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what qualities of the original may he hope to preserve in his version ? Rhymed verse being excluded, he may choose, with Mr. Cary, blank verse fashioned after the manner of Milton or of Tennyson. But the very fact that it is after the manner of an English poet indicates that it is an unfit vehicle for rendering a poet so un-English in style as Dante. The object of the translator should be to reproduce as much as possible the effect of Dante ; but this cannot be done if in the structure of his verse he remind us of the cadences of our native poets. His metre and his diction, his vocabulary and his style, must all be Dantesque, to enable him to fulfil this condition. A blank verse, based in its rhythm upon the verse of Dante, aiming to present all the qualities of this verse except its rhyme, would seem to be the proper instrument of the English translator. If he possess such feelings and cultivation as fit him truly to appreciate the qualities of Dante's poem, and such genius as is required to render them, he will find it possible to reproduce in English more of the effect of Dante by this than by any other method. A literal, line-for-line translation, in the metre of the original, will afford him the means of rendering the substantial characteristics of the thought and of the language of the poem. No poet suffers more from the amplification of a poor translator than Dante ; for there is none more uniformly concise and choice in his expression. His style is exceedingly various in other respects, but his words are invariably chosen with distinct purpose. At times he is as clear in thought, as straight-forward in expression, as simple in his vocabulary; as Homer himself; at other times, as involved in meaning, as subtile in expression, and as unusual in vocabulary, as any of the mediæval poets. But he never, even in his most metaphysical passages, or those most imbued with purely individual or mediæval sentiment, loses control over his words, or selects an expression at hap-hazard, or simply to accommodate his verse. The range of his style is as wide as that of his imagination and his thought, and his vocabulary is always sufficient for his intention. He deals with the grotesque or with the sublime with equal ease. He lifts himself from the humblest image to the loftiest reality, and draws his material with equal power from earth and stars, - this world and the other.
To render the effects of such a poet even imperfectly, the translator himself should be a poet. “No man,” we cite again the great authority of Dryden, “is capable of translating poetry, who, besides a genius to that art, is not a master both of his author's language and of his own; nor must we understand the language only of the poet, but his particular turn of thoughts and expression, which are the characters that distinguish, and, as it were, individuate him from all other writers. When we are come thus far, it is time to look into ourselves, to conform our genius to his, to give his thoughts either the same turn, if our tongue will bear it, or, if not, to vary but the dress, not to alter or destroy the substance.”
The earliest attempt to render Dante in English verse, line for line, and in measure like his own, was made, so far as we are aware, by Mr. Longfellow, in some brief but beautiful translations from the Purgatorio, published in 1839. Mr. Pollock adopted this method, with moderate success, in his translation of the whole poem, published in 1856; and Mr. Rossetti, in his version of the Inferno, has taken the same course. Possessing many of the best qualifications for his work, Mr. Rossetti has accomplished his task in a manner which, if not wholly satisfactory, is at least deserving of high praise. He has preserved the substance, and in good measure the spirit, of his original. As a specimen of his work we give his translation of the same passage we have quoted from the other recent versions.
"*0 Tuscan, who along the city of fire
And he was raising him with breast and brow,
This retains far more of the directness and force of the original than are preserved in the versions already cited, and confirms all that we have said in favor of this mode of translation. But it also shows defects which are more evident in some other portions of Mr. Rossetti's work, in a certain tendency toward the use of expressions more quaint than exact, as, for instance, in the use of such a word as “cinctures as a rendering of the original arche, and a certain want of rhythmic grace and harmony in the structure of the verse.
It would be easy to select passages from Mr. Rossetti's volume free from such faults; but we speak the more freely of them, because the merits of his work are conspicuous, and, if not completely successful as a rendering of the Inferno, it at least indicates the way to success.
