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much is lost; but nothing that is lost can be enjoyed wishoui studying the language. No poetical translation can give the rhythm and rhyme of the original; it can only substitute the rhythm and rhyme of the translator ; and, for the sake of this substitute, we must renounce some portion of the original se ise, and nearly all the expression ; whereas, by a prose translation, we can arrive perfectly at the thoughts and very nearly at the wor ls of the original. When these (as in Faust) have sprung from he brain of an inspired master, have been brooded over, mat ared, and elaborated during a great portion of a life, and finally issue forth, bearing upon them the stamp of a creative anthority, to what are we to sacrifice any part or particle which can be made to survive in a literal transcript or paraphrase of prose ? To the pleasure of being simultaneously tickled by the metres of a native poetaster, which, if capable of giving any enjoyment at all, will find themselves better wedded to his own original thoughts, and which, were they the happiest and most musical in the world, can never ring out natural and concording music to aspirations born in another time, clime, and place, nor harmonize, like the original metres, with that tone of mind to which they should form a kind of orchestral accompaniment in its creative mood? The sacred and mysterious union of thought with verse, twin-born and immortally wedded from the moment of their common birth, can never be understood by those who desire verse translations of good poetry.
“Nevertheless, the translator of poetry must be a poet, although he translates in prose. Such only can have sufficient feeling to taste the original to the core, combined with a sufficient mastery of language to give burning word for burning word, idiom for idiom, and the form of expression which comes most home in English for that which comes most home in Ger
Such a task, in fact, is one requiring a great proportion of fire, as well as delicacy and judgment, and by no means what Dr. Johnson thought it - - a task to be executed by any one who can read and understand the original."— [March 24, 1833.]
Another influential journal followed nearly the same line of argument:
“To the combination — unhappily too rare — of genius and
energy, few things are impossible ; and we further venture to assert that, of the two undertakings, such a prose translation as the present is far more difficult than a metrical version could be, always supposing the possession of an eminent power of language, and a pure poetical taste, to be equal in the one attempt and the other.”— [The Athenæum, for April 27th, 1833.]
The minor critics are fond of comparing a prose translation to a skeleton. The fairer comparison would be to an engraving from a picture; where we lose, indeed, the churm of coloring, but the design, invention, composition, expression, nay, the very light and shade of the original may be preserved.
It may not be deemed wholly inapplicable to remark, that unrhymed verse had to encounter, on its introduction in most countries, a much larger share of prejudiced opposition than prose translations of poetry seem destined to encounter amongst us. Milton found it necessary to enter on an elaborate, and, it must be owned, rather dogmatical defence; and so strong was the feeling against Klopstock, that Goethe's father refused to admit the “ Messiah" into his house, on account of its not being in rhyme, and it was read by his wife and children by stealth.*
Since this was written, two weighty authorities, bearing on the subject, have appeared.
“Verse (says the student, in Mr. ' Bulwer's Pilgrims of the Rhine,') cannot contain the refining, subtile thoughts which a great prose writer embodies; the rhyme eternally cripples it; it properly deals with the common problems of human nature which are now hackneyed, and not with the nice and philosophizing corollaries which may be drawn from them. Thus, though it would seem at first a paradox, commonplace is more the element of poetry than of prose. And, sensible of this, even Schiller wrote the deepest of modern tragedies, his ‘Fiesco,' in prose." — p. 317.
This is not quoted as precisely in point, and it is only fair
* Dichtung und Wahrheit, b. 3. The “Messiah" is in hexameter verse, distinguished from the Greek and Latin hexameters by the frequent substi tution of trochees for spondees.
to add that Mr. Coleridge (indeed, what else could be expected from the translator of “Wallenstein ?") was for verse :
“I have read a good deal of Mr. Hayward's version, and I think it done in a very manly style; but I do not admit the argument for prose translations. I would, in general, rather see verse attempted in so capable a language as ours. The French cannot help themselves, of course, with such a language as theirs.” — [Table Talk, vol. ii. p. 118.]
