But I did fill a long-ached for need: At last, I found a good copy of Goethe's Faust, both parts in two volumes. For decades, I've only had the 1980s paperback Norton Critical Edition I bought in college, a stolid translation by Walter Kaufman (the modern Norton is not the same edition as I had). Now, as I've previously written, I have been fascinated by the Faust legend since seeing my cousin Robert Stattel in a superb, coruscating performance of the role. Despite this, I admit that Kaufman's serviceable but stolid translation left me languishing in the swamp of blasé.
So when I ran upon this little item, my interest was piqued:
A little water stained at the bottom of the spine, but crisp and nice copies from 1879 with beveled board, nice rich paper and big friendly print. I'm starting to appreciate that last.
I opened up the first volume:
I dipped into the text, and, although it was in poem form, it was not highfaluting. On fact, its failings lim, as far as I could see, the other way--a bit louche, almost chatty. My Personal Book Shopper (tm) --who just scored me a near complete set of Barbara Pym, with three reference volumes--and self-proclaimed Domineditrix tut-tutted a little.
"Not the best translation," she sniffed, continuing: "some of the English isn't the best reflection of the German." She looked at me with the solemn air of someone who has kept up her fluency, gazing at one who--alas!--has not.
I didn't, but could have replied, "Ah, but this one looks much more fun than poor old Kaufmann." I'd have been right too. But, fair dos, I'm sure she's right on the flaws of the translation. She knows her German, and her German literature. I was reduced to the simple, "but I like this one!" and in la Caterina's absence, prevailed. I have often regretted not yielding to the book buying impetus, but cannot remember having ever regretted yielding to it.
And, a little research found the translator Bayard Taylor to be of some interest; as recently as 1972, a Master's Thesis could say of Taylor::
A man of no small ego or ambition, Taylor aspired to greatness as a poet and produced a considerable quantity of lyrical verse characterized by technical proficiency and the sort of liberal ideas which were considered safe in the New England of his time. Today most critics agree with Richard Henry Stoddard's assessment that Taylor was a versemaker and not a poet, and he is remembered chiefly for his 1871 translation of Goethe's Faust, which even now is considered by many the most accurate English translation of the great German epic. Taylor has often been given the dubious title of poet laureate of the Gilded Age, for he reflected in his work the homely sentiments, the common goals, and the self- satisfaction of his readers.A recent study of Taylor's life and work highlights the translation's basis in a strong identification with Goethe and his themes, and a strong desire to replicate his poetic meter faithfully.
So, in all, an interesting copy, no?