even if left to himself in making his version, could ever have reached the highest point attained by Goethe
, from the mere difference between the two languages with which he and his original had to deal.
The charm of Longfellow
's earlier versions is, after all, an English charm, and perhaps the quality of Dante
can no more be truthfully transmuted into this than we can transmute the charms of a spring morning into those of a summer afternoon, or violets into roses.
, it is well known, took for his model as to the language of ‘Faust’ the poetry of Hans Sachs
's ‘cobbler bard;’ and Dante
's terse monosyllables were based upon the language of the people, which he first embodied in art. To mellow its refreshing brevities would perhaps be to destroy it, and that which Mr. Andrews
finely says of the ‘Faust’ may be still more true of the ‘Divina Commedia,’ that it ‘must remain, after all, the enchanted palace; and the bodies and the bones of those who in other days strove to pierce its encircling hedge lie scattered thickly about it.’
So Mr. W. C. Lawton
, himself an experienced translator from the Greek, says of Longfellow
's work, ‘His great version is but a partial success, for it essays the unattainable.’1
But if it be possible to win this success, it is probably destined to be