He Wishes to Immortalise His Mistress

by Michelangelo Buonarotti

How is it, ma mignonne, (as we all know)
that figures carved in mountain marble stay
exquisite, pristine, everlasting, though
the hand that shaped them dies, and rots away?

The Cause must cede. Effect alone survives.
That Life is short, and Art is long, I yield.
I speak as one who, as an artist, strives
to vanquish Time and Death, and claim the field.

And with your help, I’ll do it. With my skill
and your unblemished beauty, we can make
a semblance of your dignity and grace.
When we are dead and gone, mankind will still,
astonished, contemplate your lovely face,
and say, “See how he suffered for her sake.”

 

Original Italian

Com’esser, donna, può quel c’alcun vede
per lunga sperïenza, che più dura
l’immagin viva in pietra alpestra e dura
che ’l suo fattor, che gli anni in cener riede?
La causa a l’effetto inclina e cede,
onde dall’arte è vinta la natura.
I’ ’l so, che ’l pruovo in la bella scultura,
c’all’opra il tempo e morte non tien fede.
Dunche, posso ambo noi dar lunga vita
in qual sie modo, o di colore o sasso,
di noi sembrando l’uno e l’altro volto;
sì che mill’anni dopo la partita,
quante voi bella fusti e quant’io lasso
si veggia, e com’amarvi i’ non fu’ stolto.

 

 

The Woman Who Passed Me

by Charles Baudelaire

Around me hurled and roared Place Madeleine:
and you were tall and svelte, in funeral dress,
majestic in your grief. One deft caress
set your hem dancing. And I knew it then.

Such elegance! Those legs, so statue-like!
I drank you, like a furious alcoholic:
that brow of yours, where tempests breed and frolic!
The sweetness which enchants, before it strikes!

A lightning flash … then night. Elusive beauty
who, with one look, gave me my life anew,
will we not meet again in all eternity?

Elsewhere? Far off? Too late? Let’s face it, never.
I lost you in the crowd. The thread was severed.
I really could have loved you. And you knew.

 

Original French

A une passante

La rue assourdissante autour de moi hurlait.
Longue, mince, en grand deuil, douleur majestueuse,
Une femme passa, d’une main fastueuse
Soulevant, balançant le feston et l’ourlet ;

Agile et noble, avec sa jambe de statue.
Moi, je buvais, crispé comme un extravagant,
Dans son oeil, ciel livide où germe l’ouragan,
La douceur qui fascine et le plaisir qui tue.

Un éclair… puis la nuit ! – Fugitive beauté
Dont le regard m’a fait soudainement renaître,
Ne te verrai-je plus que dans l’éternité ?

Ailleurs, bien loin d’ici ! trop tard ! jamais peut-être !
Car j’ignore où tu fuis, tu ne sais où je vais,
Ô toi que j’eusse aimée, ô toi qui le savais !

 

 

Barrister, teacher and journalist, Michael Coy is an Irish poet who has settled permanently in the south of Spain.  He readily admits to a serious rhyme-and-rhythm habit.  Winner of various poetry prizes in Britain and Ireland, Michael has been published fairly regularly in the British poetry journal,”Orbis”.


Views expressed by individual poets and writers on this website and by commenters do not represent the views of the entire Society. The comments section on regular posts is meant to be a place for civil and fruitful discussion. Pseudonyms are discouraged. The individual poet or writer featured in a post has the ability to remove any or all comments by emailing submissions@ classicalpoets.org with the details and under the subject title “Remove Comment.”

39 Responses

    • Michael Coy

      Hi, Joe!

      Thank you very much for your generous comment.
      It’s greatly appreciated!

      Michael

      Reply
  1. C.B. Anderson

    Marvelous translations, Michael. Pity the impoverished poet who owns only one language. I hope you never kick your rhyme-and-rhythm habit. I have such a habit myself, along with several bad ones, and only a couple other good ones.

    Reply
    • Michael Coy

      Hi again, C.B.!

      Once more, I want to say a big “thank you” for your kindness.
      As for bad habits … they’re fun, aren’t they?

