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November 17, 1957 - Image 6

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Poge Six

THE MICHIGAN DAILY MAGAZINE

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From the University Press

CATULLUS-THE COMPLETE
POETRY. Translated by
Frank O. 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." Dsyden'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- shown you. Then let us all, in
cation, however, have made Dry- studious silence, venerate the
den's deferential remarks seem to Text." The translation is literary
be quaintly in excess. criticism. It is paraphrase, first of
Today one should expect the all, by definition; second, it is
poetic, as the prose, version of a commentary. In a poetic version,
classic poet to be a gloss; that is, the "comments" are tacit and con-
a form of literary criticism. Mod- tained in the structure of the new
ern translators are consequently poem: but expansion, interpola-
inclined to use the less philosophic tion, new tropes, and devices of
siile of musical reduction to de- sound are used instead of the
fine their task: the English Virgil boring terminology of formal exe-
or Catullus is like a piano-reading gesis.
of a symphony for antique flutes
and fiddles and tympani. A scholar GAIUS VALERIUS Catullus was
of Latin and Greek is sometimes a younger contemporary of
a virtuoso, as it were, of this Julius Caesar, Cicero, Lucretius,
performers' art. Like the violinist and the many less amusing figures
or, vocalist he daily improvises of the end of the Roman Republic.
English sounds for the silent nota- He is the earliest writer of the
tion of a standard-work before short poem in Latin whose work
him; possibly he records these im- has survived, and the 113 poems
provisations, but then, with the and fragments show that his man-
only humility a virtuoso dares dis- ner exerted considerable influence
play, he opens with reservations upon Virgil, Horace, Martial, and
such as: "This much I shall have others of the Empire. In the Mid-

dIe 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 Catullus, an inappropri-
ate odor of formalin.
See CATULLUS, page 17

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NATU RAL

LOOK
SUITS
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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 NAITRGANG
Daily City Editor
JOHN 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 someday 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 os 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-
vide'd for the missing data, and
sometimes strained one's credu-
lity.
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-
Scarding "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" writtei 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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