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Passions in Poetry

Translating foreign poetry

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wings of the moon
since 03-27-2003
Posts 325
Pink bubblegum land

0 posted 05-02-2004 07:53 AM       View Profile for wings of the moon   Email wings of the moon   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for wings of the moon

Wondering if they were any rules for that, i've just made an attempt at translating this poem :

promenade a seize ans (by Guy de Maupassant)

La terre souriait au ciel bleu. L'herbe verte
De gouttes de rosée était encor couverte.
Tout chantait par le monde ainsi que dans mon coeur.
Caché dans un buisson, quelque merle moqueur
Sifflait. Me raillait-il ? Moi, je n'y songeais guère.
Nos parents querellaient, car ils étaient en guerre
Du matin jusqu'au soir, je ne sais plus pourquoi.
Elle cueillait des fleurs, et marchait près de moi.
Je gravis une pente et m'assis sur la mousse
A ses pieds. Devant nous une colline rousse
Fuyait sous le soleil jusques à l'horizon.
Elle dit : "Voyez donc ce mont, et ce gazon
Jauni, cette ravine au voyageur rebelle !"
Pour moi je ne vis rien, sinon qu'elle était belle.
Alors elle chanta. Combien j'aimais sa voix !
Il fallut revenir et traverser le bois.
Un jeune orme tombé barrait toute la route ;
J'accourus ; je le tins en l'air comme une voûte
Et, le front couronné du dôme verdoyant,
La belle enfant passa sous l'arbre en souriant.
Émus de nous sentir côte à côte, et timides,
Nous regardions nos pieds et les herbes humides.
Les champs autour de nous étaient silencieux.
Parfois, sans me parler, elle levait les yeux ;
Alors il me semblait (je me trompe peut-être)
Que dans nos jeunes coeurs nos regards faisaient naître
Beaucoup d'autres pensers, et qu'ils causaient tout bas
Bien mieux que nous, disant ce que nous n'osions pas.

Here is my first attempt at the translation :

The earth smiled to the blue sky. The green grass
was still covered with dew drops.
Everything sang through the world as in my heart.
Hid in a bush, some derisive blackbird
Whistled. Was he mocking me? I did not muse over it.
Our parents quarrelled, for they were at war
From morning till evening, I can’t remember why.
She plucked flowers, and walked by me.
I climbed a slope and sat on the mousse
at her feet. Before us a ginger hill
fled under the sun up to the horizon.  
She said: “See that mount, and that yellowed
grass, this gully to the rebellious traveller!”
I saw nothing, except that she was beautiful.
And so she sang. How I loved her voice!
We had to return, and cross the woods.
A young fallen elm barred the path  
I ran; hold it in the air as a vault
and, the forehead crowned by the green dome,
The beautiful child passed under the tree smiling.
Moved by our closeness, and shy,  
We watched our feet and the humid grasses.
The fields around us were silent.
Sometimes, without talking, she lifted her eyes;
Then it seemed (I am wrong perhaps)
That in our young hearts, our gazes gave birth
To many other thoughts, and they produced wordlessly
More than us, saying what we didn’t dare.  

as you can see, i've ignored the rhymes etc, and have just translated it word for word (except for the word "mousse", i don't know its english equivalent).

I could do with some advice, or if you want, attempt the same, its quite fun
Member Elite
since 01-25-2000
Posts 2574
Floating gently on a cloud....

1 posted 05-21-2004 07:35 PM       View Profile for ESP   Email ESP   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for ESP

I had to translate poetry from French to English as part of one of my modules last year, the other part being comparative. Thanks for sharing this, interesting.

"Time has told me not to ask for more, one day our ocean will find its shore" ~Nick Drake

Dublin Boy
since 08-26-2006
Posts 102

2 posted 08-31-2006 02:22 AM       View Profile for Dublin Boy   Email Dublin Boy   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Dublin Boy

As I have little or no knowledge of French, I can't comment on your translation, but I feel that a literal word-for-word translation is unlikely to do justice to the original in terms of poetry. The ideal is to interpret the poem's intention and then re-jig that poetically. Very difficult, I know, but the resultant poem, if handled well, is more creatively satisfying.
Hope this helps,
since 09-18-2006
Posts 89

3 posted 09-24-2006 09:57 PM       View Profile for MukkaKukka   Email MukkaKukka   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for MukkaKukka

Well, I think it is always easier to translate from Latinbased languages to other of the same league like

French and English are basically the same language.
Member Elite
since 12-04-2001
Posts 3905
Texas, USA

4 posted 10-13-2006 05:57 PM       View Profile for Pilgrimage   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Pilgrimage

Well, no.  French and English are not basically the same language.  English has a Germanic base, with large lashings of Norman French added in at the time of the Conquest.  It's one of the reasons English has so many words that basically mean the same the thing, differing in nuance.  I love the translation.  I have no facility with French and I'm glad you did this.  I really enjoyed the poem.  

Nan (Pilgrim variety)

Senior Member
since 06-09-2006
Posts 1304

5 posted 10-26-2006 11:23 AM       View Profile for rhia_5779   Email rhia_5779   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for rhia_5779

Um no, English is confusing and never follows it rules. French is hard to pronounce and follows it rules, but the verb set up is confusing.

I am taking both and italian at the same time right now.
Member Elite
since 05-23-99
Posts 4277
Coastal Texas

6 posted 10-26-2006 12:09 PM       View Profile for Alicat   Email Alicat   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Alicat

Though interpretation is possible, the main problem will lay in syntax and regionalistic semantical expressions. Phraseology common to certain parts of France, Portugal or Russia, even if translated word for word in proper syntax, might well be unintelligible since some things, especially regional phrases, may not carry over very well unless the translator interprets the gist or deeper meaning and transliterates it for the secondary audience.  This isn't just an issue when translating foreign poetry, but can also be found within different regions of the same country.  Common phrases or saying in rural Georgia may make very little sense to a social urbanite in New York, to give an example.
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