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TRANSLATION is a Province every body thinketh himself qualified to undertake, but very few are found equal to it: The mechanic Rules, the common Laws, which are to be observed, are very seldom obeyed; and sometimes a Translation may prove a very bad one, where these are most strictly regarded. Too scrupulous an observation of Rules spoileth all sorts of writings: it maketh them stiff and formal; it betrayeth a weak and pedantic Genius, and such nice Writers are fitter to make Transcribers than Translators.
The first qualification of a good Translator is an exact Understanding, an Absolute Mastery of the Language he translateth from, and the Language he translateth to: we are not only required to understand our own, and a foreign Tongue as Critics and Grammarians, we must not only be perfect Masters of each separately, but we must more especially study the Relation and Comparison between them. In this do lie the great Art and Difficulty of Translating; and not being able to reach the full Compass, the Differences, the Proprieties, and Beauties of one Language, is the Foundation of all faulty Rendering into Another.
Touching the Search of Natural Capacities. THE Manurement of wits is like that of Soils : where before either the pains of Tilling or the Charge of Sowing, Men use to consider what the mould will bear, Heath or Grain. Now this peradventure may seem in Children a very slight and obvious enquiry; that age being so open and so free: and yet void of all Art to disguise or dissemble either their appetites, or their defects; Notwithstanding we see it every day, and everywhere subject to much error: Partly by a very pardonable facility in the Parents themselves, to over prize their own Children, while they behold them through the Vapours of Affection which alter the appearance; as all things seem bigger in misty mornings. Nay, even strangers, and the most disinterested person, are yet, I know not how, commonly inclined to a favourable conceit of little ones: so cheap a thing it is to bestow nothing but Hope. There is likewise on the other side, as often failing by an Undervaluation; for in divers Children their ingenerate and Seminal Powers (as I may term them) lie deep and are of slow disclosure; no otherwise than in certain Vegetables, which are long before they shoot up and appear, and yet afterwards both of good and great increase; which may serve to excite care, and to prevent despair in Parents: for if their Child be not such a speedy spreader and brancher, like the vine, yet perchance he may prove proles tardè crescentis Olivce; and yield, though with a little longer expectation, as useful and more sober fruit than the other.
Sir H. Wotton.
Time is the plainest Legend, and every day a leaf is turned.
If we look abroad, we shall see many proceed yearly out of the Schools of Experience, whereas few, in comparison, are commended by Degrees unto us: indeed the multitude of those Schools infinitely exceeding our numbers: but especially because the means which they follow are far more obvious and easy. Libraries and Lectures profiting none, but such as bring some measure of understanding with them: but the Occurrents of the world being easily entertained by the weakest Capacities, assisted only with common sense: neither therefore is this Legend of time to be contemned by those, whose Wits are more pregnant, or Studies furnished with greatest choice. The Students of Common Law manifest the benefit arising from the use thereof: who as by reading their Year Books they recover the Experience of former Ages: so by daily repair to the Courts of Justice, they suffer nothing of the present to pass unobserved. And I note, that whereas foreign Universities (in conferring Degrees) regard meerly the performance of some solemn exercises : ours further require a certain expence of time, supposing (as I conceive) that howsoever exercise of form may be deceitfully despatched of course: yet that he who lives some space among the assiduous advantages and helps of knowledge, cannot chuse but receive so much upon ordinary observation, as may make him Master of some Art: which frequent opportunities, as they happily add something to those who are but idle lookers on, so, no doubt, they must advance perfection in those who are more studiously observant: every day presenting their Judgments
with matters examinable by the Precepts they read, and most producing to their inventions, occurrents fit for further inquiry.
Sir H. Wotton.
Of Practice and Habit. As it is in the body, so it is in the mind; practice makes it what it is; and most even of those excellencies which are looked on as natural endowments, will be found, when examined into more narrowly, to be the product of exercise, and to be raised to that pitch only by repeated actions. Some men are remarked for pleasantness in raillery, others for apologues and apposite diverting stories. This is apt to be taken for the effect of pure nature, and that the rather, because it is not got by rules, and those who excel in either of them, never purposely set themselves to the study of it as an art to be learnt. But yet it is true, that at first some lucky hit which took with somebody, and gained him commendation, encouraged him to try again, inclined his thoughts and endeavours that way, till at last he insensibly got a facility in it without perceiving how; and that is attributed wholly to nature, which was much more the effect of use and practice. I do not deny that natural disposition may often give the first rise to it; but that never carries a man far without use and exercise, and it is practice alone that brings the powers of the mind as well as those of the body to their perfection.
member), after some reasoning we concluded both what was in our opinion to be looked for at his hand, that would well and advisedly write an history. First point was, to write nothing false; next, to be bold to say any truth : whereby is avoided two great faults-flattery and hatred. For which two points, Cæsar is read to his great praise; and Jovius the Italian to his just reproach. Then to mark diligently the causes, counsels, acts, and issues, in all great attempts: and in causes, what is just or unjust; in counsels, what is purposed wisely or rashly; in acts, what is done courageously or faintly; and of every issue, to note some general lesson of wisdom and wariness for like matters in time to come, wherein Polybius in Greek, and Philip Comines in French, have done the duties of wise and worthy writers. Diligence also must be used in keeping truly the order of time, and describing lively both the site of places and nature of persons, not only for the outward shape of the body, but also for the inward disposition of the mind, as Thucydides doth in many places very trimly; and Homer everywhere, and that always most excellently; which observation is chiefly to be marked in him. And our Chaucer doth the same, very praiseworthily: mark him well, and confer him with any other that writeth in our time in their proudest tongue, whosoever list. The style must be always plain and open; yet some time higher and lower, as matters do rise and fall. For if proper and natural words, in well-joined sentences, do lively express the matter, be it troublesome, quiet, angry, or pleasant, a man shall think not to be reading, but present in doing of the same. And herein Livy of all other in any tongue, by mine opinion, carrieth away the praise.