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Translation in the 1790's: a Means of Creating a Like Existence and/or Restoring the Original

  • Ruriko Suzuki

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  • Ruriko Suzuki
    Tohoku Gakuin University

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Translation was one of the main issues of Romanticism, not only because the art of translation served to extend the horizon of literature but also because it involved several points of central polemics on the conjunction of language and imagination. The issue surrounding translation is deeply related to the principles of translation in the 1790's which allow a great amount of freedom in poetical translation especially. Unlike the rigour of classical aesthetic of the eighteenth century, when translation of Classics was the only matter of importance, the general tendency of the 1790's was toward innovation and novelty, and consequently, the demand for translations of contemporary European literature, especially of German literature became very keen. With a flood of translation of German literature into England, starting from Schiller's The Robbers (1792), Romantic ambiguity, gaudiness, and extravagance prevailed in English literature. [1]

Plagiarism as unacknowledged copying derives its sources in a freedom of cultural transmission which translation made easy and accessible, and ultimately it culminates in a simple questioning of validity of translation. The issue of plagiarism, therefore, cannot be severed from the contemporary polemics on the ideas of language as well as on the nature of imagination. Forgery, on the other hand, as is evident in the case of James Macpherson, contains the blending of genuine material with the translator's own creations, so that it often contradicted and usually undermined the integrity of the creative imagination. The revolutionary movement to renovate poetic diction and style, and to examine "preestablished codes of decision" [2] that both Wordsworth and Coleridge had experimented with in Lyrical Ballads was not unrelated to this cultural environment of the 1790's which had encouraged the greatest liberty of translation in the process of cultural transmission.

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In order to discuss the definition of translation in the 1790's, we had better start with Essay on the Principles of Translation (1791) by Alexander Fraser Tytler, Lord Woodhouselee. Tytler was one of the influential personages at the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His Essay was first published in anonymity, but in 1797 the second edition appeared, and the third edition came out in 1813 with additions and alterations. In the meantime he published his own translation of Schiller's The Robbers in 1792.(G. G. J. & J. Robinsons: London, 1792). The Essay on the Principles of Translation is "an admirably typical dissertation on the classic art of poetic translation, and of literary style, as the eighteenth century understood it."("Introduction", p.viii) In Chapter I, Tytler begins his discussion by referring to two opposite extremes in translation. At one one extreme, "the duty of a translator " is "to attend only to the sense and spirit of his original, to make himself perfectly master of his author's ideas, and to communicate them in those expressions which he judges to be best suited to convey them." [3] It should be noted that this idea of free translation had already been proposed by John Dryden in his "Dedication of the Aeneis"(1697), and Pope's translation of The Illiad could be counted as a good example. The other extreme is "that, in order to constitute a perfect translation, it is not only requisite that the ideas and sentiments, of the original author should be conveyed, but likewise his style and manner of writing, which, it is supposed, cannot be done without a strict attention to the arrangement of his sentences, and even to their order and construction."(Tytler, p.8) It would be appropriate to recall here that with such rigour, Malcom Laing censured the work of Macpherson in 1805. (The Poems of Ossian, & containing the Poetical Works of James Macpherson, Esquire, in Prose and Rhyme, with Notes and Illustrations. By Malcom Laing, esq., Longman, 1805). It was from the camp of Gaelic scholars who were faithful to this line that Macpherson received a heavy blow. Tytler's definition of good translation is a very moderate one:

That, in which the merit of the original work is so completely transfused with into another language, as to be as distinctly apprehended, and as strongly felt, by a native of the country to which that language belongs, as it is by those who speak the language of the original work.

Tytler, p.9

He deduced three laws from the above definition:

  1. That the Translation should give a complete transcript of the ideas of the original work.

  2. That the style and manner of writing should be of the same character with that of the original.

  3. That the Translation should have all the ease of original composition. (Tytler, p. 9)

The eighteenth century critics as a whole would not admit the value of literary translation, because it is mainly based on the tacit understanding of imitation theory, the understanding that the language is capable of making the tightly knit correspondence between the word and object relevant. It is rather surprising to know that at the end of 17th century, in 1697, Dryden had already proposed the idea of free translation and that he actually practised it in his version of Aeneis. In the long preface to this work, he declares that a free translation is a kind of means to destroy the Aristotelian mimesis. He begins his argument by refuting the necessity of three unities:

Tragedy is the miniature of human life; an epic poem is the draught at length. Here, my Lord, I must contract also; for, before I was aware, I was almost running into a long digression, to prove that there is no such absolute necessity that the time of a stage action should so strictly be confined to twenty-four hours as never to exceed them, for which Aristotle contends, and the Grecian stage has practised. [4]

