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'Whilst thus in fervent toil the artisan
'Then, having run throngh every mode of thought
The two last lines of the first stanza are wrong, and those of the second are not only for the most part an addition, but an addition in a spirit foreign to that of the original words. There is no repetition in Tasso's verses.
'Stolto che al ciel si agguaglia, e in obbCio pone
We proceed to the third, which is the famous stanza beginning with
'Chiama gli abitator de f ombre eterne 11 rauco suon de la Tartarea tromba.' This (which it is mere justice to say is inimitable) he renders thus:—
'Its hoarse alarm the Stygian trumpet sounded Through the dark dwellings of the damned; the vast, Blind air rebellowing to the dreary blast, Tartarean caverns tremblingly rebounded. Hell quaked with all her millions; never cast The black skies so insufferable a sound, When the loud thunder left the world aghast, Nor ever in such motion rocked the ground, When in its quivering heart conflictingjires were bound.' How far Mr. Wiffen has been successful in echoing the 'taratantara' of Tasso, we leave to the reader's unassisted judgment; but we must again observe that the last line is utterly unjustified by the original. Tasso has
'Quando vapori in sen' gravida serra'
and we can assure Mr. Wiffen that no Italian poet would talk about Jires being bound.*
On'the whole, we cannot consider this work as a close version of
• That the reader may try the comparative merits of Mr. Witfen's translation by a satisfactory test, we put the same passages, as rendered by Fairfax and Hoole, into the opposite scale. We have in another place (Vol. XXV. p. 426.) given a sufficient specimen of Mr. Hunt.
'While thus their work went on with lucky speed,
0 fool! as if it were a thing of nought
•.' God to resist, or change His purpose great; Who on his foes doth thunder in his ire; Whose arrows hailstones be, and coals of fire/
• • • • 9
'The dreary trumpet blew a dreadful blast,
1 lis livid eyes upon the Christians turns:
He sees what mighty works their care engage,
And grinds his teeth, and foams with inward rage;And, like a wounded bull, with pain oppress'd,
'The trumpet now, with hoarse-resounding breath,
.. -• • ■ •> Not louder terrors shake the distant pole, .
When through the skies the rattling thunders roll:;
Not greater tremors have the labouring earth, When vapours,'pent within, contend for birth!'—Illicit. '* Fairfax has here sought to imitate a grace in his original, which neither Hoole nor Wiffen has attempted to catch.
Tasso: Tasso: and Mr. Wiffen's composition, though respectable, has many deformities. Thus, we have scattered over both this volume and his translation of Garcilasso de la Vega, many instances of the false and vulgar style of rhyming exemplified in the first and third lines of the first stanza we have been transcribing. And we are still more frequently annoyed with bad and prominent alliteration—a vice by no means confined to the pages of the author under review, though we rather apprehend few of his rivals ever reached exactly the same ' bad eminence'which he has attained in 'lucid light' and other specimens that might be particularized.
We are not disposed to object generally to the use of alliteration. It was common in the early periods of Roman literature, and, even if so classical a precedent for the practice were wanting, we should say it was justified both by the genius and ancient usage of language. Italian poetry derives one of its principal charms from a happy assortment of vowel sounds; and the English, which has few distinct vowel sounds, seeks a grace in the alliteration of its consonants. But having granted this, we assert that the meaning of the words, the choice of the letters with which we alliterate, and the mode in which we dispose them, must be judicious and well considered. We insist the more especially upon the caution to be observed in the use of this instrument; because its abuse has led to most of the nonsense and contradictions which are to be found in English, and to which habit alone could have reconciled us. Take, as examples, some of our most familiar proverbs, as, money makes the mare to go; something expressive of sympathy, between a fool and a Jig; neck or nothing; which latter, if it means any thing, means neck or every thing; and several other similar sayings, to the full as silly, but much too filthy for citation. If such glaring absurdities do not occur in our alliterative poetical phraseology, still the inartificially conspicuous introduction of what when well managed is a grace, has often produced very bad effects even there.
Artis est celare artem, and we therefore conceive that, even where there is a good choice of letters, which cannot be predicated of all Mr. Wiffen's combinations, and where there is no sacrifice of sense to sound, or other abuse, a too apparent use of alliteration is offensive; and an alliteration on other than initial syllables (especially where it can be placed upon accented ones) is generally to be preferred. Dryden, indeed, who is the least ostentatious in its management, may also be said to be the most judicious in the purpose to which he applies it, using it to unite different verses, by links that are almost imperceptible, and making the recurrence of the chosen letter or letters operate, as a key-note in music. Take the first least ostentatious example which offers itself to our recollection.
