Longfellow as Translator

HWL. Fragment on translation. Autograph manuscript, 1848-1882.


Longfellow Papers MS Am 1340 (145) folder 7 of 9. Houghton Library.

For Longfellow, some of the "foreignness" of the original had to be preserved in every translation. The experience and appreciation of strangeness lay at the heart of any form of cultural exchange:

"The difficulty of translation lies chiefly in the color of words. Is the Italian ‘Ruscelletto gorgoglioso' fully rendered by ‘Gurgling brooklet'? Or the Spanish ‘Pájaros vocingleros' by ‘Garrulous birds'? Something seems wanting. Perhaps it is only the fascination of foreign and unfamiliar sounds; and to the Italian or Spanish ear the English words would seem equally beautiful."