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that the difficulty has ever been completely overcome, even in a fragment. The poet who grapples in this way with the conceptions of another poet, cuts the knot by recasting them in his own mind, and producing, as a translation, what is in fact a new poem of his own-little more than the key-note borrowed; such are the highest examples of rhymed poetical translation in our language,-Dryden's specimens from Lucretius and Juvenal; and such essentially is the Iliad of Pope. These great masters, if they cannot adhere to the order of images in the model before them, are capable of inventing another order equally natural as that, or nearly so; and the effect is infinitely more powerful and delightful than the closest transcript of all the materiel of the finest poem in the world, executed by one who, not being himself a master, or fixing his eye on closeness as the sine qua non, cannot, or does not, furnish any equivalent for that original arrangement which rhyme renders it all but impossible for him to preserve. The merely English reader will derive a much livelier notion of Juvenal's spirit from the daring rivalries of Dryden-or the majestic pathos of the 'Vanity of Human Wishes,' than from Mr. Gifford's happiest translations.
The original poet himself, in his attention to the mechanical details of versification, is but too apt to lose sight of the order in which his conceptions were really drawn out within his breast—(for no man thinks in verse-least of all in rhyme); and hence the copious admixture of the false, which disturbs the impression of almost every poetical piece in the world-we are not afraid to say of every modern one of comprehensive dimensions. We know few studies so interesting and instructive as that of the various readings of a true poet-we mean the ascertained successive readings of the poet himself, not the syllable strife of commentators. How seldom do they fail to confirm the truth of Dr. Johnson's remark, that it is one of the bardest things in the world to alter the language of a passage without injuring the thought ;* a remark which ought to render us merciful critics indeed when we approach any fair specimen of poetical translation-of all other kinds of composition that in which the possible praise bears the smallest proportion to its inherent difficulty and labour.
The most cursory perusal of Mr. Wright's Inferno will satisfy every one that, had there been no Cary, this work would have been a valuable addition to the English library. But with every disposition to encourage any gentleman in an elegant pursuit, it is our duty to ask, in how far, Cary’s volumes being in every collection, it was worth Mr. Wright's while to undertake a new version of Dante? There are many poems of great merit, ancient and modern, which have never been interpreted to the mere English reader at all; many more of which the only existing versions are miserably deficient in every respect. Under such circumstances, surely Dante could not be a judicious choice, unless the new translator felt himself qualified to surpass, to some very considerable extent, the effect of his predecessot's performance —to convey at once a more exact impression of his author's meaning, and a livelier one of his manner. If Mr. Wright has succeeded in rendering Dante more accurately than Mr. Cary had done here and there, only by availing himself of certain recent commentaries on the original, of which Mr. Cary might have been expected to make use in preparing a new edition of his work; if, with the exception of these detached passages, the later version is not a more faithful one—and if it does not, as a whole, wear an air more Dantesque without being less English, than the former--we shall be compelled, not to treat disrespectfully a well-meant and industrious effort, but to express our regret that the time and talents devoted to it had not found some unpreoccupied field — and to urge the propriety of suspending a labour which, if completed, could at best conduct to a secondary place.
* We recommend, especially, to the young lover of such researches, the comparison of some of Wordsworth's ballads, as originally published, with the late collective edition of that great author's miscellaneous poetry.
We are bound to observe in limine that the version of Cary has been of infinite use to his successor; Mr. Wright has taken from him not a few lines, and in innumerable instances he has obviously and incontestably drawn his words, not directly from the Italian fountainhead, but from the previous English (and manly English that is) of his predecessor. Cary has been in the main the Dante of Mr. Wright; and he has departed from him nowhere, as far as we have been able to trace, to any good effect, unless when guided by Ugo Foscolo, or by Rossetti-of whose Commentary, indeed, he not seldom inlays fragments into his text; a liberty which had better been omitted.
No doubt, then, it is on bis nearer approach to the air and manner of the Italian master, that the new interpreter rests bis claim to supplant Cary; and when we opened his book, we certainly did not doubt that the gigantic task of rendering Dante in the terza rima had now at all events been accomplished. But a very brief examination dismissed this dream. Mr. Wright's measure is the Dantesque one to the eye, but not to the ear. It is printed exactly like the Italian verse—but the writer has not grappled with the difficulties, and he has missed the chief grace, of the terza rima :-he has few triple rhymes at all--and none in the right places; and the subtle link by which Dante binds every section of his measure into the succeeding one is thus wholly lost,
The result, then, is not an English Inferno in the measure of Dante, instead of the measure of Milton; but only the sense of Cary twisted out of black verse into a new aud anomalous variety of English rhynie--whether a harmonious or a graceful one, or at all likely to take root among us, we shall enable the reader to judge.
We select, by way of specimen, a few of those passages which are most familiar to every one; but which are so, simply because no reader thinks he can have them too often before him; and tirst the opening of
Giustizia mosse 'l mio älto Fattore:
Dinanzi a me non fur' cose creäte
By highest wisdom, and by primal love. Eternal, and eternal I endure.
