From his boyhood in the Liberties of Dublin, James Clarence Mangan undertook extensive studies in several languages, although, in the judgement of Holzapfel and other scholars, his remarkable facility in German seems to have been self-taught (strictly at home——Mangan never left Ireland). In any event, his talents were well suited to the tasks of reviewing and translation, and as a librarian’s clerk at Dublin University (i.e. Trinity) he had access to many anthologies of the German poets in the original tongue.
PATHETIC HYPOTHETICS is an oversetting of the Swabian poet Schubart. In the hands of Mangan (the drinking poet who rendezvous’d at the Shades Tavern in College Green) the production becomes entirely Irish in spirit. His version even scans jollily in jig time. It is shown here as introduced by a pertinent passage from Mangan’s own critical remarks (in a typical touch of self-annotation by “us”) to his Anthologia Germanica, a very mighty enterprise of translation which gradually appeared in The Dublin University Magazine over the years from 1835 to 1846 :
We have here, in M. Klauer’s first volume, a song by SCHUBART, the excessive pathos of which would go far, if read aloud at a conversazione, to justify, except among the very stout, a general sympathetic syncope. Wenn Hoffnung nicht wär’, so lebt’ ich nicht mehr, If Hope were not, I should exist no more ! begins the Poet :— Wie lieblich (he adds) erscheint uns ihr Schimmer ! How beautifully beams her light on us !— and the same affecting strain is pursued to the close. The touching tenderness of the original it is of course difficult for a translator to give in all its perfection ; but luckily for us the Lachrymose happens to be our forte ; and therefore, most complaisant Reading Public, you will kindly accompany us through our version, “sighing like furnace” as you proceed, and be good enough,
“If you have tears prepared, to shed them now,”
over this dolorous ditty of
Were Hope all my eye,
‘Tis a fact I should die,
Her light is much brighter than ten tallow-candles ;
When crotchets and cares are consuming
Some fanciful spooney, she takes him
Where cowslips and daisies are blooming,
And never entirely forsakes him,
Till Death lays him down in the box without handles.
The box without handles,
Till Death shuts him up in his box without handles.
Were Friendship a hum,
I could weep o’er my rum,
For I hate to be mixing companionless tumblers.
Even moles, quoth Buffon, are gregarious,
And cats, when they turn caterwaulers ;
Et moi, I like various contrarious
Assemblies——both punch-drinking bawlers
And sighers of sighs——both your grinners and grumblers.
Your grinners and grumblers,
I have grins for your grinners and growls for your grumblers.
Were Love all a hoax,
So that no one could coax
A rich widow to wed, what could well be forlorner ?
To be wheedling some innocent charmer,
Who reckons her thousands by thirties,
And hasn’t the heart to wear armour
Against Cupid’s arrows, is, certes,
Far better than moping alone in a corner.
Alone in a corner,
More pleasant than kicking your heels in a corner !
Were Music a bam,
I might chatter and cram,
But a seal would be clapped on my Fountains of Feeling.
Oh ! nothing melts bosoms at all like
The exquisite tones of a fiddle !
I hop round the room at a ball like
A hen on a scorching hot griddle !
Good lack ! I could bound from the floor to the ceiling.
The floor to the ceiling,
Next night, faith, I’ll bob my big head through the ceiling.
Were Wine all a quiz,
I should wear a long phiz
As I mounted each night to my ninth-story garret.
Though Friendship, the traitress, deceives me,
Though Hope may have long ceased to flatter,
Though Music, sweet infidel, leaves me,
Though Love is my torment——what matter !
I’ve still such a thing as a rummer of claret.
A rummer of claret,
I laugh and grow fat on my buttermilk claret.