Text: Various, “Marginalia,” Poe Studies, December 1980, Vol. XVIII, No. 1, 13:p-p


[page 36, column 2:]


This column is devoted to brief notes, comments, queries. We wish to provide here an outlet for such items as source notes which do not require the extended argument and proof that customarily attends them, and for items of very special or peculiar interest which otherwise might not appear. Contributions to this column should generally be one paragraph in form and less than a page and a half of typescript, though notes of three pages with us many paragraphs are acceptable.

First Translations of “The Raven”

John H. Ingram, Poe’s English biographer, identified a “very early rendering into French of ‘The Raven’ . . . by Monsieur William Hughes, and given by him in a volume entitled ‘Comes Inedits d‘Edgard [sic] Poe,’ in 1862” as probably “the first translation of the poem into any language . . .” [The Raven, with Literary and Historical Commentary (London: George Redway, 1885), p. 41]. Ingram was not aware that Hughes had already published his translation in Le Mousquetaire, a periodical founded and edited by Alexandre Dumas, in the. 2-3 January 1856 issue, nor of two earlier translations.

The earliest published translation in any language appears to be a French version following an essay by Auguste Poulet-Malassis on the poem, “Edgar Allan Poe. Le Corbeau” in the weekly Journal d‘Alenuon of 9 January 1853. Although Poulet-Malassis a friend of Baudelaire and future publisher of Les Pleurs ds’ mal identified the translator only as a friend, two possibilities suggest themselves. The first is Leon de Wailly, a professional translator whose version of selections from Jonathan Swift Poulet-Malassis published in 1859. He knew Poe’s work and translated five of the tales in 1856 for L‘Ami de la Maison and L‘lllustration. A second, if less likely possibility, is Emile Montegut, an enthusiast of American literature and another close friend of Poulet-Malassis, the publisher of two of Montegut’s books.

The next published translation was Baudelaire’s, which appeared in the popular review L‘Artiste in March 1853. This translation actually represents the earliest mention of a translation of “The Raven,” for on 13 October 1852, Baudelaire wrote the publisher Victor Lecou for a first-proof of its text. Lecou planned to publish it with other of Baudelaire’s Poe translations, but the volume was never completed.

Thus, it would seem that the earliest published translations of “The Raven” into French were 1) the one by the anonymous friend of Poulet-Malassis; 2) the one by Baudelaire; and 3) the one by William L. Hughes. As one would expect, translations of “The Raven” came later in other countries. The following preliminary list, made up from the information now available, serves as a first step toward a fuller and more accurate compilation:

German — Strodtmann, Adolph. “Der Rabe,” in Lieder and Balladenbv.ch amerikanischer und engliseber Dichter (Hamburg, 1862) — [Excerpts in Ingram’s The Raven, pp. 72-73.]

Latin — Gidley. Lewis. Poema, anglice, Tloe Raven: Latine, Corvvs (Exeter: William Clifford, IS63). [Reprinred in Ingram’s The Raven, pp. 7985.]

Spanish — Mariscal, Ignacio. “El Cuervo,” El Renacumiento, I (1869), 158-160.

Czech — Sembera, Vratislav Karel. ‘‘Haven,” Rvety, 4 (1869), 366.

Hungarian — “A Hollo,‘’ in Nagy Szellemek, by Thomas Szana (Budapest, 1870). [Reprinted in Ingram’s The Raven, pp. 74-78.]

Italian — Tirinelli, A. “Poesie,‘’ Naova Ansologia, 2nd series, 4 (April 1877), 740-741. [Paraphrase in prose, with a translation of the last stanza.] Menasci, Guido. 11 Corvo (Firenze Tip. coopetativa, 1890). [The first complete translation into Italian.]

Russian — Andreevsky, S. A. “Voron,” Vestnik Evropy, No. 3 (1878), 121-127.

Greek — Prassa, K. 1. ‘‘Ho Korax,” Akropoits Philologike, I (15 May 1888), 249-250.

Norwegian — Boye, Jonas. “Ravnen,‘’ Samtiden (1894), 50-59.

