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The New Life (La Vita Nuova)

The New Life (La Vita Nuova)

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by Dante Alighieri
     
 

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_PREFATORY NOTE_


Dante Gabriel Rossetti, being the son of an Italian who was greatly
immersed in the study of Dante Alighieri, and who produced a Comment on
the _Inferno_, and other books relating to Dantesque literature, was
from his earliest childhood familiar with the name of the stupendous
Florentine, and to some extent aware of the

Overview

_PREFATORY NOTE_


Dante Gabriel Rossetti, being the son of an Italian who was greatly
immersed in the study of Dante Alighieri, and who produced a Comment on
the _Inferno_, and other books relating to Dantesque literature, was
from his earliest childhood familiar with the name of the stupendous
Florentine, and to some extent aware of the range and quality of his
writings. Nevertheless—or perhaps indeed it may have been partly on
that very account—he did not in those opening years read Dante to
any degree worth mentioning: he was well versed in Shakespeare, Walter
Scott, Byron, and some other writers, years before he applied himself
to Dante. He may have been fourteen years of age, or even fifteen (May
1843), before he took seriously to the author of the _Divina Commedia_.
He then read him eagerly, and with the profoundest admiration and
delight; and from the _Commedia_ he proceeded to the lyrical poems and
the _Vita Nuova_. I question whether he ever read—unless in the most
cursory way—other and less fascinating writings of Alighieri, such as
the _Convito_ and the _De Monarchiâ_.

From reading, Rossetti went on to translating. He translated at an
early age, chiefly between 1845 and 1849, a great number of poems by
the Italians contemporary with Dante, or preceding him; and, among
other things, he made a version of the whole _Vita Nuova_, prose
and verse. This may possibly have been the first important thing
that he translated from the Italian: if not the first, still less
was it the last, and it may well be that his rendering of the book
was completed within the year 1846, or early in 1847. He did not, of
course, leave his version exactly as it had come at first: on the
contrary, he took counsel with friends (Alfred Tennyson among the
number), toned down crudities and juvenilities, and worked to make the
whole thing impressive and artistic—for in such matters he was much
more chargeable with over-fastidiousness than with laxity. Still, the
work, as we now have it, is essentially the work of those adolescent
years—from time to time reconsidered and improved, but not transmuted.

Some few years after producing his translation of the _Vita Nuova_,
Rossetti was desirous of publishing it, and of illustrating the volume
with etchings from various designs, which he had meanwhile done, of
incidents in the story. This project, however, had to be laid aside,
owing to want of means, and the etchings were never undertaken. It was
only in 1861 that the volume named _The Early Italian Poets_, including
the translated _Vita Nuova_, was brought out: the same volume, with
a change in the arrangement of its contents, was reissued in 1874,
entitled _Dante and his Circle_. This book, in its original form, was
received with favour, and settled the claim of Rossetti to rank as a
poetic translator, or indeed as a poet in his own right.

For _The Early Italian Poets_ he wrote a Preface, from which a passage,
immediately relating to the _Vita Nuova_, is extracted in the present
edition. There are some other passages, affecting the whole of the
translations in that volume, which deserve to be borne in mind, as
showing the spirit in which he undertook the translating work, and I
give them here:—

“The life-blood of rhythmical translation is this commandment—that a
good poem shall not be turned into a bad one. The only true motive for
putting poetry into a fresh language must be to endow a fresh nation,
as far as possible, with one more possession of beauty. Poetry not
being an exact science, literality of rendering is altogether secondary
to this chief law. I say _literality_,—not fidelity, which is by no
means the same thing. When literality can be combined with what is thus
the primary condition of success, the translator is fortunate, and must
strive his utmost to unite them; when such object can only be obtained
by paraphrase, that is his only path. Any merit possessed by these
translations is derived from an effort to follow this principle.... The
task of the translator (and with all humility be it spoken) is one of
some self-denial. Often would he avail himself of any special grace of
his own idiom and epoch, if only his will belonged to him: often would
some cadence serve him but for his author’s structure—some structure
but for his author’s cadence: often the beautiful turn of a stanza must
be weakened to adopt some rhyme which will tally, and he sees the poet
revelling in abundance of language where himself is scantily supplied.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
2940015493122
Publisher:
SAP
Publication date:
10/18/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
68 KB

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The New Life (New York Review Books Classics) 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
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