ページの画像
PDF
ePub

have never ventured on prose where my author has used metre. Had the language given to Mephistopheles the support of passion or of metaphor, it would then have been easily translated — but there is no aid of this kind. It is mere outline wholly unshadowed. Here it may be supposed - here, if any where, mere literal translation is the only style that can be adopted. There is not and cannot be room for those compensations — as they have been called — by which the translator, satisfied to lose some graceful turn of thought or felicity of expression, which he finds it difficult to preserve, endeavours to supply its place by something more suitable to the genius of the language in which he is writing. Unfortunately there is a peculiarity in the style given to Mephistopheles which baffles all these calculations, and deprives the most literal translation, equally with that in which more freedom is assumed, of any chance of altogether preserving the effect of the original ;without going so far as to make Mephistopheles speak a different dialect from Faustus, yet by the introduction of Swabian words, or words used in a sense different from the pure German, and at times of French words, he is made to speak in a tone and accent as it were wholly different from Faustus, which, while it is at once caught by a reader of the original, a translator can scarcely hope for such indulgence as to give him any fair chance of successfully expressing. For this is undoubtedly among the difficulties which a translator must make up his account to meet. The prominent passages in an original poem will probably be read with no ungenerous or uncongenial feeling. Where Passion, or Sentiment, or Reasoning speaks its appropriate language, sympathy and indulgence may naturally be hoped for; - where they are not found, it may be safely affirmed that the author has failed in his art. If such passages be read with languor, there can be no appeal from a decision which assuming the reader to be free from all unfavourable prejudice is not, and cannot be, other than just. The power of a Kemble could not essentially vary the effect of such a passage. The “mighty actor does no more than express that which, without his aid, we should have recognized. How different is it in the case of a sneer or a sarcasm-one of those comments in which the turn of the eye, the tone of the voice, is all in all — which, deprive them of the body in which they exist, cease to have a continuing life. — If I may speak of what I have written, I would say that the passages in which Faustus's character is exhibited, are probably so presented here to the English reader, that the general conception must be regarded as preserved — whatever may be the failure in details. In representing Mephistopheles— having to exact more from the reader than any but the most indulgent reader will concede to a favourite author, and more than a translator can hope from any one whatever - I can scarcely form a conjecture whether Goethe's fiend will be recognized by those who know his features in the original - still less whether, to English readers, my translation will have the effect of at all giving him the advantage of a proper introduction. I am sure, however quite sure that to render the character intelligible, the aid of the “ audacious " prologue could not have been dispensed with; - I am also equally sure that a due consideration of that prologue, though it may

interfere with the pleasure of a first reading of Faust, will do more to reconcile the reader to the drama, than it would be possible otherwise to effect. Omitting for the moment the permitted licence of the Mystery, or Miracle-play, which the two prologues not alone suggest, but demand for the author, there is an advantage gained in exhibiting from the first, that, throughout the entire poem, Faust is in a process of change — that his being is in a state of growth – that what the genial influences of nature might have done for him, as for others, has been interrupted by pursuits incapable of conferring happiness and that to re-create, it is necessary to destroy.- But I must forbear-and not forget that there is, perhaps, something unbecoming in a translator's discussing the merits of the work with which he is too intimately connected, to be regarded as an impartial judge.

Of such of the other translations of Faust as have had any effect on mine, I cannot be wholly silent. To Mr. Hayward, in common with every reader of Goethe, I feel great obligations ; and his notice of the extracts from Faust which I had long ago published, gave me great gratification and demands my warmest thanks. Of Shelley I have elsewhere spoken in this Preface. I do not willingly venture on ground which he has made his own. My extracts from Faustus were published in Blackwood, before Mr. Shelley had translated any part of the poem. His translations were confined to passages not given in Blackwood

but it so happened, that in the progress of my intended task of translating the whole drama, I had completed the Walpurgis Night before the publication of Mr. Shelley’s. I do not mention this for the purpose of vindicating myself against any resemblances between Shelley's version and mine; there are

and if there were statement would be no vindication, as even while the sheets were passing through the press, I have made alterations and corrections in this, as in other parts of the poem; but admiring as I do the particular scene in Shelley, I should, had I not already translated the passage, have hazarded asking the permission of his relatives to reprint the fragment from his poems, rather than venture on a translation myself: as it is, I think it not impossible that there may be readers to whom both translations may give pleasure.

none

any, this

I have only to add, that many of the notes to this volume are from books not always easily accessible, and now rarely looked into. To understand the character of a student of Faustus's age, they are worth examining. My first intention was to confine myself to subjects that were likely, in their very remoteness from ordinary studies, to possess some interest. I have been led further than I intended, chiefly because I was provoked at the depreciating tone which some late writers have thought it not unbecoming to use when speaking of Goethe, A formal discussion of the merits of the work which I translate was not to be thought of by me. I have preferred adopting the plan pursued in the late editions of Byron and Scott; and showing by a few extracts from writers of high character, the effect which the poem has produced. I perhaps ought

« 前へ次へ »