Having discussed on the genealogy of great poets, Dryden touches on a clear definition of plagiarism; it is to tell the same story under other names, with the same sequel. His point is that translation is not "a servile copying", while plagiarism is definitely such:

by reading Homer, Virgil was taught to imitate his invention; that is, to imitate like him; which is no more than if a painter studies Raphael, that he might imitate Virgil, if I were capable of writing on heroic poem, and yet the invention be my own: but I should endeavour to avoid a servile copying. I would not give the same story under other names, with the same sequel; for every common reader to find me out at the first sight for a plagiary, and cry: 'This I read before in Virgil, in a better language, and in better verse: this is like Merry Andrew on the low rope, copying lubberly the same tricks which his master is so dexterously performing on the high. [5]

According to Dryden, in a faithful, almost slavish copying which is equivalent to a plagiarism, no original invention by the translator could be perceived. What matters is an original intervention, not a faithful copying. Translation or transmission of an idea—-either of truth or on beauty—-could be achieved only when the subjective, original intervention of the translator himself existed. In our own terms, therefore, "a servile copying" is approximately a translating machine. On the basis of his perspicuous recognition that there could be no exact translation between two different languages, Dryden insists, "therefore I will boldly own, that this English translation has more of Virgil's spirit in it than either the French or the Italian."[6]. Since no true picture of the original work could be attainable due to the essential difference of the languages, the best way is "not to translate a poet literally." [7] The criterion of sincerity of translation should be set between "the two extremes of paraphrase and literal translation"[8], but at least, Dryden asserts, the relevance of translation should be measured by how much of the "spirit of the author" and the "beauty of his words" are transmitted into the translated work. As a model of his verse translation in English, therefore, Dryden had in mind the names of Spenser and Milton, great English poets who possess a great "spirit" similar to Virgil:

the words are, in Poetry, what the colours are in Painting: if the design be good, and the draught be true, the colouring is the first beauty that strikes the eye. Spenser and Milton are the nearest, in English, to Virgil and Horace in the Latin; and I have endeavoured to form my style by imitating their masters. [9]

But in practice, Dryden refused to use their historical, rather archaic, language. Poetry should be written in spoken language that contemporary intellectuals might use:

taking all the materials of this divine author, I have endeavoured to make Virgil speak such English as he would himself have spoken if he had been born in England, and in this present age. [10]

It is a remarkable statement indeed. Although all poetic revolutions move poetic language closer to common speech, Dryden as a reformer consciously manipulated the diction of his translation so as to assimilate it to the spoken language of gentry class or the intellectuals of his age. Although Dryden was not aware of it, his notion of language had already foretold not only the assertion made by Wordsworth and Coleridge a century later but also our contemporary view on language that the meaning is mainly determined in a circuit of discourse. It is the listeners or the readers who predetermine the kind of discourse an author should choose. His anti-diachronical position toward the idea of language is nearer to Coleridge's than to Wordsworth's.

In 1715, Alexander Pope declared to translate the Iliad into English. After spending 5 years, he finished the work and then in 1726 his translation of Odyssey was published. Compared to the rival translation made by Thomas Tickell, a Classical Scholar, The First Book of Homer's Iliad (1715), it lacks accuracy, for it is full of the translator's imagination intervened at its utmost. According to Samuel Johnson, it is "the noblest version of poetry which the world has ever seen", and the stern academic, Thomas Bentley might have said :"it is a pretty poem, Mr. Pope...You must not call it Homer." [11] Although he rebelled against the literary taste established by Pope and his followers, Coleridge admitted the value of Pope's translation of Iliad saying "that astonishing product of matchless talent and ingenuity." [12] Curiously enough, Coleridge's principle of translation was fidelity to attention to the original, when he translated a part of Schiller's Wallenstein:

In the translation I endeavoured to render my Author literally wherever I was not prevented by absolute differences of idiom; but I am conscious, that in two or three short passages I have been guilty of dilating the original; and, from anxiety to give the full meaning, have weakened the force. [13]

Tytler himself naturally defended Pope, saying his "liberty of translation was perfectly allowable" (Tytler, p.32), although Pope had used metaphorical expressions rarely used by Homer.

Since the contribution of Dryden and Pope, the range of liberty of translation has been widened, but at the same time the translator has been under a continual demand of all the talents requisite for his work, that is, having no less imagination than learning. Thus the issue of translation leads to the question of how to define imagination in the Romantic period.

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The second premise necessary in discussing what translation is, is that in the 1790's there emerged a confusion in the concept of language itself; and this fluctuation between the Nominalists and the Realists can be distinctly seen in Wordsworth's recognition of the nature of Coleridge's education at Cambridge.

In spite of Dryden's or Pope's achievements in translation, the eighteenth century would not admit the value of free translation , because of their ideas on language which were mainly nominalistic, structured, basically, on the tacit understanding of imitation theory. The concept of a great chain of being was still unbroken at the end of the century. According to mimesis, language is capable of keeping the tightly knit correspondence between the word and the thing. The purest form of this Nominalistic correspondence is seen in the form of mathematical symbols. It is based on a simple belief that the essential root meanings of the word can be traced back to the things as referents. This notion started with the Epicurean observation that "to think' is only "to be thinged' and is adapted to Lockean model that all abstractions can be traced back to concrete words, nouns, or verbs.

