« AnteriorContinuar »
ances enabling him to trace back to their sources in the life-springs of the soul, spiritual elements which reflect themselves in speech!
Style is pervaded by the presence of such elements; but, unfortunately we lose all trace of them the moment we attempt to experiment upon language, as we experiment on light, by passing it through a refracting medium. Let any one try to translate some foreign work, whether of verse or prose, into his own language. He will find it comparatively easy to transfer the thoughts of its author with tolerable fidelity from one language to another, but almost impossible to transmit the author's style; for upon the style his own individuality acts as a refracting medium. A bad -style suffers less than a good one, and occasionally it even gains something from translation. Kant's "Critik der reinen Vernunft" is more readable in French than in German, because the genius of the French language obliges the translator to break up the sprawling German sentences and reset their component parts in a form less intricate and more attractive. If some of the subtler particles of the author's meaning evaporate in the process, the loss of them is at least compensated by the clarification. of what remains. But try to translate any one of Goethe's lyrics into French, nay even into English, and the whole poem evaporates. Our own language is more capable than the French of reproducing sound, which is often essential to the sentiment, of German poetry; and yet, although many have tried, no one has succeeded in translating the simplest verses of Heinrich Heine into graceful, or even idiomatic, English. Of all kinds of writing, lyric poetry is indeed the most untranslatable, because no other kind of writing so entirely depends upon style for its effect. If style be the man himself, then the style of a lyric poem is the poem itself, for the poem is the man. The epic and dramatic poets are the historians of the human heart, but the lyric poet is the biographer' of his own heart; and his song is all style because it is all individuality.
The English and German have more affinity than any other two languages; and, of all English poets, Shakespeare
and Byron are the two upon whose works the most capable. German translators have bestowed the greatest pains. The result not only illustrates the untranslatable nature of style, but also throws some light upon the cause of it. In reading any good German translation of Shakespeare's plays, you almost hear the sound of the original words. Macbeth, Hamlet, Iago, Lear, Juliet, Perdita, Imogen, speak to us in German as they speak to us in English. Falstaff loses nothing of his humor, nor Hotspur of his fiery spirit; in a word, the German translations of Shakespeare are thoroughly Shakespearian. But even the best German translations of Byron's poems (like the best English translations of Heine's poems) convey to us no adequate idea of the poet's style, and to any one familiar with the original text they are painful reading. Byron's irrepressible personality saturates every other quality of his genius, and monopolizes the whole expression of it; whereas in all the manifestations of Shakespeare's genius the personality of the man himself is so latent as to be scarcely perceptible. In this respect his productions bear no resemblance to those of the artist who imparts to bronze or marble ideal forms created by his own fancy; but may rather be compared to the humbler work of a diamond-cutter, whose art is only instrumental to nature and who does not invent, but merely set free, the inany-colored radiance of nature's own productions. Manfred. Childe Harold, Don Juan, Lara, and the other Byronic personages, all have the same individuality, and it is the individuality of the poet himself. Reckon them up arithmetically, and the sum total is Lord Byron. But the sum of Shakespeare's characters is Mankind, and its separate factors are the individualities of men. Buffon's definition of style, therefore, exactly fits the later poet, but is quite unapplicable to the earlier one.
We must not, however, stretch this parallel too far. If Shakespeare's personality is unapparent in the productions of his genius, it is not because he is deficient in style, but because he is independent of it. Like the prince who said that he had done with fear as soon as he was frightened, Shakespeare is no
longer himself as soon as he is entirely that boundary with us. Shakespeare.
When Marcellus cries from the battlements of Elsinore, What, is Horatio there?'' Shakespeare makes the scholar from Wittenberg, reply, "A piece of him." Those words are characteristic of their author, whose philosophizing individuality we recognize in his way of describing an individual. This dearly loved Self (a miserable little prison which we cherish as the most precious of our possessions, making it the object of all care though it is the cause of all our suffering) does not so much belong to us as we to it, nor is it ever completely at our service. How 'small a part of it can we bring to bear even upon those situations of life in which all our selfishness is most busily engaged! Who is wholly and solely himself at any moment, or in any matter? How many parts and parcels of ourselves can we truly call our own? How many are the property of others? How many are merged, far beyond our reach, in that infinite flux of phenomena of which we ourselves are but fleeting phases? And yet we cannot extricate ourselves from the possession of what we so little possess; and the tyranny of our infinitesimal identity pursues us over the whole field of consciousness, as that of the no less infinitesimal present clings to us along the whole course of time.
