The Comedies of Aristophanes (Hickie 1853)/Preface

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In the present English version of the Comedies of Aristophanes, the text adopted is that of Dindorf, as revised for the edition recently published by Didot, which it may here be observed is a great improvement on that contained in his Poetæ Scenici. The translator's aim has been to render the very words of Aristophanes into English as closely and exactly as the idioms of the two languages admit, and in illustrating his author the most approved commentators and versions have been diligently consulted. Any other mode of proceeding would have been inconsistent with the profession of a new and literal translation. Loose paraphrases of difficult Greek authors,—of which the world has more than enough already,—would be any thing but new, while an attempt to improve the author by substituting modern conceits, or fanciful interpretations, whenever the quaintness or freedom of the original appeared likely to offend the reader, would be inconsistent with his professed object. He has endeavoured to give what Aristophanes actually wrote, as far as could be accomplished in English words, excepting in passages of extreme indelicacy, which are necessarily paraphrased. The obscurity which sometimes arises in the English text from a strictly literal rendering, has been obviated by explanatory notes, and by extracts from English and German metrical versions, in which the thoughts are expanded and freely expressed. The metrical extracts are mostly taken from Frere, Walsh, Carey, and Wheelwright, and from the excellent German versions of Voss and Droysen. The latter of these has afforded most valuable assistance throughout. That of Voss has been less available, being so absolutely literal as often to be more difficult than the Greek itself. Droysen, on the contrary, being expressed in easy idiomatic language, may be understood by any one who can read German at all. In conclusion, it only remains to observe, that three of the plays now offered to the public, the Lysistrata, Thesmophoriazusæ, and Ecclesiazusæ, have never before appeared in English prose.

W. J. H.

St. John's College.