigit. Hi manibus junctis interque plicatis
Per loca sola simul, per Edenis, amabile regnum
Traduxere vagas, comitanti nemine, plantas.
From Nemo let me never seeand, whatever the reader make of the volume now in his hands, that second rule I have kept from my youth up. If he find Nemine here, I am suffering as Staphorstius did. But vicissim was perhaps a happy addition, even if "natural" is lost from the tears; and one might conjecture Milton could conceivably have used it, or even did, and then remembered Mary Powell and deleted it. She deserved the deletion.
Neminis or Nemine---
Gulielmus Hogaeus was not the only translator of the poem into Latin; another Gulielmus, this time a Dobson and an Oxford man, rendered it just about the date of Lauder (1750-1753); and a Michael Bold in 1736 did the First Book; and, I believe, others translated Milton.
George Buchanan and Arthur Johnston did the Psalms into Latin--both Scots and scholars; and so did Eobanus Hessus, a German, and a friend of Luther and Erasmus. Melanchthon commended Eobanus; his work would serve ad pietatem et ad formanda judicia studiosae juventutis, deinde etiam ad incitandas generosas naturas ad studium poetices; and what higher praise could a translator ask? Erasmus, till Eobanus decided to follow Luther, called him a Christian Ovid. The Italian Marcantonio Flaminio also rendered David, adding nothing, he hoped, that David would disapprove, but only such ornaments as he might compare with the flowers a girl will put in her hair--
Quale decus addunt arte purpureae rosae
Violaque flavis crinibus circumdatae.
Buchanan's Psalms were for two or three centuries a school-book in Scotland; and, according to Mr. Hill Burton, who is credited with some knowledge of the country, "their use as text-books gave a vitality to the teaching of Latin in Scotland it could not easily achieve elsewhere." Here is a stanza--from a not unfamiliar psalm:
Tu mensas epulis accumulas, merumImagine this at school on Friday, and on the Sabbath morning:
Tu plenis pateris sufficis, et caput
Unguento exhilaras: conficit aemulos,
Dum spectant, dolor anxius.
My table Thou has furnishedand on the Sabbath evening, at family prayers, the Genevan or the Authorized Version; and you will admit that Latin was fairly related with life. And which would the boy like best? If it is art you talk about, I think I give my vote for Buchanan, but my heart has Rous written in it, and votes for the only version it can quote.
In presence of my foes;
My head Thou dost with oil anoint;
And my cup overflows;
And did not Juvencus in the fourth century make a harmony of the Gospels in Latin verse, with a mind to lend them something of what he calls Minciadae dulcedo Maronis?
And did not Charles Merivale, Fellow of my own College, Dean of Ely, and historian of Rome, do a book of Keats into Latin?
And did not Charles Lamb, who sighed over Vincent Bourne's preference ("Bless him! Latin wasn't good enough for him!"), himself write Latin letters to honest Bernard Barton and to Cary, translator of Dante, with renderings of English verse--Hic adsum saltans Joannula. Cum nemo, adsit mihi semper resto sola? And if you want the date, the postscript gives it--Perdita in toto est Billa Reformatura.
The bigots of an iron timeI refer, of course, to Mr. Arthur Benson, who has in one at least of his books banned Verse-making--to the Board of Education, that lignum sapientiae, fatal to all that meddle with it, whose mortal taste has brought Natural Science into our schools with loss of Greek till you reach fifteen (which, in the opinion of all, save men of genius who started it earlier, is too late) and with loss of Verses for ever--and to that Cambridge Senate, who, in what is left to us of the Classical Tripos, offer the option of Philology and other stones for bread, χάλκεα χρυσείων. Yes, we are all to be improved; but meanwhile I echo the old thanksgiving, as near as I can remember it--
Have called our harmless art a crime!
I bless the Goodness and the Grace
That on my boyhood smiled,
Caused me to walk in ancient ways,
A mid-Victorian child.
"But," it will be urged, "you are no Juvencus, nor a Buchanan." I admit it, with regret. "And Gulielmus Hogaeus proposed to himself a greater task." He did, indeed; but, as I have indicated, I live, alas! in other days, when graphs (whatever they are) replace Euclid; I live, as Cicero said, in faece Romuli, and I can only attempt what is temporis ejus auribus accommodatum. Do not ask me to be more of an anachronism than I am.
"But why in the wide world drag Stevenson into such an atmosphere? Why give him such an ancient and gradus-like smell?" Here let me again digress a little--it is a habit I love in Herodotus, and my intimates say it has become native with me; I learnt it from him. Sir Graham Balfour's Life of Robert Louis Stevenson is a favourite with me, and on page 184 I read this. I will try to copy it out correctly, just prefacing that the episode happened at Davos apparently in the winter 1880-81.
