# Translating poetry

Not bad Enigman, the good thing is you tried :-)
Here is another translation that tried to capture the spirit of the poem and didn't mind much the literal words and even gave it a title... http://www.gutenberg.org/files/8426/8426-h/8426-h.htm

THE SKY-BLUE SMILES ABOVE THE ROOF

The sky-blue smiles above the roof
Its tenderest;
A green tree rears above the roof
Its waving crest.

The church-bell in the windless sky
Peaceably rings,
A skylark soaring in the sky
Endlessly sings.

My God, my God, all life is there,
Simple and sweet;
The soothing bee-hive murmur there
Comes from the street!

What have you done, O you that weep
In the glad sun,—
Say, with your youth, you man that weep,
What have you done?

Another poem... it's English but I learned it first in my mother's language...
http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-arrow-and-the-song/?m=0

The Arrow and the Song
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.

I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?

Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.

I was in grade school then and I was at home reciting that poem in my mother's language, my father recites it in English after each stanza so I asked, are you translating the poem father? He said no, and said he's reciting the original English version :-)

A translated piece is the translator's work just as much as the original author's. Or so that's what I keep in mind when buying/choosing translated copies of literature.

What's your favourite translation (into English) of the Divine Comedy by Dante? I have the 19th century Henry Longfellow translation.

Gold Member
Please share it Polus! It's not like it will be deleted if you do.

Evo
Mentor
Please share it Polus! It's not like it will be deleted if you do.
The entire book? That's huge. It can be found online if anyone needs it.

Gold Member
I don't think he'll post a whole book here.

I read the Inferno in my high-school...I don't think I will ever get over the line:
'and he blew back with his bugle of an ***-hole.'
(Canto 21) http://public.wsu.edu/~delahoyd/medieval/inferno21.html

As for the book itself, I found it extremely heavy going; enough so that I never thought of reading the whole comedy.
Here's one translation (from gutenbergpress): http://www.gutenberg.org/files/8800/8800-h/8800-h.htm

On OT: Here translate this:
Code:
('&%:9]!~}|z2Vxwv-,POqponl$Hjig%eB@@>}=<M:9wv6WsU2T|nm-,jcL(I&%$#"
CB]V?Tx<uVtTRpo3NlF.Jh++FdbCBA@?]!~|4XzyTT43Qsqq(Lnmkj"Fhg\${z@>
(Malbolge the eighth circle of hell)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malbolge

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I had read in leisure the comedia in paperback but can't remember which translation it was. The images and annotations in it attracted me more than the comedia itself. The Princeton Dante Project is similar but this is on-line not in paperback. http://etcweb.princeton.edu/dante/pdp/

Btw, I've seen how a translated poem could be misused. A poem of an unhappy child yearning to be heard could mean something else when translated into another language. The poem is transformed in translation by various mechanisms. One of the mechanism I'm thinking about is juxtaposition of words like in microbiology 'hydrogen bonds and DNA' will make you assume that hydrogen bond is very weak but 'hydrogen bonds and silk' will make you assume that hydrogen bonds is incredibly strong. I think I'm not making sense it's just a conjecture anyways :D

Just one more translated verse from high school, from the RUBAIYAT OF OMAR KHAYYAM.. my favorite is verse 51..

"The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it."

That's eloquent, but Lady Macbeth will simply says "What's done cannot be undone." :D

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This may be stretching the word "translation," but I wonder if Eliot "translated" this passage from a Sherlock Holmes story into a stanza in "...Prufrock."

ConanDoyle said:
In the third week of November, in the year 1895, a dense yellow fog settled down upon London. From the Monday to the Thursday I doubt whether it was ever possible from our windows in Baker Street to see the loom of the opposite houses. The first day Holmes had spent in cross-indexing his huge book of references. The second and third had been patiently occupied upon a subject which he had recently made his hobby--the music of the Middle Ages. But when, for the fourth time, after pushing back our chairs from breakfast we saw the greasy, heavy brown swirl still drifting past us and condensing in oily drops upon the window-panes, my comrade's impatient and active nature could endure this drab existence no longer. He paced restlessly about our sitting-room in a fever of suppressed energy, biting his nails, tapping the furniture, and chafing against inaction.
When I read this story today for the first time (The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans) this passage from "Prufrock" instantly came to mind:

T.S.Eliot said:
The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.
I have to speculate whether Eliot saw the seeds of that stanza in this Sherlock story.

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2346/2346-h/2346-h.htm
http://www.bartleby.com/198/1.html

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This may be stretching the word "translation," but I wonder if Eliot "translated" this passage from a Sherlock Holmes story into a stanza in "...Prufrock."

When I read this story today for the first time (The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans) this passage from "Prufrock" instantly came to mind:

I have to speculate whether Eliot saw the seeds of that stanza in this Sherlock story.

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2346/2346-h/2346-h.htm
http://www.bartleby.com/198/1.html
We don't know yet who inspired who, better be a Sherlock Holmes and check the dates of publications.. and we could also speculate that it's another case of synchronicity?

