Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science.  Die fröhliche Wissenschaft.

First published in 1882.

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One can estimate the amount of the historical sense which an age possesses by the way in which it makes translations and seeks to embody in itself past periods and literatures.  The French of Corneille, and even the French of the Revolution, appropriated Roman antiquity in a manner for which we would no longer have the courage owing to our superior historical sense.  And Roman antiquity itself: how violently, and at the same time how naively, did it lay its hand on everything excellent and elevated belonging to the older Grecian antiquity!  How they translated these writings into the Roman present!  How they wiped away intentionally and unconcernedly the wing dust of the butterfly moment!  It is thus that Horace now and then translated Alcaeus or Archilochus, it is thus that Propertius translated Callimachus and Philetas (poets of equal rank with Theocritus, if we be allowed to judge).  Of what consequence was it to them that the actual creator experienced this and that and had inscribed the indication thereof in his poem!  as poets they were averse to the antiquarian, inquisitive spirit which precedes the historical sense ; as poets they did not respect those essentially personal traits and names, nor anything peculiar to city, coast, or century, such as its costume and mask, but at once put the present and the Roman in its place.  They seem to ask us "Should we not make the old new for our selves, and adjust ourselves to it?  Should we not be allowed to inspire this dead body with our soul?  for it is dead indeed : how ugly is everything dead!  "They did not know the pleasure of the historical sense ; the past and the alien was painful to them, and as Romans it was an incitement to a Roman conquest.  In fact, they conquered when they translated not only in that they omitted the historical : they added also allusions to the present ; above all, they struck out the name of the poet and put their own in its place not with the feeling of theft, but with the very best conscience of the imperium Romanum.  (Well done!  LEXIDO).  

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