To the contrary, as M.H. Abrams's ingenuous model of the mirror and the lamp suggests, Romantism is an aggressive movement to shatter the mirror image by an inner light of passion and imagination. Romantic theory of language is, therefore, to be based on the expressionist theory in which language is tied much closer to the inner, subjective thinking process rather than outward object or thing. It is a theory which inevitably involves an ambiguity in it and is liable to invite a confusion, for it is regulated by a subtle 'balance', an 'interchange of action from within and from without:

I seemed about this period to have sight

Of a new world—-a world, too, that was fit

To be transmitted, and made visible

To other eyes, as having for its base

That whence our dignity originates,

That which both gives it being, and maintains

A balance, an ennobling interchange

Of action from within and from without.

1805 The Prelude, Book XII 370-377

To specify the period mentioned in this passage would be almost impossible, because The Prelude is not a poem chronologically framed, but it might vaguely refer to the period between 1791-1796. At the end of this period Wordsworth became acquainted with Coleridge. The typical confusion of ideas on language in the 1790s can be seen, in Wordsworth, in the important passages of Book VI of 1805 Prelude, which refers to Crossing the Alps in 1790. Here Wordsworth is concerned about Coleridge by means of contemplations about language; he thinks in terms of the mediaeval scholastic philosophy, that of "the schoolmen", and he wrongly censures Coleridge as a person deplorably absorbed in it:

 I have thought

Of thee, thy learning, gorgeous eloquence,

And all the strength and plumage of thy youth,

Thy subtle speculations, toils abstruse

Among th schoolmen, and Platonic forms

Of wild ideal pageantry, shaped out

From things well-matched or ill, and words for things—-

The self-created sustenance of a mind

Debarred from nature's living images,

Compelled to be a life unto itself,

And unrelentingly possessed by thirst

Of greatness, love, and beauty.

1805 The Prelude, VI 305-316

Coleridge's language is used for its own sake. In Wordsworth's view, it is "[t]he self-created substance of a mind", and cannot be equated to the thing nor the perception, "nature's living images". It is rather a means to express his own thoughts or his excited personal idealism, "unrelentingly possessed by thirst / Of greatness, love, and beauty". But Wordsworth did not make a definite statement whether Platonism, "Platonic forms" are the antecedent of Coleridge's Unitarian pantheism, "a life unto itself' or not. Coleridge's ideas on language are to be more clearly stated by Coleridge himself later in Biographia Literaria where he even dared to unite a Nominalistic division of things and thoughts into oneness in more general terms. His standpoint is idealistic as follows:

where the ideas are vivid, and there exists an endless power of combining and modifying them, the feelings and affections blend more easily and intimately with these ideal creations, than with the objects of the senses; the mind is affected by thoughts, rather than by things. [14]

As the editors of Princeton University Version points out, nevertheless, Coleridge managed to reach a precarious conclusion that in poetry things and thoughts join as one:

The conscious self becomes an intermediary for things and thoughts, and in the self they become one. If things and thoughts had a true interpenetration, then Coleridge muses, that would be "the Iliad of Spinozo-Kantian, Kanto-Fichtian, Fichto-Schellingian Revival of Plato-Plotino-Proclian Idealism." [15]

The quotation "the Iliad of Spinozo-Kantian, Kanto-Fichtian, Fichto-Schellingian Revival of Plato-Plotino-Proclian Idealism" is from Notebooks entry 2784, and indeed Coleridge is here "making a profound connection", which he intuitively had grasped already in "Kubla Khan", and which Wordsworth could not.

The ambiguity in Wordsworth's understanding of the relationship between logos and pantheism, and its subtle 'balance', might be due to his nondiscursive language, but it can be ascribed to a more general view of ideas of language. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, there were two fundamental schools of linguists; the relativists and the universalists. [16] The universalists maintain that the underlying structure of all languages is the same and, accordingly, it is common to all men, while the relativists holds that there are more differences than similarities in language and that those differences are the product of historical and cultural determinants. As a representative of the universalists, Joseph Priestley (A Course of Lecture on the Theory of Language and Universal Grammar, Warrington 1762) can be pointed out. He professes his creed in an universal language, saying "a philosophical and universal language, which shall be the most natural and perfect expression of human ideas and sentiments, and much better adapted than any language now in use, to answer all the purposes of human life and science." [17] A lineage of relativists begins with Leibniz, then Vico, Hamann, Humbolt, and the Schlegels, and in England Horne Tooke can be nominated. Clearly Coleridge follows the line of the latter under the influence of the Schlegels.

