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After protesting (as I hereby most solemnly do) against his metre, its want of harmony, his paraphrases, and, in fine, all that appertains to style, as totally inadequate to convey the remotest resemblance to the poetry of his
original after doing this justice to my author
once for all, I circumscribe my future observations on Mr. Cary to his literal pretensions; and here, it must be allowed, he is entitled to much encomium. Not that he always is so: or that there is a Canto in which there are not some inaccuracies. From the third Canto enward, these shall be noticed in my comments: but for the reason above alledged, they are not in the two first; so, to remedy such deficiency, let them be recapitulated here. In the first: I cannot but object to the very title, Vision, instead of that chosen by the author; and the more so, because Italians enumerate among the many reasons which induced him to call his book Comedy, the desire to avoid precisely such 'low common-place, as Journey, Vision, or the like ' -— non volendo chiamare la sua opera Cammino, o Visione, o con altro simile nome basso ( Gelli, sopra lo Inferno di Dante, vol. i. p. 5o.). In Mr. Cary's translation of verse xx of the original, he gives "recesses" instead of ' lake of the heart;' and thus not only impairs the imagery of the passage, but removes what was intended to be a scientific position. Yet even the lines quoted from Redi might have emboldened one to be more literal . v. xxx, Mr. Gary falls into the usual
error of explaining it by, "in ascending the weight of the body rests on the hinder foot." —v. XLiu, he makes a difficulty where there is really none. He in part remedies this by translating right; but his note (notwithstanding his encomiast) taxes his original with an obscurity, which it does not merit. —v. Xlv, he falls into the common abuse of being strained, if not quite unintelligible, by interpreting the three beasts, Ambition, Luxury, Avarice. This, to be sure, is rather to be attributed to the commentators than to him; as his not giving any explanation of the allegorical forest, the sun-clad mountain, the pass 'that never left any one alive, ' is rather a deficiency than defect: and if he gave no notes at all, such a deficiency would not deserve animadversion; and one might suppose that he fully comprehended the whole, though it was not in his plan to explain it to his readers. But as it is, I cannot conceive how he could clearly understand his original; and who without clearly understanding can translate clearly? The citation he gives from Jeremiah might have made him approach nearer the truth. —v. Lxx, instead of either translating literally 'though late!' or, at least, paraphrasing it rightly, he makes a paraphrase which is in all probability a false one. v. ci, he interprets the greyhound, Can of Verona, like the commentators, in which he and they may be correct; but the note which he adds is undoubtedly a mere error. When Dante wrote Can was a child, not a " liberal Patron." The prophecy was made after the event. So, Mr. Cary should have had too mueh veneration for the poet he selected to translate, not to pause before adopting an opinion injurious to his memory, that of representing him as the flatterer of a man who was feeding and insulting him. — v. cix, his mis-construction of the entire allegory leads him into the common difficulty of making Can chase avarice " through every town;" which, who can
comprehend? v. cxvn, by citing from Rev.
ix. 6. he leads the reader into the mistake of ascribing to second death a signification which
it does not, cannot bear, the Biblical one.
v. cxxxiv, he mis-interprets S. Peters gate the gate of Purgatory, instead of Paradise. In the second Canto: v. ix, he is a little inaccurate in translating nobilitate " eminent endowments." For thus he strictly limits the signification of nobility to one and indeed its higher sense; whereas it was prohably intended to convey some, though a secondary reference to the
birth-rights of its Author at the same time
an observation founded not only on the context of the whole of this poem, but on the aristocratic tone of all his works. v. xcm, " that
fierce fire." Von, etc. would be clearer: for it is necessary to show, that there was no painful fire where Virgil resided. — v. xciv, Donna gentil is made to mean Divine Mercy; without a notion of her having been a real lady. Yet without it, it were hard to enter into the spirit of the author. Who can well express what he does not feel ? — v. cvni, it is an unreasonable deficiency not to have marked the true signification of the allegorical images " death" and "torrent" ( fiumana): for it is not so obvious, that every reader may discover it. This observation were not made, had Mr. Cary no notes: but he has many that are mere superfluities , when compared with the necessary explanation of the text. It is to be recollected, Dante was well aware he needed interpretation; and wrote with the intention of commenting himself. — v. cxxiv, Mr. Cary calls the " three maids" Divine Mercy, Lucia, and Beatrice; an odd
jumble of fact and allegory. In all this, he seems not to have quite understood his original . v. Cxlii, he makes cammino alto e sil
vestro w deep and woody way:" it should be steep, etc. pef celsa cacumina, as Aquino translates: for Dante's descending did not prevent the path from being steep.
Having enumerated what I conceive to be his defects ( considered merely literally) and repeated , for the last time, my entire disapproval of his style throughout the whole poem, I do not hesitate to avow again that Mr. Cary's verbal fidelity is in general laudable. Had he written in prose, he might perhaps have been faithfuller to Dante's characteristic concision, and as much so to his various melody as blank verse can well be.
The drawings which I give from time to time, are mere sketches; that pretend to nothing beyond the explication of the text. Particularly as to the topography of Hell (a matter on which so much has been confusedly written) the pencil is occasionally an assistant almost necessary to the pen . With regard to such explanatory drawings, the editions of the Divina Commedia are very defective: not so, with regard to ornamental ones. Some have lately appeared in Italy embellished in a princely