"A young Church of England parson, who knew him but slightly, was roused one morning about six o'clock by a message that Stevenson wanted to see him immediately. Knowing how ill his friend was, he threw on his clothes and rushed to Stevenson's room, only to see a haggard face gazing from the bed-clothes, and to hear an agonized voice say, 'For God's sake, --, have you got a Horace?'"
Men have wanted worse things under such conditions, and I like the story--and it makes me like Stevenson the better--
Mihi est propositum in legendo mori,
Flaccus sit appositus morientis ori;
Ut dicant cum venerint angelorum chori;
Deus sit propitius vatis amatori.
To return to the Biography--for my digressions are always relevant, an art learnt also from Herodotus--I find on page 98, in a footnote, a Catalogus Librorum Carissimorum, made by R.L.S. about 1871; and the second item on the list is "Horace, his Odes." His kinsman says that he never quite mastered Latin Grammar and to the end made the most elementary mistakes. (Did not Sir Walter Scott, in a rare if almost Ovidian hour, write Ad januam Domini?) But Virgil was, for Stevenson, perhaps "more to him than any other poet, ancient or modern." Who but recalls Herrick in The Ebb-Tide with "a tattered Virgil in his pocket," and Queris ante ora patrum pencilled on the whitewash, and that verse, which had been Stevenson's favourite line of Virgil from boyhood--
Jam medio apparet fluctu nemorosa Zacynthos?(2)As with his Scots, "if he had heard a good word, he 'used it without shame,' so it was with his Latin. Technicalities of law and the vocabulary of Ducange were admitted to equal rights with authors of the Golden Age." He wrote Alcaics in English, and I cannot believe that Tennyson and not Horace was his model--
Brave lads in olden musical centuries.(3)A volume, published a few years ago by Mr. Lloyd Osbourne, contained translations which Stevenson had made from Martial--"a very pretty poet"(4) whom he carried about with him now and then. And where did he borrow the title of his Virginibus Puerisque?
Now I want to propound a thesis of my own. I find a considerable affinity between R.L.S. and Q. Horatius Flaccus, though the latter had as little of the romantic as any poet known to me, and, so far as I have heard, wrote now novels. But when the quotation is made from Burns,
Smith opens out his cauld harangues,which of our two poets does it touch more nearly--Horace Musarum sacerdos and a professed discourser "on practice and on morals," as Satires and Epistles, yes! and Odes declare, or Smith's great-grandson R.L.S. himself? And which of them is more genuinely interested in himself or more delightful in autobiography? If Horace was never a child quite so markedly as Stevenson always was, do you not find the same quality of gaiety in both, the same charm of well-ordered irrelevance--"at least as well as they are able"?
Anyhow, when I find so much characteristic in common of both, when I learn how dear Horace was to Stevenson, when I like them both so much myself--sit pro ratione voluntas! Other people, on the same impulse of affection, have illustrated the book and set the poems to music. And, besides, someone, who has a lifelong claim on me, asked for a few renderings of The Garden for her pupils, who were getting a little tired of "Quintilian Made Easy," I gathered. (Perhaps it was Cicero de Natura Deorum re-told in words of the first declension and the first conjugation.) Variety was sought; an experiment was to be tried. Damsels in distress! and the Classics in peril! The versions were produced--some of them seemed to come of themselves, as Wordsworth says things will; and they appeared to give pleasure. What was more, I rather enjoyed them myself. There was something of an adventure about it, something of a challenge, for Stevenson can be so very Stevensonian. In the end the whole book was done; and here it is. If other schoolmistresses or masters like to try the experiment, here is the material; and if the children prefer "Quintilian Made Easy," let them have him by all means; he is a great author. Perhaps some older people here and there, who have an old acquaintance with R.L.S. and with Horace, may be glad to see them meet.
But, seriously, I hope that in some schools some boys and girls may be tempted by these renderings to think that Latin is not quite so dead a language as they are sometimes told; that they may realize that the expression of gaiety and pure nonsense was neither outside the range of the Latin mind, nor outside its impulses. And, perhaps, who knows? they may try their own hands at Latin verse, and find in it the fascination that I did, long ago, in Bristol Grammar School, where John George Sowerby Muschamp, once of Peterhouse, inspired me with the passion he knew himself and vivified all my work with the enthusiasm of that Latin Verse Composition, with which the reformers would do away. Errare malo cum Muschampio et Buchanano, cum Carolo Agno,(5) etiam cum Gulielmo Hogaeo, cum Decano Eliensi, cum saltante Joannula. Sit anima mea cum Sanctis!
A few words about Stevenson's Garden and this Latin Garden, as it came to be called in the process of transplantation.
