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Where are now his old warriors?
All tomb'd in their mail;
Swept the waves like a dove,
The Sultaun, with a groan,
But vengeance was nigh!
Who rush through the chambers
With hourra and drum!
The blood-drinkers come.
Then the plain was thick darkness
Through ages of sleep:
The King of the tomb!
From South and from North
Why pauses the sword
Still athirst in the hand?
It shall burst like a deluge,
The terrible birth
When sovereign and slave
SCENE-THE CHURCH OF ST JEROME, GRANADA.
T. WHOSE grave is this? ?—a stranger-eye, like mine,
It seems as if no common dust should lie
The last-who died
Who spoke, felt, breathed but for his country's weal,
The dread of France, when France was most the dread
How's this?-Can Wellington be dead
POETICAL TRANSLATIONS OF FAUST.
THE first translation on our list exhibits Goethe in the light of rather an elegant poetaster: the last does not leave him, so to speak, the likeness of a dog. The intermediate metamorphoses which the illustrious German is made to undergo, differ considerably in degree in some of them he approaches nearer, and in others he recedes farther, from the common standard of humanity-but in none of them is he elevated into the rank of a hu man being, much less into that of a great poet. It is only of those portions of Faust that are executed in rhyme that we are now speaking, or that we intend to speak; for, when the translators employ blank verse, their work is frequently praiseworthy, and that of Dr Anster, in particular, appears deserving of considerable commendation. But the original "Faust" is written in rhyme, and in our opinion, cannot be translated into any other form of language without its true spirit entirely evaporating. In blank verse the difficulties are altogether evaded-the pith and dramatic point both of the dialogues and soliloquies are lost-the clear, hard, and well-defined outlines of the original are thawed down into a comparatively watery dilution, and melt away like icebergs that have drifted into the latitude of summer seas.
We apprise our readers, therefore, that it is our intention to sit in judgment on these translations, only in so far as they are executed in rhyme: and, looking at them in this respect, the contrast between them and the original is very remarkable. In the original "Faust," the first and greatest
Faust a Drama, by Goethe, &c. London: 1823.
excellence that strikes us, is the exquisite freedom, elasticity, and finish of the language. Here we find the most complete realization of what our great poetical reformer Wordsworth has been contending for all his life, both by his theory and his practice-an exact transcript in the highest poetry of the language "really used by men." When, on the other hand, we turn to the rhymed translations, that which strikes us most is, we will not say the total absence of every thing like good English, (for that would but feebly express the case,) but the entire abandonment of every thing approaching to hu man speech. In defence of their barbarous dialect, and strange grammatical contortions, we are aware that these translators will plead the hard necessity of rhyming, and the grievous difficulties it throws in their way, particularly in a dramatic composition. And we at once accept this plea as a very satisfactory explanation of their failures: but it appears to us to afford no sufficient reason why we should not insist upon obtaining, at the hands of every English writer, whether translator or not, whether poet or proseman, a current of real language identical with that actually spoken by his countrymen. We suspect, however, that some of these translators may be inclined to show fight on this point, and to argue that "Faust," being a rhyming play, is already through that circumstance, and in its very conception, so unnatural a species of composition, (inasmuch as actual men never converse in rhyme,) that it can make but little difference in respect to our feelings of the reality of its language, though the
Translated by Lord Francis Leveson Gower.
Faust a Tragedy, by J. W. Goethe, Translated, &c., by John S. Blackie. Edinburgh: 1834.
Faust a Tragedy.
Translated from the German of Goethe, by David Syme.
Faustus: a Tragedy-(Anonymous)-London : 1834.
Faustus: a Dramatic Mystery, &c. Translated by John Anster, LL.D. London : 1835.
The Faust of Goethe. Attempted in English Rhyme by the Honourable Robert Talbot. London: 1835. Second Edition, revised and much corrected. London: 1839.
Faust a Tragedy by J. Wolfgang Von Goethe. by J. Birch, Esq. London-Leipzig: 1839.
Translated into English Verse,
dialogue be still further removed from the discourse of ordinary life, by having its structure changed and its idiom perverted. It is thus, we imagine, that they justify to themselves the licenses they assume in transposing words, and in disregarding and violating, in every possible manner, the commonest proprieties of English speech. "Here are we, they have no doubt thought, obliged to make our characters converse and soliloquize in rhyme -a most unreal and unnatural prac tice do what we will. What can it matter, then, though we go a step further than this; and, for the sake of hitching in a rhyme, place a verb for instance at the end of a line, when in the natural order of oral language it ought to stand at the beginning of it -or before a noun, when in ordinary conversation it would be placed after it?" Now we can assure our translators that it matters a very great deal: and if they imagine that because their work is in rhyme, therefore the reader will consent to a still further deviation from common speech than rhyme in itself is; and for the sake of the symphonious endings of their lines, will reconcile himself to an inverted construction of sentences, or the introduction of language not used in actual life between man and man-we conceive they will find themselves mistaken. On the contrary, we think they will find that the very fact of their composition being in rhyme, naturally, and as we shall show quite properly, disposes the reader to make less allow ance for grammatical inversions, and other violations of real conversational language, than he might have done had they been writing in prose.
