The beauty of a translator’s work is in the perfect accord of conscience and freedom, and this is not attained without unwearied search for the right word, the only right word which will give the true meaning and the true expression of any idea. To believe that this right word exists is one of the delights of translating; to be a lover of choice and beautiful words is an attraction in itself, leading to the love of things more beautiful still, the love of truth, and fitness, and transparency; the exercise of thought, and discrimination, and balance, and especially of a quality most rare and precious in women—mental patience. It is said that we excel in moral patience, but that when we approach anything intellectual this enduring virtue disappears, and we must “reach the goal in a bound or never arrive there at all.” The sustained search for the perfect word would do much to correct this impatience, and if the search is aided by a knowledge of several modern languages so that comparative meanings and uses may be balanced against one another, it will be found not only to open rich veins of thought, but to give an ever-increasing power of working the mines and extracting the gold.
“We have heard, O God, with our ears: our fathers have declared to us, ’The work thou hast wrought in their days, and in the days of old.’”—Psalm XLIII.
“Thus independent of times and places, the Popes have never found any difficulty, when the proper moment came, of following out a new and daring line of policy (as their astonished foes have called it), of leaving the old world to shift for itself and to disappear from the scene in its due season, and of fastening on and establishing themselves in the new.
“I am led to this line of thought by St. Gregory’s behaviour to the Anglo-Saxon race, on the break-up of the old civilisation.”—Cardinal Newman, “Historical Sketches,” III, “A Characteristic of the Popes.”
Of the so-called secular subjects history is the one which depends most for its value upon the honour in which it is held and upon the standpoint from which it is taught. Not that history can be truly a secular subject if it is taught as a whole—isolated periods 01 subdivisions may be separated from the rest and studied in a purely secular spirit, or with no spirit at all—for the animating principle is not in the subdivided parts but in the whole, and only if it is taught as a whole can it receive the honour which belongs to it as the “study of kings,” the school of experience and judgment, and one of the greatest teachers of truth.