      Warm regards,

      Michael

      Reply
  2. Leo Zoutewelle

    Whatever the Italian (which I don’t speak), your translation of the Michelangelo poem was stunning!

    Reply
  3. M. P. Lauretta

    I’m sorry to say this, but that is not a translation of the Italian at all.

    The meaning is COMPLETELY different.

    Reply
    • Monty

      Don’t be “sorry” to say it, MP: you’re not telling the author anything he doesn’t already know. You’re just doing your duty . . your duty to the language by informing readers that they’ve been misled; and your duty to the author of the original poem – in showing that he’s been misrepresented. And I’d like to think I’ve done the same. Thus, a welcome dose of reality has now been inserted into a thread which began with such superlatives as ‘brilliant: marvellous: stunning’.

      I realise that the customary insularity of Americans in general sometimes leaves them with no choice but to believe everything they’re told; that’s globally accepted. But with poetry-translations, they would do well to adopt the simple doctrine that any, ANY translation which is consistently rhymed throughout . . should be viewed with nothing but suspicion. One doesn’t necessarily have to be familiar with the language from which the poem’s been translated; one only needs to permanently harbour the feeling that ‘perfect translations’ and ‘consistent rhyme-schemes’ are, for the most part, unattainable.

      Reply
  4. Monty

    You may wish to view another recent translation on these pages – 11th of October: one of Petrarch’s sonnets: by M.P. Lauretta – in which some of the accompanying comments pertained to the author’s choice of dispensing with rhyme throughout, in order to maintain the nearest and truest translation. Further comments were then steered towards the suggestion that the more concern a translator shows for a consistent rhyme-scheme in the translated piece . . the less likely that they were able to stay entirely true to the original meaning. One commenter in that discourse even went as far as to say that he views perfectly-rhymed translations with “suspicion”.

    I don’t know more than five Italian words, hence can’t judge your translation in that language (if M.P. herself happens upon this discourse, I’d be curious to hear her judgement): but from what I can make of the Baudelaire piece above, it seems to me that your intentions were the exact opposite of M.P.’s: She forsook rhyme to stay loyal to the translation; but you’ve forsaken a true translation to stay loyal to the rhyme.

    I should immediately confess that I’ve never had a single lesson in the French language, but I’ve lived in France for more than 20 years. When I first arrived, I also never knew more than five words in French, so I had to learn from scratch as I went along: just by ‘being here’. The French I now speak could never be described as ‘formal’, but many French people don’t speak formally. Due to the company I’ve always kept since being here (from which I learnt the language) my French could be described as common, slangy, streety . . . but it’s still French: proper French.

    For what it’s worth, my translation of the first two stanzas in the original piece above is along the lines of:

    The deafening street roared around me.
    Tall, slender, in deep mourning, majestic grief,
    A woman walked past me: with a glorious hand
    Which was lifting, swinging the hems of her skirt;

    Agile and graceful, with a leg like a statue.
    Me, I drank, tense like a wild man,
    From her eyes; the pale sky where the storm geminates,
    The sweetness that captivates and the pleasure which kills.

    There’s no mention in the original of your “Place Madeleine” in L1; no mention of your “funeral dress” in L2; no mention of your “deft caress” in L3; no mention of your “I knew it then” in L4; no mention of “alcoholic” in L6; no mention of “frolic” in L7; and no mention of your “before it strikes” in L8.

    As such, I can only conclude that not only have you intently strayed far from the original meaning in order to wrench a perfectly-rhymed translation . . but have done so with the upmost impunity.

    Reply
    • Monty

      I assure you that my original comment was made before I saw M.P.’s comment above. It’s now apparent that you’ve committed the same liberty with the Italian.

      Reply
    • Michael Coy

      Hello, Monty.

      From the tone of your comments, you seem to be indignant.
      I fail to see why.

      This is a poetry site.

      The task, as I saw it, was to translate from poetry in one language to poetry in another. Translation from poetry into prose is about exactitude. Poetry-to-poetry is a different mission entirely.

      You know French. Good for you.

