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Old 04-03-2018, 02:11 PM
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Edward Zuk Edward Zuk is offline
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Default Jean de La Fontaine

The Frogs Who Asked For a King

. . . . The Frogs grew unimpressed
. . . . With their democracy;
. . . . So much did they protest
That Jove thought he’d submit them to a monarchy.
From heaven fell a King of great serenity.
The falling king made such a noise, it so distressed
. . . . Those dwellers of the bog,
. . . . Each dumb and fearful frog,
. . . . That they hid under weeds,
. . . . In bullrushes or reeds
. . . . Or hollows of that place,
Not daring for some time to gaze into the face
Of their new monarch, so colossal did he seem.
. . . . It was a Wooden Beam
Whose weightiness so overwhelmed the first frog there
. . . . Who dared to venture out to see
. . . . And leave the safety of his lair.
. . . . He drew up close, but tremblingly.
A second frog came out, another made it three:
. . . . Then out they swarmed like ants;
And soon the troop feels so at ease, they start to prance
. . . . And hop upon the shoulder of the King.
That sire remains at peace, enduring everything.
Their racket reaches Jove and nearly busts his brain.
“Give us a king who moves!” the hoi polloi complain.
The Monarch of the Gods sends down to them a Crane
. . . . Who kills, who chomps the slain,
. . . . Who gobbles them at will;
. . . . The Frogs object without a pause.
And Jove replies: “Eh, what? Does your assembly still
. . . . “Believe us subject to your laws?
. . . . “At first you should have been content
. . . . “With practicing self-government;
“But having failed at that, since you are so perverse,
“You should have kept the King who was benevolent:
. . . . “Be satisfied with what I sent
. . . . “For fear the next one will be worse.”


Line 1 original: The Frogs lost their affection / The Frogs had lost their zest
Line 2 original: For state democracy / For their democracy
Line 3 original: So loud was their objection / So much did they protest
Line 5 original: From heaven fell a King of perfect charity.
Line 6 original: That falling king made such a noise! With circumspection, His fall made such a splash in every direction / That King in falling made a din that so distressed
Line 7 original: Each dumb and fearful frog
Line 8 original: That dwelt within that bog / Who dwelt within that bog
Line 9 original: Hid under water weeds,
Line 18 original: He drew up close, but cautiously.
Line 23 original: That sire remains serene, enduring everything.
Line 24 original: Their racket reaches Jove and nearly breaks his brain
Line 29 original: The Frogs protest without a pause.


Original with Crib


Les Grenouilles qui demandent un roi
The Frogs Who Ask For a King

Les grenouilles se lassant
The frogs grew tired

De l'état démocratique,
Of the democratic state

Par leurs clameurs firent tant
Their clamour was so incessant

Que Jupin les soumit au pouvoir monarchique.
That Jupiter submitted them to a monarchical power.

Il leur tomba du ciel un roi tout pacifique:
From the sky it fell to them, a wholly peaceful king:

Ce roi fit toutefois un tel bruit en tombant,
This king made however such a noise in falling,

Que la gent marécageuse,
That the swamp people (i.e. the frogs),

Gent fort sotte et fort peureuse,
People very stupid and very fearful,

S'alla cacher sous les eaux,
Hid themselves under the water

Dans les joncs, les roseaux,
In the reeds, in rushes,

Dans les trous du marécage,
In the holes of the swamp,

Sans oser de longtemps regarder au visage
For a long time without daring to look in the face

Celui qu'elles croyaient être un géant nouveau.
Of one they believed to be a new giant.

Or c'était un soliveau,
It was a roof beam,

De qui la gravité fit peur à la première
Which gravity made fearful in the first (frog)

Qui, de le voir s'aventurant,
Who ventured out to see,

De qui la gravité fit peur à la première
Who dared to leave its lair completely.

Elle approcha, mais en tremblant;
It approached, but tremblingly;

Une autre la suivit, une autre en fit autant:
Another followed it, and another did too:

Il en vint une fourmilière;
They poured out like an anthill;

Et leur troupe à la fin se rendit familière
And in the end the troop made themselves familiar with it

Jusqu'à sauter sur l'épaule du roi.
To the point of jumping on the king’s shoulder.

Le bon sire le souffre et se tient toujours coi.
The good sire suffers all this and remains silent.

Jupin en a bientôt la cervelle rompue:
Jupiter from this soon has his brain broken:

«Donnez-nous, dit ce peuple, un roi qui se remue.»
«Give us, says this people, a king who can move by himself.»

Le monarque des dieux leur envoie une grue,
The monarch of the gods sends to them a crane,

Qui les croque, qui les tue,
Who crunches them, who slays them,

Qui les gobe à son plaisir;
Who gobbles them at his pleasure;

Et grenouilles de se plaindre.
And the frogs still complain.

Et Jupin de leur dire : «Eh quoi ? votre désir
And Jupiter says to them: «Eh, what? Your desire

A ses lois croit-il nous astreindre?
Believes that these laws will constrain us?

Vous avez dû premièrement
You should have, from the first,

Garder votre gouvernement;
Kept your government;

Mais, ne l'ayant pas fait, il vous devait suffire
But not having done that, it should have sufficed

Que votre premier roi fut débonnaire et doux.
That your first king was easy-going and kind.