So far as his observation on Coleridge's linguistic ideas in Book VI of the 1805 Prelude concerns, Wordsworth seems to insinuate his opposition to the above schema. The Unitarian philosophy of oneness recognises the universe not in terms of Plato-Plotino-Proclian Idealism, Wordsworth believes, but in terms of more tightly organised hierarchy of the Thomist Scholasticism. It is not true, and suggests a confusion on Wordsworth's understanding. As Coleridge explicitly stated in Chapter 17 of Biographia Literaria language comes into being through the voluntary act of the human being:

The best part of human language, properly so called, is derived from reflection on the acts of the mind itself. It is formed by a voluntary appropriation of fixed symbols to internal acts, to processes and results of imagination, the greater part of which have no place in the consciousness of uneducated man. [18]

Language does not reproduce things. Coleridge put an emphasis on the true relation between words and ideas here. Though language is an organised instrument to express one's inner act of the mind, it cannot be separated from the active act of reading and understanding by the aid of imagination. The latter presupposes the voluntary application of word; that is, the arbitrariness of words as sign in order to fit them to that active,inner proceeding. Instead of the static rigidity of Scholastic model, what Coleridge had in mind is an idea of language as an arbitrary sign of the mind. As George Steiner points out, Coleridge is one of the few critics who have said anything new and comprehensive about language, ranked along with Vico, Humboldt, Saussure and Jakobson. [19]

For Wordsworth at the time of composing Book VI of 1805 Prelude, language did not necessarily signify "words for things" ; it should carry the burden of Logos so that it can convey the meaning of apocalypse in "symbols of eternity":

The rocks that muttered close upon our ears,

Black drizzling crags that spoke by the wayside

As if a voice were in them, the sick sight

And giddy prospect of the raving stream,

The unfettered clouds and region of the heavens,

Were all like workings of one mind, the features

Of the same face, blossoms upon one tree,

Characters of the great apocalypse,

The types and symbols of eternity,

Of first, and last, and midst, and without end.

VI 562-572

In terms of Coleridge, this passage makes a typical example of "Thoughts all too deep for words!—-"("To William Wordsworth") For Wordsworth, '[s]ymbols of eternity' are to be kept in touch with immortality. In this unpredictable region of eternity, there exists no barrier of seclusion between life and death in view of us the mortal creatures. Unlike Coleridge, Wordsworth would not regard language as a separate, individualised entity. In other words, his position is akin to the generalist theory of language.

Later, probably between December 1809 and February 1810, Wordsworth discusses language as an emanation of the mind in "Essays upon Epitaphs". Language can function most effectively when it is set on the point somewhere in the continuity of life and death or when the fantasy of death is thought to be an outgrowth of life. In this precarious region, the subtle balance of co-relativity or co-existence of language and object becomes conceivable as well as tenable. When this promise of precarious condition is not fulfilled, as a result, it breaks into the antithesis of language and object . There emerges a deep chasm of meaninglessness at this point. Once fallen into this chasm, the deteriorated and inflated language expressed in clothing metaphor of "those poisoned vestments"(ibid., p.361) changes itself into evil, "a counter-spirit".(ibid., p. 361).

To the contrary, the apparently incongruous similitude of life and death is to be expressed in the beautiful metaphor of incarnation:

Words are too awful an instrument for good and evil to be trifled with; they hold above all other external powers a dominion over thoughts. If words be not (recurring to a metaphor before used) an incarnation of the thought but only a clothing for it, then surely will they prove an ill gift; . . . Language, if it do not uphold, and feed, and leave in quiet, like the power of gravitation or the air we breathe, is a counter-spirit, unremittingly and noiselessly at work to derange, to subvert, to lay waste, to vitiate, and to dissolve.

"Essays upon Epitaphs" p.361

It is another way of expressing the image of benevolence in terms of Logos which Wordsworth had long cherished. It is akin to the image of blossoms upon one tree in the Simplon Pass episode of Book VI, The prelude 1805. As was pointed out by Jonathan Wordsworth, [20] it is also similar to a Popean unity of mechanical universe filled with divine benevolence, although Wordsworth's deviation from Pope is conspicuous here:

All are but of our stupendous whole,

Where body nature is, and God the soul

That (charged through all, and yet in all the same)

Warms in the sun, refreshes in the breeze,

Glows in the sun, and blossoms in the trees...

CITE>Essays on Man, II 266-272

While Wordsworth seems to have attacked what he thought it to be a Scholastic idea of language in Coleridge in the passage of the 1805prelude (Book VI), he still adored the idea of object-word equation. In his case, the object is nothing but an emanation of divine presence whatever form it may take. So long as he accepts the universalist's ideas on language (that the underlying structure of all the languages is the same), this structure could be arranged in order according to nearness to the original purity, Logos. For Wordsworth, its purest form of emanation is reduced to the Word as an incarnation, as he explicitly stated in "Essays upon Epitaphs". In this simplified notion of language, any abstractions, "[c]haracters of the great apocalypse' can be traced back to concrete words, "blossoms upon one tree".

