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on the same matter, should come to the same deciskm, is no small proof in its favour. Whatever I have said on Dante's uprightness and perspicacity as a statesman may now be considered ac resting on much better authority than my own —on that of an Italian in high esteem among his countrymen, for manly sense, as well as elegant taste.
Of the Divina Commedia there are many translations in prose and verse. The one which least dissatisfies me, is the Latin version of Carlo D'Aquino. In English I am acquainted with two: although I did not know any thing of the existence of either, until very lately. With regard to one of them, it is unnecessary to notice it; for ramblingly paraphrastic, as it is, I believe, if the title-page were cut out and the book handed to me, I should not be aware it was intended for a translation of Dante. The other is indeed a very different production, I mean that of Mr. Cary. Its fidelity is exemplary; and though somewhat of a paraphrase, it is far from loose. But whatever be its literal merits, it does not give, nor pretend to give any of the melody of its Original. Dante writes in rhyme and in a metre whose chief characteristics are pliancy and concision. Mr Cary in blank verse imitative of the stateliness and oc
casional prolixity of Milton. Be it observed r that before Dante neither terza rima nor blank verse ( versi sciolti) existed in Italian, though both now do; and Cesarotti, Alfieri, Parini, Bettinelli, etc. prove, that the latter is no less adapted to the genius of the language, than the former. Dante then might just as easily have invented blank verse, as terza rima; if there was not something in rhyme which pleased his ear more. He had begun his poem in Latin heroics , but soon changed both tongue and metre. Who knows how many metres he might have tried, before he decided for terza rima? His smaller poems display a variety of metres. Any of these, or blank verse were as easy an invention as terza rima. But in choosing this last, he, in my opinion, chose well; for no other seems
capable of such variety being alike proper
for the highest and the lowest themes, and susceptible of every gradation of sound, to accompany each colour of eloquence, from rapid argument to playful imagery, from expanding tenderness to sarcasm and vehemence, from the sublimest simplicity to magnificence of description. Concision however is the chief peculiarity of Dante's style; even where he enters into descriptive details (which is rarely), his expressions are conciser, than those of any other writer would have been on a similar occasion: no rhythm then is more unlike his than the JVIiltonic. 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 Commedia ( 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