Turbervile’s Ovid. An unsigned review of The Heroycall Epistles of Ovid, translated into English Verse by George Turbervile, ed. Frederick Boas
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578 ] Turbervile’s Ovid An unsigned review of The Heroycall Epistles of Ovid, translated into English Verse by George Turbervile Ed. with an introduction and glossary by Frederick Boas London: Cresset Press, 1928. Pp. 349. The Times Literary Supplement, 1407 (17 Jan 1929) 40 A reprint of Turbervile’s translation of the Heroides has long been due not only to the author but to every student of Tudor verse.1 Turbervile’s translation of 1567 is memorable for two reasons: next to Golding’s Metamorphoses andMarlowe’sAmoresitisthebestTudortranslation ofOvid;andsecondly, Turbervile is, with Golding, master of a verse form which it is very difficult to write well.2 The Cresset Press have spared no pains to give a well edited text and a handsome book.3 It is edited with introduction and glossary by Dr. Boas; and it is illustrated by Miss Hester Sainsbury.4 George Turbervile, if now obscure, was very respectably born, and very respectably educated at Winchester and at New College, of which he became a Fellow.5 He was the author of some original verse which was printed, and of several translations from Latin, French and Italian, but these translations from Ovid are his masterpiece.6 He was only twentyseven when they appeared; at that age he becomes an historical figure, and disappears again into oblivion. The first three editions, of 1567, 1569 and 1570,werepublishedbyHenryDenham;thefourth,byJohnCharlewoode, was published in 1580; and the fifth, by Simon Strafford, in 1600.7 It is not surprising that there were no further editions: the seventeenth century, even at its beginning, hardly appreciated the fourteener measure. But during his own century Turbervile’s translation appears to have enjoyed a deserved popularity, and probably fell into the hands of many writers who borrowed from Ovid through Turbervile. The present edition Dr. Boas has based upon that of Charlewoode, as the differences are merely of “typography , spelling, punctuation, and a number of verbal variants due chiefly to printers’ errors” [xxiii]. Dr. Boas expresses the hope that “it will be found that [Turbervile’s] work is not unworthy of being here presented, after 350 years, in this new dress” [xxiv]. [ 579 Turbervile’s Ovid It is not only not unworthy, but highly meritorious, and even important. It is not only historically important, but the best translation of the Heroides in English. The versification is of three kinds. A few of the Epistles are done into a blank verse which is itself interesting; some are in the regular fourteener ; but the most spirited, to our mind, is that in which a twelve-syllable line alternates with a fourteen. In the present edition, as in the original, the couplets are printed as quatrains. For example, the opening lines of “Dido to Aeneas”: Even so when fates doo call    ystretcht in moysted spring, Upon Meanders winding bankes    the snowish Swanne doth sing. Not for I thinke my wordes,    may ought prevayle I wryte: For why? I know the haughty Gods,    at this my purpose spite. [85] This form, as used by Turbervile, has a surprising sprightliness and freedom from monotony, but he handles the true fourteener also as well as it can be handled. We are only now, with gradual increment of reprints, beginning to recognize the merits of this uncouth, peculiar form of verse. We can now recognize that the fourteener of Chapman’s Iliad is not the true fourteener, but almost an exercise, with a different vocabulary, in an already archaic form.8 By the time that Chapman wrote, the English vocabulary had so altered that this metre was obsolete. To find the fourteener vocabulary, at its most typical and also (we must admit) sometimes at its worst, we can go to the Tenne Tragedies of Seneca.9 Our only complaint against Dr. Boas’s admirable introduction is that he gives the impression that Turbervile is extreme in quaintness where he is moderate. In apologizing for the necessity for his excellent glossary Dr. Boas says: Perhaps nothing is more striking in Turbervile’s use of words than his predilection for colloquialisms, and for terms that have for us somewhat mean or grotesque associations. Sometimes these lend additional force to his version, as when Paris describes Menelaus as “a rascall and a snudge,” or “that same unworthy patch.” But more often they break the spell of the poetry and bring us up with a jerk. Even allowing for the subtle changes in the associations of words between Tudor times and our own . . . [xx] 1929 580...