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must not be understood to insinuate that any part would be well omitted; for Ariosto was as great a dramatist as a poet, and he who, upon a single perusal of the Furioso, finds much to be abridged, will, upon a second, usually believe what he had condemned to be well worthy of preservation; either as characteristic, or as essential to the conduct of the story. If, however, Harrington's version be faulty in this respect, he has still many claims upon our attention. We have already hinted that he is a pure well of English undefiled, and his narrative is almost always lucid and succinct.
The other may pretend to higher honours, and well deserves the eulogium of Collins, in speaking of Tasso—
'How have I sighed to hear his magic harp By British Fairfax strung, persuasive bard, &c.' We do not know a translation in any language that is to be preferred to this in all the essentials of poetry. It is indeed uncertainly executed and requires correction; but if it be inferior in these graces to the productions of a later age, in how many others is it not superior! The translator has thoroughly imbibed the spirit of the language from which he copies, and has withal avoided most of those defects with which the real lover of Italian poetry might reproach the English school. In him there is neither glare,
flitter, extravagance, nor that foul fault, confusion of metaphors, lis language is strong and simple, and his verse, never monotonous from regularity of cadence, is, like Italian verse and Italian music, distinguished by that sort of hill-and-dale character which conveys the most enduring delight to every cultivated ear, and renders even what may displease in parts, so agreeable as a whole.
Somehow or other, for reasons which it would be difficult to explain, this beautiful work of Fairfax, and that of Harrington, fell (as the Scots lawyers express it) into desuetude, and their matchless originals were taken up and done into English by that most contemptible of translators, Hoole; a man grossly ignorant of the Italian language, quite as much so of the history, climates and countries whence these poets had chosen their subjects and their scenery, and not sympathizing with either of them in any one of their characteristics. In the mean time, some of the greatest geniuses of Italy had been entirely neglected, and Dante, Petrarch and Berni were without a translation. English literature, however, was destined to be refreshed with new streams from the fountain by which it had originally been fed. Petrarch had been pronounced to be untranslatable, and his rainbow-tints seemed to defy imitation; yet parts of him have been of late transferred into English verse with a care, delicacy, and success, which completely justify the boldness of the experiment.
We We can only regret that the distinguished and accomplished lady, who has naturalized so many of these exotics, should have reserved them for the gardens of her friends, and we trust we are not abusing her favours by presenting a single specimen to our readers.
Veiled her sweet smile, as 'twere a passing cloud,
* Then knew I how the spirits of the blest,
Communion hold in heaven; so beamed serene
* Each grace angelic, each meek glance humane, That Love ere to his fairest votaries lent,
'Her lovely looks in sadness downward bent, In silence, to my fancy, seemed to say, Who calls my faithful friend so far away?'
A few very excellent translations from this poet by Mr. Wrang- ham have also, we believe, remained within the circle of his private friends.;
Dante was also most successfully undertaken by Mr. Carey, and we have at last a complete version of the Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso; a version which admirably preserves the austere character, the over-mastered feeling, the dignity and the'majestic repose of its original. One drawback only there is from the admiration which we profess for this work—we cannot but regret that Mr. Carey should have chosen what Dr. Johnson has termed the most diffusive of all species of versification, as the representative of that which is among the most succinct. Every one acquainted with the terza rima, knows that in this metre, with the necessary exception of the conclusion, the sense as regularly closes with the triplet, as it does, in the elegiac measure of the Latins, with the pentameter. Nothing, therefore, can afford a stronger contrast to such a metre than blank verse, however judiciously it may be managed; and surely the dress of the original and that of the portrait should be similar, if they be not the same. A very short extract taken from the Inferno will illustrate our opinion. It is the meeting of Dante with Manto, the daughter of Tiresias. a passage eminently characteristic of the poet's most favourite style of description.:'
*Manto fu, che cerco per terre mohe,
Poscia si pose la dove nacqui io: Onde un poco mi piace che m' ascolte.
A 4 'Poscia 'Poscia the '1 padre suo di vita uscio
£ vcnne serva la citta di Baco,
Questa gran tempo per lo mondo gio. . 1 Suso in Italia bella giace un laco
Appie de 1' Alpe, che serra Lamagna,
Sovra Tiralli, ed ha nome Benaco.
Tra Garda e val Camonica e Apennino,
De 1' acqua che nel detto laco stagna.
Pastore, e quel di Brescia, e '1 Veronese
Da fronteggiar Bresciani e Bergamaschi,
Onde la riva intomo pill discese.'
Now, Mr. Carey's translation of this is very good, but does not give so exact an idea of the original as it might. Dante marches over his ground with a sort of spectral stalk; for each triplet is a separate pace; Mr. Carey moves vigorously and gravely, but he does not (as we would have him) treatTin the exact steps of his predecessor, nor yet follow him quite fast enough. A phrase in the Italian poet should be the watchword of his translators—' Sie' breve e arguto.'
'was Manto, she who searched
Through many regions and at length her seat Fixed in my native land; whence a short space My words detain thy audience. When her sire '•From life departed, and in servitude The city, dedicate to Bacchus, mourned,
Long time she went a wanderer through the world.
