Since the advent of the feeling that minute loyalty to the actual words and thought of the original is a prerequisite to a translation of any poem of supreme human import, such a pioneer work as that of Cary, which so long held the field, came to be recognized as being, not only no longer abreast of the modern achievements of Dante scholars, but as inadequate in the above all-important respect. Longfellow, however, in his apparent eagerness to be true to every syllable of the Italian, was led to draw too much upon the tempting Latin element, which looks like Italian, and too little upon the stronger, homely Anglo-Saxon element, of his English medium, to bring due conviction to an English ear; he was also betrayed into infelicities of construction and rhythm peculiarly surprising in such a poet as the author of the incomparable Dante Sonnets, a betrayal which has found explanation in the state of his mind and heart during the prosecution of the work. This, consequently, remains as an instance of a great translation which, not intended to be prose, ought not to have been thought of as poetry. After using it for two or three years, I gave it up, in spite of its many happy lines, and valuable notes, because I found that I could not read it aloud with continuous pleasure either to myself or to my hearers. For these reasons I cannot but feel that blank verse would be the medium that Dante himself would use, were he writing the same poem in English now, to say nothing of what he would do, were he translating it into that language.
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