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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

The Enfant Terrible of Literature    197

Glacial Periods of Folly

The moraines left by secular glacial periods of folly stretch
out over many a plain of our civilisation. So in the Odyssey,
especially in the second twelve books, whenever any one
eats meat it is called " sacrificing " it, as though we were
descended from a race that did not eat meat. Then it was
said that meat might be eaten if one did not eat the life.
What was the life ? Clearly the blood, for when you stick a
pig it lives till the blood is gone. You must sacrifice the
blood, therefore, to the gods, but so long as you abstain
from things strangled and from blood, and so long as you
call it sacrificing, you may eat as much meat as you please.

What a mountain of lies—what a huge geological forma-
tion of falsehood, with displacement of all kinds, and strata
twisted every conceivable way, must have accreted before the
Odyssey was possible!

Translations from Verse into Prose

Whenever this is attempted, great licence must be allowed
to the translator in getting rid of all those poetical common
forms which are foreign to the genius of prose. If the work
is to be translated into prose, let it be into such prose as
we write and speak among ourselves, A volume of poetical
prose, i.e. affected prose, had better be in verse outright
at once. Poetical prose is never tolerable for more than a
very short bit at a time. And it may be questioned whether
poetry itself is not better kept short in ninety-nine cases out
of a hundred.

Translating the Odyssey

If you wish to preserve the spirit of a dead author, you
must not skin him, stuff him, and set him up in a case. You
must eat him, digest him and let him live in you, with such
life as you have, for better or worse. The difference between
the Andrew Lang manner of translating the Odyssey and
mine is that between making a mummy and a baby. He
tries to preserve a corpse (for the Odyssey is a corpse to all
who need Lang's translation), whereas I try to originate a