'Of all the cities in .Romanian lands.
The poet has thus almost always employed this engine; though we no more mean to insinuate that he weighed such matters nicely in the construction of his verse, than we suppose that Mozart balanced all the rules of thorough bass in the first imagination of a bravura song.
We think ourselves warranted, then, in saying that Mr. Wiffen (though he has fairly distanced Hoole and Hunt) cannot hope to contend successfully with Fairfax. Perhaps we might say the same of every man living who is known to us by his efforts in translation. It is, therefore, that we should with more satisfaction have seen Mr. Wiffen devoting himself to a rifaciineuto of this poet, for whom he himself professes such veneration. Do not let him think that we would, in saying so, assign him what we consider as a mean or mechanical task. Bend, a name which we need not tell him stands high on the roll of Italian fame, though the author of many classical and distinguished works, is principally known in the wide world of letters by his successful labours in recasting the work of Boyardo; and, much as we admire Fairfax, we think that there is great room for the exertion of industry and talent like Mr. Wiffen's in modernising and correcting his translation.
If, however, there are any of our readers who think we attach too high a value to this neglected poet, let them hear Dryden in the preface to his Fables, who, coupling him with Spenser, calls him ' a great master of English, and one who saw much farther into the beauties of our language than those who immediately succeeded him.' We may extend this eulogium; for we do not know of any one, among his immediate or remoter successors, who has shown so clear an insight into the language of English poetry, or who has adopted a more judicious scheme for its improvement. By his liberal use of the Saxon plural, (which, except by Spenser, who affected an antiquated language, had been little employed from the time of Chaucer,) as in the use of treen for trees, &c., he (if he had been successful in banishing that source of hisses) would have at one stroke freed our language from almost the only opprobrium in matter of sound, with which it is justly reproached.
After all, the improvement of his native language is, next to giving a faithful version of his author, the best praise to which a translator translator can aspire. Nor does it require such poor qualifications to accomplish this, as is often vulgarly supposed. To do that well in which Spenser failed although Milton succeeded, is no ordinary achievement. But what are, it will be said, the rules for accomplishing this? We answer, a religious, but not superstitious,reverence, founded upon a thorough love and knowledge, of our own language; to which must be added such tact as shall prevent us from any involuntary violation of its character or spirit in our innovations. We will explain what we mean by citing a successful and unsuccessful attempt at the naturalization of a foreign word, which will moreover illustrate what we have said respecting Spenser and Milton. When the first introduced spals (spalle) into English, he imported what could never take root; but when the latter did the same by imparadised, a word, by the bye, first coined by Dante, he transplanted what promised to be a lasting ornament to our language. In the same manner we imagine that an Italian author who should attempt to give citizenship to tantaliz~ zare, in Italian, would probably succeed; because the word is wanted; because Latin fable, from which it is derived, is popularly known in Italy; because the Italian language delights in forming verbs from substantives, as pettoreggiare from petto, &c. &c. &c; and, above all, because, we believe, no whimsical or vulgar association is connected with the word, which we suppose might so be naturalized.*
We do not, however, after fidelity, limit a translator's duty to an accurate knowledge and full feeling of the beauties of his own language, however highly we may rate these qualifications; he must, among many others, have an accurate knowledge of the language from which he works. He must not talk of ' heaping canisters with bread,' nor fill shrubs with 'grass-hoppers.' He must moreover have a competent knowledge (a necessity which is in some measure proved by this last example) of the climate, of the modes of cultivation, of the animals, and even of the manners of men (for these last have been very stationary) in the countries where poets have principally laid their scenes. If such things have been studied by him, he will not write only for the ignorant, but will afford most useful and material assistance to those who, though capable of understanding the original for the most part, encounter occasionally difficulties which can only be removed by more labour than they are willing to bestow. Had Collins been better
* An anecdote will best illustrate this condition. A foreigner, who thought he had obtained a great insight into Italian, coined in a Florentine circle the word amvsare, jnstifying its use by the analogy oi'amuser, in French, and observing that musa (a muse) »m familiar to eiery Italian..—' Aye, but mtiso (a snout) is unluckily yet more familiar,' replied one of the society.