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In sable clouds, upon its shore he stood,
Roscoe's paraphrase of a small part of the same work, which is far more impressive, not only uses the style of Paradise Lost but takes words and phrases from it:
Him saw no eye,
Their eyes so dimm'd by sorrow and despair,
Save Zophiel's, herald he of hell. . . .
And rob'd in terrors sate the grisly chief.2
At least two other German poets have appeared in an English dress that owes something to Paradise Lost. Salomon Gessner's Death of Abel was turned into "a charming poem" in "truly Miltonic" blank verse by Thomas Newcomb in 1763;3 a part was translated in the same measure, from the prose rendering of Mrs. Collyer, by William Woty in 1770; and the whole poem was versified from the same prose work by W. C. Oulton in 1811 or 1814 and by "M. B. C." in 1840." In 1800 Stolberg's Hymn to the Earth and other poems were Englished by John Whitehouse, whose version called forth this interesting comment from the Critical Review: "His imitation of Milton's manner has, however, betrayed him into the admission of some harsh lines, which, although not only tolerable, but ornamental, in so long a poem as the Paradise Lost, are altogether insufferable in so short a composition as the Hymn to the Earth." The "imitation" is not marked.
"The first translation from Dante . . . produced avowedly as a translation, in English," appeared in 1719,6 four centuries after his death, and, strange to say, it was in blank verse and by our old friend
1 xii. 666-70.
2 Poems (1834), 162. The phrases "dimmed by sorrow and despair" and "terrors the grisly chief" are from Paradise Lost, iv. 114-15, ii. 704. Cf. also "in the dun air" (p. 167) with P. L., iii. 72; "girt with omnipotence" (p. 174) with vii. 194; “bold emprise" (p. 176) with xi. 642, etc.; "golden panoply” (p. 178) with vi. 527, 760; "with lingering feet And sad" (p. 188) with xii. 648; "tears such as . . . angels weep" (p. 188) with i. 620; and many more. Roscoe published only part of the second book, but from his note on page 159 he would seem to have translated the entire work.
3 Crit. Rev., xvi. 50-55. I know the poem only from the extracts given there. For Newcomb's other work in blank verse, see pp. 110-12 above.
4 I have seen nothing but the titles of these works.
'New arrangement, xxxi. 348.
• Paget Toynbee, in his admirable and exhaustive Dante in English Literature (1909), i. 197. The first rendering of Dante in blank verse was by Milton himself; it consisted of three lines introduced into his Of Reformation, 1641 (see Toynbee, vol. i, p. xxvii).
Jonathan Richardson.' It was undoubtedly his enthusiasm for Paradise Lost that led Richardson to discard rime, but his version of the Ugolino episode is not otherwise Miltonic. Nor is the next rendering of Dante, which is of the same episode, in the same meter, and by none other than Thomas Gray. If Richardson's translation is "not a brilliant performance," Gray's is so little better that he never published it himself. Doubtless it is a youthful exercise, for it is his one attempt at non-dramatic blank verse, and surely the mature poet would have produced lines farther removed from prose than these:
From his dire Food the griesly Fellon raised
His Gore-dyed Lips, which on the clotter'd Locks
The first complete translation of the Inferno to be printed in English, that issued in 1782 by Charles Rogers, also uses blank verse. "Entirely devoid of any spark of poetry," and lacking "even the merit of being faithful," it is too bald and prosaic to produce anything of the effect of Milton's style; yet such inversions as these do recall Paradise Lost:
Whene'er a guilty Soul before him comes
Who forward come, and are in order tried.5
"Shocked to think that so elegant a Poet should have so wantonly" given Minos a tail "and of such enormous Length," H. C. Jennings omitted this passage from the very free and eccentric rendering of the Paolo and Francesca and the Ugolino episodes that he printed privately in 1794. Jennings's blank verse, though too slightly removed from prose to be Miltonic, is better than that of Joseph Hume, whose lines frequently end with "the," "and," "of," or "to." Yet Hume's Inferno (1812), “the worst translation of any portion
1 In his pleasantly-entitled "Discourse on the Dignity, Certainty, Pleasure, and Advantage of the Science of a Connoisseur" (Works, new ed., 1792, pp. 184-6). On Richardson, see pp. 7, 10, above.
2 Toynbee, vol. i, p. xxxi.
3 Gray's Works (ed. Gosse, 1884), i. 157-60, where the translation as a whole was first printed. The last fifteen lines had appeared in the Gentleman's Magazine for October, 1849.
of Dante's works ever published," 1 has some suggestion of Paradise
Lost, as this passage shows:
Complying; I, tight round MY GUARDIAN'S neck
Clung instantly. He, fit moment chusing,
And a spot, when mov'd the monster's wing, grasp'd
"National custom," asserted Nathaniel Howard in 1807, "obliged Dante to confine his great genius to the shackles of rhyme. Blankverse seems more analogous to his sublime manner.' "3 If Howard did not reproduce that "sublime manner" and totally failed to capture the poetic beauty of the original, he did give an idea of Dante's earnestness, the power of his sombre imagination, and the terse, austere vigor of his style. These lines are a fair sample:
From arch to arch, by various converse led,
Which now, my Muse intends not to record,
Howard's illuminating comment, "Dante . . . composed also a
Yet there was truth in the remark; for when Cary's Dante appeared "it was noticed with praise by the Gentleman's Magazine, and with contempt by the Critical Review, and then for several years lay dead and forgotten." And this was the version that Wordsworth regarded as "a great national work," and of which Ruskin said, "If no poet ever was liable to lose more in translation, none was ever so 1 Toynbee, ii. 80. 2 Quoted by Toynbee, ii. 81. I have not seen Hume's book. 3 Preface to his translation of the Inferno (1807).
