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Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 4.djvu/282

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244
THE PROPHECY OF DANTE.

by Horace, as well as the Prophecies of Holy Writ. The measure adopted is the terza rima of Dante, which I am not aware to have seen hitherto tried in our language, except it may be by Mr. Hayley,[1] of whose translation I never saw but one extract, quoted in the notes to Caliph Vathek; so that—if I do not err—this poem may be considered as a metrical experiment. The cantos are short, and about the same length of those of the poet, whose name I have borrowed and most likely taken in vain.

Amongst the inconveniences of authors in the present day, it is difficult for any who have a name, good or bad, to escape translation. I have had the fortune to see the fourth canto of Childe Harold[2] translated into Italian versi sciolti—that is, a poem written in the Spenserean stanza into blank verse, without regard to the natural divisions of the stanza or the sense. If the present poem, being on a national topic, should chance to undergo the same fate, I would request the Italian reader to remember that when I have failed in the imitation of his great "Padre Alighier,"[3] I have failed in imitating that which all study and few understand, since to this very day it is not yet settled what was the meaning of the allegory[4] in the

  1. [In the notes to his Essay on Epic Poetry, 1782 (Epistle iii. pp. 175-197), Hayley (see English Bards, etc., line 310, Poetical Works, 1898, i. 321, note 1) prints a translation of the three first cantos of the Inferno, which, he says (p. 172), was written "a few years ago to oblige a particular friend." "Of all Hayley's compositions," writes Southey (Quart. Rev., vol. xxxi. pp. 283, 284), "these specimens are the best ... in thus following his original. Hayley was led into a sobriety and manliness of diction which ... approached ... to the manner of a better age."

    In a note on the Hall of Eblis, S. Henley quotes with approbation Hayley's translation of lines 1-9 of this Third Canto of the Inferno. Vathek ... by W. Beckford, 1868. p. 188.]

  2. [L'Italia: Canto IV. del Pellegrinaggio di Childe Harold ... tradotto da Michele Leoni, Italia (London?), 1819, 8°. Leoni also translated the Lament of Tasso (Lamento di Tasso ... Recato in Italiano da M. Leoni, Pisa, 1818).]
  3. [Alfieri has a sonnet on the tomb of Dante, beginning—

    "O gran padre Alighier, se dal ciel miri."

    Opere Scelte, di Vittorio Alfieri, 1818, iii. 487.]

  4. [The Panther, the Lion, and the She-wolf, which Dante encountered on the "desert slope" (Inferno, Canto I. lines 31, sq.), were no doubt suggested by Jer. v. 6: "Idcirco percussit eos leo de silva,