Ere I was form’d, no things created were, All hope abandon-ye who enter here.
Save those eternal-1 eternal last:
All hope abandon-ye who enter here. In neither of these versions is the greatest beauty, save one, of this passage entirely preserved; the triple repetition of the per me si va. This might have been altempted; the effect of the transition from the solemn absolute si va, to the terrible Lasciate voi of the ninth line, a magnificent feature, was perhaps unattainable. Cary's first line is more literal than Wright's and we like its sound better. His third line too is the happier; Mr. Wright's variations of ye enterye are conveyed-ye go, are
In the second tiercet Wright has transposed, and not mended, Cary; his third line is worse than the corresponding one; he omits judiciously, however, Cary's interpolation of task: a task implies a master.
In the third tiercet the advantage is on all points with Cary; Wright's those eternal is not inscriptional, and he loses a link in
onitting ed io,' &c. not to be replaced by the weak modern invention of a hyphen (-); even commas and semicolons are out of place on marble. Cary's endure is better than his last. The closing line is not Mr. Wright's.
Quivi sospiri, pianti, ed alti guai
Diverse lingue, orribili favelle,
Facevan un tumulto il qual s'aggira
Ed io ch' avea d' error la testa cinta,
E che gent' è che par nel duol si vinta ? Here sighs, with lamentations and loud There sighs and sorrows, and heart-rending moans,
cries Resounded through the air, pierced by no Resounded through the starless atmos. star,
(eyes. That e’en I wept at entering. Various Whence tears began to gather in mine tongues,
Harsh tongues discordant,-horrible disHorrible languages, outcries of woe,
[despite, Accents of anger, voices deep and hoarse, Words of despair,-fierce accents of With hands together smote that swell’d
Striking of hands, —with curses deep the sounds,
and hoarse, Made up a tumult that for ever whirls
Raised a loud tumult, that unceasing whirld Round through that air with solid darkness
Throughout that gloom of everlasting stain'd, Like to the sand that in the whirlwind flies.
Like to the sand by circling eddies burl'd. I then, with error yet encompass’d, cried, "O master! what is this I hear? what race
Then (horror compassing my head around) Are these, who seem so overcome with
I cried, “O master, what is this I hear?
profound ? In Wright's first line sorrows is no translation of pianti ; in bis second, heart-rending is not alti, nor does cries render guai. Cary is better ; but we suspect Dante's ascent is from sighs to moans, and from thence to wailings. Both miss the sense of the third line; Dante weeps-tears only gather in Wright's eyes; and al cominciar does not mean at entering, as Cary supposes, but at the first-i. e. before the poet understands exactly that the sounds he hears are those of merited suffering. He was still in the error (which Wright blunders into horror) of the tenth line.
The second tiercet is not well done by either; Wright's harsh tongues discordant does not express diverse lingue-the tongues of different nations ; his horrible discourse is not quite so wide of the original as Cary's horrible languages—(Dante would hardly have used favelle in exactly the same sense as he had just done lingue); but it is vulgar—and it is not a complete translation.
The poet's meaning is the various utterances of anguish, which he proceeds to enumerate. Parole di dolore are not outcries, but, words of woe; and despair does not yet speak,—that is reserved for the close: the description again goes crescendo—there are words of grief, then accents of rage, then high and hoarse voices, and · hands together smote,' in unison with them—this is the despair. Nothing can be worse than Wright's arrangement: despair-then despite (what bathos !)—then the striking of hands removed from its place after all the favelle, and thrust in between the despite and the curses, neither of wbich are Dante's. Cary's eighth líne,
• Round through that air with solid darkness stain'd, is a fine one ; the solid, though hardly senza tempo, is worth an infidelity: the corresponding line in Wright is commonplace.
The heart-rending story of Count Ugolino in Canto XXXIII., the subject of by far the first historical picture of the English school, has of course been executed by both these translators with the utmost care and reflection :
Quand' io fui desto innanzi la dimane,
Ben se' crudél, se tu già non ti duoli
Già eran desti, e l'ora s' appressava
Ed io sentí' chiavár l'uscio di sotto
Io non piangeva, si dentro impietrái:
Però non lagrimái, nè rispos' io
Tutto quel giorno nè la notte appresso,
When I awoke, When I awoke, ere morn its rays had shed, Before the dawn, amid their sleep I heard I heard my sons, who with me were My sons (for they were with me) weep confined,
(bread. and ask
Sob in their slumbers, and cry out for For bread. Right cruel art thou, if no pang Full cruel art thou, if thou canst conceive, Thou feel at thinking what my heart fore- Without a tear, what then came o'er my told ;
[thee grieve? And if not now, why use thy tears to flow? And if thou grieve not, what can make Now had they waken'd; and the hour
They were awake; and now the hour drew drew near
(scant repast, When they were wont to bring us food; Which had been wont to bring their the mind
And each was pondering o'er his dream Of each misgave him through his dream,