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informed upon such points, we should not have to lament some blots in his exquisite oriental eclogues; he would have hardly applied to any hour, as an appropriate pleasure, .
'What time 'tis sweet o'er fields of rice to stray/ but would have been sensible that to wade through a rice-field is a most laborious and wearisome occupation, at whatever period of the day, and even when enlivened by the rising of a snipe at the distance of every thirty yards.
To these points of knowledge must also be added an acquaintance with the history, the families and the geography of the countries described, or the poet may, like Hoole, translate i Viscontei colubri -(meaning the snakes in the armorial bearing of the Viscontis) ' Calabrian earls,' or render reame, the kingdom, (meaning the kingdom of Naples,) by ' Rheims' of Champagne, in a passage where there is no question but of Italian wars.
There is also another qualification which we conceive necessary for the discharge of a duty incidental to translation—we mean that of commentatorship—for which, taste, a certain portion of scholarship, and very various information are all absolutely necessary. This is more especially true of the translator of the Italian poets, because there are none who have borrowed more largely from their predecessors, and there are none whose works have been so miserably edited at home. It is surely an interesting labour to trace out the quarries (some of them disused and overgrown with weeds) from which these mighty architects have drawn their materials; nor less so to compare the fabrics they have constructed with the models from which they have worked. Ariosto is, for instance, considered as the most inventive and original of poets; yet, strip him of all which he has collected in a thousand parts, and made his own by skilful appropriation, and what will remain to him! He takes a story out of a fabliau, varies it, adds dramatis persona from Apuleius, supplies them with sentiments from Ovid, and here and there intersperses his own beautiful stanzas with verses tolti da peso, as the Italians phrase it, (that is, taken bodily,) out of Dante and Petrarch. He does, in short, what every good poet, whose operations we have been able to trace, has done; and it is a most curious point to ascertain what is that quality which we call invention, and to prove how almost entirely made up of borrowed parts is that which may be designated original, as a whole. It is true thatTasso has ranged less widely in pursuit of materials than Ariosto, but he has dipt as deeply in the pure wells both of classical and of ancient Italian poetry. Such instances of borrowing as he and other real poets afford, possess other value, when judiciously selected, besides that arising from the mere question of what is their own and what is another's;
as, as, for example, when the same idea takes a distinct colouring from the character of the borrower.. Thus Petrarch makes his mistress say to him in a vision—r"
'Non sperar piu di vedermi in terra mai.' Ariosto has almost copied this verse, which he has also put into the mouth of Angelica seen by Orlando in a dream, but has inserted a warmer expression than suited the Platonic feelings of his predecessor; the alteration is
* Non sperar piu di gioirne in terra mai.' In the same manner the distinct characters of Dante, Petrarch and Tasso are marked by an essential difference in a passage, otherwise unimportant, which is to be found in all three. Ugo Foscolo observes, in his essay on Petrarch,
'The conflict of opposite purposes thrills in the heart of Petrarch, and battles in the brain of Dante.
"Che si e no nel cor dentro mi suona."—Petrarch.
"Che si e no nel capo mi tenzona."—Dante. Tasso has expressed it (continues Foscolo) with that dignity from which he never departs,
"In gran tempesta di pensierl ondeggia;" yet not only does this betray an imitation of the
"niagno curarum fluctuat aestu"
of Virgil, but Tasso, by dreading the energy of the idiom si e no, lost (as he does too often) the graceful effect produced by ennobling a vulgar phrase.'—Essays on Petrarch.
We cite this'passage, not only because it illustrates admirably our general notions of commentatorship, but because it is more especially appropriate to the immediate object of this review. As such we earnestly recommend it to the attention of Mr. Wiffen. An ordinary translator, nay most of our best artists, would probably, if engaged in a version of these poets, have rendered these passages in the same way. Yet how distinctively illustrative is each variety of the moral or poetical character of its author!
Unfortunately .the reader will seek in vain in Mr. Wiffen's book for the critical notices, which we consider as indispensable in a work like the translation of the Gerusalemme. None of Tasso's imitations of ancient or modern poets are brought to light; no difficulties are explained, and, we have only six short notes appended to nine long cantos!