An author composing in prose, or even in blank verse, stands within the pale of customary human speech. He is dealing with language very much as his neighbours deal with it in the ordinary intercourse of life; he is affecting no peculiarities, at least no ob. trusive peculiarities of speech,-no phraseology which may not be heard any day falling from the lips of those around him; and therefore he need not be very solicitous to bear testimony to the truth and reality of his language, by adhering to an extreme integrity of idiom, or a scrupulously natural succession of words. If he should occasionally deviate into a con. torted period, or other verbal impro
priety, the offence is comparatively venial; because we feel that he has no object to gain by this departure from the common forms of oral syntax; that he has not been forced into it by the poverty of his resources; and last and most important of all, that there is no unnatural element in his style requiring to be compensated by a more studied naturalness of composition in other respects. In prose, therefore, we are of opinion that the usual forms of prose may occasionally, and to a certain extent, be departed from, without giving any great offence to the reader.
Not so, however, in rhyming poetry and, above all, not so in that species of it we are now writing about, the rhymed drama. None of the prose proprieties of language can be dispensed with here. Going a step beyond Mr Wordsworth, who has told us that the language of poetry is or ought to be the same as that of prose, we venture to maintain that in this kind of composition, not only ought there to be no difference between the language of prose and the language of poetry, but that its character is such as to require that it should adopt the order and idiom of prose, even more strictly than prose itself is bound to do; and that it can with much less safety deviate from this standard. We ground our opinion upon the three following reasons:-In the first place, a dramatic writer in rhyme, already, and from the very character of his composition, stands in a false and unnatural position. He has to describe the thoughts and passions of real men, and to do this successfully he must employ the language of actual life; but at the same time there is an element in the kind of composition he has chosen, which, in the first instance, necessarily and conspicuously takes his dialect out of the pale of nature, or from under the category of ordinary discoursee-we mean the element of rhyme. Here, then, at the very outset, is a bar placed between him and his readers or hearers, which, at first sight, must naturally and powerfully revolt them, inasmuch as it apparently deprives the dialogue of its character of reality and of the colour of living speech. He is therefore called upon, the first thing he does, to exert himself to remove this bar, and to reconcile us to the peculiarity of his style. And how is this to be effected; how
are we to be brought to believe and feel that the unreal language before us is the discourse "really used by We answer; only by the most rigid adherence, on the part of the author, to the common forms and dramatic usages of his living spoken tongue in every other respect. He
must not sacrifice one jot or one tittle of the common structure and natural conversational flow of language: otherwise the bar we have spoken of falls at once down between him and his readers, and it is vain for him and them to attempt to shake hands across it. The illusion is at an end; we feel that we are no longer reading or listening to the language which men really speak. Now, when composing in prose, an author need not, as we have said, be so particular; because there is no such preliminary obstacle cleaving to the character of his style, and rising up between him and those whom he addresses. In the second place, the writer in rhyme has an object of his own to gain by perverting language from its natural spoken course; to wit, he obtains his rhymes more easily by doing so. But the reader's object is quite different from this. It is no object of his that the author should obtain his rhymes easily. On the contrary, his object is to derive enjoyment from feeling consciously or unconsciously that the rhymes are obtained by a fair encounter with all the difficulties of the case, and by a triumph over them; the difficulty of preserving the common construction and all the usual proprieties of oral speech, being here the chief or rather the only obstacle to be surmounted. When, therefore, he finds the author evading this difficulty by sacrificing these proprieties; that is, by transposing words out of their natural order, or interpolating unnecessary ones for the sake of his rhymes, he immediately concludes that he is merely anxious about working out his own ends and not about promoting his, (the reader's,) and he is according ly very properly revolted and repelled by his work. Now, in prose even, though an author should wander con siderably from ordinary syntax, we feel that he has no personal and private end to gain by this-that he is not led to do so by a preference of his own object to that of his readers-and therefore his deviations are much less offensive, and much more easily forgiven. And in
NO. CCXCII. VOL. XLVII.
the third place, what we desire to be made to feel to a great extent in every work of art, is the power of the artist. We behold nothing worth looking at, unless we behold him exercising a triumphant mastery over untractable and refractory materials. Like Van Amburgh with his tigers, he must make language lie down at his feet, kiss his hands, and follow him whithersoever he will. But when we find him permitting his verse to interfere with the natural idiom and arrangement of his speech, we behold this exhibition reversed; the language has here got the upper hand of the artist, and we are made sensible of nothing but his weakness-an unpleasing object of contemplation at all times. In prose, again, this helplessness never becomes so palpably conspicuous, even though the writer should be unable to direct his language perfectly straight in the paths of correct conversational idiom.