      Michael

      Reply
      • Monty

        “Indignant” is indeed the word, Michael; I couldn’t’ve thought of a better one myself to describe how I view your above fabrication of the French. And when you say that you “fail to see why” I’m indignant; I simply don’t believe you. My feeling is that you know full-well why I’m indignant. And you also know full-well why another commenter felt “offended” by your fabrication of the Italian.

        So, you’d “supposed that the readership at SCP was sophisticated enough for a dynamic(?) translation not to be an issue”. Well, you thought wrong: it’s the very sophistication of said readership which has exposed your pieces for what they really are . . the work of one who seemingly speaks neither French or Italian, but decided to type two poems into Google Translate . . and then concoct the results into two poems in the English with which to try and impress the readership (“aren’t my translations clever, readers; see how well they rhyme?”).

        I was gonna ask you to explain the following two nonsensical sentences that you tried to put to me in your above comment; but you wouldn’t be able to, ‘coz they’re truly inexplicable:
        1/ “Translation from poetry into prose is about exactitude”. Utter rubbish. Translations from poetry to prose don’t exist! One can write a prose ‘essay’ on another poem; and one can write a prose analysis of another poem. They then become an essay or an analysis . . not a translation.
        2/ “(translating) poetry to poetry is a different mission entirely (from exactitude)”. Who said that? Did someone tell you that? Did you read it somewhere? Is it in the ‘Accepted Etiquette of Translating’ book? No, of course not. It’s pure fantasy on your behalf; a desperate and misguided attempt in trying to defend yourself against the above accusations.

        I’ve got an unintentional habit of not only reading words, but reading ‘into’ words . . and when I read the flippant words with which you ended your comment: “You know French. Good for you”: I immediately saw those words as one who was thinking to himself: ‘Oh drat: I thought I’d get away with fobbing-off these translations on an unsuspecting readership. How was I to know that one of them’s lived in France for 20 years. And even worse, another of the readership speaks Italian! What rotten luck’.

        All in all, Michael, I feel that the nature of your comments (to me and M.P.) are akin to the honest-speaking criminal who, after being convicted, is asked by his probation-officer if he regrets committing the crime . . to which he replies: ‘No.. my only regret is that I got caught’.

  5. Joe Tessitore

    So at what point is a translation no longer a translation and is now “a poem based on the work of …”?

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      Joe, You have asked a very important question. I would enjoy hearing some answers, which, I think, would be all over the map!

      The most translated work of literature (by far) is the Bible. Translators must choose between what are called “literal” translations (such as the various King James versions, Revised Standard or New American Standard versions) which attempt to render the Hebrew or Greek words and grammar with English equivalents. In general, the more literal, the more dry the text appears. The success of the King James “Authorized” version is that the authors somehow managed to turn out a literal translation written in a remarkably literate style, a style perhaps unmatched since.

      The other choice is called “dynamic” translation, which is more concerned with conveying the meaning of the text in a way that is culturally relevant to the reader (such as the Living Bible). The danger in this is the need for the author to choose between competing ways of interpreting a passage of text. If a “dynamic” version veers too far from the “literal” text it is called a “paraphrase.” How, for example, should the phrase “Behold the Lamb of God” be translated into a language whose culture has no concept of what a “lamb” is? A radically dynamic translator might be tempted to translate it as, “Behold the Pig of God.” This would carry the disadvantage of severing the meaning of the verse from the history,culture, theology and world view of biblical Judaism. On the other hand, it might carry the advantage of being more successful in conveying the actual meaning of the verse to someone living in a different culture. Most Bible translations fall somewhere in the middle. For study, I have always preferred the more literal texts although a paraphrased version often opens a window to a new insight I might have previously missed.

      Vocabulary, like rhyme and rhythm in poetry, also imposes limitations on translations of the Bible. The Revised Standard version contains a 12th grade vocabulary (when enables it to translate unusual words with more precision. Such as in 1 John 4:10 where it translates a Greek word that occurs only once in the New Testament as “propitiation”). On the other hand, the New International Version was written with a 7th grade vocabulary which required that this word be translated in a more general sense: “atoning sacrifice.”)

