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other writer would have been on a similar occasion : no rhythm then is more unlike his than the Miltonic. Why then imagine that he would have selected it, had he written in English ? He might have changed language, yet not ear. If we are to argue from analogy, it will not follow that because he prefer'd rhyme in his native tongue, he would blank verse in ours; and that he would choose in English, the metre most entirely dissimilar to the one he liked best in Italian. Before Lord Byron employed terza rima, it might have been objected that there was something in that fine metre not agreeing with the form of our language: but that doubt is now vanished. Perhaps Mr. Haley removed it before; but I cannot speak of his verses, having never seen them. But there is a far more ancient and higher authority for English terza rima than Mr. Haley — authority of which I was not aware till this very morning, the authority of the partial translator, and frequent imitator of Dante — Milton. His version of the second Psalm is in regular terza rima. But Prior and Pope are not more different in their manner, than Milton in his Paradise Lost and Dante in his Divine Comedy. I use the first names that occur, and not certainly intending to institute a comparison between Prior and
Dante. But there is nothing in our literature" which conveys a specimen of the style of the Divina Conunedia ( for neither Mr. Haley's fragment, nor Milton's short Psalm is of extent enough to merit an exception) — at least there was none, until the Prophecy Of Dante; and even this is restricted to one feature of the Italian , its melancholy grandeur and force. In Dante's long poem there are vast varieties of scenes, speculations, personages, sentiments, etc. with which our noble countryman had nothing to do; yet with all these the Italian terza rima takes corresponding modulations, with wondrous flexibility.
Long before seeing Mr. Cary's translation, I had begun to attempt one conformably to the principles just disclosed. That translation of mine I have since suppressed: yet not until two Cantos were printed, as well as the comments on them. I mention this, to let the reader know to what the letters at the head of the Articles refer; as well as whence the extracts of translated passages, which are occasionally given, have been drawn. These extracts, it will be observed are in terza rima. To the impeachment of being in this an imitator of Lord Byron, I might plead guilty by being silent — conscious that it could only do me honor: but for the sake, not of avoiding an accusation of meritorious imitation , but of truth, I must declare (what I am confident his Lordship will be equally ready to do) that my verses were composed, and, what have been printed of them, printed before his. Yet he was as totally unaware of their existence when he wrote; as I was of that of Mr. Haley's version, until informed of it by the Preface to the Prophecy Of Dante. Before seeing this, I was ruminating an apology for a novel metre. This necessity is now removed: and after such an example as Lord Byron, terza rima may be pronounced a measure as germain to us as any other. I, at best, could only have attempted to naturalize it; he has made it lineally our own. It is a metre, in which I tried some original compositions years ago; and the versification not appearing to displease those to whom I read them, I was emboldened to begin my translation of Dante in the same. But those compositions never left my port-foglio, nor shall. I have to apologize for the points in which my metre varies a little from that of Lord Byron's. The naked truth is best. About six years since, I turned five Cantos of Dante into precisely the same measure which is in the Prophecy Of DanTe: but afterwards found it so heavy that I renounced it. The fault was possibly entirely my own; but also I could not remedy it. Without troubling others, I meditated on the matter; and the consequence was, that I at last determined to allow myself the liberty of varying my lines from eight to ten syllables, instead of giving them all the fine heroic complement; as well as of using double rhymes at pleasure. Even his Lordship uses these. Dryden introduces a somewhat similar variety into his heroics by the free use of triplets and Alexandrines; which give a rich variety to his versification , that, at least to my ear , is more grateful than the regularity of Mr. Pope's couplets. With me, a full heroic line answers
to the Alexandrine this being a length
which I never permit myself. Nor do I think the liberty I have thus assumed is equal to that which the Italian furnished to Dante — so superior is it to English in copiousness of rhyme and phrase and freedom of syntax. Yet were it otherwise, neither my Author's, nor his Lordship's genius is a rule for others. They might have been able to modulate a continuous English terza rima of ten syllables with all the varieties of the Divine Comedy. I certainly could not: and the same reasons which made me leave off attempting it before I saw the Prophecy Of Dante, still subsist in full vigour.
Had no extracts from my version been inserted into my printed comments, I should not here have said any thing about it. But that was already irremediable — when I took the resolution to suppress my translation — at least the only remedy would have been the burning of two hundred pages of this edition of the Comment, which, I confess, I had no inclination to do. Those extracts however occur to small amount, save in the comments on the two first Cantos. As for the letters at the beginning of the Articles, they are at worst only a superfluity: should any one else ever translate the Divine Comedy, they may be a convenient reference; should my own translation one day see the light, a necessary one. Ere I had taken the resolution of suppressing.it, my intention was to confine my critical observations in my comment to the French specimens of M. Ginguene, and the original Italian; deeming that English readers, having my translation in their hands, would follow what I consider the true interpretation. But now that it is determined otherwise , I must refer more particularly to the version which my/readers, who are not sufficiently masters of Italian, will probably employ—that of Mr. Cary. He is, I believe,
a fair antagonist; and I will meet him fairly.