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November 17, 1957 - Image 12

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Michigan Daily, 1957-11-17
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THE MICHIGAN DAILY MAGAZINE

I -(I - -i -

Page Six

Sunday,'November 17, 1957

Sunday, November 17, 1957

THE MICHIGAN DAILY MAGAZINE

From the University Press

value .. .until they are symboliz

CATULLUS-THE COMPLETE
POETRY. Translated by
Frank 0. Copley. Ann Arbor,
1957: University of Michi-
gan Press. 141 pp. $3.75
By RICHARD E. BRAUN
MOST HONEST translators of
classical poets are accustomed
to preface their work with some
simile that defines and deprecates
"translation." Dryden's dedication
to his Aeneid shows the following:
Raphael imitated nature; they
who copy one of Raphael's
pieces imitate but him, for his
work is their original. They
translate him, as I do Virgil;
and fall short of him, as I of
Virgil. . . . Lay by Virgil, I
beseech your Lordship, and all
my better sort of judges, when
you take up my version; and
it will appear a passable
beauty when the original Muse
is absent.
Presupposing that art is imitation
of nature, art must fail, but the
imitation of art is not even noble
failure; so, whether a translation
has obscured the original with
brilliance or eclipsed it with dull-
ness, it fails sadly through a
feebleness of desire. Two and a

Reviews of Four Noteworthy
Volumes from the Fall List
Of a Rapidly-Rising Publisher

half centuries of academic publi-
cation, however, have made Dry-
den's deferential remarks seem to
be quaintly in excess.
Today one should expect the
poetic, as the prose, version of a
classic poet to be a gloss; that is,
a form of literary criticism. Mod-
ern translators are consequently
inclined to use the les§ philosophic
simile of musical reduction to de-
fine their task: the English Virgil
or Catullus is like a piano-reading
of a symphony for antique flutes
and fiddles and tympani. A scholar
of Latin and Greek is sometimes
a virtuoso, as it were, of this
performers' art. Like the violinist
or vocalist he daily improvises
English sounds for the silent nota-
tion of a standard-work before
him; possibly he records these im-
provisations, but then, with the
only humility a virtuoso dares dis-
play, he opens with reservations
such as: "This much I shall have

shown you. Then let us all, in
studious silence, venerate the
Text." The translation is literary
criticism. It is paraphrase, first of
all, by definition; second, it is
commentary. In a poetic version,
the "comments" are tacit and con-
tained in the structure of the new
poem: but expansion, interpola-
tion, new tropes, and devices of
sound are used instead of the
boring terminology of formal exe-
gesis.
GAIUS VALERIUS Catullus was
a younger contemporary of
Julius Caesar, Cicero, Lucretius,
and the many less amusing figures
of the end of the Roman Republic.
He is the earliest writer of the
short poem in Latin whose work
has survived, and the 113 poems
and fragments show that his man-
ner exerted considerable influence
upon Virgil, Horace, Martial, and
others of the Empire. In the Mid-

dle Ages, Catullus was (not sur'
prisingly) kept out of sight and
eventually lost; about the year
1325, Benvenuto Campesani, a
crony of Petrarch and Boccaccio,
unearthed him for a new period
of notoriety in the Renaissance.
The newest English translation
of Catullus by Prof. Frank 0. Cop-
ley of the Latin department is the
most learned and affectionate ver-
sion available. The title Catullus
The Complete Poetry is rather
misleading, even for a poetic trans-
lation, but is, I assume, intended
to avoid confusion with the paper-
back reissue of Horace Gregory's
execrable Poems of Catullus (1931).
There is really little danger of
confusion; even the un-Latined
will quickly sense, on approaching
Gregory's Catulus, an inappropri-
ate odor of formalin.
See CATULLUS, page 17