De celui-ci contentez-vous,
Content yourself with this one,

De peur d'en rencontrer un pire.»
For fear of meeting a worse.»

Last edited by Edward Zuk; 04-21-2018 at 09:37 AM.
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Old 04-03-2018, 02:13 PM
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Edward Zuk Edward Zuk is offline
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A quick disclaimer: as many of you may remember, Julie posted a translation of this poem a while back. This version is, I think, different enough from hers to warrant posting here. She’s glanced at my translation and given her go-ahead for me to submit it here for critique.

I had wanted to borrow her crib, which I remember being much more literal and informative than mine, but I seem to have misplaced it.
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Old 04-06-2018, 02:52 AM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is online now
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Sorry, I'm not ignoring you, Edward--I'm just really, really busy!

I hope to have a chance to give this a more thorough look soon. Glad you're giving it new life.
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Old 04-06-2018, 02:01 PM
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Edward Zuk Edward Zuk is offline
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Julie, it’s so kind of you to stop in like this. Please take your time to clear up whatever you have on your plate. The poem will still be here, and I’ll be grateful for your considerable insights whenever you have the leisure for them.
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Old 04-08-2018, 04:45 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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Hi Ed,

The slow activity on the thread certainly has nothing to do with the quality of the work here. Your translation is really good.

A few thoughts for you to consider:

--In line 2, “state” seems redundant in your phrasing of “état démocratique”? since “democracy” is now a noun, as indeed “monarchy” alone on line 4 feels the more natural phrasing. You need something to go with “democracy” but I’d leave “state” out.

--For line 3, “long” is closer than “loud” to the original sense of incessant grumbling.

--Line 5: “amity” instead of “charity”? The emphasis on peacefulness seems important, which charity doesn’t suggest.

--Line 6: I don't like the filler of “circumspection,” not because I’m against filler per se (which is impossible in a translation anyway), but because it calls so much attention to itself. Not sure what to suggest though, other than changing the other rhyme words as well.

--Line 14: I am stumped on what “Wooden Beam” refers to, though the English crib confounds me as we as well. Wouldn’t “log” make more sense in the context? I understand you’re working with the rhyme constraints but “beam” suggests a wooden board for building not a log in a swamp.

--Down a few lines from there, “breaks his brain” would sound more idiomatic, I think, as “busts his brain.”

That’s all I’ve come up with so far. Overall, and especially in the second half of this, I feel that this captures the spirit of the original nicely and makes a fun didactic poem or fable in contemporary English.
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Old 04-08-2018, 03:57 PM
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Edward Zuk Edward Zuk is offline
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Andrew, thanks for your usual insightful critique. I’ve adopted most of your suggestions, as you can see. I do like “charity,” though, not in its modern sense of “giving,” but in its original sense of caritas, or Christian love for God and neighbour, which would predispose one to be peaceful.

“Circumspection” was one of the compromises I wasn’t happy with, but at this point I don’t see anything better. I’ll keep fiddling.

As for ‘wooden beam,’ every translation I’ve seen of soliveau renders the word as a joist, or beam used to hold up a floor or ceiling. Aesop uses ‘log,’ I think, and ‘King Log’ has a bit of currency, but La Fontaine uses this word for the rhyme. ‘Ceiling beam’ might be more exact, but for now I’ll leave it as is.

If anything else occurs to you, I’m all ears.
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Old 04-15-2018, 01:44 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is online now
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I prefer "loud" to "long" in L3. I think the point is that Jove found their noise annoying. If they had been persistent but not loud, it wouldn't have bothered him so much.

I can speak with some authority on this matter because several members of the endangered arroyo toad species have been clamoring in my backyard for the past month or so. It's their mating season. I wouldn't mind so much if they weren't SO LOUD! I think Aesop and his audience were thinking of a similarly raucous chorus.

I hope to be back with more comments soon, Edward.
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Old 04-17-2018, 01:38 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is online now
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Okay, finally dredged up my old translation and notes on the original, and now admire yours even more.

My sole niggle is something that Andrew mentioned, too: "charity" connotes active benevolence, but the joke is that the new king is peaceable because he's inanimate. So I'd prefer something more passive than "charity" there.

Otherwise, very gracefully done!
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Old 04-18-2018, 02:19 AM
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Edward Zuk Edward Zuk is offline
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Julie, thanks for looking in and for your kind words. I still like the word “charity” for the reasons I gave in my reply to Andrew. I’ll give it another look, though.

I’ve finally come up with a replacement for the awkward line 6 that had bothered me ever since Andrew pointed it out.

Since this has passed muster with two such experienced and talented translators, I think that I’ll call it finished for now unless someone spots something egregious.
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Old 04-18-2018, 03:07 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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Ed,

I think you can improve the rhyme words for lines 1, 3, 6. One thing I haven’t been crazy about anyway is the bunching-together of multisyllabic rhyme words in such a short space—with “democracy,” “monarchy,” and “charity” so nearby. So if you change the 1-3-6 rhymes to simpler words, those multisyllabics would have more impact.

I have a suggestion for you to consider. What would you think of

The frogs had lost their zest
For their democracy;
So loud was their protest . . .
. . .
His falling racket made them so distressed
etc.


This might not be the solution, but I do think the poem would be stronger with a change of the rhyme words in those lines.

I hope this helps.

Best,

Andrew
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