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Evil. ONE. Hide thyself!
Sin and shame
Chorus. Quid sum miser tunc dicturus,
Evil. ONE. The glorified are turning
Their foreheads from thee;
Chorus. Quid sum miser tunc dicturus 2
MARGARET. Help me, I faint'—vol. ii. pp. 29–33.
The last exclamation is, in the original, ‘Nachbarin euer fläschen.’ The translator probably thought the contrast of the awful Latin chorus, the whispers of a demon, and the poor Margaret asking the girl that kneels next to her for her phial, too violent—too German. But the poet knew what he was doing;-the effect of his three bare common words is terrible. It is among the highest triumphs of genius to blend, without producing the effect of incongruity, the dream and the reality; and this simple girl's agonies, whether of love, sorrow, or despair, would have been comparatively powerless, had she not been taught to utter them in the vivid poetry of such prose as this.
The terrible prison scene with which the poem closes is rendered with fidelity, elegance and strength; and the performance, as a whole, has received the warm praise of one who must be admitted to be a most competent judge,_Professor Schlegel, not only doctissimus utriusque lingua, but himself, perhaps, the first of all poetical translators, ancient or modern,--as ‘displaying distinguished talent in a most difficult undertaking.”
The translator brought to his task a thorough knowledge of the language of his original; he has had the courage to cope with all the perplexities of rhyme; and the warmth of his poetical feeling is as apparent in the passages we have quoted, as the study which he has bestowed on English language and versification. In general, we think he has succeeded better in the tragic than in the lyric parts of the Mystery; but we must acknowledge one exception to this remark, in his treatment of the song, —a wonderful accumulation, or rather weaving together of luxurious images, by which the spirits lull Faust to sleep at the close
* Introduction to Bohte's Catalogue. London. 1825. K 2 rious
of his first colloquy with Mephistopheles—
Schwindet ibr dunkeln
where difficulties, which we should have imagined almost insuperable, have unquestionably been overcome in a manner that does his lordship much honour. We are sorry to observe, that the writer of such verses can condescend occasionally to such rhymes as dawning and morning. This is offensive enough in Mr. Wiffen, but altogether unpardonable in Lord Francis Gower. We have already alluded to some specimens of a translation of this extraordinary poem, which appear in the posthumous works of Mr. P. B. Shelley. As this volume was not prepared for the press by the author, and has had the disadvantage of being published under the inspection of persons ignorant, almost equally as it would seem, of foreign languages and of their own, it would be altogether unfair to make any part of its contents the subject of rigid criticism; and the versions from Faust, in particular, have, in many places, every appearance of being little more than first, however happy, sketches. In several passages the meaning of the original is quite missed; as, for example, in the whole strain of the pedlar witch's speech, in the larger fragment; and, upon the whole, we are inclined to suspect, that Mr. Shelley's knowledge of the German language had been imperfect. But it is impossble for such blemishes to conceal the extraordinary merit of these specimens. Mr. Shelley had a fine ear for harmony, and a great command of poetical language, although he was often seduced by bad example into licenses both of expression and versification at once mean and extravagant. He had, moreover, a fine liveliness both of feeling and of imagination, and in short, wanted little to be a distinguished original poet, but distinctness of conception, and regulation of taste. Accordingly, when he had a model of style before him, and the ideas were supplied; when he translated, whether from the Homeric hymns, from Euripides, from Calderon, or from Goethe, he had every requisite for the attainment of excellence. The vague and idle allegories in which he delighted, to say nothing of dulcia vitia of a worse kind, were banished for the moment from his fancy; and his verse, at once chastened and inspired by the continued contemplation of consummate art, was capable not only of reaching a classical gracefulness, but of reflecting vividly the strength of genius and the projection of its language. Our literature can show few translations from the Greek poets more elegant than his of the Hymn to Mercury and Cyclops of Euripides; nor, in spite of a few inaccuracies, could &. himself desire to see the effect of of the famous Mayday-night scene of his Raust transferred into any foreign language with more truth and vigour than Mr. Shelley's version exhibits. The reader is aware that Mephistopheles carries Faust to the great wizard festival shortly after the consummation of Margaret's ruin. The opening of their adventures in this region of enchantment is thus admirably given.
‘MEPH. Would you not like a broomstick? As for me
Through the mossy sods and stones,
- Resound, around, beneath, above.
To whoo ! to whoo! near, nearer now
Nor is the following, in another style, less exquisite.
‘MEph. Why did you let that fair girl pass from you,
MEPh. MEPh. What?
Faust. Seest thou not a pale
MEPh. Let it be—pass on—
FAUST. Oh, too true !
MEPh. It is all magic, poor deluded fool;
FAUST. Oh, what delight ! what woe! I cannot turn
MEPh. Aye, she can carry
. To show how well the man who could serve the Gothic muse