Page:A plain and literal translation of the Arabian nights entertainments, now entitled The book of the thousand nights and a night, volume 1.djvu/21

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The Translator's Foreword.

whose matter is frequently heavy enough. He succeeds admirably in the most difficult passages and he often hits upon choice and special terms and the exact vernacular equivalent of the foreign word, so happily and so picturesquely 'that all future translators must perforce use the same expression under pain of falling far short. But the learned and versatile author bound himself to issue only five hundred copies, and "not to reproduce the work in its complete and uncastrated form." Consequently his excellent version is caviaire to the general—practically unprocurable.


And here I hasten to confess that ample use has been made of the three versions above noted, the whole being blended by a callida junctura into a homogeneous mass. But in the presence of so many predecessors a writer is bound to show some raison d'être for making a fresh attempt and this I proceed to do with due reserve.


Briefly, the object of this version is to show what "The Thousand Nights and a Night" really is. Not, however, for reasons to be more fully stated in the terminal Essay, by straining verbum redder e verbo, but by writing as the Arab would have written in English. On this point I am all with Saint Jerome (Pref. in Jobum) "Vel verbum e verbo, vel sensum e sensu, vel ex utroque comrnixtum, et medie temperatum genus translationis." My work claims to be a faithful copy of the great Eastern Saga-book, by preserving intact, not only the spirit, but even the mécanique, the manner and the matter. Hence, however prosy and long-drawn out be the formula, it retains the scheme of the Nights because they are a prime feature in the original. The Ráwí or reciter, to whose wits the task of supplying details is left, well knows their value: the openings carefully repeat the names of the dramatis personæ and thus fix them in the hearer's memory. Without the Nights no Arabian Nights! Moreover it is necessary to retain the whole apparatus: nothing more ill-advised than Dr. Jonathan Scott's strange device of garnishing The Nights with fancy head-pieces VOL. I.