In discussing Wordsworth's attitude toward translation, it should be taken into account that his rather idiosyncratic acceptance of the universalist theory plays a crucial role. Moreover, in this scale of purity, the language of rustic people is to be ranked high. In this context, his deviation from the orthodoxy becomes more obvious. According to Wordsworth, the language of these rustic men is "purified indeed from what appear to be its real defects" because "the manners of rural life germinate from those elementary feelings". [21] He declares without hesitation, "such a language, arising out of repeated experience and regular feelings, is a more permanent, and a far more philosophical language, than that which is frequently substituted for it by Poets."(ibid)

Coleridge's idea of language, to the contrary, does not admit this linear scaling, nor the idea of imitation as copying. He stands on the relativist stance which holds "that there are more differences than similarities in language and that those differences are the product of historical and cultural determinants." [22] In Biographia Literaria he made a clear statement of his objection to Wordsworth's primitivism which is, as a whole, based on the theory of imitation, the universalist's ideas on language. As to the passage in "Essays upon Epitaphs" quoted above,

I object, in the very first instance, to an equivocation in the use of the word "real". Every man's language varies, according to the extant of his knowledge, the activity of his faculties, and the depth or quickness of his feelings. [23]

In addition to the arbitrariness of the word as sign, Coleridge presupposed the concept of Parole, individualised language in terms of Saussure, and at the same time the dimension of sociolinguistics:

Everyman's language has, first, its individualities; secondly, the common property of the class to which he belongs; and thirdly, words and phrases of universal use. [24]

From Coleridge's view on language, which is much more modern and more scientific than that of Wordsworth's, therefore, the variant factors, historical and cultural determinants, are so essential that they can play such an important role as to replace the simplified and purified, which are integral in Wordsworth's notion of language. Once the symbolic equation between an object and a word is severed out, the meaning itself acquires a potential duplicity or multiplicity:

the language so highly extolled by Mr. Wordsworth varies in every county, nay in every village, according to the accidental character of the clergyman, the existence, publican, or barber happen to be, or not to be,zealous politicians, and readers of the weekly newsmunis of every country, as Dante has well observed, exists every where in parts, and no where as a why whole. [25]

Facts do not always mean truths. As is evident from our everyday experience, a poet and a scientist could describe the same reality in different ways.

Admitting the differences of views on language, we should turn back again to the issue of translation. From the universalist's view of object-word equation, however, only the literary translation is permissible. While the characters and the qualities of all languages can trace back their genealogy till it reaches the same origin, translation functions as if it were clothes which sometimes obstruct and sometimes enable our immediate contact with the naked truth. While he was writing "We are Seven", "The Idiot boy" or "Goody Blake and Harry Gill", Wordsworth must have been eager to imitate and translate "a plainer and more emphatic language" of these rustic people. Coleridge censures, however, such a type of representation as "a species of ventriloquism". [26] Egotistic presence of the poet dominates the scene, and the language used in the poems were nothing but versions of his voice. The idea of free translation of "the language of conversation in the middle and lower classes of society" [27] would not have emerged to Wordsworth's mind at all. Furthermore, in this kind of a materialistic or self governed context, truth could be easily slipped into the thing, although the intuitive perception still lies at the bottom of abstraction. Free translation is an attempt to show it is not so. It is a relativistic feat, denying the act of copying, and as Coleridge suggested, it is based on the idea that language is culturally and individually variable.

If the Author have clearly and rightly established in his own mind the class of the readers, to which he means to address his communications; and if both in this choice, and in the particulars of the manner and matter of the work, he conscientiously observes all the conditions which reason and conscience have been shewn to dictate, in relation to those for whom the work was designed and realized the desired circumscription. [28]

Dryden's statements on free translation had been made on the denial of universality of language, or the historical truth. It is interesting to know that James Macpherson followed the foot steps of Dryden and of Pope which were to be acclaimed by Coleridge. From the perspective of eternal truth, as Wordsowrth wrote in a Simplon Pass passage of Book VI, understanding and language are tightly united , for they "were all like workings of one mind". It is no wonder that, relying on a similar recognition of the reader-response discourse, Macpherson, an eighteenth-century skeptic, took an imaginative approach in translation, which offered him more liberty in translation, but it is a different path to free translation.

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When Macpherson was urged to translate the Ossianic poems in the Highland, only their fragments remained, since most of them had been transmitted through the oral tradition. As an intellectual baptised by the Lockean skepticism, "Macpherson seemed to have share a belief common in the Highlands that Ossian's poems had been distorted by the succession of bards who had recited or recreated his poetry." [29] Unlike Dryden, he believed in the presence of "a pure original", and wanted to restore it from "the corrupt remnants of an ancient tradition."[30]:

Macpherson's Celtic world was one of noble warriors, not a quant fairyland of giants and magicians, so the witches and monsters which feature in the popular Highland ballads had to be condemned as interpolations and stripped away. [31]

Macpherson dreamed of the 3rd century Caledonia as an Arcadia, and Ossian poems as a great national epic. In order to reconstruct the fragments according to this high design, the stories of the Viking invasions, which occurred obviously two centuries later, were inserted to the framework, for they were suitable for his vision of Fingal as a national hero. In translating Gaelic manuscripts into English, on the other hand, numerous embellishments were given by Macpherson:

