1824 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Chapman

Bryan Waller Procter, in Effigies Poeticae, or, the Portraits of the British Poets (1824) 24-25.



From a Print prefixed to his Translation of Homer.

CHAPMAN has a head like a lion. It is sturdy, and strongly-marked, and carries the look of a disputant. This old poet has the reputation of having made the finest translation of Homer extant; and we think that few persons who have read it, (more particularly the Odyssey,) will feel inclined to question his claim. There may be smoother versions, and even more correct ones; but there is none, in our knowledge, which bears so entirely the marks of inspiration, or which contains the strength and spirit of the Greek original like that of Chapman. He was a believer in the divinity of poetry, and a fierce enthusiast in his art; moreover, he held Homer in adoration, and seems to have clothed him in an English dress, out of mere veneration for his name. Homer,

(Whom when Apollo heard, out of his star,
Singing the godlike acts of honoured men,
And equalling the actual rage of war,
With only the divine strains of his pen,
He stood amazed,)—

he sang, first and last and greatest, in the greatest art, which "is not of the world indeed, but (like Truth) hides itself from it." — Chapman was a dramatist also. He wrote tragedies and comedies; he translated (besides the Iliad and Odyssey) the so called Hymns of Homer, and completed the story of Hero and Leander, "Whose tragedy divine Musaeus sung," which Marlow had began; but he wrote scarcely any original rhyme. His verse is occasionally cramped, and sometimes harsh; but he had the wisdom of a learned man, and the fiery strength of a poet, and was altogether competent to the proud task which he took upon himself to perform.