16 MARCH 1833, Page 18


LORD F. LEVESON GOWER may be said to have mutilated poor Faust ; and after having basely treated him, dressed him up in trappings and frippery that were worse to bear than maiming and wounding. But here is a far worse crime in the literary calendar of assize; here is Dr. FAUSTUS most inhumanly Intrkeci. The au- thor has commenced by cramming a pitch plaster first on the noble features of Faust; he has then tied up his limbs, sat upon his chest, and on finding him stiff and cold, put him up in a sack, and then offered him to the critics as a subject of much anatomical in- struction. But we wanted Faust with the life in him ; that had indeed been a prize ! The author, otherwise the burker, however, seems to think no small beer of himself that he has succeeded in bundling the mere corpse on our table. For the sole purposes of anatomy it might be so ; but there is something far preferable to tracing the muscles and nerves of a great work; we mean the living enjoyment of its beauties—the satisfaction of communing with a divine spirit, still animating its corporeal frame.

The prose-translator of Faust was induced to undertake the work by two considerations : the first was a remark of Mr. CHARLES LAMB, "that he had derived more pleasure from the meagre Latin versions of the Greek tragedians, than from any other versions of them he was acquainted with." The other was some remark by GOETHE himself—" We Germans had the ad- vantage that several significant works of foreign nations were first translated in an easy and clear manner. Shakspnare trans- lated into prose, first by Wieland, then by Eschenburg, being a reading generally intelligible and adapted to every reader, was enabled to spread rapidly and produce a great effect. I honour both poetry and rhyme, by which poetry first becomes poetry ; but the properly deep and radically operative, the truly developing and quickening, is that which remains of the poet when he is translated into prose. The inward substance then remains in its purity and fulness ; which, when it is absent, a dazzling exterior often deludes us with the semblance of, and when it is present con- ceals." But then the translation must be only from poetry to prose in the same language ; or if in a different language, it must be an "easy and a clear" translation,—that is to say, it must bear no marks of foreignness in its construction, none of the stiffness and strangeness of literal traduction, but be a masterly transfusion of the same sense into other and freer forms, but still forms of beauty and excellence. Now the translation before us bears no such cha- racteristics : it is neither more nor less than a painstaking endea- vour after the meaning of this somewhat obscure production ; that meaning is sought, and we should say, found, in general at least; and the sole care of the writer has been to throw it out in German- English, all his wish being that it may be seen that he under- stands the structure of his original. It is in this manner that pieces of difficult Greek are proposed to students in the university, and which they translate without farther assistance than that of pen and ink, intent only on exhibiting to their examiners a fami- liar knowledge of the use of every particle of the original. The result is of course a piece of English far more Greek than verna- cular; and PLATO and THIMYDIDES, it may be supposed, look but very homely with their garments thus turned inside out. It is the wrong side of the tapestry with a vengeance. GOETHE never meant such translations when he spoke of the influence of trans- lations on a people. In an effective translation there is more than a mere transfusion of meaning : the finest figure or the greatest beauty would be disguised in mean and ill-fitting garments : there is more to be regarded than the substitution of one idiomatic phrase for another,—which may be likened to changing the fashion of' the costume, though using the same materials. There must be a reconcoction of the whole substance of the work : the ideas must be thrown into the melting-pot, and poured out again according to all the native notions of order and proportions. The author speaks frequently of Mrs. J. AUSTIN and her transla- tions ; but he has profited mighty little by her example. His Faust presents a total contrast to the method after which her ad- mirable translations are performed : she would not have under- taken Faust in prose, but had she done so, it might, with the ex- ception of its beautiful lyrics, have stood'a chance of being read, and of producing an impression on the public mind.

The true way of translating Faust would be for Mr. BULWER to make a novel of it. Thus would one genius pour another's wine into his own cellar, where it would at least acquire a native flavour : we will not say that the transfusion through another gifted brain would improve the creation of the great GOETHE, otherwise we should have all his enthusiastic devotees (and they are not a few in this country) upon us, and their persecution would be no light matter. Their bigotry is so intense, that it might be supposed that it was all faith, and that they took the merits of their author on trust.

There is no doubt that the essential part of poetry may be pre- served in prose; but who feeds on essences ? This is not the form in which poetical beauties are adapted to gratify the taste. An artist may value the essence, for by its aid he may recompound the material ; but the essence of poetry is in far too volatile a shape for the use of the many. Unless, indeed, prose is to mean the mere absence of rhythm : then, indeed, both essence and substance, some- what differing in polish, may be preserved in prose. Even in this case Faust would be the worst of all specimens to select for such an ex- periment; for if ever poem was indebted to the peculiar charms of metre and metrical terseness, it is this dramatic poem of Faust. The elegance, force, and felicity of the original verse, are unrivalled; and the lyrical parts have a metrical charm, which, joined with a happy simplicity of phrase, has made them immortal even in the dullest memories. By the side, then, of a more than Virgilian beauty of metrical verse, is placed a bald literal Tudesco-Anglo translation, correct enough, but having no other grace than that which may perhaps be shared by the Latin prose translations of So- PHOOLES and EURIPIDES, and which it seems Mr. CHARLES LAMB so much admired. Mr.LAMB is the first and only reader, we firmly believe, who ever read these translations by the side of the perfect original verse without disgust. This singularity may, however, be the cause of the admiration ; for it is very well known, that in all Mr. CHARLES LAMBS readings, the charm is not what he finds, but what he puts into them. His authority is of no great accouht, he being an exception to most rules,—a very good original, but a bad example. The author, we doubt not, has been incited to translate and publish his translation, as a scholar might translate Lycophron, because of its scabrous passages. He found difficulty in comprehending some of the sentiments of Faust; others shared the difficulty ; and having resolved them, he comes forward with his translation, by way of running commentary on his author; and it is thus that the book must be taken. To this step he would doubtless be encouraged by the fine opportunity it gave him of exposing Lord F. L. GOWER s ignorance of German, at least of GOETHE'S German. Of this, the introduction contains abundant proofs, and those of an amusina. character. Let us, then, take this translation rather as an illustration of Faust than a version; and thus, we think, it will be acceptable to all German scholars. The author has taken much pains, and there are few who will not find some instruction in the perusal. Even a literal prose translation cannot deprive Faust of all its beauty : in some of the simple scenes, we might even venture to ask the mere English reader to share our admiration of the original. One shall be quoted as a specimen of the work, and more especially for its essential beauty.



Promise me, Henry ! FAUST.

What I can !


Now tell me, how do you feel as to religion? You are a dear good man, but I believe you don't think much of it. FAUST.

No more of that, my child ! you feel I love you : I would lay down my life for those I love, nor would I deprive any of their &ding and their church.


That is not right ; we must believe in it.


Must we? MARGARET.

Ah ! if I had any influence over you! Besides, you do not honour the holy