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along with a strikingly terse and idiomatic English diction, attempts to reproduce strictly the very structure of the verse and replications of the rhyme; and this theory we should have been glad, we confess, to see put in practice by so accomplished a scholar and artist as Mr. Longfellow, - at least, in a few test-passages. With all its difficulties of structure, and the occasional ill fate of an unlucky rhyme, we have found it frequently more fluent, and sometimes more intelligible than his. Somehow, the mechanical difficulty overcome is apt to make better workmanship than the mechanical difficulty evaded. A long poem in blank-verse — which, after all, is not genuine blankverse — is a severe trial to the reader's patience. Cary we have found dull and unreadable, preferring the somewhat hard fidelity of Wright, or, still better, the elegaic English stanza of Dr. Parsons. But, as has been well pointed out, Mr. Longfellow has set himself a different task, which is, to reproduce “ the diction of Dante.” Every line and phrase has on it the poets and the scholar's stamp of authenticity. The version has this high and peculiar value. And it is better to take, ungrudging, what Mr. Longfellow has done so thoroughly well, than to regret that he has not attempted to do something else.
The translation, as an English poem, will take its merited rank among other poems; and we do not propose to offer any criticism on it here. It has the value and the defect of a strict, hard, faithful rendering of phrase by phrase, - taking words of kindred derivation and sound in preference to more racy and idiomatic English ones, — and, occasionally, with difficult and obscure constructions, not letting the reader forget that it is a foreign original that it copies. Mr. Longfellow has set himself, with great patience and modesty, to be the interpreter of a great and difficult poet. The student is never lost in the artist or composer. In this the work reminds one a little of Newman's Homer, - a similar accurate, painstaking, scholarly rendering of the antique, giving more ripe fruit of study than can be found in the same space elsewhere, — excepting that here the hand of a real poet has been at work, and we miss the quaintnesses and oddities, and gaunt rhythmical structure, which deform the other. The same hand that wrought the delicate and melodious “sonnets,” which stand as portals to the main work, has been busy in all its details ; and, in its conscientious fidelity, it reminds one of those artists who copy, in costly tapestry, some masterpiece of painting, - toiling at the back of the canvas, which is to show every tint and shade of the original, as far as the different material will permit, literally and exactly reproduced.
But the translation is only part of the work, — in bulk, hardly even the chief part. The volumes have this unique value, that they are the fruit of the life study of a very great poet, by one who is both a poet, a scholar by profession, and a critic of delicate and appreciating taste. They are the attempt which he has made to convey in full the knowledge and the impression which many years of study have given him. And this not merely, and not so much, by comment of his own, — which is rather given, in its results, in the version itself, — but by a full and rich body of Notes, giving all attainable or desirable explanation of what needs to be explained; with great wealth of incidental matter, gathered from historical and other sources, and by numerous full-length "illustrations,” in which we see the mind of Dante, as it were, reflected in the literature, the criticism, and the exposition of the best minds since, — where Carlyle, Macaulay, Ruskin, Leigh Hunt, Milman, Schelling, with other reviewers and critics, give each his contribution to show the great and peculiar place of the “ Divina Commedia” in the literature of the world. So that the volumes are, in a certain sense, a Dantean museum, wanting only a series of illustrations in picture and drawing, equal in copiousness and splendor to these, to make perhaps the noblest and most abundant commentary which has ever been made upon a writer's genius.
NEW PUBLICATIONS RECEIVED.
THEOLOGICAL AND RELIGIOUS. Memoir of the Rev. Samuel Barrett, D.D. ; with a Selected Series of his Discourses. By Lewis G. Pray. Boston: William V. Spencer. pp. 207. (An interesting and genuine memorial of a faithful, excellent, and able man, prepared by one who was a parishioner and friend throughout his long ministry of thirty-five years. We wish the collection had included some of those more characteristic discourses, to which reference is made in the memoir.)