AUBREY'S BRIEF LIVES.
Edited from the original
manuscripts and with a life
of John Aubrey by Oliver
Lawson Dick. Ann Arbor,
1957: The University of
Michigan Press. 341 pp.
$5.95.
By VERNON NAHRGANG
Daily City Editor
OHN AUBREY, for the greater
part of the seventeenth cen-
tury, wanted to know everything
about everybody. He was an avid
listener when an individual was
under discussion; he was a thor-
ough and pressing questioner
when the discussion did not bring
out all the facts about the person
in question.
Aubrey's reputation for gossip
was strong among friends who
"expected to hear of Aubrey's
breaking his neck sorieday as the
result of dashing downstairs to
get a story from a departing
guest."
His efforts, however, were not
meant to satisfy his personal curi-
osity nearly so much as they were
intended to build extensive vol-
umes of biographical information
and related data concerning any
and all persons of whom the sev-
enteenth century knew anything
at all.
AUBREY'S habit was to come
home from a hard evening's
work at some party, sleep off the
after-effects, and then, while his
head was still throbbing, attempt
to remember the anecdotes and
details he had heard and the
people he had seen, recording his
impressions in whatever might be
the most convenient place at
hand.
But his thoroughness and in-
stinct for editing was too often
subdued by his spirit of curiosity
and the urge to learn more, for
although he began many books
and made numerous scattered en-
tries in as many scattered places,
he never quite drew together
enough of his jottings to build the
final literary product.
At his death in 1697, he left
behind Aubrey's Brief Lives, a
collection of manuscripts under
426 headings, mostly biographical.
The material, however, was often
repetitive, since Aubrey told his
favorite stories again and again,
occasionally lacking in specific in-
formation, with blank spaces pro-
vided for the missing data, and
sometimes strained one's credu-
lity.

(Continued from Page 14)
fine artist can match the articul-
lation of his brushes in writing but
Shahn has done that, and in
words that for expressiveness, for
sheer high quality, will attract
"not . . . only the customary art
public" but, one hopes, "a new
kind of public, a great influx of
people . .."
It is the images we hold in
common, the characters of nov-
els and plays, the great build-
ings, the complex pictorial im-
ages and their meanings, and
the symbolized concepts, princi-
ples, and great ideas of philoso-
phy and religion that have cre-
ated the human community.
The incidental items of reality
remain without value or com-
mon recognition until they are
symbolized, recreated, and im-
bued with value. The potato
field and the auto repair shop
r e m a i n without quality or
awareness or the sense of com-
munity until they are turned in-
to literature by a Faulkner or a
Steinbeck or a Thomas Wolfe
or into art by a Van, Gogh.
Or quite simply and truthfully
and profoundly, by a Ben Shahn.
BEN SHAHN: HIS GRAPHIC
ART. Text by James Thrall
Soby. Nqw York, 1957:
George Broziller, 140 pp.
$10.00.
T HE GRAPHIC ART of Ben
Shahn,,.with a prefatory es-
say by his friend James Thrall
Soby, is not only a superbly pro-
duced art work, it is one for which
there was real need. It makes
available in small compass a selec-
tion of the work Shahn has done
as cover artist, book illustrator,
poster maker, record sleeve decor-
ator, and pamphlet and advertis-
ing designer.
Shahn is perhaps the only
American artist in this century to
achieve a significant body of high
quality graphic art. Graphic art
executed for mass media in Amer-
ica generally has been at an ap-
pallingly low level, the nadir,.being
the folksy covers of the Saturday
Evening Post and the anatomical-
ly, but not erotically, preposterous
Esquire girls. Recent years have
seen a gradual shift-Shahn, Fras-
coni and Baskin have all been
commissioned by magazines-
largely because Shahn has car-