Mr. Coleridge is here confounding general capability with capability for the purposes of translation, in which the English language is confessedly far inferior to the German, though, considering the causes of this inferiority, many may be induced to regard it more as a merit than a defect. Still, the fact is undoubted, that the pliancy and elasticity of the instrument with which they work enable the Germans to transfer the best works of other nations almost verbatim to their literature, — witness their translations of Shakspeare, in which the very puns are inimitably hit off; whilst our best translations are good only on a principle of compensation : the authors omit a great many of the beauties of their original, and, by way of set-off, insert a great many of their own. In Mr. Coleridge's “Wallenstein," for example:
“The intelligible forms of ancient poets,
These seven lines are a beautiful amplification of two;
“ Die alten Fabelwesen, sind nicht mehr,
Das reizende Geschlecht ist ausgewandert.”
" The old fable-existences are no more,
The fascinating race has emigrated.”
With regard to the dispute about free and literal translation,
however, Mrs Austin, by one happy reference, has satisfactorily determined the principle, and left nothing but the application in each individual case to dispute about.
“ It appears to me that Goethe alone (so far as I have seen) has solved the problem. In his usual manner he turned the subject on all sides, and saw that there are two aims of translation, perfectly distinct, nay, opposed; and that the merit of a work of this kind is to be judged of entirely with reference to its aim.
66. There are two maxims of translation,' says he; requires that the author of a foreign nation be brought to us in such a manner that we may regard him as our own ; the other, on the contrary, demands of us that we transport ourselves over to him, and adopt his situation, his mode of speaking, his peculiarities. The advantages of both are sufficiently known to all instructed persons from masterly examples.'
“Here, then, the battle between free and literal translation,' as the accomplished writer of an article in the last Edinburgh Review calls it, is set at rest forever, by simply showing that there is nothing to fight about; that each is good with relation to its end — the one when matter alone is to be transferred, the other when matter and form." — [Characteristics of Goethe, fc. vol. i. pp. xxxii. to xxxiv.]
Few will deny that both matter and form are important in Goethe's Faust; in such a case we want to know, not what may be said for the author, or how his thoughts and style may be improved upon, but what he himself has said, and how he has said it. This brings me to another notion of mine, which has been rather unceremoniously condemned. At page lxxxix. of my original preface I had said: "Acting on this theory, he (M. Sainte-Aulaire) has given a clear and spirited, but vague and loose, paraphrase of the poem, instead of a translation of it; invariably shunning the difficulties which various meanings present, by boldly deciding upon one, instead of trying to shadow out all of them — which I regard as one of the highest triumphs a translator can achieve — and avoiding the charge of incorrectness by making it almost impossible to say whether the best construction has suggested itself or not.” On this, the able critic in the “Edinburgh Review” remarks :
" Mr. Hayward says, that one of the highest triumphs of a translator, in a passage capable of various meaning, is to shadow out them all. In reply to this, our first remark is, that his own practice, according to his own account of it, is inconsistent with his rule. In the course of his inquiries he says, that he has not unfrequently had three or four different interpretations suggested to him by as many accomplished German scholars, each ready to do battle for his own against the world.' What then? Does he say that he has attempted to shadow out them all? So far from it, he insists — we dare say with justice — that readers who may miss their favorite interpretation in his version of any passage, are bound to give him the credit of having wilfully rejected it.'”- No. 115, p. 133.
The writer here confounds attempting to do, with doing; and contrasts, as inconsistent, passages referring to different descriptions of difficulties. The following is an example of my theory. At the beginning of the prison scene, (post, p. 207,) occurs this puzzling line :
“Fort! dein zagen zögert den Tod heran."
Two interpretations, neither quite satisfactory, are suggested to me; it may mean either that death is advancing whilst Faust remains irresolute, or that death is accelerated by his irresolution. Having, therefore, first ascertained that the German word zögern corresponds with the English word linger, and that, in strictness, neither could be used as an active verb, I translated the passage literally: “On! thy irresolution lingers death hitherwards ;" and thus shadowed out the same meanings, and gave the same scope to commentary, as the original. Of course, this is only practicable where exactly corresponding expressions can be had; for instance, in the passage to which the note at p. 201 relates, we have no corresponding expression for Das Werdende, and must therefore be content with a paraphrase ; but, in the latter part of the same passage, I see no reason for Shelley's changing enduring (the plain translation of dauernden) into sweet and melancholy, nor for M. Sainte-Aulaire's rendering the two last lines of the speech by- et soumettez, à l'épreuve de la sagesse les fantômes que de vagues désirs vous presentent, thereby