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in music. Take the first least ostentatious example which offers itself to our recollection.
Of all the cities in Romanian lands,
And rich inhabitants, with generous bearts.' 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 rifacimento 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. Berni, 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 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 amusare, justifying its use by the analogy of amuser, in French, and observing that musá (a muse) was familiar to ever Italian.- Aye, but muso (a snont) is unluckily yet more familiar,' replied one of the society,
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 tantalizzare, in Italian, would probably succeed; because the word is wanted; because Latin fable, from which it is derived, is popu- . larly 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
informed upon such points, we should not have to lament somę 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 Jargely 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 that Tasso 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, 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
• Non sperar più 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 più 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.
“ Chè si e no nel cor dentro mi suona."- Petrarch.
“ Chè 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 pensieri ondeggia;'' yet not only does this betray an imitation of the
magno curarum fluctuat æstu" 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 Tight; 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.
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, ideed, 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.