Page:Sophocles - Seven Plays, 1900.djvu/33

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xxvii
PREFATORY NOTE TO EDITION OF 1883

bear in mind that the seven plays are less than a tithe of the work produced by the poet in his lifetime.

It may very possibly be asked why verse has been employed at all. Why not have listened to Carlyle's rough demand, 'To tell us what they thought; none of your silly poetry'? The present translator can only reply that he began with prose, but soon found that, for tragic dialogue in English, blank verse appeared a more natural and effective vehicle than any prose style which he could hope to frame. And with the dialogue in verse, it was impossible to have the lyric parts in any sort of prose, simply because the reader would then have felt an intolerable incongruity. These parts have therefore been turned into such familiar lyric measures as seemed at once possible and not unsuitable. And where this method was found impracticable, as sometimes in the Commoi, blank metres have again been used,—with such liberties as seemed appropriate to the special purpose. The writer's hope throughout has been, not indeed fully to transfuse the poetry of Sophocles into another tongue, but to make the poet's dramatic intention to be understood and felt by English readers. One more such endeavour may possibly find acceptance at a time when many causes have combined to awaken a fresh interest at once in dramatic literature and in Hellenic studies.


The reader who is hitherto unacquainted with the Greek drama, should be warned that the parts assigned to the 'Chorus' were often distributed among its several members, who spoke or chanted, singly or in groups, alternately or in succession. In some cases, but not in all, Ch. 1, Ch. 2, &c., have been prefixed, to indicate such an arrangement.