      The word “translate” has several meanings, of course. In the widest sense it simply means to take one thing and turn it into another thing that may be quite different than the original. In this sense, the above poems could be called “dynamic” or “loosely paraphrased” translations of the original texts. The obvious fact that Mr. Coy had the courtesy to attach the poems in their original language indicates that he was using the word “translation” in this sense.

      For those who read the word “translation” in its more literal sense, there may well be a feeling of being misled, deceived, or scammed when it is discovered that the words (and, at times, the very meaning) of the poem have veered from the original.

      Personally, I would want to avoid this miscommunication by doing something along the lines of what T.M. did with his recently-posted Ecclesiastes poem by clearly stating in the title that the text had been “recast as classical poetry.” Or, if appropriate, add a subtitle describing the work as “a subjective or loose translation” or a “poetic paraphrase” or simply, “inspired by.”

      Even so, the Romantic poets, whose “translations” of Greek, Roman and Persian poetry once enjoyed great popularity, took liberties when rendering the original texts into English rhythms and rhyme. The fact that these “translations” were not always “literal”should not necessarily detract from their success and acceptance as literature or as well-crafted, beautiful poems in their own right.

      On a related note, I first read the Iliad in a prose translation and only later in verse form. Which was more literal or “true” to the original?

      Which modern version of the Iliad is best? One that attempts to recreate the grammar, style, rhythm and literal meaning of the text as closely as possible? or one designed to retell the story in a way (in either prose or poetry) designed to inspire and move the reader as Homer intended?
      Does there (could there?) exist a translation that does both?

      Unfortunately, only a bilingual, bi-cultural Homer would be able to resolve that question with any authority.

      Until such a reincarnated Homer shows up, we will have to be content with maintaining the illusion that that question (concerning the Iliad) can be resolved by endless conversation, commentary, and debate based on our subjective opinions, personal preferences, cultural biases, and whatever level of political correctness we happen to be embracing at the moment.

      Reply
    • Leo Zoutewelle

      I tend to think that translating poems per se is impossible or at least “life-threateningly dangerous”. If you still want to do it you have to decide whether to try for “most accurate” or for “rhyme and rhythm”, My opinion is if you choose to go for “most accurate”, you might as well stop and quit. If you choose “rhyme and rhythm” you can still make something beautiful of it but fully aware that it was necessarily not something the original author wrote. No alternatives.

      Reply
      • Michael Coy

        Hi, James!

        I want to commend you on your superb article.
        It is learned, beautifully-written and highly interesting.

        I had supposed that the readership of “Classical Poets”
        would be sophisticated enough for dynamic translation
        not to be an issue.

        Thank you for your wise and erudite contribution to the discussion.

        Michael

    • Monty

      You’ve hit the nail on the head, Joe. One can either choose to translate an old poem literally to the best of their ability; or one can choose to write their own poem ‘based’ on an old one. Two different things. In much the same way, a film can be made ‘based on a true story’, but the word ‘based’ then becomes purely ambiguous! The film-makers are under no obligation to stay entirely true to the original story. They’re free to omit certain parts if they wish; and they’re free to alter, embellish or sensationalise certain parts if they wish . . all because of the ambiguity of the word ‘based’: and the impunity with which the film-makers are then able to stretch it to ‘loosely based’.

      The second piece above is ‘based’ on another poem, not translated from it.. or at least not truly translated. The first two translated stanzas above give the impression that the woman is known to the narrator; that maybe they’re walking together. The original poem is centred around a happening of only a few seconds; A woman walks past the narrator in a busy street, to whom he’s instantly smitten. She literally just walks past him; she doesn’t even acknowledge him; and is instantly lost in the crowd. The classic ‘fleeting glimpse’, as we like to call it. This meaning is made clear in L3 of the original: Une femme passa (a woman passed me). That information – integral to the very substance of the poem – is omitted from the translation. Indeed, if the author had stayed true to the very title of the original poem: À une passante (to a passer-by), that would’ve informed the reader that the poem was directed to one who simply passed-by. But the author translated the original title to ‘The Woman Who Passed Me’ . . . which tells us what? That could mean the female teacher who marked his exam-paper last week. See? The title has been changed in meaning from an unambiguous one: ‘To a passer-by’.. to an ambiguous one.