This conclusion will, no doubt, be unpalatable to many of our English versifiers; and cannot but be peculiarly nauseous to the translators whose merits we are canvassing. These, and many other people besides them, we believe, have got a silly crotchet into their heads that rhyme is in itself a beauty or merit in composition-and that for the sake of this extra charm the critic will, and ought in some degree, to forego the usual stiret ness with which he sits in judgs ment upon the style of authors whose works are without the" accomplishment of verse. "" We have already stated how diametrically we dissent from this doctrine; and now we beg to add further, for the benefit of all versifiers, past, present, and to come, that rhyme in itself, that is, taken independently of other considerations, is one of the greatest blemishes with which language can be afflicted. When we repeat what we have already said, that it is an unnatural appendage to speech-that the tongues of men in real life are not hung with the bells of rhyme, we have said quite enough to vindicate and establish the truth of this assertion. Therefore any appeal made to our critical clemency in behalf of inverted constructions, or other imperfections of language, not usually met with in prose or conversation-made, we say, on the score that they are to a certain extent compensated by the extra pleasure, forsooth, communicated
to us by the rhymes-will be made in vain; rhyme being in our opinion only an aggravation of the offenceno compensating source of pleasure, but on the contrary the surest method by which bad can be made worse.
tinguishes it from the spontaneous and effortless overflowings of the heart.
This element, therefore, must find a representative in language. Besides representing feelings and passions to us, the poetical artist must make us sensible of his own volition; namely, of that act of mastery by which he was enabled to pass these through the alembic of his own heart. When they
figured and tinged with the life-blood of that strong act. We must see, we say, not only the passion, but combined with it we must also see the volition of the artist.
But if such be the quality of rhyme, it may here be very naturally asked, why does any author ever make use of it at all? If at the outset it places him in a false and disadvantageous position, re-issue forth, they must come out transmoving him from the sympathy of those whom he addresses, why does he ever consent in any case to attach it to his language? As an immediate answer to this question we reply, that though rhyme can compensate nothing, can atone for nothing, and can reconcile us to nothing in the shape of vicious or unidiomatic diction, yet there are ways and means by which it may be compensated and atoned for ; and these are, as we have said, a more than usually inflexible observance of the common flow and proprieties of our vernacular tongue in all other respects. But this only brings the poet up to a level with the good prose writer. It merely reconciles us to his rhymes. It therefore does not answer fully the question just stated, the purport of which is this- how does rhyme, besides being merely tolerated, ever come to captivate us as beautiful, and to be looked upon as a source of positive pleasure? As the answer to this question involves the consideration of what it is that renders man an artist in the highest sense of the word, we must take some pains with our reply..
The man who expresses his own feelings and passions strongly is not a poet; but only the man who can portray vividly and forcibly the passions of other men. Now there is this great difference between being able to depict one's own passions, and being able to depict the passions of others, that in the former case nature does the whole business for us, but not so in the latter. The expression of our own passions is involuntary and spontane. ous; whereas, in delineating the feelings or passions of others, we must pass them through our own minds by a strong effort of the will. Pure natural passion, then, is not poetry, but only passion combined with volition; and the latter element it is-and not the former as us ually supposed-which constitutes the differential quality of poetry, being the feature which dis
Now this volition is an element not supplied by nature. Nature supplies the passion and the feeling, but not the will which would grasp, contemplate, and comprehend them, and realize them where they are not spontaneously given. The human will, upon the wings of which man soars out of his own mechanism, and looks down upon his natural self, receives no countenance or encouragement from her. In a word, the will and the passion are ever at variance with each other-nature doing all she can to bring forward the latter, and to keep the former aloof. But will is, as we have said, an essential element of the poet's genius; and therefore it must be manifested in spite and defiance of nature. Thus, at his very first step, we find the poet necessarily thwarting and deserting nature.
His next step is to embody his genius in language. But here he finds that, as nature did not provide him with his volition, so now the language of nature will not supply it with a representative. Nature gives a voice merely to the spontaneous feelings, passions, and other instincts of her creatures. But the poet's passions, &c., though real, are not spontaneous, but are got up through the mediation of the will. If, therefore, he were to employ merely natural language, he would leave unexpressed an authentic ingredient of his genius. Therefore he must find, in some way or other, a voice for this mediation of his will. Since, however, it cannot be represented by natural language, he must invent an exponent of it for himself. Accordingly, he breaks up the language of nature, and when he comes before us in his complete panoply, and in every respect true to his call