Schopenhauer attributes to genius (which he identifies with a state of pure perception unencumbered by any sense of individuality) the exclusive power to set us free now and then from this bondage, by making us one with the universe from which we are isolated by it. The deliverance of knowledge,' he says, from the service of the will, the forgetting of self as an individual, lifts us into a world from which everything is absent that influenced our will and moved us so violently through it. Happiness and unhappiness have disappeared; we are no longer individual; the individual is forgotten; we are only that one eye of the world which looks out from all knowing creatures, and all difference of individuality so entirely disappears that it is all the same whether the perceiving eye belongs to a mighty king or to a wretched beggar; for neither joy nor complaining can pass
So near us lies
a sphere in which we escape from all our misery." But then, he adds, "as soon as any single relation to our will (that is to our own personality) even of these objects of our pure contemplation comes again into consciousness, the magic is at an end. We fall back into the knowledge that is governed by the principle of sufficient reason; we Do longer know the idea but the particular thing, the link of a chain to which we also belong, and we are again abandoned to all our woe. 'Most men, he continues, "remain almost always at this standpoint, because they entirely lack objectivity, i.e., genius. Therefore they have no pleasure in being alone with nature; they need company, or at least a book. For their knowledge remains subject to their will; they seek therefore in objects only some relation to their will, and whenever they see anything that has no such relation, there sounds within them, like a ground bass in music, the constant inconsolable cry, 'It is of no use to me!
But after dilating on " the blessedness of a state of pure willess perception" (that is of consciousness freed from individuality) Schopenhauer mournfully exclaims, "Who has the strength to continue long in it?" Well, I think we may be certain that to Shakespeare at least such strength was given. And hence the perfect impartiality with which he interests himself and us in each of his characters. The wise, the foolish, the good, the evil, the victorious, and the defeated, all of them are the same to him, for not one of them has any personal relation to himself; and in that state of pure perception "it is all the same whether the perceiving eye belongs to a mighty king or to a miserable beggar.' Hence, too, I think, the peculiar nature of the æsthetic pleasure we derive from the Shakespearian drama. It affects us like a remembrance of past events and distant scenes, in which we ourselves have once taken an active part, but to which we have no longer any active personal relation; so that when we contemplate them through the medium of memory, it is with a feeling that approaches to pleasure in the exact proportion of its distance from the pain of subjective sensation. In the same
way Shakespeare presents to us our own passions and their penalties, our wills and humors, joys and sorrows, triumphs and defeats, in a form that enables us to see what we are without the pain of too acutely feeling what we see. What gives a certain air of kinship to all the persons of the Shakespearian drama is not the individuality of the poet, but the touch of nature which makes the whole world kin." For the Shakespearian drama is, indeed, a sort of epitome of that. other stupendous drama of which we are ourselves the authors, actors, and spectators. What does it all mean? How has it come about? And what is to come out of it? These are questions which will never cease to haunt us; and, if it be impossible to answer them, it is no less impossible to suppress the desire to ask them. But after all, the only question that personally concerns any one is, "What is his
own relation to the whole ?'
is a question which every one must answer for himself. Most of us know what parts we have to play, and many of us know how to play them, although not one of us knows why he must play any part at all.
Whatever the matter in hand, or the subject under discussion, Cato invariably came to the conclusion that Carthage was to be destroyed. Without being Catos, we all have our own cæterum censeo; and the first and last word of every man's life is MAN. So, too, let the first word be also the last of this rambling causerie; which has led me round in a circle, by tempting me to consider nature as the Original Thought and all creation as the Original Language. For, if I am asked to complete the analogy by saying what is the Original Style, I can only end as I began, "Le style c'est L'HOMME." -Fortnightly Review.
BY MAX MÜLLER.