      The way I see it, Joe: the answer to your question is . . . the moment an original poem is altered in meaning (even slightly) in order to adhere to the form of the translation . . then it ceases to be a translation, and becomes a new poem based on an old poem – like a new film is based on an old story.

      Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Joe (and James),

      Sometimes, when translations are more like paraphrases, the author/translator refers to them as “versions.” Don Paterson, for one, has used that term in regard to his translations from the German (Rilke?).

      Reply
  6. Monty

    My last comment was written before I noticed those from James and Leo . .

    So, to you James: I don’t mind admitting that most of what you said above is well beyond my field of literary knowledge; but from what I did make of it, it seemed to be a very well-presented case. It made sense even to me. But at the same time, it fully endorsed a decision I long-ago made to not read any poetry from before the 1700’s. Who knows WHAT was going on before then? Suspect translations would be the least of one’s worries if they have no way of knowing: Did this author even write this? Did he plagiarise it? Did he even exist? Thus, there can be no surprise to me that translations from that period are constantly questioned. That period has never been more than a myth to me.

    I couldn’t disagree more with your definition of the very word ‘translation’. The first part is right: “..to take one thing and turn it into another thing..”: but the second part: “..which may be quite different from the original” is something else altogether. That’s not to translate: that’s to transform!

    I don’t know the given requirements for submitting a translation for publication . . but is it not the case that when one does so, one is obliged to accompany the translation with the original? Is it not a prerequisite? If it is, then it can’t be said that it was “courteous” of the above author to include the originals; and it certainly doesn’t indicate that he was using the word ‘translation’ in one sense or another.

    I feel you’ve made a most valid and pertinent suggestion as to how you “would avoid the miscommunication” (of a translation straying from the original) by adding a subtitle, as a sort of disclaimer. Of the three potential terms you suggested: “inspired by” is my clear favourite. It’s perfect, polite and truthful. It’s telling the reader: this is not an exact translation, it’s a poem from me inspired by a poem from him. If the above poem was titled thus:
    A Woman Who Passed Me (inspired by Baudelaire’s À une passante) . . then nobody could question the translation, ‘coz the author’s already made it clear that it’s not an exact translation.

    And to you, Leo: I agree fully that a translator has two choices to make.. ‘most accurate’ or ‘rhythm and rhyme’. To do both is, as you say, impossible. That’s why I said above that “a perfect translation with a consistent rhyme-scheme is, for the most part, unattainable”. And when I say “the most part”, I mean 95% of translations (I must allow 5% for single-quatrain poems, haikus, limericks, etc: with which perfect rhymes may be attainable, given there are so few lines to rhyme).

    I’m curious as to why you opined that: “..to choose ‘most accurate’, one may as well stop and quit”. Why? What’s wrong with ‘most accurate’? I feel that a ‘most accurate’ translation is the primary duty of one who translates. And if the finished translation contains not one single rhyme . . who cares? As I said on these pages recently: “Who needs rhymes in a translation? We’ve got rhymes all around us.. everyday.. whenever we want them; but when we’re reading a translation from a language with which we’re not familiar . . we should only ask for meaning and truth”.

    And we can only get meaning and truth if the translator has gave a ‘most accurate’ translation; has dedicated himself fully to maintaining the full meaning of the original. Anything less than that is not a true translation. And if such accuracy means dispensing with rhyme altogether . . so be it. The reader can say: “Goodbye, rhyme: I’ve got a translation to read . . I’ll see you again tomorrow”.

    Reply
    • Leo Zoutewelle

      Actually, Monty, I was only giving out my opinion (obviously!). I happen to find that to me, a poem without rhyme and rhythm is not a poem at all but a (most likely ugly) piece of prose. Even so, I very much believe prose can also be beautiful as prose.

