I do not see how any English-speaking reader could hesitate for a moment in finding a charm far greater in the first version than in the second, or fail to recognize in it more of that quality which has made the name of Dante
If this be true, the only question that can be raised is whether this advantage has been won by a sacrifice of that degree of literalness which may fairly be demanded of a translation in poetic form.
Perfect and absolute literalness, it must be remembered, can only be expected of a prose version, and even after the most perfect metrical translation a prose version may be as needful as ever.
Let us consider for a moment the two examples as given above.
It may be conceded at the outset that the adverb gia
is more strictly and carefully rendered by ‘ere’ than by ‘oft,’ but the difference is not important, as any one old enough to describe a daybreak has undoubtedly seen more than one.
The difference between ‘the approach of day’ and ‘as day began’ is important, since the last moment of the approach coincides with the first moment of the beginning.
In the second line, ‘la parte oriental’ is both more literally and more tersely rendered by ‘the orient sky,’ than by the more awkward expression ‘the eastern hemisphere,’ unless it be claimed that ‘sky’ does not sufficiently recognize the earth as seen