Canto xxi. 1-4. I have noticed a few borrowings from Milton: "bedropp'd With vivid hues" (p. 2, cf. P. L., vii. 406, x. 527); “everduring night" (p. 16, cf. P. L., iii. 45); "high-climbing" (p. 42, cf. P. L., iii. 546); “with mazy error" (p. 87, cf. P. L., iv. 239); "liquid lapse" (p. 181, cf. P. L., viii. 263, of a stream in each case); "grisly king" (p. 205, cf. P. L., iv. 821); "wonderous fabric" (p. 205, cf. P. L., i. 710, of a building in each case); "his sail-spread vans" (p. 207, cf. P. L., ii. 927, of wings in each case); "hurl'd headlong from the battlements of heav'n" (p. 209, cf. P. L., i. 45, 742). ' Page xxiii.
Page viii. For Howard's Bickleigh Vale and other Miltonic poems, see above, p. 258 and n. 5.
' Toynbee's edition of Cary's Dante, 1900, vol. i., p. lix.
8 Samuel Rogers, Table-Talk (2d ed., 1856), 284 n.
carefully translated; and I hardly know whether most to admire the rigid fidelity, or the sweet and solemn harmony, of Cary's verse." 1 This great translation, the greatest and most influential that had ap-> peared since Pope's Homer, was begun in 1797 and published, at its author's expense, between 1805 and 1814. To appreciate its originality and its faithfulness to the spirit of Dante, one should come to it after examining versions of the Greek and Latin classics, for it is, as it should be, quite unlike these. The terseness, the restraint, the concentrated power, of the Divina Commedia are admirably reproduced in a style that achieves dignity with ease and without pomposity. The liquid beauty of Dante's verse Cary did not strive for, but his lines have a "sweet and solemn harmony" of their own. Miltonic they certainly are, but so unobtrusively, so naturally, does he use his Miltonisms that he may have been almost as unconscious of them as is the average reader. Yet they are not so much occasional as pervasive, woven into the very fibre of the style, so that scarcely five successive lines are free from them, inversions, parentheses, the use of strange words from the Latin and of adjectives in place of adverbs, as well as the omission of words that are normally expressed. Traces of Milton are surely obvious enough in this passage:
As to ascend
That steep, upon whose brow the chapel stands,
(O'er Rubaconte, looking lordly down
On the well-guided city,) up the right
The impetuous rise is broken by the steps
Carved in that old and simple age, when still
The registry and label rested safe;
Thus is the acclivity relieved, which here,
But, on each hand, the tall cliff presses close.2
Since the appearance of Cary's work there have been over twenty renderings of Dante, and in almost every meter. Longfellow's remarkable line-for-line version (1867), in a sort of unrimed terzarima, has enjoyed a great vogue in America; but in the mother country, at least, "the popularity attained by Cary's translation in his lifetime has been maintained unimpaired down to the present day, and . . . it still remains the translation which . . . first occurs
1 Stones of Venice, vol. ii, ch. vii, 8 xli, note. "If I could only read English," he adds, "and had to choose. . . between Cary's Dante and our own original Milton, I should choose Cary without an instant's pause.'
* Purgatory, xii. 93–102. I have noticed but one borrowing from Milton, "fledge with wings" (Hell, xiii. 16, cf. P. L., iii. 627); but there are probably others.
to the mind of an Englishman on the mention of the name of Dante. Cary, in fact, once and for all made Dante an English possession.'
It must be admitted that this survey of unrimed translations has furnished little exhilarating reading. Nor would there have been much more if the rimed versions had been included, for the impression left by most renderings of the classics, whatever their meter, is that voiced over a century and a half ago by the Monthly Review apropos of Strahan's Aeneid: "We have perused it without either much pleasure or much pain. while we were deceived from page to page with a faint prospect of the genius and invention of the poet, we bore with the languor of the English verse."2 It is depressing to contrast the time and mental effort that have gone into making translations with the pitiful results achieved. Most are still-born, some have a temporary vogue, and a few are reprinted, but in a short time almost all, good and bad alike, are not only unread but unknown.
Many of the early translators would have been more successful if they had never read Milton. Unconsciously, or through an imperfect understanding of their originals, they transferred to the Iliad and the Aeneid the "elaborate and self-retarding movement" of the English epic. It was not simply a matter of Miltonisms of style and diction, for these permeated nearly all of the earlier blank verse. The trouble was that, under the influence of Paradise Lost, the translators stressed unduly the dignity and sonority of Greek and Latin heroic poetry to the neglect of other qualities. They overlooked the minstrel character of Homer, his swiftness and naturalness, as well as the tender grace, the exquisite ease and art, of Virgil. Then, too, most men who have undertaken to turn the greatest poetry of the past into English have not possessed the requisite poetic endowment. The standards were, and still are, too low. People deluded themselves into believing that merely respectable or passable translations were of value, as probably they were in Trapp's and Brady's day, when even the contents of the classic poems were inaccessible; but that was long ago.
1 Toynbee, Dante in English Literature, vol. i, pp. 1-li. The only other translations of Italian writers into Miltonic blank verse that I have noticed are the fragments of Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered rendered by John Dennis (1704), Elizabeth Rowe (probably before 1710), and Nathan Drake (1820), and the version of Andreini's Adam made by Cowper and Hayley in 1791. Mrs. Monck's rendering of a fragment from Tasso (1716) is not Miltonic; Philip Doyne's blank-verse translation of the whole Jerusalem (Dublin, 1761) I have not seen.
2 xxxvii. 323 (1767).