      Reply
      • Monty

        I’ve always felt the same way, Leo: if it ain’t got rhythm an’ rhyme, it ain’t poetry . . it’s lined prose. But, additionally, I feel that the only time one can be excused for writing a poem without rhythm an’ rhyme . . is when one’s translating a poem.

    • James A. Tweedie

      Monty, I don’t want to belabor a point, but I must stand by my second definition of the word “translate” when I said it could mean, “to take one thing and turn it into another thing.”

      As in:

      “to express in different terms and especially different words : PARAPHRASE” (Websters)

      “To change something into a new form” (Cambridge)

      “Translate comes from the Latin translates, which means “carry across.” The word isn’t limited to talking about language. You can translate sales into dollars, or a play into a movie. When used that way, translate means changing something from one form to another.” (vocabulary.com)

      “. . .translate thy life into
      death, thy liberty into bondage.” (“As You Like It”)

      “. . . Translate his malice towards you into love, . . .” (Coriolanus)

      As you can see, the word does carry the the more radical meaning I claimed for it.

      Reply
      • Monty

        If you look again at my previous missive, James, you’ll see that I had no qualms at all with the first half of your sentence: “To take one thing and turn it into another thing” . . that is a literal definition of ‘to translate’. My gripe is with the second half of the same sentence: “..which may be quite different than the original”.

        I say that to be a translation, something MAY NOT be quite different than the original, but remains THE SAME as the original.. but in a different form. If someone translates a sentence into another language, the original sentence doesn’t change into a different sentence; it remains the same sentence but in a different form. Your Cambridge definition above supports this: “To change ‘something’ into a new form”. That doesn’t mean it’s changing the ‘something’: it means it’s changing the ‘form’. Likewise, to your Webster definition, one could add the words ‘the same thing’, so it becomes: “To express THE SAME THING in different terms and especially different words”. That’s bang on the money . . the THING remains the same, but the FORM changes.

        But if the THING itself changes into another THING “quite different” than the original, it surely becomes a transformation . . as in when a caterpillar changes into a butterfly.

        When I initially read your opening paragraph in this thread: “This is an important question . . the answers to which, I think, would be all over the map”, I knew instantly that they would be prescient words. At that time, the lid on the can of worms was only half-open . . now, the lid’s been fully opened; and the different commenters in this thread are indeed “all over the map”. Which is healthy stuff . . compared to how insipid things might be if we were all at the same point on said map.

  7. M. P. Lauretta

    I find the “ma mignonne” in the first line particularly offensive: if you are ‘translating’ something into English, why use French in the first place?

    And why change the meaning and the spirit of the poem?

    Here Michelangelo is NOT calling this lady “my pretty little thing”; he’s calling her ‘donna’, which in Italian means ‘woman’. He is neither belittling her nor patronising her; he is addressing her and appreciating her as a full-blown woman, and an equal.

    Reply
    • M. P. Lauretta

      Additionally, this sonnet was probably addressed to Vittoria Colonna, who was herself a poet. Buonarroti met her in Rome after she had been widowed and they had an intense though platonic relationship.

      Unusually for the time, she was well educated and spoke with authority. In another poem Buonarroti describes her thus: “A man in a woman, nay, a god, through her mouth speaks…”

      So, can you see now how wholly inappropriate that “ma mignonne” is?

      More info (in English) can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vittoria_Colonna

      Reply
    • Michael Coy

      Hello, M.P.

      It’s a great pity that you’ve chosen to be “offended” by two short expressions.
      Might it not be that a little 21st-century sensibility is creeping into your reading of a High Renaissance poem?

      Michael

      Reply
      • M. P. Lauretta

        No.

        I am offended by the gross inaccuracy of the translation, tricking non-Italian speakers into believing a meaning that is totally different from the original poem and gratuitously fabricated by you.

        I suggest you also read the additional information I have also provided about Buonarroti and Vittoria Colonna, and the nature of their relationship.

        That is, if linguistic and factual accuracy are of any interest to you.

  8. C.B. Anderson

    Here’s an idea, friends: Every one of us should learn every language, and then we should be able to answer these questions once and for all.

