Wilbehn Tell: a Drama, by Schiller. Translated into English Verse
by the Rev. Edward Massie, M.A. (The Clarendon Press, Oxford.)— A notice informs us that the object of the present translation is to make this play as useful as possible to students of either language ; and keep- ing this end in view, we may say that the work has been, on the whole, well and faithfully done. That it has reached a general level of re- spectability, if not of special excellence, is something, when the field of literature it illustrates is already largely preoccupied. Ever since Coleridge's masterly translation of " Wallenstein " helped to make known the great German dramatist to a wide circle of English readers, Schiller's works have been growing in reputation here. In vigour and clearness of expression, in freedom from those intricacies of style which make the learner's uphill path so difficult, Schiller is conspicuous. Among his dramatic writings, Wilhelm Tell holds a foremost rank. With the aspirations of his hero the poet doubtless felt a personal sympathy, for though times had changed and manners had softened, there was much in the arbitrary government of the petty German States by the princelings of the day that recalled unpleasantly the Gesslers and Landenborgers of mediaeval times. Wo must take exception to Mr, Massie's use of the definite article before a proper name ; " The Tell," is of frequent occurrence. Here and there we moot with lines in which care- lessness is apparent, such irregularities, for instance, as in the follow- ing :—
" And dwelt he up there in yon ice-built palace Of Shreckhorn. or still higher, where the Jungfrau, Veird from eternity, sits in spotless snow."
As evidence of the fairly good average of Mr. Massie's translation, we quote from the passage whore Tell, watching for the Governor to pass his hiding-place, draws forth his one arrow :—
" Come forth, thou minister of bitter pain, My precious jewel now, my richest treasure ! A mark I now will give thee, made of stuff To righteous prayer as yet impenetrable. 'T will not resist thy suasive power. And thou, My trusty bowstring, who so oft hast done Thy duty by me faithfully in sport, Oh: do not fail me in this fearful earnest,— This once, my good and trusty string, hold fast, Who bast so oft my bitter arrow winged! Ah! should it now fly fruitless from my hand, I have no second one at my command."
It may be observed that in this book, as in many works designed specially for instruction, the roman characters are used, and the text of the original stands side by side with the translation. This method, while affording facilities to the learner, may not be an unmixed advant- age, if the mental discipline involved in searching a dictionary counts for anything.