Essays and Reviews

by Archibald Lampman

Edited by D.M.R. Bentley


Lyrical Translations*

 Not often in a country like this, which is yet in the struggling and money-getting stage, and where intellectual and literary efforts are apt rather to take the so-called practical turn, shall a man be found who has had the heart to devote the best of his hours to the study of poets in foreign and even dead languages. Still rarer will be the man who has had the industry and ability to render these poets in any highly acceptable manner into English verse. The office of the translator, too, albeit rather [a] thankless one, and not often rewarded with a very high degree [of] fame, is nevertheless so rare, so useful, and so honourable in the eyes of the eager student of letters, that the latter will hardly rank him below the original creator, if his work be at all freely and faithfully done. For these reasons this very small and unpretentious work by Mr. Charles J. Parham is deserving of much more than a passing notice, and should be greeted kindly by the lovers of good books, not only for what is in it but because it must be the first fruit of better things in the future. It is only a little book, but it contains translations of single short lyrics from no less than thirty-one authors in the Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and ProvenÁal tongues. Here the reader will find tensons from the old troubadours, a famous sirvente of Bertrand de Born, the warrior-poet of Cúur de Lionís time; madrigals and letrillas from the Prince of Esquilache, CamoŽns, Melo, and others of the Spanish and Portuguese; lyrics, playful or serious, from Metastasio and various Italians; canciones from Riojo, Calderon, Gil Vicento [sic] and so on. It is very little, but the promise is good, for Mr. Parham does not translate after the manner of those who think that it is sufficient to have transferred an approximation to the meaning and feeling of the original into some common set form of English verse; the result being nothing more than a very commonplace English poem. He has aimed at retaining in his translation the genuine sense, flavour, form, and rhythm of the original, and in many cases he has completely succeeded. His translation of the famous "Address to the Nightingale", "Pajarillo que Cantas", of the Prince of Esquilache, is a beautiful and charming poem, and must retain a great part of the excellence of the original Spanish. Mr. Parham has appended two or three poems of his own, one of which, "The Siesta", breathes the spirit of his translation, and proves him to be thoroughly saturated with the luxurious fancy and feelings of the South.


* Lyrical Translations. By Charles J. Parham, Ottawa. [back]