Arthur Hugh Clough: The Critical Heritage

By Michael Thorpe | Go to book overview

13.

Arnold’s more objective view of The Bothie

1861

From Oxford lectures On Translating Homer (1860-1); printed in The Complete Prose Works of Matthew Arnold, Vol. I, On the Classical Tradition, Section III, 150-1.

Matthew Arnold (1822-88) was Professor of Poetry at Oxford from 1857 to 1867. The passage quoted here is taken from the last of three lectures On Translating Homer (1860-1) in which Arnold compared the merits of various English versions of Homer and considered whether their appropriate measure should be the rhymed ten-syllable couplet, blank verse or the hexameter; it is in speaking of his preference for the Homeric ‘movement’ of the last that he digresses to praise his friend’s efforts:

…Most of you, probably, have some knowledge of a poem by Mr. Clough, The Bothie of Toper-na-fuosich, a long-vacation pastoral, in hexameters. The general merits of that poem I am not going to discuss: it is a serio-comic poem, and, therefore, of essentially different nature from the Iliad. Still, in two things it is, more than any other English poem which I can call to mind, like the Iliad: in the rapidity of its movement, and the plainness and directness of its style. The thought in this poem is often curious and subtle, and that is not Homeric; the diction is often grotesque, and that is not Homeric. Still, by its rapidity of movement, and plain and direct manner of presenting the thought however curious in itself, this poem, which, being as I say a serio-comic poem, has a right to be grotesque, is grotesque truly, not, like Mr. Newman’s version of the Iliad, falsely.1 Mr. Clough’s odd epithets, ‘The grave man nicknamed Adam, ’ ‘The hairy Aldrich, ’ and so on, grow vitally and appear naturally in their place; while Mr. Newman’s ‘dapper-greaved Achaians, ’ and ‘motley-

1 F. W. Newman’s verse translation of the Iliad appeared in 1856.

-69-

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