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I3TH - I9TH CENTURY
SELECTED Be TRANSLATED
WITH A PREFACE
PROFESSOR CESARE FOLIGNO
MY preface to this book of verse requires some explanation. Long ago I owned to an aversion to anthologies, and I have always accepted Dante's objection to poetical translations. I am not minded now to renounce my instinctive dislike or to traverse Dante's opinion; but I have had the privilege of reading the present book in manuscript, and I must admit that there are exceptions even among poetical " florilegia."
An anthology is an essentially artificial product. Its very name says so. One can as readily gain an idea of the charm of the country in spring-time from a nosegay, as learn to appreciate a literature from a collection of isolated lyrics. But the collection, no less than the nosegay, may be a work of art and reveal the personality of the gatherer. An onlooker, or a reader who is gifted with some insight, is led to look upon nature, or upon literature, from a standpoint that is not his own, and more often than not this is of considerable advantage.
Translations are no less artificial. Scarcely any translator would claim to have rendered into his own language the precise meaning, the inner feeling, the verbal expression, and the rhythm of the original. At best he can only attempt to create in his readers a state of mind not dissimilar from his own when he first read the original poem. A translation stands to the original as landscape to nature; but the painter is occasionally a great artist, and also the girl who picks and ties together a bunch of flowers can show an unexpected nicety of taste and artistic judgment. In order to appreciate such qualities in the translator the reader should be acquainted with the originals of the poems which are rendered into English, and also with many other works in prose as well as in verse. Many a reader of the present book may not be so placed at first; but, unless I am much mistaken, the majority of them will soon turn from the translations to the originals which face them in the book, and perhaps to the complete works of the poets who have been assembled here to represent