If the existing poems were too corrupt to show off the genius of the Highlands to the outside world, Macpherson would use only the parts he considered fit and 'restore' the rest, according to his own ideas on ancient literature. [32]

The aim of Dryden's free translation was to recreate a resemblance endowed with the 'spirit' of the author, whereas the purpose of Macpherson's translation is to create an artifact much closer to the pure original. The latter involves a process of deconstruction, free choice of material, and embellishment. 10 years afterwards, Macpherson published his translation of Iliad (1773). He used in it a style similar to that which he developed for the Gaelic translations, that is not to strip him of his ancient weeds. He took an opposite stance to Pope, who had appealed to the general taste prevailing modern Europe. [33] Nevertheless, his meticulous effort was not valued by Tytler at all. Macpherson tried to adopt an inverted construction of the Greek as far as possible, but it is "incompatible with the genius of the English language." (Tytler, p.105) Although Macpherson followed Dryden in his attempt to adopt the "spirit" of an original author, he rejected to use the contemporary discourse, "such English as he would himself have spoken if he had been born in England, and in this present age." For the sake of "his ancient weeds", Macpherson dared conform and adapt the English construction to that of ancient foreign language. From the viewpoint of Tytler's principles, therefore, his translation transgressed law III, "That the Translation should have all the ease of original composition."

In the period when the art of translation had become of greater importance, Wordsworth's attitude toward translation of Burger showd an interesting deviation from the prevailing tendency. As was pointed out above, his ideas on language would not be compatible with the notion of free translation. Instead, he had two choices: either to make a faithful literary translation or to make the most of the original work as a simple source of materials of his own work after decomposing it to constituent elements. The example of the first case is seen in his unfinished trial in "Translation of Part of the First Book of the Aeneid". It was written in 1816, but was published in The Philologea Museum (1832) Conscious of Dryden, Wordsworth stated his ideas on translation in its "Note":

Having been displeased in modern translations with the additions of incongruous matter, I began to translate with a resolve to keep clear of that fault, by adding nothing; but i became convinced that a spirited translation can scarcely be accomplished in the English language without admitting a principle of compensation. [34]

Needless to say, translation has long been recognised as an essential means to form a good writer, and in his youth Wordsworth had actually made his translations of Chaucer's 'Prioress's Tale' and part of 'Troilus and Cresida'. In 1801 he wrote a pseudo-Chaucerian poem, 'The Cuckoo and the Nightingale'. In these translations, Wordsworth's admiration of the original is clearly seen, and consequently they are branded as bad translations. [35] So long as he is faithful to the original and reverential to the original author, the imagination of Wordsowrth the translator is kept under restraint. It can be liberated, however, in the alternative.

The most famous example of the latter is found in "The Thorn", in which Burger's "The Parson's Daughter" is dissembled completely. Since William Taylor's translation of Burger's ballad 'Leonora, A Ballad from Burger' first appeared in the march issue of The Monthly Magazine for 1796, several versions of translation concurred as if they had participated in a contest for literary fame. Besides Taylor, the Poet Laureate, henry James Pye, J. T.Stanley (whose version contains a strikingly marvellous illustration by William Blake), W. R.Spencer (whose version was illustrated with Lady Diana Beauclerc) and even Walter Scott had participated the contest. Scott's version of 'William and Helen' was published with 'The Wild Chase' anonymously in 1796 at Edinburgh. John Aiken, the Editor of The Monthly Magazine, made a comment in "Half-yearly Retrospect of the State of Domestic Literature", in January issue 1797:

The Public has been much amused and gratified by a contest for literary fame among the several translators of Leonora, a wild and extravagant, but uncommonly interesting German ballad. [36]

Burger's three famous ballads, 'Lenora', 'the Lass of Fair Wone' and "The Wilde Chase' gave a great influence on Wordsworth, and they are respectively reflected in 'The Idiot Boy', 'The Thorn', and 'Hart-Leap Well', respectively. [37] Especially in 'The Thorn', Wordsworth's peculiar way of accepting Burger and his translated work can be pointed out.

Burger's ballads were not genuinely German in origin. They contain various layers of translation and cultural transmission in themselves. Before Thomas Percy's Reliques of ancient English Poetry (3 vols., London, 1765) was introduced to Germany, no German words corresponding to 'ballads' had existed. Burger(1748-1794) came to know Percey through Herder's dissertation on the songs of rude nations in 1772. Although he had been familiar with Shakespeare and Spanish literature, it was Herder who drew Burger's attention to the ballads of England as well as to Percey's collection. He made a free translation of several ballads from Percey, such as 'The friar of Orders Gray'(Blunder Grauroch), and 'The Child of Elle'(Die Enthuhrung), and 'Sweet William's Ghost'(Lenora), in which the scene of adventure was uniformly transferred to Germany without an experience of free translation, his finest ballads would never have been produced:

His extraordinary powers of language are founded on a rejection of the conventional phraseology of regular poetry, in favour of popular forms of expression, caught by the listening artist from the voice of agitated nature. Imitative harmony he pursues almost to excess: the onomatopoeia is his prevailing figure; the interjection, his favourite part of speech: arrangement, rhythm, sound, rime, are always with him, an echo to the sense. The hurrying vigour of his impetuous diction is unrivalled; yet is is so natural, even in its sublimity, that his poetry is singularly fitted to become national popular song. [38]

As William Taylor's introduction above clearly indicates, Burger's poems were characterised by a purely Germanic quality of phraseology. They have a tendency to intensify the qualities of spoken language to express rapid and impetuous movements of the soul, and of the tenderer feelings of the heart. Wordsworth seemed not to pay a special attention to these qualities in Burger. This is rather curious, for the very qualities of Burger, "a rejection of the conventional phraseology of regular poetry" or "popular forms of expression, caught by the listening artist from the voice of agitated nature" resemble to Wordsowrth's manifesto in "Preface" to Lyrical Ballads, that is, to imitate and select "the real language of men". Instead, what he did in 'The Thorn' was to manipulate the tragic story of a jilted girl in Burger's 'The parson's Daughter' in rather an arbitrary way. A story about a lovely Parson's daughter who was seduced by a landlord, discarded by him after pregnancy, and was ultimately driven to the crime of infanticide, was projected into the imaginatively interpreted life story of Martha Ray and her repeated ejaculation of 'Oh misery! oh misery! / Oh woe is me! oh misery!'. This blurring of the outline of the story is made possible by a technique of superstition. The story was made to be filtered through a narrator who was prone to superstition. Though talkative, this retired Captain of a small trading vessel could not discern what is real from what is imaginary. In fact, Wordsworth made an experiment to imitate in reverse the spirited manner of relating, which he admired most in Burger. The traces are so faint and vague that only a sympathetic reader can combine the two stories together. The sensational facts in Burger where horror and pity are intensified,—-the murdered infant (Forth from her hair a silver pin / With hasty hand she drew, / And prest against its tender heart, / And sweet babe she slew), the mother's bloody nails (With bloody nails, beside the pond, / Its shallow grave she tore), the mouldering flesh on the gibbet (Hard by the bower her gibbet stands: / Her skull is still to show), and the dreary pond (That is the spot where grows no grass; / Where falls no rain now dew: / Whence steals along the pond of toads / A hovering fire so blue)—-were transferred by Wordsworth to an everyday setting which focuses on a thorn, a pond, and a woman in a scarlet coat:

Now would you see this aged thorn,

This pond and beauteous hill of moss,

You must take care and chuse your time

The mountain when to cross.

For oft there sits, between the heap

That's like an infant's grave in size,

And that same pond of which I spoke,

A woman in a scarlet cloak,

And to herself she cries,

'Oh misery! oh misery!

Oh woe is me! oh misery!'

'The Thorn" 55-66

In October 1798, Wordsworth bought in Hamburg two-volume set of Burger's Gedichte (Guttinge, 1796, ed. Karl Reihard). After having read Burger in German, he wrote his impressions of Burger in his letter to Coleridge. Coleridge had become the admirer of Burger after he had read his poems in German, as his letter to his wife dated November 1798: "Burger of all the German Poets pleases me the most, as yet. The Lenore is greatly superior to any of the Translations". [39]

To the contrary, Wordsworth was "disappointed , particularly in 'Lenora'". [40] He declared that the English translation exceeded the original at some part. The difference of their judgment might be partly due to their fluency in German, nevertheless it shows clearly what was Wordsworth's taste like at that crucial moment. In his ideas on language, 'taste' regulates the quality of translation. He continues, "I agree with you that it is the most perfect and Shakespearean of his poems, &c., &c. Burger is the poet of the animal spirits." [41] According to Wordsworth, "Taste ... is a word which has been forced to extend its services far beyond the point to which philosophy would have confined them." [42] It can produce "a presumed refinement of judging."(ibid.) Although it is passively embedded in the mind of the Reader , it can exert "a co-operating power " in him." [43] Accordingly, unless two subjective and antithetical powers, that is, "intellectual acts and operations " work on both sides of the translator and the reader simultaneously, language as 'a counter spirit' will speak out meaningfully. To his eye, Macpherson is nothing but "a motley assemblage from all quarters." ." [44] What Wordsworth was most concerned about was the emergence of this kind of inflated language which is harmful as well as irrelevant to the original meaning. To avoid this danger, Wordsworth relied on a complete dismantlement of the original.

