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Not only innumerable words, but the ancient forms of the Roman letters, prove the origin of ihe language to have been Grecian. From the fame source it derived progressive improvements. The earliest Latin poets, Pacuvius, Ennkis, and Piautus, modelled their works upon the Grecian plan, as is particularly evident from their frequent use of compound words. As soon as the art of public speaking began to be cultivated in Rome, the Greek language, which contained some of die richest treasures of eloquence, became a favourite object of pursuit. Th.e attention which was paid to the productions of Greece by the Romans when advancing towards resinement, sufficiently marks the high estimation, in which their literature was held Cato, the Censor, at a late period of life learned the elements of that language; and Pompey, when Consul, as a mark of distinguithed respect to a Greek philosopher, ordered his fasces to be lowered to Pasidonius .the sophist, whom he visited in his school at Rhodes. Greece was to Rome, what Egypt had been in more remote times to Greece, the fruitful parent of her literature aud arts.
The Latiu yields the superiority to the Greek language, not only with regard to melody of sound, but compass of expression. It has no dual .nunt
■a.Græcis adjuvari sentiebat, ut interdum negaret, poetas eos qiii se to to s ad Græcorum imitationem coutulissent, nominatimProf ertium et Horatium, Graece imperitis valde placure posse.." JProlegom. ad Etymologicum I mcp. p. 0".
I>er, and has only one tense to denote the past perfect; but the Greek can express this equally by the preterperfect, and the aorist. The Latin has not a past participle active: whereas in Greek there are two, namely, the participle of the aorist, and the preterperfect. It wants likewise a present participle passive, which reduces writers to great inconvenience, and occasions much aukwardneso and uncertainty of expression. It is desicient in a middle voice, and an optative mood, marked by a peculiar termination, to distinguish it from the subjunctive.
^ . ■■.-'■.'■■. :'-.
The Romans did not, in imitation of the Greeks,
introduce the article into their language. This is
one of its striking defects. The importance of the
article in sixing the meaning of a word to a precise
idea will appear from the following, or any similar
instance. Suppose in Latin the words Filius Regis
to occur in any author: Do they mean a son of a
King, the son of a King, or the son of the King?
each of which expressions conveys a very different
idea. The exact fense of Filius Kegis mult intirely
depead upon the context; as the expression is in
itself vague and indesinite, The modern languages
of Europe have the advantage over the Latin in.
this, part of speech, however inferior- they may be. lit
other respects. -i
Ib the different inflections and terminations of words, as well as in the delicate and pleasing denominations; off objects, by diminutives, Greek and 'Latin Latin bear a strong resemblance to each ©theft The Latin possesses compound words, bat in -d degree that will hardly admit of comparison witlf the Greek. It is equally happy in denoting by particular verbs the frequent repetition or commencement of actions; and it is more accurate in its power of expressing certain modisications of time by gerunds and supines.
With respect to composition, the productions of the Latin classics are ranked next in order of ex-< cellence to those of the Greek. The polished writers of Rome, disdaining to follow the plain and inartisicial manner of their older authors, imitated the varied pauses and harmonious flow of Grecian periods. In one kind of arrangement, the Romans were inferior to their great masters, as they frequently closed their fentences with verbs. This practice sometimes runs through several sentences together, with no small degree os tiresome uniformity; as is evident from many passages in the history of Livy, the Orations of Cicero, and the Commentaries of Cæsar. In defence however of this custom it may be remarked, that as the action expressed by the verb is frequently the most emphatic idea, it might be thought most consistent with the genius of their composition, to place it at the close of the period, for the purpose of more effectually keeping up the attention of the hearer or reader.
From considering the beauties of composition so
ctmfpicuous in the works of the claffics, we must be sensible of the unfavourable light, in which they appear when viewed through the medium of Translations. They are exposed to the vanity, the negligence, or the ignorance of the translator: and are liable to be injured by his fastidiousness, or his want of taste. The fense of an original work may be debased by servile sidelity of version, or enervated by unrestrained freedom of expression; it maybe compressed into an abridgment, or dilated into a commentary.
Sometimes a translator flatters himself he canimprove upon his original, as is attempted in the following instance. Virgil describes Venus after her appearance to Æneas as visiting Paphos:
— — Ubi templum illi, centumque Sabsco
For which a'French Translator substitutes these lines: ''".''
Dansce Temple ou toujours quelque ainant irrite,
Because he thinks this description is more characteristic of the Temple of Venus than that given by Virgil, which he fays will apply equally well to the Temples of other Deities. Had he understood. the spirit of the passage, and known that blood was never ssied upon the altar of the Paphian goddess, and. that its peculiar ornaments were garlands of
flowers, he might have spared Iiimself the pains sf endeavouring to improve upon Virgil.
The Translation of Virgil by Dryderr is h» some instances carelessly executed, yet it is the carelessness of a Man who entered fully into the spirit of his original, and could convey it in the most expressive language, whenever he chose. He saw "that closeness best preserved an Author's fense, and that freedom best exhibited his spirit, he therefore will deserve the highest praise, who cart give a representation at once faithful and pleasing, who can convey the same thoughts with the fame graces, and who, when he translates, changes nothing but the language"."
As a proof of the excellence of this remark, take the following description of the rapid march of a Roman army:
Non secus ac patriis acer Romanus in annis
Which Dryden has thus rendered—
Thus, under heavy arms, the youth of Rome
To judge how well this is executed, compare it with a recent translation.
♦ Johnson's Idler, No. 6"9. . P Georg. 3. 1. 346".