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A New and Complete Translation

Essay 72

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 [†]8 January 1768[72.1]

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 When Micio finally does manage to get a word in edgewise, he does get through to Demea, but by no means convinces him.[72.2] Micio robs him of all pretense for being angry over his children’s manner of living, and yet Demea starts grousing all over again. Micio simply has to break off and be satisfied that, at least for today, he will have peace from the peevish humor that he cannot change. The tacks Terence has him take in the process are masterful.[*][72.3]

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 DEMEA: Now be careful, Micio, where all your pretty principles and dear indulgences will lead.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 MICIO: Hush! It’ll be better than you think. – And now, enough of all that! For today, do me a favor. Come on, cheer up.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 DEMEA: But just for today! I have to do what I must do. – Tomorrow, at the crack of dawn, I am going back to the country, and the boy is coming with me.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 MICIO: Even before the crack of dawn, I’d imagine. Just be merry for today!

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 DEMEA: That excuse for a singer must come with us, too.

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 MICIO: Excellent! Then your son will certainly not wish to run away. Just hold onto her tightly.

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 DEMEA: I’ll take care of that! She’ll be covered in flour and coal dust and smoke from the mill and the oven. And she’ll harvest corn for me in the midday sun until she’s as dry and black as an extinguished torch.

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 MICIO: I like that! Now you’re on the right path! – And then, if I were you, I’d make my son sleep with her, whether he wanted to or not.

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 DEMEA: Are you making fun of me? – With such a disposition, truly, you can afford to be light hearted. Unfortunately, I feel it –

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 MICIO: You’re starting up again?

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 DEMEA: No, no, I’m done.[72.4]

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 With regard to Demea’s “Are you making fun of me?” Donatus remarks: “Hoc verbum vultu Demeae sic profertur, ut subrisisse videatur invitus. Sed rursus ‘ego sentio,’ amare severeque dicit.”[72.5] Incomparable! Demea, who was completely serious in wanting to keep and use the music girl not as a music girl but as a common slave, must laugh at Micio’s joke. Micio himself does not need to laugh; the more seriously he presents himself, the better. Then Demea can say: “Are you making fun of me?” and force himself to bite back his own laughter. And he does soon bite it back, for he says the “Unfortunately, I feel it” in an angry and bitter tone. But as involuntary and brief as the laughter may be, it nonetheless has a great effect. For you have only really won over a man like Demea when you can make him laugh. The more rarely he experiences such a beneficial convulsion, the longer it affects him; and after he has long erased every trace of it from his face, it continues to persist without him even knowing it and has a certain influence on his subsequent conduct. –

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 But who would have looked for such subtle knowledge from a grammarian? The ancient grammarians were not what we think of when we hear that name today. They were people of great insight: their province was the entire broad field of criticism. What has come down to us of their interpretations of classical writings therefore deserve to be studied not only because of the language. However, we have to know how to discern the more recent interpolations. The fact, however, that this Donatus (Aelius) is so splendidly rich in observations that can cultivate our taste, and that he can reveal the hidden merits of his author better than any other, comes perhaps less from his own great gifts than from the talent of his author.[72.6] In Donatus’s time the Roman theater had not yet completely declined; Terence’s plays were still performed, doubtless still with many of the traditions that came down from times when better Roman tastes prevailed. He needed only to note what he saw and heard; he needed only attentiveness and fidelity in order to convey subtleties that posterity gave him credit for, but that he himself could hardly have unearthed. As a result, I know of no work from which a budding actor could learn more than this commentary on Terence by Donatus, and until Latin is more common among our actors, I would very much wish that someone would provide them a good translation of it. It goes without saying, the poet must be present and everything from the commentary that appertains only to the explanation of words should be omitted. Mme.

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 Dacier used Donatus badly in this regard, and her translation is watery and stiff.[72.7] We have a more recent German translation that is more or less correct, but completely misses the mark as comedy,[†][72.8] and Donatus is not put to any better use there than by Dacier. What I propose has not yet been done; but who should do it? Those who could not do better, can also not do this; and those who could do something better, will graciously decline.

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 Now finally to come from Terence to our imitator.[72.9] – It is peculiar indeed that Herr Romanus seems to have had the same mistaken ideas as Voltaire. He too believed that the character of Demea undergoes a complete change in the end; at least, this is what happens to the character of his Lysimon.[72.10] “Oh children,” he has him cry out, “be quiet already! You overwhelm me with tenderness. Son, brother, nephew, servant, all praise me, just because I appear for once to be a little bit friendly. Am I then, or am I not? I’m becoming right young again, brother! It’s nice to be loved. I do want to remain like this. I do not know when I last had such a pleasant hour.”[72.11] And Frontin says: “Our old man will surely die soon.[‡] The change is far too sudden.”[72.12] Yes indeed, but the aphorism (and the common belief) about unexpected transformations foreboding an approaching death really shouldn’t justify something here in all seriousness, should it?


