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HAVE no apology to offer for putting forth upon

the world this new attempt at rendering Dante into English, and I will not endeavour to make one. I must leave it to the judgment of the public, and if the opinion of those capable of judging be against me, I must only hope for courage to endure, and temper and wisdom enough to profit by, their censure.

I was impelled to the long and difficult task by an enthusiasm for the Poem, and by that alone; and I can truly assert that, so far as I have yet advanced in it, my enthusiasm for it has suffered no decline. I feel that in this consists the best hope I have, that what I have completed may not be deemed unworthy, and that a feeling which has lasted so long will sustain me through the two remaining "Canzoni," with which I shall proceed as quickly as the nature of the work, and my own sense of what is decorous to the great Poet, will allow; for nothing seems to me more unpardonable than to publish a translation of such a


Poem, without having honestly done one's best, and especially without allowing such time for deliberation as it must require. The mere translating of the Part now presented occupied me a year and three-quarters, during three months of which, however, I was abroad, and did not touch it. I have already, however, in manuscript several Cantos of Purgatory.

My chief, almost my sole, object has been to make a translation which, preserving the form and pressure of the greatest Epic since the old classic days, may be intelligible and readable to an English reader unacquainted with Italian. I have not aimed at exaggerating its beauties (how could any one succeed in such an aim?) or diminishing its defects, and, above all, I have not sought to tone down or to increase any of the ruggedness of thought or speech which, to one who has considered the life of Dante, is so characteristic of the man as he lived,—which, I think, cannot fail to be traced upon the grand though stern features with which the world is so familiar. Notwithstanding that my main desire is that which I have stated, I have chosen the metre of the original for my version,—a selection which I think in almost every case the best way of preserving the spirit of a Poem; for it seems


to me, that in metre there is almost as much soul as in language; and I feel convinced that, though it will at first sound unusual (and may sound at the outset a little uncouth even) in the ears of many readers, few will fail to observe, if they persevere, how well it suits the subject, and they will confess that in it one so portentous and severe will find fitting and noble expression. It appeared to me, besides, that there was but a choice between the terza rima of the original and blank verse, which latter is the most rare and difficult of metres, though legion writes ten-syllable lines. If readers of Dante himself should honour me with their notice, they I am sure will need no apology for anything that reminds them of him, however long the interval.

I have compiled a few historical and other Notes, where I have thought them necessary, and have even explained such passages as an educated Italian in reading the original would wish to have explained, and which in few editions are printed without comment and illustration.

I think it right to say, that in writing my own I have been assisted by no other translation than the excellent one of Mr. Cary, which I have frequently


consulted, and to which I am pleased to avow my obligation. Since I have completed, copied, and twice recopied1 the Hell, and written all my Notes, I have seen Mr. Cayley's beautiful version of that part of the Divine Comedy.

To several friends I owe more thanks than I can pay, and were I to begin to express my acknowledgments to many who have given me valuable suggestions, I should be indeed bankrupt in gratitude. First amongst these are my excellent friends Professor Pistrucci, of King's College, London, and Timothy Holmes, Esquire, of St. George's Hospital, who have been my chief guides in all cases of difficulty. I know that they and all will believe me when I say that I have felt their kindness deeply.

Feb. 1854.

1 I may mention that each of these re-copyings was made with the Italian open before me, and was therefore a complete revision.

Since writing these few remarks, I have read parts of Mr. Pollock's Inferno, and about six cantos of Mr. Dayman's.




THE ARGUMENT:-The Poet having lost his way in a wild and gloomy wood wanders disconsolately through the night, and as the sun rises be begins the ascent of a hill before him. He is here impeded by three wild beasts, and at length perceiving a solitary human figure, he calls upon it to assist him. It proves to be Virgil, who encourages him to explore the three worlds beyond the tomb, Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, promising himself to be his guide through the two former, and that a worthier spirit shall conduct him through the third. Dante gladly undertakes the journey. The day has passed in this discourse.

IDWAY upon the journey of my days1


I found myself within a wood so drear,

That the direct path nowhere met my gaze.

1 In this verse Dante intimates that, at the time when he supposes his vision to have taken place, he was thirty-five years of age, considering seventy years as the time allotted to man. He was born in May, 1265, and thus, in conjunction with a yet more distinct allusion to the time contained in c. xxi., 113, we can fix the time when the action began as Good Friday, 1300. The Poem was written during many years after, but previously to 1321, in which year Dante died. Many events subsequent to 1300 are mentioned, but always in the form of prophecies.

2 The whole Poem is an allegory, and I think we shall not be far wrong if we give an allegorical meaning to every passage at all


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