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Dyce's and Bullen's editions of the Amores. A few egregious examples are here recorded. Eleg. 2. 1. 25 runs: Carmine dissiliunt, abruptis faucibus, angues. This Marlowe renders: 'Snakes leap by verse from caves of broken mountains.' Et clamant 'Merito' qui modo cumque vident, of Eleg. 2. 14. 40, becomes, 'And whoe'er see her, worthily lament.' Cf. also the versions of Eleg. 1. 4; 2. 5; 3. 8;
On the other hand, Jonson's classical learning is known to have been remarkable even in the age
of Selden and Camden, and his prime aim in translating was faithfulness to his original. The want of comprehension due to haste or to incomplete scholarship so often apparent in Marlowe's translations, is therefore seldom met with in Jonson's, though Reinsch (Ben Jonsons Poetik 114) points out two errors of rendition in the Trebatius dialogue (Horace, Sat. 2. I. 31, 84-5) of Poetaster. Marlowe surpasses Jonson in vivacity and ease; but Jonson generally preserves almost the exact ideas of the original. This is true notwithstanding such creeping work on the part of both poets as appears in their versions of the same two lines (Ovid, Am. 3. 8. 2–3):
Ingenium quondam fuerat pretiosius auro,
At nunc barbaria est grandis, habere nihil. Marlowe (Works, ed. Bullen, 3. 194) writes:
Wit was sometimes more precious than gold;
And Jonson (Poetaster 1. 2. 264-5) is quite as awkward :
The time was once, when wit drown'd wealth: but now,
These details have been presented because the two versions of Eleg. 1. 15 contained in Marlowe's Works are closer to the thought of Ovid's verses than Marlowe's translations are wont to be, and therefore suggest the careful hand of Jonson.
Second, the ordinary verse tests do not help us here. Both Marlowe and Jonson were in the habit of employing the ten-syllable rimed couplet for their translations; both tried to compress the matter of a given number of Latin lines into the same number of lines of English. Moreover, a tentative examination of the usage of each in respect to feminine rimes and run-on verse promised to yield confusing results: the proportion of feminine to masculine rimes in the version 'by B. I.,' for instance, falling between the proportions established for several thousand other couplets in Marlowe and in Jonson.
It remains, then, to argue the case on general grounds. The resemblances between the version of Eleg. 15 printed without comment among Marlowe's authentic translations and that headed “The Same by B. I.' are so marked as to justify us in assuming a single authorship. From this, the inference is either that the posthumous editor of Marlowe's Amores intentionally or unintentionally appropriated some of Jonson's work, or that Jonson, in placing in Poetaster a poem by Marlowe without a hint that it was such, was guilty of plagiarism. Now the Passionate Pilgrim shows us what one bookseller ventured to do, and it seems probable that the early editions of Marlowe's Amores had no reputable editorship. On the other hand, Jonson told Drummond (Conversations p. 37), 'Of all styles he loved most to be named Honest,' and plagiarism does not accord with the proud self-sufficience of Honest Ben. On his dislike of admitting the labors of anyone to a share in his own glory, cf. these expressions in Sejanus (To the Readers) : ‘Lastly, I would inform you, that this book, in all numbers, is not the same with that which was acted on the public stage; wherein a second pen had good share: in place of which, I have rather chosen to put weaker, and, no doubt, less pleasing, of mine own, than to defraud so happy a genius of his right by my loathed usurpation.' Again, Jonson loved translating perhaps even more than 'making,' and he was
not the only one who believed that there was not his equal as a translator in England. Drummond was constrained to record (Conversations p. 41): 'His inventions are smooth and easie; but above all he excelleth in a Translation.' And there was no Swinburne in those benighted times to enter a picturesque protest (cf. Fortn. Rev. vol. 50, 'The Miscellaneous Works of Ben Jonson'). It is therefore improbable that Jonson, even in the hurry of writing Poetaster, would have condescended to borrow a piece of translation for sober uses, and it is likewise improbable that, had he been inclined to borrow, the Marlowe translations would have suited his taste. Of course it is evident that the translation of Eleg. 15 was in existence two years at least before the production of Poetaster, and this may seem an argument against Jonson's authorship. But this elegy, with its address Ad invidos, and its catalogue of the great names of Greek and Roman literature, is the one out of all three books that would appeal to Jonson, and so invite his pen in some leisure hour. Finally, there is a certain plainness and stiffness about the disputed composition, which, taken with its plodding literalness, impresses one as Jonsonian.
On the grounds, therefore, of Jonson's love of translating, his faithfulness to an original, his honesty and pride, and the plainness and inflexibility frequent in his shorter pieces couched in the heroic couplet, as well as on the doubtful editorship of Marlowe's translations, we conclude that in all probability both versions of Ovid, Eleg. 1. 15 occurring in the Marlowe collection, as also the Poetaster version, are by Jonson.