Bookes are like bogs

September 11, 2009

Anthony Hodges’ translation of the ancient Greek romance The loves of Clitophon and Leucippe (1638) began with several poems acknowledging the skill and accomplishments of the translator, most of which described the process of translating and reading in interesting ways. One remarked on the resurrecting function of the translator:

That this dumbe Author, who hath tongue-tied bin
For many yeares, should now at last begin
To speake our language: and that he likewise,
Who had so long layne dead, should now arise.

Playing on the frontispiece, which showed the two lovers’ boat jeopardised in a stormy sea, another praiser wrote:

A Pearle’s a Pearle, though in the shell ’tis coucht;
Yet ’tis more glorious, when ta’ne forth and oucht
In glittering gold. Then gemmes more briskly shine,
Not when they’re in the Sea, but when they’re mine.
Thy Lovers had without thy second Forme
Beene more obscur’d i’th Greeke, than in the storme.
And though they scap’t by Sea, yet had we found
Thy Amorous Paire still in the Language drown’d.

Another applauds Hodges for ‘turning drosse to gold’, writing:

So have I seene great Titans powerfull ray
With active streames of heat exhale from clay
And miry bogges a fume, which climbing high
Shines like a Starre in Heav’ns bright Canopy.

Here the bogs are an emblem of low altitude and un-‘winginess’, but in another accolade the bog becomes the book itself:

Bookes are like bogs; heed with what foot we tread,
We may not sinke; so with what minde we reade.

A lovely way of describing a critical reading methodology, bringing the content of the book into league with its material production.


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