W. T. Bandy, Vanderbilt University


Poe’s Comments on the Meter of “The Raven”

Professor Barton St. Armand’s recent note in Poe Studies [“Poe’s Philosophy of Punctuation,” 12 (1979), 20] regarding “a curious fact about Poe’s punctuation of lines quoted from ‘The Raven’ in his ‘The Philosophy of Composition‘” moves me to point out another curiosity in that essay. Poe states that “The Raven” is written in trochaic octameter acatalectic, “alternating with heptameter catalectic repeated in the refrain of the fifth verse, and terminating with tetrameter catalectic.” He goes on to say “less pedantically” that “the first line of the stanza consists of eight [trochaic] feet — the second of seven and a half (in effect two-thirds) — the third of eight — the fourth of seven and a half — the fifth the same — the sixth three and a half” [Complete Works, XIV, 203-204]. I have not seen it noted that Poe has incorrectly used his own terminology in describing the meter of his lines. As he claims, the first and third lines of each stanza are trochaic octameter acataleaic (that is, “not incomplete”); the second, fourth, and fifth lines, however, are incomplete (catalectic) octameters. A line of heptameter catalectic would consist of six and one half, not seven and one half, metrical feet. One has the feeling that just when Poe makes the most pedantic assertions he is most likely to be playing the “literary histrio” that in “The Philosophy of Composition” he acknowledges himself to be. Parallel examples come to mind notably Dupin’s preening himself on his knowledge of the “Calculus of Probabilities” at the close of “The Mystery of Marie Roget.” Yet as any good amateur mathematician could point out [see Clarence P. Wylie, “Mathematical Allusions in Poe,” Scientific Monthly, 63 (September 1946), 227-235], Poe has Dupin illustrate his claim with a totally erroneous explanation of the theory of probabilities involved in throwing dice. No wonder Edgar ran up all those gambling debts at the University of Virginia.

George P. Clark, Hanover College


Tacitus and Those Goths in “Letter to B——”

Although James O‘Neill may be right in proposing Irving as the source for the drunk and sober Goths in “Letter to B —— ” [Poe Studies, 12 (1979), 19-20; see also Thomas Thornburg, Poe Studies, 9 (1976), 54], chances are that both Poe and Irving picked up the allusion from the Germania of Tacitus (ch. 22):

To out-drink the day and night is a reproach to no man brawls are frequent; naturally, among heavy drinkers: they seldom terminate with abuse, more often in wounds and bloodshed nevertheless the mutual reconciliation of enemies, the forming of family alliances the appointment of chiefs, the question even of war or peace are usually debated at these banquets; as though at no other time were the mind more open to obvious, or better warmed to larger, thoughts. The people are without craft or cunning and expose in the freedom of revelry the heart’s previous secrets; so every mind is bared to nakedness on the next day the matter is handled afresh; so the principle of each debating season is justified: deliberation comes when they are incapable of presence but decision when they are secure from illusion. (Trans. Maurice Hutton, Loeb Classical Library 1914, 1932.)

Tacitus is cited eight times in Burton R. Pollin’s Dictionary of Titles and Names. More to the point, Poe concluded his 25 May 1826 letter from the University of Virginia to John Allan thus: “Will you be so good as to send me a copy of the Historiae of Tacitus — it is a small volume — also some more soap.” Although John Ward Ostrom has observed that “There is no evidence that Allan sent the Tacitus or the soap,” the request reminds us that Tacitus was an academic staple at every college; and while Poe asks for a small volume of the Histories only, the entire works of Tacitus were often printed together. Indeed, the anecdote about an evening decision over drink followed by reconsideration the next morning is so worn today that it elicits groans from those who have heard it too often. In the Latin-oriented nineteenth century, it would have been even more frequently the small change of conversation. Mr. O‘Neill’s discovery of Irving’s amusing application to American democracy usefully reveals one instance of its currency.

George Arms, University of New Mexico


Associated Article(s) and Related Material:

  • None


[S:0 - PSDR, 1980]