THE first series of Translations of the "Sacred Books of the East," consisting of twenty-four volumes, is nearly finished, and a second series, which is to comprise as many volumes again, is fairly started. Even when that second series is finished, there will be enough material left for a third and fourth series, and though I shall then long have ceased from my labors as editor, I rejoice to think that the reins when they drop out of my hands will be taken up and held by younger, stronger, and'abler conduct
I ought indeed to be deeply grateful to all who have helped me in this arduous, and, as it seemed at first, almost hopeless undertaking. Where will you get the Oriental scholars, I was asked, willing to give up their time to what is considered the most tedious and the most ungrateful task, translating difficult texts from beginning to end, and not being allowed to display one scrap of recondite learning in long notes and essays, or to skip one single passage, however corrupt or unintelligible?
And if you should succeed in assembling such a noble army of martyrs, where in these days will you find the publisher to publish twenty-four or fortyeight portly volumes, volumes which are meant to be studied, not to be skimmed, which will never be ordered by Mudie. or Smith, and which conscientious reviewers will prefer to cut up rather than to cut open?
It was no easy matter, as I well knew, to find either enthusiastic scholars or enthusiastic publishers, but I did not despair, because I felt convinced that sooner or later such a collection of translations of the Fathers of the Universal Church would become an absolute necessity. My hope was at first that some very rich men who are tired of investing their money, would come forward to help in this undertaking, but though they seem willing to help in digging up mummies in Egypt, or oystershells in Denmark, they evidently did not think that much good could come from digging up the forgotten Bibles of Buddhists or Fire-worshippers. I applied
to learned Societies and Academies, but, of course, they had no disposable funds. At last the Imperial Academy of Vienna -all honor be to it-was found willing to lend a helping hand. But, in 1875, just when I had struck my tent at Oxford to settle in Austria, the then Secretary of State for India, Lord Salisbury, and the Dean of Christ Church, Dr. Liddell, brought their combined influence and power of persuasion to bear on the Indian Council and the University Press at Oxford. Tne sinews of war were found for at least twenty-four volumes. In October 1876 the undertaking was started, and, if all goes well in October 1884, the first series of twentyfour volumes will stand on the shelves of every great library in Europe, America, and India. And more than that. Such has been the interest taken in this undertaking by the students of ancient language, religion, and philosophy, that even the unexpected withdrawal of the patronage of the India Office under Lord Salisbury's successor could not endanger the successful continuation of this enterprise, at least during the few years that I may still be able to conduct it.
But while personally I rejoice that all obstacles which were placed in our way, sometimes from a quarter where we least expected it, have been removed, and that with the generous assistance of some of the best Oriental scholars of our age, some at least of the most important works illustrating the ancient religions of the East have been permanently rescued from oblivion and rendered accessible to every man who understands English, some of my friends, men whose judgment I value far higher than my own, wonder what ground there is for rejoicing. Some, more honest than the rest, told me that they had been great admirers of ancient Oriental wisdom till they came to read the translations of the Sacred Books of the East. They had evidently expected to hear the tongues of angels, and not the babbling of babes. But others took higher ground. What, they asked, could the philosophers of the nineteenth century expect to learn from the thoughts and utterances of men who had lived one, two, three, or four thousand years ago? When I humbly suggested that these books had
a purely historical interest, and that the history of religion could be studied from no other documents, I was told that it was perfectly known how religion arose, and through how many stages it had to pass in its development from fetishism to positivism, and that whatever facts might be found in the Sacred Books of the East, they must all vanish before theories which are infallible and incontrovertible. If anything more was to be discovered about the origin and nature of religion, it was not from dusty historical documents, but from psychophysiological experiments, or possibly from the creeds of living savages.
I was not surprised at these remarks. I had heard similar remarks many years ago, and they only convinced me that the old antagonism between the historical and theoretical schools of thought was as strong to-day as ever. This antagonism applies not only to the study of religion, but likewise to the study of language, mythology, and philosophy, in fact of all the subjects to which my own labors have more specially been directed for many years, and I therefore gladly seize this opportunity of clearly defining once for all the position. which I have deliberately chosen from the day that I was a young recruit to the time when I have become a veteran in the noble army of research.
There have been, and there probably always will be, two schools of thought, the
Historical and the Theoretical. Whether by accident or by conviction I have been through life a follower of the Historical School, a school which in the study of every branch of human knowledge has but one and the same principle, namely, "Learn to understand what is by learning to understand what has been."