In reviewing the execution of the poetical part of Mr. Wiffen's task, we regretted that he did not adopt Tasso's own stanza in preference to that of Spenser. As an additional cause for such regret, we will give the three first of some dedicatory stanzas, written in Tasso's own metre, and addressed to the Duchess of Bedford, Vol. xxxiv. No. Lxvii. B which which will show how successful Mr. Wiffen is in the mechanical structure of the otlava rima. ■
. 'Years have flown o'er since first my soul aspired
, ... .' Not in dim dungeons to the clank of chains, Like sad Torquato's, have the hours been spent
My studious life, my verses too could boast
Having thus returned from the incidental to the more immediate duties of a translator, it is but just to observe in conclusion that the exercise of these in the faithful mode in which we conceive they should be exercised, is especially difficult in rendering from the Greek, or from the Italian. To confine ourselves to the latter: it is a language so harmonious in itself, and possessed of so exquisite a prosody, that every thing maybe simply related in its verse with dignity and effect; whereas the comparative poverty of sounds in our own tongue has led our poets and orators to the use of a figurative, and sometimes even to an unnatural, style of phraseology, which is the most opposed to that of Italian poetry. To attempt therefore to give the tint of the original is not always possible; but it is surely better to give no colouring at all than to give a false one; and we acquiesce in the answer which the translator of Ariosto evidently anticipates to the following question:—' Would a real lover of Raphael prefer a copy of one of his pictures, which, though well painted, did not convey a true idea of his colouring, or a print of it carefully executed, which would give at least a faithful idea of the design?' But it may be said, is the translator, working according to Mr. Wiffen's system, and not dealing in equivalents, to copy closely every line, however hard to bend into another language; is he to render every thing literally? We say, No: this would be a real infraction of the precept of Horace; one, by the way, of which our favourite Ben Jonson has occasionally been guilty, as in his version of vultus nimium lubricus aspici, to wit,' a face too slippery to behold.' What then is to be the guide, and how far is such au author to be literal or not? We answer again, he is to be as faithful an interpreter as the idiom and construction of his own language allow; and (as example is always clearer than precept) we will cite, as the model of translation best agreeing with our notions of what is fitting, a great statesman's extemporaneous version of Tacitus's comparison of eloquence to fire. 'Eloquent in, sicutjiamma, materie alitur,motu excitatur, et urendo clarescit:'— Somebody having cited this passage after dinner as impossible to be rendered into English, Mr. Pitt instantly disproved the assertion by repeating; 'It may be said of eloquence as of a flame, that it requires matter to feed, motion to excite it; and that it brightens as it burns.' The example is short, but sufficient. We have here a version of Tacitus which is spirited, and yet close enough to assist a boy in the lower school of Eton in the construction of his task. If any rule can be considered as absolute, we conceive that which we maintain, is without exception; and if there be foreign authors, ancient or modern, who cannot be subjected to it, we aver that they may be paraphrased, but cannot be translated. Such is that exquisite idiomatic poet Catullus among the Latins; and such is Aristophanes among the Greeks, of whom we have seen most brilliant and successful imitations—and no translation.
Art. II.—1. Histoire de C Homme au Masque de Fer, accompagnce
des Pieces authentiques et de Facsimile. Par J. Delort. Paris.
1825. 2. The True History of the State-Prisoner commonly called' The Iron Mask;' extracted from Documents in the French Archives. By the Hon. George Agar Ellis. London. 1826.
TPHE debt of gratitude to a discoverer of historical truth
"^ is often more readily acknowledged than faithfully paid.'Extorta voluptas'! is the secret murmur of the many against
B 2 those those who remove cherished doubts and specious errors; and no work was ever more calculated to excite such inward repinings than M. Delort's treatise on the celebrated anecdote of the Man in the Iron Mask. By a research well directed and pursued under favourable auspices, he has divested this strange incident of obscurity and exaggeration, and, at the same time, destroyed the far greater part of its romantic effect.
Voltaire, who first gave the fact a place in history, delivered it, as rumour had conveyed it to him, inaccurately, and with embellishments well fitted to encourage wild surmises. It was, according to his narrative, some months after the death of Cardinal Mazarin, that an unknown prisoner, young and of noble appearance, distinguished stature, and great beauty of person, was sent in profound secrecy to an island on the coast of Provence. The unfortunate wore, while travelling, a mask, so contrived by means of steel springs, that he could take his meals without uncovering his face, a peremptory order having been given, that, if he disclosed his features, he should be instantly put to death. The minister, Louvois, paid him a visit, and spoke to him standing, and with an attention which implied respect. It was said that, during this period of his confinement, he one day traced some words with a knife on a silver plate and threw it from a window looking to the sea: a fisherman brought it to the governor of the island, who, when he had ascertained by a rigid examination that the man could not read, dismissed him, with the remark, that he was very lucky in his ignorance. In 1690, St. Mars, who had been governor of Pignerol, was appointed to command the Bastille, and under his care the mysterious captive was transferred to Paris, masked as before. In the Bastille he was lodged as con> moiiiously as the nature of the place allowed; his table wrsexcellent, all his requests were complied with, and the governor seldom sat down in his presence. He played the guitar and had a passion for lace and fine linen. The physician, who frequently attended him, inspected his tongue but never saw his face. The very tone of his voice was said to inspire interest; no complaint ever escaped him,, nor did he attempt, even by a hint, to make himself known. He died in 1703, and was interred, at night, in the bitrying-gioLind of St. Paul. So great was the importance ascribed to this dark event, that M. de Chamillart (the unfortunate war-minister and successor of Louvois) was importuned even on his death-bed, by his son-in-law, the Marechal de la Feuillade, to unfold the mystery; but he replied that it was the secret of the state, which he had sworn never to reveal. It is unnecessary now to examine the various conjectures that were grounded on these and other circumstances which disclosed
■ - • themselves,