    Reply
  9. M. P. Lauretta

    I can attest that S. Elizabeth Hall’s translation from 1905 is much more faithful to the original, so here it is for you:

    ————————–

    XVII.

    Lady, how can that be, which each discerns,
    As slowly passing years the truth make known,
    That longer lives the image carved in stone,
    Than he, the maker, who to dust returns ?
    To the effect doth yield, surpassed, the cause.
    And art of man doth nature’s self subdue ;
    I know, who in fair sculpture prove it true.
    Which still of time and death defies the laws.
    Thus I to both us twain long life can give,
    In paint or marble, as my wish may be
    The semblance of thy face and mine to show.
    And ages after we have ceased to live.
    How fair thou wert, and I how sad, they’ll see ;
    And that I was no fool to love thee so.

    ————————–

    Indeed, despite my strong aversion to poetry in translation, I have to admit she did a great job there.

    You can download the complete book from this page: https://archive.org/details/sonnetsofmichela00michrich

    Reply
    • Monty

      I can see what you’re saying, Lannie.
      I wouldn’t go as far as “evil”: but I’ll throw ‘selfish twin’ into the hat, or ‘pompous twin’.
      Of course you’ll have to qualify your use of the words “every translation”: we can’t tar ‘em all with the same brush. A translation without a hint of rhyme may well be a true one . . for that very reason! But it’s not unreasonable to suspect most rhyming-translations of being guilty to some degree.
      I’m slowly coming to terms with the sheer ambiguity with which we must view the word ‘translation’.

      Reply
  10. Lew Icarus Bede

    1. First off, I am thankful for Mr. Coy’s offerings. They spice up the pages of SCP with samples from World literature. As a dynamic translation (a form Pound frequented), Mr. Coy’s Michelangelo sonetto is at moments Shelleyesque, but with a more brusque brush. In his dynamic translation of Baudelaire, I enjoyed Mr. Coy’s assonance, particularly the ĕ. I hope Mr. Coy notes that the value of crass criticism is that it allows an author a chance to explain his or her poetic stances.

    2. Secondly, I am thankful for Mr. Lauretta’s acute points, and the translation here he offered. I love Italian, and I appreciate always an Italian point of view. After all, it was the Italians who were the first who would publish any poem of mine (a sonnet on Eco and a piece on Saba).

    3. I think, even if it were humanly possible, to take up Mr. Anderson’s tongue-in-cheek suggestion that everyone of us should learn every language, which, of course, is impossible, we would still have unanswered questions as relating to translations. That is the nature of the beast, as Mr. Brockstein pointed out: “An evil twin ev’ry translation be.”

    4. I liked Mr. Tweedie’s tack, as he brings up some important points, particularly in reference to the Book, that is, the Bible, written in Hebrew and Greek. I am always amazed at how much more powerfully strong Hebrew is compared to English, and how much more fluid Greek (Koine or Classical) is than English. Though I disagree with some of his points and attitudes, I like his questioning as well.

    5. It was polyglot Mario Pei (1901-1978) who first got me to differentiate the qualities of many languages: the purity of Italian, the zest of Spanish, etc. Although I admit to being extremely proud of the enormous power and depth of English (for so many reasons), I still agree with T. S. Eliot that Greek is a greater language than Latin and “has never been surpassed as a vehicle for the fullest range and the finest shades of thought and feeling”. Greek is indeed, to use a Latinate phrase, “the classical miracle”.

    6. Given that there never has been a perfect translation, prose or poetic, still it is nice to see SCP writers offering their translations, even if they tend to be sonnet-heavy; because the translator captures aspects of another culture and brings them to English. I could not abide Ezra Pound, as much as I do, were it not for his struggle against other languages (Greek, Italian, French, etc.). And it is a struggle constantly—at least that part Nietzsche got right.

    Reply
    • Michael Coy

      Hi, Lew
      (I notice that you prefer formality with names: please don’t take offence at my breezy chumminess.) Your six-point piece is magnanimous, interesting and informed (to mix Greek and Latin lexicon). It’s encouraging to know that there are thoughtful, open-minded and erudite readers.

      Thank you!

      Reply

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