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PREFACE

TO THE SECOND EDITION

OF THE TRANSLATION.

In this edition much of the matter has been reärranged, the Notes are augmented by about a third, and an Appendix, of some length, has been annexed. The translation itself was found to require only a few verbal corrections; yet, even as regards the translation, I lay the work before the public with much more confidence than formerly, both on account of the trying ordeal it has passed through, and the many advantages I have enjoyed in revising it.

It is singular (and to the student of German literature at once cheering and delightful) to see the interest which Germans of the cultivated class take in the fame of their great authors, and most particularly of Goethe. They seem willing to undergo every sort of labor to convey to foreigners a just impression of his excellence; and many German gentlemen, personally unknown to me, have voluntarily undertaken the irksome task of verifying the translation word for word by the original, and obligingly forwarded to me the results of the comparison. The amateurs of German literature in this country, also, partake of the same spirit of enthusiasm, and I have received many valuable suggestions in consequence. My German friends will find that I have retained a few expressions objected to by them, but they must do me the justice to remember that they are at least as likely to err from not knowing the full force of an Eng. lish idiom, as I am from not knowing the full force of a German

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Another fertile source of improvement has been afforded me by the numerous critical notices, in English and foreign journals, of my work.

Besides these advantages, I have recently paid another visit to Germany, during which I had the pleasure of talking over the puzzling parts of the poem with some of the most eminent living writers and artists, and some of Goethe's most intimate friends and connections. Amongst those, for instance, whom I have to thank for the kindest and most flattering reception, are Tieck, von Chamisso,* Franz Horn, the Baron de la Motte Fouqué, Dr. Hitzig,t Retzsch, and Madame de Goethe. M. Varnhagen von Ense, and Dr. Eckermann, of Weimar, (names associated by more than one relation with Goethe's,) whom I unfortunately missed seeing, have each favored me with suggestions or notes. I think, therefore, I may now venture to say, that the notes to this edition contain the sum of all that can be asserted with confidence as to the allusions and passagès which have been made the subject of controversy.

As some of the notions hazarded in my original preface elicited a good deal of remark, I have left it pretty nearly as it stood, — to prove to future readers that I was guilty of no extraordinary heresies.

I have no desire to prolong the discussion as to the comparative merit of prose and metrical translations; but, to prevent renewed misconstructions, I take this opportunity of briefly restating my views.

Here (it may be said) is a poem, which, in addition to the exquisite charm of its versification, is supposed to abound in philosophical notions and practical maxims of life, and to have a great moral object in view. It is written in a language comparatively unfettered by rule, presenting great facilities for the composition of words, and, by reason of its ductile qualities, naturally, as it were, and idiomatically adapting itself to every variety of versification. The author is a man whose genius inclined (as his proud position authorized) him to employ the

* The real author of Peter Schlémil, most unaccountably attributed, by the English translator, to De la Motte Fouqué.

† President of the Literary Society of Berlin

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license thus enjoyed by the writers of his country to the full ; and, in the compass of this single production, he has managed to introduce almost every conceivable description of metre and rhythm. The translator of such a work into English, a language strictly subjected to that "literary legislation," * from which it is the present (perhaps idle) boast of Germany to be free, is obviously in this dilemma: he must sacrifice either metre or meaning; and in a poem which it is not uncommon to hear referred to in evidence of the moral, metaphysical, or theological views of the author, — which, as already intimated, has exercised a great part of its widely-spread influence by qualities that have no more necessary connection with verse than prose, - it is certainly best to sacrifice metre.

The dilemma was fairly stated in the “Edinburgh Review :" -“When people are once aware how very rare a thing a successful translation must ever be, from the nature of the case, they will be more disposed to admit the prudence of lessening the obstacles as much as possible. There will be no lack of difficulties to surmount, (of that the French school may rest assured,) after removing out of the way every restraint that can be spared. If the very measure of the original can be preserved, the delight with which our ear and imagination recognize its return, add incomparably to the triumph and the effect. Many persons, however, are prepared to dispense with this condition, who, nevertheless, shrink from extending their indulgence to a dispensation from metre altogether. But it is really the same question which a writer and his critics have to determine in both cases. If the difficulty of the particular metre, or of metre generally, can be mastered, without sacrificing more on their account than they are worth, they ought, undoubtedly, to be preserved. What, however, in any given case, is a nation to do, until a genius shall arise who can reconcile contradictions which are too strong for ordinary hands? In the mean while, is it not the wisest course to make the most favorable bargain that the nature of the dilemma offers ? Unless the public is absurd enough to abjure the literature of all ianguages which are not universally understood, there can be

* Mühlenfel's Lecture,

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no member of the public who is not dependent, in one case or another, upon translations. The necessity of this refuge for the destitute being once admitted, it follows that they are entitled I to the best that can be got. What is the best ? Surely, that in which the least of the original is lost — least lost in those quali. ties which are the most important. The native air and real meaning of a work are more essential qualities than the charm of its numbers, or the embellishments and the passion of its poetic style. The first is the metal and the weight; the second is the plating and the fashion.” — [No. 115, pp. 112, 113.]*

A writer in the “ Examiner” speaks still more decidedly, and claims for prose translators a distinction which we should hardly have ventured to arrogate to ourselves :

Every one knows the magnificent translations left by Shelloy, of the Prologue in Heaven,' and the May-Day NightScene;' fragments which, of themselves, have won many a young mind to the arduous study of the German language. By the industry of the present translator we learn, that many passages we have been in the habit of admiring in those translations, are not only perversions, but direct contradictions of the corresponding passages in Goethe, and that Shelley wanted a few months' study of German to make him equal to a translation of Faust. We do not think the translator need have troubled himself with any dissertation of this sort, in order to justify the design of a prose translation of Faust. My main object,' he says, “in these criticisms, is to shake, if not remove, the very disadvantageous impressions that have hitherto been prevalent of Faust, and keep public opinion suspended concern. ing Goethe, till some poet of congenial spirit shall arise, capable of doing justice to this the most splendid and interesting of his works. Why not go further than this, and contend that a mind strongly imbued with poetical feeling, and rightly covetous of an acquaintance with the poet, will not rest satisfied with anything short of as exact a rendering of his words as the different phraseology of the two languages will admit? In such a translation, be it never so well executed, we know that

* This article has been translated into French, and republished in the Réoue Britannique.

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