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Thoughts on translation

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I

have noted that starting with the same basic goal, the Blackmores and I arrived at different translations. It is curious that we only exactly matched one rhyming pair, but what is more curious is that it was in a couplet that we both fudged. The original:

Les bÍtes l'admiraient, et fuyaient ŗ grand pas.
Un belluaire vint, le saisit dans ses bras.

This is literally:

The animals admired him, and fled with rapid [great] steps.
A lion-tamer came, seized him in his arms.

Here is how the Blackmores dealt with it:

Honor me well - I am tiger, see! [from previous line]
The beasts did so, and ran off in alarm. -
A lion-tamer grabbed him with one arm,

And my lines:

The animals were all awe-struck and fled with great alarm,
A lion-tamer came and grabbed him with his arm,

The word "alarm" makes no appearance in the French, and though the lion-tamer is mighty, he used both arms - a strong man, but not Hercules. Yet the Blackmores and I told the same not quite faithful version - and quite by accident, I assure. Sometimes, an approach to a problematic passage just suggests itself (alternatively, do great minds think alike or do feeble minds stumble down the same dark corridors?).

It is my hope that in bringing in the Blackmores, I have shed some light on the richness of the possibilities open to the translator, while nonetheless showing that ultimately choices must be made that will make the translation not a copy of the original, but an artistic creation of the translator that draws heavily on the influences of the original - even the line-for-line translator cannot completely shed a heritage that includes the creator of the Roman d'Enneas.

In the next section, I will focus on what I did to try to tell a Hugo poem in my own language.

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