Aloft in Italy's delightful land,
A lake there lies, at foot of that proud Alp,
That o'er the Tyrol locks Germania in, Its name Benacus; which a thousand rills,
Methinks, and more, water, between the vale
Camonica and Garda and the height
Of Apennine remote. There is a spot ■
At midway of that lake, where he who bears
Of Trento's flock the pastoral staff, with him
Of Brescia and the Veronese might each Passing that way, his benediction give.
A garrison of goodly sight and strong
Peschiera- stands, to awe with front opposed
The Bergamese and Brescian: whence the shore
More slope, each way descend^.'
While these accomplished persons were paying honour to
Petrarch and Dante, some homage was done by Mr. Rose to Berrri, in a compendious prose translation of his Innamorato ;* a work necessary to the understanding of the Furioso, which (we scarcely need observe) is a continuation of Berni's poem; and hence his version of this seems only to have been undertaken as a prologue to that of Ariosto. He has, however, interspersed his abridgment with some extracts in'the stanza of the original, as specimens of Berni's style, and has discussed his literary character and his works at considerable length in the Introduction. The translation of Ariosto, of which this was the forerunner, has already been examined in our Journal/^ and we pass to the new versions of Tasso, which have been recently published, or which are now in the progress of publication.
The Gerusalemme seems to be a greater favourite with the English public than the Furioso; for it has been twice translated within these few years. Hoole's translation, in the new influx of verses from the Italian, was succeeded by one from the pen of Mr. J. H. Hunt,l which has already been noticed by us at some length. His bark was victualled for a longer voyage than that of Mr. Hoole, and much better navigated withal; but (as we intimated in our review of it) in steering the same course, it split upon the same rock. Hr. Hunt unluckily adopted the couplet. Mr. Wiffen, the author of the yet more recent work now under consideration, has chosen the Spenserian stanza, a happier metre than that of his immediate predecessor, and has as much excelled him, as he surpassed Mr. Hoole. We are not, however, quite satisfied even with the Spenserian stanza. This consists of nine lines, the last of which is an Alexandrine, whereas Tasso's consists but of eight hendecasyllabic lines, as the Italians term them. Now every one who has attempted translation from the Italian, must be aware that this beautiful language is so much less concise than the English, that the man,
'' Che in questo di Procruste orrido letto Si sforza a giacer/ has to stretch, instead of contracting, himself. Whoever, therefore, lengthens his bed, increases his tortures. Hence mostof Mr. Wiffen's violations of Tasso are additions, and these (as is a natural risk of such a license) are often widely at variance with the tone of the author. There is another reason why the translator of Tasso should have conformed as nearly as possible to the metre of his original. We recollect once hearing an English scholar
r Rose's Orlando Innamorato, &c. Edinburgh. - 18?3.
ef of no common accomplishments, observe, that he thought he should know a stanza of this poet anywhere, by its structure; and with the exception of some of Poliziano's, who served Tasso as a model, we entirely subscribe to his opinion. Surely then features of such marked peculiarity should (as we have in another case remarked) be most studiously preserved. Perhaps the most exact equivalent for the Italian ottava rima would be the English eight-lined stanza terminated with an Alexandrine. This would, in some degree, give it the majestic close which the Italian stanza possesses in the winding up of its doubly-rhymed couplet; and, indeed, we have seen, in manuscript, the translation of a canto of Ariosto.by an accomplished statesman, distinguished for his cultivation of southern literature, in which this effect is most happily produced. That, however, which is pleasing in one canto, may be wearisome in forty-six, and there are also serious objections even to the eight-lined stanza, terminated by the Alexandrine. We have already observed, that it is necessary, from English packing much more closely than Italian, even for the translator who conforms to the metre of his original, to fill up voids, as sailors do the vacant spaces between their ballast with what they call dunnage. The use, therefore, of the eight-lined stanza closed by a twelve-syllable verse, would be liable, though in an infinitely less degree, to the same objections which attach to the Spenserian metre; as compelling the translator to more dilation. Add, that while the constant employment of the Alexandrine would, as in the other case, give a drawling tone to a long narrative, so a partial use of it would disappoint the ear by the uncertainty of its occurrence; an exception which Johnson has, we think, justly taken to the occasional introduction of this and the triplet in English heroic verse.
Having made these objections to the sort of stanza which Mr. Wiffen has chosen for his verse, it is fit that the reader should have the means of judging how he manages it; and as we think that in matters of mere taste, the reader is more likely to form his opinion upon the specimens presented to him, according to his own feeling than ours, we shall abstain from all criticism, except in the points where the merit or demerit of our extract may be put to a certain test; to wit, by a comparison with the original, and with other translations, and by a very short trial of its English. As the fairest sample for Mr. Wiffen, we select a part of that which he himself published by way of a specimen, in a prospectus of his intended work; but in the corrected form (and it is much improved) in which the passage appears in his completed task. It is taken from the commencement of the fourth canto.