Page:Bürger's Lenore, Rossetti 1900.djvu/9

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Prefatory Note

of Lenore, who knows but that the Nibelungenlied (only a few of the opening chaunts were translated) may also reappear? It is rather noticeable that these first essays in verse-translation should all have been from the German—a language which Rossetti never knew thoroughly, which, after early youth was past, he did not in any way keep up, and which he may be said to have all but wholly forgotten in course of time. His translations from the Italian—which he knew very well, and from the most childish years—began probably in 1845, not earlier than the period when he ventured upon the Nibelungenlied.

In his preface to the volume The Early Italian Poets (1861) Dante Rossetti explained his general views as to what are the obligations incumbent upon a translator. They amount to this: that a translator ought to be faithful, but is not bound down to being literal; he is compelled to make various mutual concessions between meaning and rhythm or rhyme; and in especial he must not turn a good poem into a bad one. In his version of Lenore he has conformed very fairly to these rules. Literal it most certainly is not, but it