ried to his work for mass media
the same exacting standards found
in his museum Work. Following
Shahn's example has become an
artistic necessity.
SHAHN'S OWN high - quality
work has, in fact, become ac-
cepted to the extent that readers
sometimes have to be reminded
that an isolated illustration or
cover is his. This is partly because
many readers fail to look at what
they are seeing, partly because
Shahn's style and techniques have
been so widely copied, partly be-
cause his graphics fit appropri-
ately whatever is at hand. A draw-
ing of Shahn's in, say, the New
York Times amid many uniformly
undistinguished makes his virtues
stand out. Soby says rightly, "It
would be hard to think of an
American artist whose signature is
more his own. Shahn has only to
touch pen or pencil to paper to
make his personality felt as clearly
as in the most ambitious of his
paintings."
Shahn's compassion, superbly
clear in the portrait sketch of J.
Robert Oppenheimer, has been
widely discussed. Compassion is,
indeed, a distinguishing quality of
Shahn's work. To see the Oppen-
heimer sketch is to know a great
deal about what harrowing experi-
ences this man was forced to en-
dure. What is implicit, of course,
is an estimate of the whole shoddy
affair in the form of a question,
What brings man to this?
Compassion is so apparent a
quality in Shahn's work because
of another element - elegance,
born from that human mastery
over material called craft. Craft
never makes a man a great artist,
for there are his mind, emotions,
and in Shahn's case at least, his
capacity for moral fury, still to be
considered. But craft enables a
man to develop a style and a style
is made elegant, in the best sense,
when the artist's control over his
ideas and his ability to express
them fuse completely in what he
produces. Shahn's control - over
line, rhythm, form, typography-
is never in question.
HAHN FINDS the contrast be-
tween the heavy hands of a
man in a field of wheat and the
delicate stalks he reaches to touch;
he makes social satire Hof no more
than a tangle of television an-
tennae by opposing them to a
profuse natural growth of Easter
lilies; he imbues his black and

white drawings of architectual fa-
cades with a strange eloquence,
perhaps because they are so clearly
facades; lie brings a marvelous
upswing to his chorus of singing
angels who respond to an angelic
organist's pipes of ecstatic praise.
The essay provided by James
Thrall Soby is excellent, for un-
like the text in most art books, it
does not stand in the way of the
plates but complements them. It is
a model of art criticism by a writer
who admires his subject and knows
how to do a most difficult thing,
express praise:

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(Shahn's) drawing often has'
the autonomous vitality of
lines put down by Paul Klee,
one of the twentieth-century
artists Shahn most admires.
But it can also be as exact,
condensed, and immune to
forgery as the engraving on
government currency. It is this
quality of vision --the poet
combining with the squinting
precisionist - which gives
Shahn's graphic art much of
its power and fascination. .. .
... 'The Marriage of Heaven

an
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ed
an
m
fu
Sid
Be
is a
Is a
exce
does
frien

1-u - e the-Pic ture 4(quiet 414 til ct kt

in

NATURAL.
LOOK
SUITS
for (a/l

The drawing of the drummer
(above) was one of a series com-
missioned in 1956 by Edward R.
Murrow and Fred W. Friendly
for the-film "Ambassador Satch-
mo." "Warning -- Inflation
Means Depression - Register -
Vote" (below) was painted for
the CIO Political Action Com-
mittee in 1946. It is owned by
the Museum of Modern Art, New
/York.

4,
Slip into som

The gentlemanly look - with the
touch of elegance - shows you at
your best in our new Natural Look
suits. There's nothing "stuffy" about
them, still they give you an air of
distinction. Why not stop in and let
us help you develop your potential
for the best possible appearance.
You'll enjoy it - and the cost is so
reasonable!

MOREOVER, the Lives varied in
length (one of the shortest:
On John Holywood, "Dr. Pell is
positive that his name was Holy-
bushe.") and in nature, from phy-
sical description to ancestral
tables and weird scientific and
medical procedures of the time.
In this recent edition of Aub-
rey's Brief Lives, Oliver Lawson
Dick has taken the 134 lives with
any "intrinsic value" and edited
them for modern reading by dis-
carding "distractions to continu-
ous reading," imperfect sentences,
and repeated stories. "Imperfec-
tions of Aubrey's copy," the edi-
tor says in his preface, "have been
amended in the way that he in-
tended they should be." Yet, Dick
maintains, his edition remains
faithful to Aubrey.
There is, in addition, a XCIV-
page "The Life and Times of John
Aubrey" written by the editor and
prefaced to the Lives themselves.
The result is a revealing study of
seventeenth - century E n g 1 a n d,
with glances at France and an oc-
casional run-in with a figure of
uncommon fame from an earlier
period of English history.
"The Life and Times of John
Aubrey" is perhaps the editor's
most important contribution to
this edition of the "Lives." This
essay presents Aubrey as much as
possible through his own writings
about himself and the things close
to him, helping the reader to vis-
ualize the problems of a deter-
mined gossip insistent on tracking
See JOHN. Page 16

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