"The Multitude Is Always In The Wrong"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: To produce a good translation of verse, says the Earl of Roscommon, the translator must select a worthy piece of poetry to work on: it must have sufficiently exalted subject matter to make the project of translating it worth while. Moreover, it must fit the taste and inclinations of the translator so that he will be sympathetic towards it. The piece should be of acceptable morality, as there is no justification for recording improper and indecent matter or using coarse words, when there is so much worthy poetry available. Also, men of sense despise a trivial choice of subject. Foul descriptions offend people of taste and judgment, either by being like their originals or, on the other hand, by the falsity of being unlike them. The translator should employ the greatest symmetry in the formation of his work; and, although the composition of a great original poem requires genius, a good translation also calls for a high degree of talent and poetic skill. The better the original is, the more difficult it will be to translate in an understandable manner: Virgil, for instance, wrote ages ago, but he is still only slenderly understood by the ordinary reader. In translating him, a talent almost as great as his is necessary. Roscommon proceeds thus:

What I have instanced only in the best,
Is, in proportion, true of all the rest.
Take pains the genuine meaning to explore;
There sweat, there strain, tug the laborious oar:
Search every comment that your care can find,
Some here, some there, may hit the poet's mind;
Yet be not blindly guided by the throng;
The multitude is always in the wrong.