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he has met with several other translations, most of which, he must freely admit, far surpass his own in elegance of diction, and smoothness of versification ; but these advantages have generally been attained by a sacrifice of those principles of adherence to the language and metre of the original, which the present translator laid down as a law to himself at starting, and from which, after a lapse of more than eight years, he feels no disposition to deviate. The rhymes are as free, or (to use his former expression), as licentious as ever. His excuse for this, will be found in the annexed observations.
London, January, 1842.
ADVERTISEMENT TO THE FIRST EDITION.
ALTHOUGH the translator of this poem is well
that the Genius of Criticism is not to be propitiated by a preface, and that “the course of justice” requires judgment to be pronounced, despite of any thing a culprit may have to say against such a proceeding; he feels, nevertheless, that it is something of a consolation to have the privilege of speaking in his own behalf, even though he knows he cannot thereby mitigate his sentence: there is a world to him beyond the tribunal before which he is arraigned; there are terrors to him even beyond those of the judgment-seat, against whose decision he dreams of no appeal; and he may not unreasonably flatter himself that, in this external circle, motives may be appreciated, and allowances made for intentions, of which the law-bound judge can take no cognizance.
Among other more general imperfections, the translator, without hesitation, pleads " guilty" to the charge of an extreme licentiousness in regard to his rhymes ; an offence, which he begs to declare, he would not have perpetrated, much less have attempted to excuse, had he been submitting an original work to the public scrutiny. But, in attempting to transfer this beautiful and wonderful poem into our tongue, his main object has been strictly to adhere to the ideas, and (as far as the idioms of the two languages would permit) to give the very words of the author ; to paraphrase as little as possible, and, above all things, to avoid the tempting sin of loading the text with foreign epithets and expletives. This, to the translator, has appeared to be his first and paramount duty. Next in importance to this, he considered that the metre of the original should be closely preserved ; the rhythm of a poem being, like the measure and movement of a tune, always, it is supposed, selected by the artist as the most fitting channel for the ideas intended to be conveyed, so that a variation from them will frequently destroy the very identity of the work. After these two points, and therefore as of third-rate consequence, the translator would class the rhymes of a poem, as being merely its ornamental part, and forming no portion of its intrinsic value : of the three mentioned points, therefore, this would be the one, the strictness of which, in case of any serious difficulty in uniting them all, would be most readily released.
With regard to the first, every attempt has been made to adhere rigidly to the rule above laid down. The language, as well as the ideas of the author, have been followed as closely as the translator found it possible. As to the rythmical arrangement, it is hoped that not in a single instance has there been any deviation from the original, except in such cases as were permissible from the nature of the metre, such as occasionally substituting an anapæst for an iambic, an amphibrachus for a trochee, and so forth.
The rhymes are confessedly a sore point, and one upon which a few more words must be said, than upon the other two. In English poetry there are two classes of rhymes; the one perfect, giving an exact repetition of the final sound, such as earth and birth—stand and hand; the other imperfect, giving rather an imitation than a repetition of the sound—something similar, but not the same such as brow and flow, given and heaven: these latter may be termed allowable as having been sanctioned by our best poets, an appeal to whose usage ought to be a silencing answer to the most despotic of critics.* In a
It is not expected that the above assertion will be taken for granted ; it may not be amiss, therefore, to establish it, by subjoining a few references to acknowledged authorities, and to shew that many of the most apparently objectionable rhymes, which occur in this translation, have been sanctioned by writers of high repute. Examples of the very same words being rhymed it might be difficult to bring forward; but the translator conceives he shall accomplish his object, if he is enabled to adduce instances of rhymes similar and analogous to those which he has used.
Pit and Height.
On and alone,
Tread and made.
Join and sign.
long poem, the occasional occurrence of these rhyming discords, is, perhaps, rather agreeable than otherwise, and conducive to the general harmony of the whole ; but on the other hand, their frequent recurrence, and especially in a short poem, is undoubtedly objectionable :
Care and sphere.
Chests and twists.
Releas'd and detest.
Peal and bell.
Fan and grain.
Weight and flight.
Accompany and weigh.
Cost and boast.
Happiness and peace.
Examples might be multiplied; but it is hoped these will suffice; at any rate, the translator may be permitted to say, that in hunting out these, he has discovered more extended sanction for his own rhymes than he was aware of.