There is another strange example of Wordsworth's treatment of Burger's poems. Under the direct literary translation of Burger's title, "The Reverie of Poor Susan"(Das Arme Susschen's Traum), Wordsworth wrote a lovely poem and published it in Lyrical Ballads (1800). Unlike the setting of the original love poem, that is, a complaint of a heart-broken girl, it is a story of a vivid sensation of a poor country girl when she heard a song of Thrush in the middle of the City of London. Instead of the image of false lover, and of the broken ring of their love , Poor Susan sees '[a] mountain ascending, a vision of trees'("The Reveries of Poor Susan" l.6) The Thrush's song which is "a note of enchantment" (l.5) made her remind of her native country scenes:

Green pastures she views in the midst of the dale,

Down which she often has tripped with her pail;

And a single small cottage, a nest like a dove's,

The one only dwelling on earth that she loves.

ll.9-12

The myrtle sprigs picked to make a garland of Burger's poor deserted girl are seen no more in this English countryside. Only the momentary rapture of dream which is to be replaced by the disappointment in reality connects these two poor Susans. Where the literary translation was impossible, Wordsworth proceeded to the very region of a creation. Through the image of this humble country girl who can "hold communion with the invisible world' (Prelude, XIII 105), he showed us, perhaps, the working process of the secondary imagination in his own definition:

This is the very spirit in which they deal

With all the objects of the universe:

They from their native selves can send abroad

Like transformation, for themselves create

A like existence, and whene'er it is

Created for them, catch it by an instinct.

Prelude, XIII 91-6

Unlike Coleridge's definition of poetic imagination, which connects the 'primary' imagination (our outward perception) and the philosophic imagination (our inner intuition) so that it is synthetic in the highest sense, (the Iliad of Spinozo-Kantian, Kanto-Fichtian, Fichto-Schellingian Revival of Plato-Plotino-Proclian Idealism), Wordsworth's poetic imagination is basically dependent on the mimesis theory. It tries to explore the symbolic co-equation of words and objects, which is to be completed by creating "[a] like existence" of the original:

 Above all,

One function of such mind had nature there

Exhibited by putting forth, and that

with circumstance most awful and sublime:

That dominion which she oftentimes

Exerts upon the outward face of things,

So moulds them, and endures, abstracts, combines,

Or by abrupt and unhabitual influence

Does make one object so impress itself

Upon all others, and pervade them so,

That even the grossest minds must see and hear

And cannot choose but feel.

1805 Prelude, XIII 73-84

In her own dominion, she, the secondary imagination, exerts her power on "the outward face of things", on the objects; then, after passing through the various processes of moulding, enduring, abstracting, and combining, "[c]haracters of the great apocalypse" issue forth as if they were "blossoms upon one tree". When "[a] like Existence" is connected to this one tree, when translation is traced back to the same root , it can be guarded against deteriorating into a vicious spirit, "[a] counter spirit", as "The Reverie of Poor Susan" suggests.

A motivation for creating "[a] like existence' is, therefore, essentially different from an effort to restore the original. Since Malcom Lain's version of The Poems of Ossian (1804-05) and Report of the Committee of Highland Society of Scotland, appointed to inquire the Nature and Authenticity of the Poems of Ossian appeared, Macpherson's work was to be branded as an entirely unauthenticated, pretended translation, and generations of Celtic scholars have annoyed at Macpherson's distortion of the genuine Gaelic voice. Wordsworth's harsh despise of Ossian we find in 1815 "Essay" must have started from this date. It can be understandable from his views on language and translation. Unlike Walter Scott, who made a remarkable review on these two books in the July issue of "Edinburgh Review" for 1805, he would not evaluate the value of this elaborate work Ossian. After criticising the narrow rigorousness of Laing's methodology, and making a plea for the complete translation of the manuscripts of ballads the committee collected, Walter Scott concludes his long review as follows:

But, while we are compelled to renounce the pleasing idea, 'that Fingal lived, and that Ossian sung', our national vanity may be equally flattered by the fact that a remote, and almost a barbarous corner of Scotland, produced, in the 18th century, a bard, capable not only of making an enthusiastic impression on every mind susceptible of poetical beauty, but of giving a new tone to poetry throughout Europe." [45]

As his letter to Ann Seward (21 March, 1805) written just before this review appeared tells us clearly, Scott was sympathetic toward Macpherson. He even applied the latter's method to mix authentic original materials with pure fiction in his manipulation of Goblin Page in The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805). He recognised that Macpherson achieved to set up a new school of poetry, instead of an attempt at imitating the old. Creation beyond the borders of free translation not only inculcates the reading public but also is inevitable in exploring the new dimension for lyric poetry, especially. As Tytler pointed out,

among the different species of poetical composition, the lyric is that which allows of the greatest liberty in translation; as a freedom both of thought and expression is agreeable in its character.

Tytler, p.123

Plagiarism is too loose a term to criticise this imaginative activity, for the act of translation was so deeply rooted in the intellectual climate of Romantic period. It also includes , in terms of Walter Scott, "a variety of cases of coincidence and resemblance, so striking as to shew." [46] Wordsworth was the poet who was too aware of the mechanism of translation which allows the variation of description but keeps sentiment and passion of the original intact.

Appendices