Translating poetry

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drizzle

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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?
 

lisab

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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.
 

Evo

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Yes, I have found different translations of foreign works and some were so different as to completely change the meaning.
 

drizzle

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... But I've read some translated Persian poetry that was really nice. If a lot was lost in translation, it must be amazing originally.
Heh, funny it reminds me of some amazing arabic poems I've read, and turned out the poets are Persian. :surprised
 

cronxeh

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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
 

alt

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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?
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.
 
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I will say this: never read a translated Chinese poem.
 
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I guess people who speak foreign languages wouldn't even know where Nantucket is.
 
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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!
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!
 

drizzle

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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!
:rofl:
 
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Yes let's try this famous poem

Le Corbeau et le Renard by Jean de LA FONTAINE (1621-1695)
Maître Corbeau, sur un arbre perché,
Tenait en son bec un fromage.
Maître Renard, par l'odeur alléché,
Lui tint à peu près ce langage :
"Hé ! bonjour, Monsieur du Corbeau.
Que vous êtes joli ! que vous me semblez beau !
Sans mentir, si votre ramage
Se rapporte à votre plumage,
Vous êtes le Phénix des hôtes de ces bois. "
A ces mots le Corbeau ne se sent pas de joie ;
Et pour montrer sa belle voix,
Il ouvre un large bec, laisse tomber sa proie.
Le Renard s'en saisit, et dit : "Mon bon Monsieur,
Apprenez que tout flatteur
Vit aux dépens de celui qui l'écoute :
Cette leçon vaut bien un fromage, sans doute. "
Le Corbeau, honteux et confus,
Jura, mais un peu tard, qu'on ne l'y prendrait plus.
and the result not bad at all:

The Raven and the Fox
Master Crow perched on a tree,
Kept a cheese in his beak.
Mr. Fox, by the smell,
Said something like this:
"Well, Hello Mister Crow.
Whether you are pretty! you seem to me!
Really, if your song
Is like your plumage,
You are the phoenix of these woods. "
At these words, the Crow is overjoyed;
To show off his beautiful voice,
He opens his beak wide, lets his prey.
The Fox snapped it up and said: "My dear sir,
Learn that every flatterer
Lives at the expense of the listener:
This lesson is well worth a cheese no doubt. "
The Crow, ashamed and confused
Swore, a bit late, do not be taken again.
 

drizzle

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Kind of a story Andre, I like this part:
"Learn that every flatterer
Lives at the expense of the listener"
 
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Yes, exactly, it's called a fable but see that the French version is on rhyme.
 

drizzle

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One of Majnun Lyla's poems, so nice to share, here is the original text:
لو كان لي قلبان لعشت بواحد
و تركت قلبا في هواك يعذب
لكن لي قلبا تملكه الهوى
لا العيش يحلو له ولا الموت يطلب
كعصفورة بيد طفل يضمها
تذوق سياط الموت و الطفل يلعب
فلا الطفل ذو عقل يحن لما بها
و لا الطير ذو ريش يطير فيهرب

أنا في سبيل الله ما صنع الهوى
بليت بداء ليس يشفيه الدواء
رماني غزال اهيف بجماله
فجارت سهام القتل من جانب الدواء
فرحت لقاضي العشق احكي قصتي
ليحكم بيني وبين احبابي بالسوا
فأجابني قاضي الغرام وقال لي يا فتى
كم من قتيل قد مات قهر في الهوى
أنا قاضي العشق والعشق قاتلي
وقاضي قضاة العشق قاتله الهوى​
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]:

If I had two hearts I would have used one
And left the other to be tortured by your love

But i only have one owned by affection
Which rejects life and is not asking for death

Like a bird in a child's hand
Tasting a hint of death while the child is just fooling around

Neither the child is aware of what he’s doing
Nor the bird is capable of flying


I who left my faith to god in the name of love
Got a syndrome with no remedy

And a graceful deer took a shot of beauty at me
The arrows of lethal beauty swift near my remedy

And so I went to the judge of love to tell my story
To judge between me and my lover with just

He answered me and said: son how many have died awfully out of love
I am the judge of love and love is killing me

While love is who murdered the judge of judges!
 
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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.

रात यूं दिल में तेरी खोयी हुई याद आई
जैसे वीराने में चुपके से बहार आ जाए
जैसे सहराओं में हौले से चले बाद -इ -नसीम
जैसे बीमार को बे -वजह करार आ जाए
Last night your faded memory came to me
As in the wilderness spring comes quietly,
As, slowly, in the desert, moves the breeze,
As, to a sick man, without cause, comes peace.
 
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.
 

DaveC426913

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

a graceful deer took a shot of beauty at me
 
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Poetry sucks. Just my opinion.
 
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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
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.
 

drizzle

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You mean they wrote in Arabic?
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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Persian was the original language before arab conquest. After the conquest persian was written in arabic script -

Following the collapse of the Sassanid state, Parsik came to be applied exclusively to (either Middle or New) Persian that was written in Arabic script. From about the 9th century onwards, as Middle Persian was on the threshold of becoming New Persian, the older form of the language came to be erroneously called Pahlavi, which was actually but one of the writing systems used to render both Middle Persian as well as various other Middle Iranian languages.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persian_language#New_Persian
 

turbo

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I wonder if Robert Frost would translate well... He's one of my favorite poets.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
 

Vanadium 50

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A translation is like a mistress, either beautiful and unfaithful, or faithful and not beautiful.

(Translated from the Russian)
 

DaveC426913

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Poetry sucks. Just my opinion.
Someone's stretching his fledgling wings... :rolleyes:

My kids went through a phase where everything "sucked".
 

drizzle

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I wonder if Robert Frost would translate well... He's one of my favorite poets.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Beautiful.

A translation is like a mistress, either beautiful and unfaithful, or faithful and not beautiful.

(Translated from the Russian)
Haha, nice.
 

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