Anyways, I had the same feelings too on many occasions. Voltaire quoted "The instruction we find in books is like fire; we fetch it from our neighbour, kindle it at home, communicate it to others, and it becomes the property of all." I said Aha! when I read Darwish quoted "Yes. Very much so. I feel that no poem starts from nothing. Humanity has produced such a huge poetic output, much of it of a very high caliber. You are always building on the work of others. There is no blank page from which to start. All you can hope for is to find a small margin on which to write your signature."

That's good links you posted I saved them for reading later, thanks :-)

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We don't know yet who inspired who, better be a Sherlock Holmes and check the dates of publications.. and we could also speculate that it's another case of synchronicity?
Good idea! The Holmes story was published in 1912, and the Eliot poem in 1915. The wiki says Eliot began writing Prufrock in 1910, however, so there's no answer to the question of whether this stanza was inspired by Doyle in the dates.

Anyways, I had the same feelings too on many occasions. Voltaire quoted "The instruction we find in books is like fire; we fetch it from our neighbour, kindle it at home, communicate it to others, and it becomes the property of all." I said Aha! when I read Darwish quoted "Yes. Very much so. I feel that no poem starts from nothing. Humanity has produced such a huge poetic output, much of it of a very high caliber. You are always building on the work of others. There is no blank page from which to start. All you can hope for is to find a small margin on which to write your signature."
Wiki lists Eliot's influences: "The poem's structure was heavily influenced by Eliot's extensive reading of Dante Alighieri[3] and makes several references to the Bible and other literary works—including William Shakespeare's plays Henry IV Part II, Twelfth Night, and Hamlet, the poetry of seventeenth-century metaphysical poet John Donne, and the nineteenth-century French Symbolists. Eliot narrates the experience of Prufrock using the stream of consciousness technique developed by his fellow Modernist writers." So we might say Eliot was highly influenceable.

That's good links you posted I saved them for reading later, thanks :-)
You're welcome!

I don't think Eliot's poem had anything to do with The Bruce-Partington Plans except that both of them were lamenting the same thing- the pea soup. The reference to it in the canon is too fleeting (IMO) to inspire a poem and the real thing annoying(/lethal) enough to do the same.

A surviving fragment of a lost work by Aeschylus

The man who rightly acts without coercion
Will not be grieved, can never wholly sink in wretchedness;
While the lawless criminal is forcibly dragged under
In the current of time when from the shattered mast
The elements rip down his sails.
He shouts, there is no ear to hear him
Struggling, hopeless, at the maelstrom's center.
Gods laugh at the transgressor now,
Watching him, his pride now wrecked,
Caught in desperation's shackles.
He flees the rocks in vain;
His fortunes smash on retribution's reef
And, unmourned, he is engulfed.
-Aeschylus

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I don't think Eliot's poem had anything to do with The Bruce-Partington Plans except that both of them were lamenting the same thing- the pea soup. The reference to it in the canon is too fleeting (IMO) to inspire a poem and the real thing annoying(/lethal) enough to do the same.
First off, it should be clear I'm not suggesting the story inspired the poem. I'm saying it might have inspired one stanza. Most of the stanzas in Prufrock are stand-alone, each a discrete picture, or moment, that taken altogether sum to a sense of who Prufrock is. It's not saying very much to suggest an inspiration for one lone stanza. It also means a stanza could have been written independently at any time and inserted anywhere Eliot wanted without breaking a flow.

Second: While the yellow fog may be "fleeting" in the canon, it is not "fleeting" in the story in question, but a vivid back drop throughout, permitting elements of the crime to happen without witness. It is a ubiquitous presence that just about becomes a character in the story in its own right, affecting the mood and behavior of all the other characters. You can't appreciate the story without appreciating the large role the fog plays in it. The story holds the fog up right in front of the reader.

Third: Eliot, or Prufrock, is not "lamenting" the polluted fog. He renders it as an animal presence, obviously a cat, with the associated cozy implications. What agitates Sherlock, Prufrock euphemises in comforting terms. How Eliot differs from Doyle is a point of interest if he were inspired by him.

A surviving fragment of a lost work by Aeschylus

The man who rightly acts without coercion
Will not be grieved, can never wholly sink in wretchedness;
While the lawless criminal is forcibly dragged under
In the current of time when from the shattered mast
The elements rip down his sails.
He shouts, there is no ear to hear him
Struggling, hopeless, at the maelstrom's center.
Gods laugh at the transgressor now,
Watching him, his pride now wrecked,
Caught in desperation's shackles.
He flees the rocks in vain;
His fortunes smash on retribution's reef
And, unmourned, he is engulfed.
-Aeschylus
That reminded me of a song some kids were singing, I tried to Google the whole lyrics but failed to find it, it goes like this the part I can remember...
"Oh how lucky is the man
who doesn't walk astray
All he does prosper well
But the wicked are not so
they are like chaff in the wind
driven to and fro..."

Another poem, shared by a Romanian friend which she admitted her translation is inadequate. It seems to me that it's about sadness felt upon the arrival of Autumn and I offered "Autumn Blues" as a title. Unsatisfied with her translation, I googled it and found a better translation with explanation why the poem couldn't be translated well enough. http://fantasypieces.wordpress.com/2007/10/15/nichita-stane-2-2/
The poem with its original verses could also be sang as is... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbT-9_mdx8c&feature=youtube_gdata_player