John Payne (poet) bigraphy, stories - Translators

John Payne (poet) : biography

23 August 1842 - 11 February 1916

John Payne (23 August 1842 – 11 February 1916) was an English poet and translator. Initially he pursued a legal career, and associated with Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Later he became involved with limited edition publishing, and the Villon Society.

He is now best known for his translations of Boccaccio's Decameron, The Arabian Nights and the Diwan Hafez. Payne once said that Hafez, Dante and Shakespeare were the three greatest poets of the world.


  • The Masque of Shadows and other poems (1870)
  • Intaglios; sonnets (1871)
  • Songs of Life and Death. (1872)
  • Lautrec: A Poem (1878)
  • The Poems of François Villon.(1878)
  • New Poems (1880)
  • The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night (1882–4) translation in nine volumes
  • Tales from the Arabic (1884)
  • The Novels of Matteo Bandello, Bishop of Agen (1890) translation in six volumes
  • The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio (1886) translation in three volumes
  • Alaeddin and the Enchanted Lamp; Zein Ul Asnam and The King of the Jinn: (1889) editor and translator
  • The Persian Letters of Montesquieu (1897) translator
  • The Quatrains of Omar Kheyyam of Nisahpour (1898)
  • Poems of Master François Villon of Paris (1900)
  • The Poems of Hafiz (1901) translation in three volumes
  • Oriental Tales: The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night [and other tales]. (1901) verse and prose translation in 15 volumes, edited by Leonard C. Montesquieu Smithers
  • The Descent of the Dove and other poems (1902)
  • Poetical Works (1902) two volumes
  • Stories of Boccaccio (1903)
  • Vigil and Vision: New Sonnets (1903)
  • Hamid the Luckless and other tales in verse (1904)
  • Songs of Consolation: New Poems (1904)
  • Sir Winfrith and other poems (1905)
  • Selections from the Poetry of John Payne (1906) selected by Tracy and Lucy Robinson
  • Flowers of France: Romantic Period (1906)
  • Flowers of France, The Renaissance Period (1907)
  • The Quatrains of Ibn et Tefrid (1908, second edition 1921)
  • Flowers of France: the Latter Days (1913)
  • Flowers of France: The Classic Period (1914)
  • The Way of the Winepress (1920)
  • Nature and Her Lover (1922)
  • The Autobiography of John Payne of Villon Society Fame, Poet and Scholar (1926)

Arabian Nights Translation

Since the publication of Burtons translation there has been an on going debt between scholars as how much and if Burton stole from Paynes translation. For years Payne kept quite on the matter. Now those scholars who say Burtons translation is better and any similarities between the two translation is just due to the fact that working from the same sources is bound to lead to similarities. These scholars dont seem to have read much of Paynes works for if they did they would see that their conclusions are just plain wrong. Paynes views on this matter of translation will upset those fanatics of Burtons translation. In essence Payne notes Burton only had command of colloquial Arabic not a literary one and this led him to give a poor translation and steal or plagarise Paynes work. Those scholars who support Burton against plagarisim dont seem to have read his "Supplemetal Nights" and compared them to Paynes "Tales From The Arabic" for if they had they would seen full blown plagiarism from Burton.All one has to do is open to the first story in vol 1 of Burtons "Supplemental nights" and Paynes first tale in Vol.1 of his "Tales From The Arabic" to see great chunks of plagiarism by Burton

John Payne says about his and Richard Burtons translations of the Thousand and one Nights 

"I need hardly my, with much reluctance that I bring myself to break the silence which 1 have hitherto, under circumatances of great provoca• tion, maintained upon this point, out of respect for the memory of one who wu my intimate and esteemed friend ; but there is a limit to all things and the assumption, (founded upon no technical knowledge nor indeed upon any other ground than that of Capt. Burton's great reputation u a traveller in the Eut and a man ... well acquainted with Oriental languages,) which is becoming daily more prevalent among journalist~ and other, that his translation of the Arabian Ni(hts must of necessity be more correct than my own, no lea than the mendacious spirit which is abroad in these u in many other matters, ... made it imperative upon me to speak out, thus tardily, both in my own defence and in the interest of the reading public. I should perhaps even now have hesitated to do so (from one's enemies one can defend oneself and I have ever been accustomed to overpass, with silent contempt, " the gross inventions of malignant dulness" and "the harebrained chatter of irresponsible frivolity") ; but it is hard to put up with misjudgment and mil&pprehension from one's friends, and especially at the bands of so sincere and loyal a well-wisher and admirer u Dr. Richard Gamett, whose remark, (made in all honesty and innocence,) in voL viii of Milea's Poets and Poetry of the Century, that " considering Sir Richard Burton's long practice 1n the Arabic, his version of the Arabian Nights must in all probability be more accurate than Mr. Payne's," wu the lut &tn.w that broke the back of the camel of my patience. Dr. Garnett's argument might have some cogencuin reference to the translation of a newspaper or a modem novel, but is altogether inapplicable to the case of a collection like the Night&, which contains many thousand linea of verae, some more than a thousand years old,and the average age of whose contents is at leut five centuries. The fact is,indeed, exactly the contrary of that which Dr. Garnett and others assume. Capt. Burton's knowledge of literary Arabic, the qualification moat needed for the successful accomplishment of the task in question, was, (as be himself, like the high-minded and honourable man be was, freely admitted on becoming acquainted with my work,) much inferior to my own and consequently his translation, and especially that part in which, u above 1tated, he bad not the advantage of being able to guide himself by my previoua version, is far lu1tUnwflk than mine. No one is of c:oune exempt from liability to error and mi&takes must of necessity oc:cur in the translation of an excea&ively difficult work like the Nights, executed pioneer-fashion, without any kind of U&istanceand at a time when Arabic dictionaries were both rare and miserably incomplete ; but I have no hesitation in asserting, without fear of authoritativecontradiction, that my wrlitm i1 for mort «n~ralti!Ja" a"y 6/Mr ill msl~t, French, English or German, and that, for every mi&take which can be discovered in my work, it were easy to point out at leut a dozen in those of Lane and Burton. I may add that I shall probably one day publish, u a curioua chapter of literary history, the detailed story of my translation of the Night& and of the desperate and unsaupuloua efforts of certain clique&, wboee interests it threateaed, to suppress, or at least to crush, it, efforts which happily, thanks to some remnant of discernment on the part of the reading public, provedentirely futile ; u well u of my connection with Sir Richard Burton and the circumstances which led him, consequently upon the brilliant success of my veersion, to undertake a new one on his own account."

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