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John Stuart Blackie

John Stuart Blackie(1809-1895) was a Scottish scholar and man of letters and like
many contemporaries, he had a professorial position, being a professor of Greek for almost 30
years at the University of Edinburgh and he was interested in the study of the classics and he
translated from Greek, especially from Aeschylus.
In the excerpt from J.S.Blackie, Recent translations of the Aegamemnon, we are
presented the differences between the German and the English way of translation of ancient
Greek and Roman poetry into our own tongue.While the main objective of the English
translator has always been to be free and graceful, spirited and energic, the German translator
is more religiously laborious, he strives after accuracy of erudition and after appreciation.
We also find out that Mr. Symmons is the most poetical of all English translators of
Agamemnon and even if Mr.Conington didn’t manage to dethrone him, he still managed to
produce a work of high merit, satisfying almost all demands of the German formalist and of
the loose diffusion of the English.
In the second excerpt taken from Blackie’s preface to his translation The Lyrical
Dramas of Aeschylus he discusses upon the problem of an English translator, the main issue
being how to make the English reader feel both what he said and how he said it, being a
Greek not how to say a thing as the author would have said it.
Pope’s Iliad is the pattern of rhytmical translations and has one of the finest passages
very finely done.
A good prose translation, done by a poet or a man of poetical culture-Homer-is better
accepted rather than a poetical translation as that of Pope. A prose translation of any poet
done by a proser in a prosaic style may seem a parody or a caricature in the point of taste.
Blackie’s opinion is that we are in a favourable moment for producing good
translations, we are in a period in which we have the legacy of a poetical language which
allows us to perform excellent poetical translations. The reason of his failure of bringing out
what is Greek and what is Aeschylean combined with force, grace and clearness of English
expression, is the lack of skill in the workman.