A very few words may suffice by way of introduction to this translation of the Cyropaedia.
Professor Jowett, whose Plato represents the high-water mark of classical translation, has given us the following reminders: “An English translation ought to be idiomatic and interesting, not only to the scholar, but also to the unlearned reader. It should read as an original work, and should also be the most faithful transcript which can be made of the language from which the translation is taken, consistently with the first requirement of all, that it be English. The excellence of a translation will consist, not merely in the faithful rendering of words, or in the composition of a sentence only, or yet of a single paragraph, but in the colour and style of the whole work.”
These tests may be safely applied to the work of Mr. Dakyns. An accomplished Greek scholar, for many years a careful and sympathetic student of Xenophon, and possessing a rare mastery of English idiom, he was unusually well equipped for the work of a translator. And his version will, as I venture to think, be found to satisfy those requirements of an effective translation which Professor Jowett laid down. It is faithful to the tone and spirit of the original, and it has the literary quality of a good piece of original English writing. For these and other reasons it should prove attractive and interesting reading for the average Englishman.
Xenophon, it must be admitted, is not, like Plato, Thucydides, or Demosthenes, one of the greatest of Greek writers, but there are several considerations which should commend him to the general reader. He is more representative of the type of man whom the ordinary Englishman specially admires and respects, than any other of the Greek authors usually read.
An Athenian of good social position, endowed with a gift of eloquence and of literary style, a pupil of Socrates, a distinguished soldier, an historian, an essayist, a sportsman, and a lover of the country, he represents a type of country gentleman greatly honoured in English life, and this should ensure a favourable reception for one of his chief works admirably rendered into idiomatic English. And the substance of the Cyropaedia, which is in fact a political romance, describing the education of the ideal ruler, trained to rule as a benevolent despot over his admiring and willing subjects, should add a further element of enjoyment for the reader of this famous book in its English garb.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:02