New York, February 12, 1834.
I am sorry to decline any request in which you take an interest, particularly when it is urged with so much delicacy; but I have two good reasons for not undertaking the translation of the ode on the supposed death of Pellico, of which you shall judge. 1 In the first place, I have several things on my hands at present which occupy all my leisure. In the second place, I have looked over the ode, and doubt my ability to produce such a version as would satisfy my friends and myself with anything like a reasonable expenditure of trouble. You know that our English tongue is, of all languages, the most intractable for the purposes of poetic translation, both from the peculiarity of its idioms and the paucity of its rhymes. It is, therefore, a work of vast dexterity and patience--the ne plus ultra, I had almost said, of poetic skill, though not of poetic genius--to produce a translation in English which shall be a decidedly good poem in itself, animated with the fire and spirit of an original, and at the same time a faithful transfusion of the ideas of its prototype. In the things of the kind which I have executed, I have not kept close to the original, but I should not like to take liberties of the kind with the ode you send me, which is really beautiful and affecting, and deserves to have all its thoughts and images preserved unmarred and unchanged. 2
I am, very sincerely, yours, etc.,
W. C. BRYANT.
MANUSCRIPT: Unrecovered TEXT: Life, I, 293, note.