First, salva reverentia, when you live so long and so intimately with an author, you learn which are his best places, and which poems are not crew but passengers in his volume. Some bits--I won't give them away--in this collection of Stevenson's haunt the cabin and do not sail the ship. Some are just a little loose-hung; when you have to wrestle with "sand" three times in one version, you notice it--one little syllable in English, three in Latin. And some ideas, I rather think, were worked quite often enough; the idea of the child becoming small--tiny as the insects--is one. Here I may add another trouble--a translator's trouble; nobody else would feel it. Stevenson's fairies were the little people--perhaps even smaller thatn the little people of Scotland. The only such persons known to Latin literature, that I could remember, were the Nymphs, ladies who would not float on ivy leaves, but could meet the shepherds and the fauns on one level. Oenone was more than four inches high. This was a difficulty, and the only way out was just to decide autocratically that for the purposes of these translations the Nymphs should be precisely the size that R.L.S. preferred:
Pictoribus atque poetis
Quidlibet audendi semper fuit aequa potestas.
The liberty taken with the height of the Nymphs has had to be taken elsewhere. Tea is an experience of childhood that recurs in the poems. Once I let the child go without his tea--or at least, I tacitly assumed that his mother would see that he got it; I felt I could trust her. Elsewhere I made up for it by putting in some cakes, which I am sure were there. To render the tea, I was glad to avail myself of a bright touch of a German scholar. Hermann Koechly, in his preface to the most dreadful of Greek epics, reminds his friend of the days when he worked at it in Leipzig, till the failure of the Revolution of 1848 and his own hurried but necessary flight put an end to the happy afternoons in the café over Calda Arabica. It is my own happiest memory of his Massicus humor. The Roman child would seem to have been given less wedding-cake than the Scottish. Once I introduced knickerbockers which were not definitely mentioned in the original. This was in anger. Jessie Wilcox Smith's are the most charming illustrations; but she made the obvious boy--it must be a boy throughout--into a dear little girl doing on a petticoat. Facit indignatio versum
Then again there was the swing. Greek children knew it, and it crept into the Greek literature. But while Virgil shows us the Roman boy busy with his top, nobody is explicit about his have a swing. The Child in the Garden has a whole poem about it, and elsewhere refers to it again, with gates he swung upon and mountains he climbed in the hayloft. Nor did the Roman child travel by train. Happily Stevenson confined himself to looking out of the window, though I suppose machinae vaporales might have served at a pinch. If lead soldiers were part of the population of a Roman nursery, I believe they have proved nimble enough to outmarch the Archaeologists.
Dogs and cats come only once each in the Garden, though Thomas Stevenson loved dogs and dogs loved him, and though "Woggs" fills the poet's letters for some years. There are not pets in the book--not a rabbit nor a canary. Even at the farm there is little or no allusion to pigs, which I confess used to attract me, or to horses or poultry; not a bubbly-jock; only cows. The contrast with Marjorie Fleming is very great. To compensate, and without any consideration for those who would hereafter do him into Latin verse, Stevenson went consorting with ladybirds--or wanted to--with bumble-bees and other thoughtful little creatures not often found in the company of Latin poets. And, when it came to Gardener's garters and Bachelor's buttons, the translator had to abandon the cheerful directness of Greek and Scottish bards for that allusiveness which the Roman affected with such a marked change of note.
However, my task is done, and everybody may soon have my renderings in their hands--I sincerely hope everybody will. I have not the courage to say with John Wesley: "I desire they would not attempt to mend them; for really they are not able. None of them is able to mend either the sense or the verse." No, I cannot quite say that. I will put it this way. Any of my readers, who will guarantee my publisher a new edition, shall have his emendations adopted wherever they are improvements. And if they find a fraction of the pleasure in reading or mending my verses that I had in rendering Stevenson's, I shall be glad. So, as John Bunyan said of his book--it is well to be strongly fortified with precedents in such ventures: "He that liketh it let him receive it; and he that does not, let him produce a better. Farewell."
2 So says Sir Sidney Colvin in his Memories and Notes, p. 138, prefixing that it was "for some unaccountable reason," and adding that "he goes out of his way to make occasion" for Attwater to quote half of it and Herrick to complete it. Perhaps it would be fanciful to call it a kind of unconscious sors Vergiliana for his own life, a prophecy of Samoa. (Back)
De Ludis et Hortis has not been in print since 1923; it is somewhat uncommon (only one of the Seattle-area libraries has a copy); and there is no notice of it on the World Wide Web (excepting a few instances where it shows up in library catalogs). We first came across it abandoned in a recycling bin, about to be pulped. The copy we rescued (first American ed., 1923), as indicated by a library stamp on the front flyleaf, once belonged to the great Episcopalian churchman Stephen Fielding Bayne, Jr. (sometime Bishop of Olympia, though later of some national and international importance).
This website we have undertaken only as an act of homage to the wit and wisdom of T.R. Glover and R.L. Stevenson. We believe that the work is now in the public domain; however, the arcana of international copyright law being what it is, if you feel we have infringed on a copyright please contact us--contact information is available at About Seven Roads.