1805 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Henry Boyd

Visconti, in "Present State of Engish Poetry" Literary Miscellany [Cambridge MA] 1 (October 1805) 372-73.



Boyd has translated the Divina Commedia of Dante with considerable success, and is now employed on another Italian work. The character of the founder of Italian literature is drawn with admirable force and truth by the author of the Pursuits of Literature; "in their primal poet there is an originality and hardihood of antiquity; the soul of Dante was dark and sullen; it was proud and full of his wrongs. Frons laeta parum et dejecto lumino vultu. He passed through imaginary realms without the sun to the confines of light and hope. The day shone full upon him, and the beams from on high. His draught of men and their passions is eternal. His language was, like himself, deep, and full of matter; its strength and harmony may be best expressed by his Tuscan brother.

Aspro concento, orribile armonia
D'alte querele, d'ululi, e di strida
Istranamente concordia s'udia.
Arisoto."

The versification of Boyd is sometimes dull, but generally the reader is conducted by a full flowing stream. Dante is remarkable for precision. Boyd is sometimes obscure, not because he does not understand, but because his phraseology is either old, or affected. Yet the entrance into hell in the third canto is well executed; the original is tremendous beyond all imagination, and Boyd has preserved much of the horror. Dante was a powerful magician in the beginning of the fourteenth century. He came forth in the darkness of the world to spread mysterious illumination. He had descended into the regions of the damned. Their tortures and torments had worked in him no pity, for his soul delighted in wrath. Purgatory opened her secrets and councils at the command of his infernal genius, and the charms of Paradise were displayed to the view of the lover of darkness. To translate such a poet required no common powers. Body had done his duty, but others may yet gain the acclamation of complete success.