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." I had, however, a much more exten“ sive view in writing that poem than to “ describe either his banishment or his “ grave. Poets are sometimes shrewd in “ their conjectures. You quoted to me “ the other day a line in `Childe Harold,' “ in which I made a prediction about the “ Greeks *: in this instance I was not so “ fortunate as to be prophetic. This poem “ was intended for the Italians and the “ Guiccioli, and therefore I wished to “ have it translated. I had objected to " the Versi sciolti having been used in “my Fourth Canto of “Childe Harold;' “ but this was the very metre they adopt“ed in defiance of my remonstrance, and
* “Will Gaul or Muscovite redress ye? No!"
Childe Harold, Canto II. Stanza 75.
“in the very teeth of it; and yet I be“ lieve the Italians liked the work. It “ was looked at in a political light, and “ they indulged in my dream of liberty, " and the resurrection of Italy. Alas! “ it was only a dream!
“ Terza Rima does not seem to suit the “ genius of English poetry—it is certainly “ uncalculated for a work of any length. “ In our language, however, it may do “ for a short ode. The public at least " thought my attempt a failure, and the “ public is in the main right. I never “ persecute the public. I always bow to “its verdict, which is generally just. But “ if I had wanted a sufficient reason for “ my giving up the Prophecy—the Pro“phecy failed me.
“ It was the turn political affairs took “ that made me relinquish the work. At “ one time the flame was expected to “ break out over all Italy, but it only “ ended in smoke, and my poem went “ out with it. I don't wonder at the en“ thusiasm of the Italians about Dante. “ He is the poet of liberty. Persecution, “ exile, the dread of a foreign grave, could “not shake his principles. There is no “ Italian gentleman, scarcely any well-edu“ cated girl, that has not all the finer pas“ sages of Dante at the fingers' ends, “ particularly the Ravennese. The Guic“ cioli, for instance, could almost repeat “ any part of the Divine Comedy;' and, “ I dare say, is well read in the · Vita “ Nuova,' that prayer-book of love.
“Shelley always says that reading Dante
" is unfavourable to writing, from its su"periority to all possible compositions. “ Whether he be the first or not, he is “ certainly the most untranslatable of all “poets. You may give the meaning ; " but the charm, the simplicity—the clas“sical simplicity,—is lost. You might as “ well clothe a statue, as attempt to trans“ late Dante. He is better, as an Italian “ said, 'nudo che vestito.'
“ There's Taafe is not satisfied with “ what Carey has done, but he must be “ traducing him too. What think you of " that fine line in the ' Inferno' being ren“ dered, as Taafe has done it ?
• I Mantuan, capering, squalid, squalling.
“There's alliteration and inversion enough, “ surely! I have advised him to frontis
“ piece his book with his own head, Capo “ di Traditore, “the head of a traitor;' then “ will come the title-page comment“ Hell !"
I asked Lord Byron the meaning of a passage in ‘The Prophecy of Dante. He laughed, and said :
“I suppose I had some meaning when “ I wrote it: I believe I understood it “ then.” *
* “ If you insist on grammar, though
Don Juan, Canto VII. Stanza 42.
“ I don't pretend that I quite understand My own meaning when I would be very fine.”
Don Juan, Canto IV. Stanza 5.