That school was in the ascendant when I began life. It was then represented in Germany by such names as Niebuhr for history, Savigny for law, Bopp for language, Grimm for mythology; or, to mention more familiar names, in France by Cuvier for natural history; in England by a whole school of students of history and nature, who took pride in calling themselves the only legitimate representatives of the Baconian school of thought.
What a wonderful change has come over us during the last thirty or forty
years! The Historical School, which, in the beginning of our century, was in the possession of nearly all professorial chairs, and wielding the sceptre of all the great Academies, has dwindled away, and its place has been taken by the Theoretical School, best known in England by its eloquent advocacy of the principles of evolution. This Theoretical School is sometimes called the synthetic, in opposition to the Historical School, which is analytic. It is also characterized as constructive or as reasoning a priori. In order to appreciate fully the fundamental difference between the two schools, it will be best to see how their principles have been applied to such subjects as the science of language, religion, or antiquities.
The Historical School, in trying to solve the problem of the origin and growth of language, takes language as it finds it. It takes the living language in its various dialects, and traces each word back from century to century, until from the English now spoken in the streets, we arrive at the Saxon of Alfred, the Old Saxon of the Continent, and the Gothic of Ulfilas, as spoken on the Danube in the fifth century. Even here we do not stop. For finding that Gothic is but a dialect of the great Teutonic stem of language, that Teutonic again is but a dialect of the great Aryan family of speech, we trace Teutonic and its collateral branches, Greek, Latin, Celtic, Slavonic, Persian, and Sanskrit, back to that Proto-Aryan form of speech which contained the seeds of all we now see before us, as germs, plants, flowers, fruits, in the languages of the Aryan
After having settled this historical outline of the growth of our family of speech, the Aryan, we take any word, or a hundred, or a thousand words, and analyze them, or take them to pieces. That words can be taken to pieces, every grammar teaches us, though the process of taking them to pieces scientifically and correctly, dissecting limb from limb, is often as difficult and laborious as any anatomical preparation. Well, let us take quite a modern wordthe American cute, sharp. We all know that cute is only a shortening of acute, and that acute is the Latin acutus, sharp. In acutus, again, we easily recognize the
frequent derivative tus, as in cornutus, horned, from cornu, horn. This leaves us acu, as in acu-s, a needle. In this word the u can again be separated, for we know it is a very common derivative, in such words as pec-u, cattle, Sanskrit, pasú, from pas, to tether; or tanú, thin, Greek Tavú-ç, Lat. tenu-i-s, from tan, to stretch. Thus we arrive in the end at AK, and here our analysis must stop, for if we were to divide AK into A and K, we should get, as even Plato knew (Theatetus, 205), mere letters, and no longer significant sounds or syllables. Now what is this AK? We call it a root, which is, of course, a metaphor only. What we mean by calling it a root is that it is the residuum of our analysis, and a residuum which itself resists all further analysis. It is an ultimate fact—and no more.
With these ultimate facts, that is, with a limited number of predicative syllables, to which every word in any of the Aryan languages can be traced back, or, as we may also express it, from which every word in these languages can be derived, the historical school of comparative philology is satisfied, at least to a certain extent; for it has also to account for certain pronouns and adverbs and prepositions, which are not derived from predicative, but from demonstrative roots, and which have supplied, at the same time, many of those derivative elements like tus in acu-tus, which we generally call suffixes or terminations.
After this analysis is finished, the historical student has done his work. AK, he says, conveys the concept of sharp, sharpness, being sharp or pointed. How it came to do that we cannot tell, or, at least, we cannot find out by historical analysis. But that it did so, we can prove by a number of words derived from AK in Sanskrit, Persian, Greek, Latin, Celtic, Slavonic, and Teutonic speech. For instance: Sanskrit âsu, quick (originally sharp), Greek Kúç, Lat oc-ior, Lat. ac-er, eager, acus, acuo, acies, acumen; Greek dкun, the highest point, our edge A.-S. ecg; also to egg on; akwv, a javelin, acidus, sharp, bitter, ague, a sharp fever, ear of corn, Old High German ahir, Gothic ahs, acus. aceris, husk of grain, and many more.
Let us now look at the Theoretical School and its treatment of language.