Thursday, November 17, 2016


Dark and Deep

Tibor Wlassics (1936-1998), "Endpaper," Lectura Dantis 3 (Fall, 1988):
Consider the translator's sudden delight in finding his version (though quite 'literal') coincident with something mysteriously preestablished in the «target» language. «Oscura e profonda era e nebulosa...». The rough alliterative Saxon monosyllables take off and begin to murmur a wooden tune of their own, laboriously assuming the solemn cadences of the most solemn text in the English language: the Hymn to Light. Did blind Milton recall Dante's first sight of Hell when forging his rough pair of adjectives for the Primeval Chaos, «the rising world of waters dark and deep»? Chaucer probably did when singing of «Of Pluto's Kingdom dark and deep below». But «oscura e profonda» keeps sending echoes even more recent, incongruously so; the snows of New Hampshire appear, a nightly woodscape, a horse with a little bell: «The woods are lovely, dark and deep...». Frost would never have dreamt of it, but (since words can never completely leave behind their contexts) those promises to keep and the still hours-long ride into the night get vaguely tinged by a new, vicarious, anxiety __ harking back, through Milton's violoncello and Chaucer's basson, to the double bass of «oscura e profonda» which accompanied the Pilgrim's astonished glance into the Chasm.

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