Longfellow as Translator

Translation, for Longfellow, was an exercise in self-objectivation, a continuation, in a different field and with slightly different tools, of what he was trying to achieve in his poetry. "It seizes people," he told George Washington Greene, "with irresistible power, and whirls them away, till they are beside themselves" (7 March 1879). Read more...

A prolific and resourceful translator with a clearly developed understanding of what his translations were to accomplish, Longfellow himself was also one of the most translated poets of his time. Much of his own interest as a translator was taken up by Dante's Divine Comedy, which had preoccupied him since the late 1820s.


In this section

Photograph HWL. "Divina Commedia," lecture for his Dante course at Harvard College. Autograph manuscript, dated "May 22, 1838, Midnight." Luigi Calamatta, Françoise de Rimini. Engraving after a painting by the Dutch artist Ary Scheffer (1795-1858). Photograph
       
Photograph HWL's interleaved copy of Divina Commedia, Opere poetiche di Dante Alighieri, con note di diversi per diligenza e studio di Antonio Buttura (Paris: Lefevre, 1823). HWL. The Inferno.  Autograph manuscript, 1862-1866. Photograph
       
Photograph HWL's copy of The Divine Comedy  (Leipzig: Tauchnitz, 1867). HWL. "Encèdalo," in Angelo Messedaglia, trans., Alcune Poesie di Enrico W. Longfellow (Padova: D. Prosperini, 1866). Photograph
       
Photograph HWL. Fragment on translation. Autograph manuscript, 1848-1882. Dong Xun (Tsung Hun, 1807-1892), calligrapher. Mandarin fan, ca. 1865. Photograph