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Translating poetry

  1. Jul 1, 2010 #1


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    Problem is I found that poetry is its best with the initial written language, I can roughly say that half of its glamour is gone once it’s translated! Of course, I’m not speaking about something I’ve translated myself, cause I’ll ruin the whole poem. :biggrin: I do remember translating a few lines though, written by some Iraqi person I guess, and post them here, and I did find it a bit different... I don’t mean the rhyme or assonance which are depending on the language used, but ‘the soul’, if I may so say, of the poem.

    What about you, have you tried to translate a poem, or have you read an original one and its translated version, do you find it the same, what do you think?
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  3. Jul 1, 2010 #2


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    Hmm, interesting question.

    When I was young I learned enough French to read simple literature ("Le Petit Prince" for example). But I don't recall reading French poetry, so I can't say directly.

    But I've read some translated Persian poetry that was really nice. If a lot was lost in translation, it must be amazing originally.
  4. Jul 1, 2010 #3


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    Yes, I have found different translations of foreign works and some were so different as to completely change the meaning.
  5. Jul 1, 2010 #4


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    Heh, funny it reminds me of some amazing arabic poems I've read, and turned out the poets are Persian. :surprised
  6. Jul 1, 2010 #5


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    Speaking of the hilarious. In high school in Russia we've circulated poems written in Pushkin's style about the dirtiest topics. I still am amazed to this day how someone could come up with so many hilarious poems written in the same style as Pushkin but in a totally hilarious way. Unknown author, recognized by everyone
  7. Jul 2, 2010 #6


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    I agree with you. In fact, I would say much more than half of it is often changed in some way - glamour or not.

    I think that the translator has got to be a poet of at least as equal prowess as the original poet, and even then, would end up with something quite different from the original.
  8. Jul 2, 2010 #7
    I will say this: never read a translated Chinese poem.
  9. Jul 2, 2010 #8
    I guess people who speak foreign languages wouldn't even know where Nantucket is.
  10. Jul 2, 2010 #9
    The reason is that it's people who did the translation. We should simply let computers do poetry translation. I recommend Google services. Pure poetry!
  11. Jul 2, 2010 #10


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  12. Jul 2, 2010 #11
    Yes let's try this famous poem

    and the result not bad at all:

  13. Jul 2, 2010 #12


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    Kind of a story Andre, I like this part:
    "Learn that every flatterer
    Lives at the expense of the listener"
  14. Jul 2, 2010 #13
    Yes, exactly, it's called a fable but see that the French version is on rhyme.
  15. Feb 7, 2012 #14


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    One of Majnun Lyla's poems, so nice to share, here is the original text:
    And here's the closest translation of it, yet not as good as the above of course [I'd really like to know if there's any other better translations]:

  16. Feb 7, 2012 #15
    Here's a translation of an Urdu poem by Faiz to English by Vikram Seth. It's almost as good as the original. But then Seth is an accomplished poet in his own right.

  17. Feb 7, 2012 #16
    I'm almost certain that poets require underdefined words and concepts (which happen to be the hardest to translate) to lend their poems poignancy. That is, the abstraction each person uses to personally define certain words or ideas gives the poem its feeling. Then, across culture and language, person to person even, certainly the feelings evoked will change.

    Then again, I'm almost certain I'm not making any sense.
  18. Feb 7, 2012 #17


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    At the risk of doing an insult to a beautiful work of art, I excerpt just one wonderful, perfect line:

  19. Feb 7, 2012 #18
    Poetry sucks. Just my opinion.
  20. Feb 8, 2012 #19
    You mean they wrote in Arabic? I am not absolutely sure, but for a long time after the Arab invasion of Iran, wasn't the Persian language largely suppressed, later to be revived? I think they spoke Persian as the court language at some point in the Moghul empire over this period, however. So I am guessing the arabic language would have been spoken by most Iranians, it certainly has a lot of Arabic words in the language today.

    I think the main issue with translating poetry is the metre, etc. Poetry, at least in English, and also in Latin and Greek (I'm guessing), makes use of the rhythm of the language; I'm guessing you'd be hard pushed to translate a poem such that it conveys the same meaning and retains a rhythm of any sort, much less one thats supposed to compliment the words.
  21. Feb 8, 2012 #20


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    Yes they do. I've read their biographies, most of Persian poets who wrote in Arabic grew up and lived among the Arabs.
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