18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 [*] DEM:                       ne nimium modo

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 bonae tuae istae nos rationes, Micio,

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 et tuos iste animus aequos subvortat.

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 MIC:                                                                        tace!

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 non fiet. mitte iam istaec, da te hodie mihi,

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 exporge frontem.

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 DEM:                       scilicet ita tempu’ fert.

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 faciundumst. ceterum ego rus cras cum filio

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 cum primo luci ibo hinc.

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 MIC:                                                de nocte censeo

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 hodie modo hilarum fac te.

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 DEM:                                               et istam psaltriam

30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 una illuc mecum hinc abstraham.

31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 MIC:                                                                        pugnaveris.

32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 eo pacto prorsum illi alligaris filium

33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 modo facito ut illam serves.

34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0 DEM:                                               ego istuc videro,

35 Leave a comment on paragraph 35 0 atque ibi favillae plena, fumi ac pollinis

36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 coquendo sit faxo et molendo. praeter haec

37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0 meridie ipso faciam ut stipulam colligat.

38 Leave a comment on paragraph 38 0 tam excoctam reddam atque atram quam carbost.

39 Leave a comment on paragraph 39 0 MIC:                                                                                                placet.

40 Leave a comment on paragraph 40 0 nunc mihi videre sapere. atque equidem filium

41 Leave a comment on paragraph 41 0 tum, etiam si nolit, cogam ut cum illa una cubet.

42 Leave a comment on paragraph 42 0 DEM: derides? fortunatu’s qui isto animo sies.

43 Leave a comment on paragraph 43 0 ego sentio –

44 Leave a comment on paragraph 44 0 MIC:                        ah! pergisne?

45 Leave a comment on paragraph 45 0 DEM:                                      iam iam desino.

46 Leave a comment on paragraph 46 0 [†] Halle 1753. For the sake of novelty permit me to quote from this version the same passage that I have just translated above. What flowed from my pen is very different from what it should be, but you will still be able to generally discern what constitutes the achievement that I have to deny to this translation.

47 Leave a comment on paragraph 47 0 [‡] Without a doubt, this is how it ought to read, rather than: “die impossibly soon.” For the sake of our actors, it is important to make note of such printing errors.

48 Leave a comment on paragraph 48 0  

  • 49 Leave a comment on paragraph 49 0
  • [†] Text in blue indicates passages ommitted by Zimmern in her 1890 translation.
  • [72.1] Actually published spring of 1768.
  • [72.2] In [70], Lessing begins a discussion of Terence’s comedy The Brothers, which he continues here; for a plot synopsis, see [70.14].
  • [72.3] Terence, Adelphi l. 835–53. For both the Latin and English, see Barsby’s translation (p. 346–9).
  • [72.4] Tr. note: for an English translation directly from the Latin text, see Barsby, 347–9.
  • [72.5] “Demea speaks this line with such a facial expression that he seems to be smiling against his will. But then with ‘Unfortunately, I feel,’ he speaks again with an angry and bitter countenance.” See Donatus 322.
  • [72.6] See [71.5].
  • [72.7] Anne Lefèvre Dacier (1647–1720): distinguished French classicist, renowned throughout Europe for her translations of Greek and Latin texts. With her husband, André Dacier, she produced the Delphin series of editions of Latin classics; her prose translation of Adelphi/Brothers, with accompanying dissertaton on Terence, appears in the three volume collection Les Comedies de Terence (1691); see Vol. 2: 251–445.
  • [72.8] Tr. note: Lessing, in his original essay, subsequently quotes in his footnote from the German translation of Terence’s play by Johann Samuel Patzke (1727–87), which was published in Halle in 1753 in the volume Des Publius Terenzius Lustspiele aus dem lateinischen übersetzt [The Comedies of Publius Terentius, translated from the Latin]. Lessing’s aim is to demonstrate how wooden and unfunny that translation is; because his argument rests on subtle differences between his own German translation and that of Patzke, we refer the reader to the original rather than include another translation of the scene. See Patzke 447–8.
  • [72.9] K. F. Romanus; see [70.6].
  • [72.10] Lysimon: Romanus’s name for Demea.
  • [72.11] For this exchange, see Romanus 117.
  • [72.12] Frontin: the servant of Lysimon’s nephew. (Terence’s original has two pairs of brothers; Romanus changes the younger set to cousins.)
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Source: http://mcpress.media-commons.org/hamburg/essay-72/