It is not to be expected that even the best possible translation should make the Divine Comedy a popular poem, in any proper sense, among English readers. Its fundamental conceptions are too remote from modern thought to be easily apprehended, or readily accepted, by those whose intellectual life is bounded by the limits of present time. It requires, to be justly appreciated, not merely a general literary culture, but something of special study. It demands of the student more thoughtfulness and more imagination than most men possess. The mass of its readers get no farther than to the end of the Inferno; and this partial acquaintance with the poem gives rise to, and perpetuates, not only a completely incorrect and unjust conception of the character of the poet, but also a not less completely false notion of the scope and intention of the poem. The mere lover of poetry, who cares not to study the Divine Comedy as a whole, may yet take pleasure in special famous episodes, in the exquisite felicity of its imagery, in the truth and tenderness of certain passages of sentiment; but such a reader will know little of the deep and abundant sources of spiritual delight and invigoration which the poem reveals to him who gives himself to its study with due preparation and fit temper of mind. There is nothing of the false pretence of dilettanteism, or of purely professional admiration, in the feeling which it awakens in such a student.
ART. IX. - THE PRESIDENT ON THE STUMP.
ONE of the things that always struck us as particularly admirable in the public utterances of President Lincoln was a certain tone of familiar dignity, which, while it is perhaps the most difficult attainment of mere style, is also no doubtful indication of personal character. There must be something essentially noble in an elective ruler who can descend to the level of confidential ease without losing respect, something very manly in one who can break through the etiquette of his conventional rank and trust himself to the reason and intelligence of those who have elected him. No higher compliment was ever paid to a nation than the simple confidence, the fireside plainness, with which Mr. Lincoln always addressed himself to the reason of the American people. This was, indeed, a true democrat, who grounded himself on the assumption that a democracy can think. “ Come, let us reason together about this matter," was the tone of all his addresses to the people; and accordingly we have never had a chief magistrate who so won to himself the love and at the same time the judgment of his countrymen. To us, that simple confidence of his in the rightmindedness of his fellow-men is very touching, and its success is as strong an argument as we have ever seen in favor of the theory that men can govern themselves. He never appealed to any vulgar sentiment, he never alluded to the humbleness of his origin; it probably never occurred to him, indeed, that there was anything higher to start from than manhood; and le put himself on a level with those he addressed, not by going down to them, but only by taking it for granted that they had brains and would come up to a common ground of reason. In an article lately printed in “ The Nation,” Mr. Bayard Taylor mentions the striking fact, that in the foulest dens of the Five Points he found the portrait of Lincoln. The wretched population that makes its lair there threw all its votes and more against him, and yet paid this instinctive tribute to the sweet humanity of his nature. Their ignorance sold its vote and took its money, but all that was left of manhood in them recognized its saint and martyr.
Mr. Lincoln was not in the habit of saying, “This is my opinion, or my theory," but, “ This is the conclusion to which, in my judgment, the time has come, and to which, accordingly, the sooner we come the better for us.” His policy was the policy of public opinion based on adequate discussion and on a timely recognition of the influence of passing events in shaping the features of events to come. On the day of his death, this simple Western attorney, who according to one party was a vulgar joker, and whom the doctrinaires among his own supporters accused of wanting every element of statesmanship, was the most absolute ruler in Christendom, and this solely by the hold his good-humored sagacity had laid on the hearts and understandings of his countrymen. Nor was this all, for it appeared that he had drawn the great majority, not only of his fellow-citizens, but of mankind also, to his side. So strong and so persuasive is honest manliness without a single quality of romance or unreal sentiment to help it! A civilian during times of the most captivating military achievement, awkward, with no skill in the lower technicalities of manners, he left behind him a fame beyond that of any conqueror, the memory of a grace higher than that of outward person, and of a gentlemanliness deeper than mere breeding.
One secret of Mr. Lincoln's remarkable success in captivating the popular mind was undoubtedly an unconsciousness of self which enabled him, though under the necessity of constantly using the capital I, to do it without any suggestion of egoism. There is no single vowel which men's mouths can pronounce with such difference of effect. That which one shall hide away, as it were, behind the substance of his discourse, or, if he bring it to the front, shall use merely to give an agreeable accent of individuality to what he says, another shall make an offensive challenge to the self-satisfaction of all his hearers, and an unwarranted intrusion upon each man's sense of personal importance, irritating every pore of his vanity, like a dry northeast wind, to a goose-flesh of opposition and hostility. Mr. Lincoln had never studied Quinctilian ; but he had, in the earnest simplicity and unaffected Americanism of his own character, one art of oratory worth all the rest. He forgot himself so entirely in his object as to give his I the sympathetic and per