Dissertations and Discussions, Political, Philosophical, and Historical. By John Stuart Mill. Vol. IV. Boston: William V. Spencer. pp. 460. (Most readers will be first attracted by the noble Inaugural Discourse, delivered last February, at St. Andrews. But of at least equal interest we have found the article on Grote's “ Plato,” from the “ Edinburgh Review," the longest in the volume, and containing far more real instruction on the subject than can be found elsewhere, in the same space, in English. Next in interest and importance is that on Bain's “ Psychology," which Mr. Mill regards as the completest and best exposition of the theory of Association. Most of the political writings have lost their immediate interest, with the recent striking triumph of parliamentary reform in England; but the brief note on the contest in America, written during the “ Trent” excitement, remains as one of the finest and most eloquent protests on record against a great injustice.)
Critical and Social Essays. Reprinted from The New-York “ Nation.” New York: Leypoldt & Holt. 16mo, pp. 230. (The existence and prosperity of " The Nation" is perhaps the most honorable and hopeful sign in our present American periodical literature. Many of its brief miscellaneous essays are admirable; and a good service is done by bringing some of them together in this volume.)
History of the American Civil War. By John William Draper, M.D., LL.D. In 3 vols. Vol. I., containing the Causes of the War, and the Events preparatory to it, up to the close of President Buchanan's Administration. New York: Harper & Brothers. 8vo, pp. 567. (This history is rather the working out of a thesis respecting the effect of climate and other natural influences on a people's character and life. It is very able; very interesting in its summary of scientific facts; very didactic and positive in tone; ample in its gathering of information; clear and vigorous in its outline of our political history. We hope to find the opportunity of a more full review.)
Thackeray's Lectures. The English Humorists. The Four Georges. Complete in one volume. New York: Harper & Brothers. 12mo, pp. 449.
Curious Myths of the Middle Ages. By S. Baring Gould, M.A. Boston: Roberts Brothers. 16mo, pp. 255.
Co-operative Stores : their History, Organization, and Management. Based on the recent German work of Eugene Richter. With annotations and amendments, rendering the work specially adapted for use in the United States. New York : Leypoldt & Holt. 16mo, pp. 131.
Bench and Bar: a complete digest of the Wit, Humor, Asperities, and Amenities of the Law. By J. L. Bigelow, Counsellor at Law. With portraits and illustrations. New York: Harper & Brothers. 12mo, pp. 364.
College Life: its Theory and Practice. By Rev. Stephen Olin, D.D., LL.D., late President of the Wesleyan University. New York: Harper & Brothers. 12mo, pp. 239.
Wool-Gathering. By Gail Hamilton. Boston : Ticknor & Fields. pp. 335. (An agreeable, chatty narrative of a journey in the West and South, terminating with a visit at Gettysburg.)
An Arctic Boat Journey in the Autumn of 1854. By Isaac I. Hayes, Surgeon of the Second Grinnell Expedition. New edition. Boston: Ticknor & Fields. pp. 387. (A very curious narrative, illustrated with spirited drawings; republished in aid of another expedition presently to be made to the Polar Seas.)
Alec Forbes of Howglen. By George MacDonald. pp. 171. The Last Chronicle of Barset. By Anthony Trollope. pp. 352. Raymond's Heroine; No Man's Friend. By Frederick William Robinson. pp. 180. Mr. Wynyard's Ward. By Holme Lee. New York: Harper & Brothers.
Louisa of Prussia and Her Times ; an Historical Novel. By L. Mühlbach. Translated from the German by F. Jordan. With illustrations. New York : D. Appleton & Co. pp. 277.
The Old Curiosity Shop; also, Reprinted Pieces. pp. 480; Little Dorrit. pp. 480. By Charles Dickens. (Diamond edition); The Pickwick Papers. By Charles Dickens. (" Charles Dickens," edition, about double the size of the above, and with the familiar etched illustrations; neatly printed on thin paper, and very cheap.) Boston: Ticknor & Fields.
The Life and Death of Jason. A Poem. By William Morris. 16mo, pp. 307. (Introduced to the public by a most remarkable and laudatory notice in the “ Fortnightly Review," by Mr. Swinburne, placing it far above all narrative poetry in English since Chaucer.)
A Story of Doom, and Other Poems. By Jean Ingelow. Boston: Roberts Brothers. 16mo, pp. 290.