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Old 08-29-2018, 10:55 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Default Dante, Inferno, Canto I.1-9

Dante, Inferno, Canto I.1-18

Halfway through life’s journey, I came round
inside a hazy forest, and the true
straight road through it was nowhere to be found.

Talking of it's a painful thing to do:
the brute woods bristled with such density
that, just by thinking of them, I renew

the fear I had—a near-death misery!
Still, I will have to tell you, to convey
the good I found there, all I came to see.

How did I get there? I can’t rightly say.
I was so full of slumber at the time
I wandered from the true and faithful way.

Standing just where a hill began to climb
out of the valley that had meant such fright
in me, I looked up, and I saw, sublime

and cloaking all the upper slopes, the bright
rays of the planet which, on every trail
and highway, serves to lead men right.


. . . . .

L2 "hazy forest" for "dark wilderness"
L5 was "the woods were so wild, dense and bristly"
L9 "came" for "had"
L12 "when I abandoned" for "when I forsook"
L12 "when I strayed from the true and faithful way" for "when I abandoned the authentic way."
L13 "hill" for "slope"
. . . . .


Original

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
ché la diritta via era smarrita.

Ahi quanto a dir qual era è cosa dura
esta selva selvaggia e aspra e forte
che nel pensier rinova la paura!

Tant' è amara che poco è più morte;
ma per trattar del ben ch'i' vi trovai,
dirò de l'altre cose ch'i' v'ho scorte.

Io non so ben ridir com’ i’ v’intrai,
tant’ era pien di sonno a quel punto
che la verace via abbandonai.

. . . . .

Crib (Longfellow’s translation)

Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.

Ah me! how hard a thing it is to say
What was this forest savage, rough, and stern,
Which in the very thought renews the fear.

So bitter is it, death is little more;
But of the good to treat, which there I found,
Speak will I of the other things I saw there.

I cannot well repeat how there I entered,
So full was I of slumber at the moment
In which I had abandoned the true way.

Last edited by Aaron Poochigian; 08-31-2018 at 12:43 PM.
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Old 08-30-2018, 12:00 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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[Editing back to add: You made some changes while I was writing my post, so my comments are behind now.]

This is a good draft, Aaron. Dante’s language is the most exciting thing going, and this opening passage is as dense as they come. My main critique will be that the psychological/moral dimensions of some of the words might be preserved better.

For instance dritto, a key word in Dante, which should keep the sense of “rectilinear.” You could change “proper” to something else, since it’s a rather dull word there anyway.

dura in line 4 is another key word: it also means “painful” or “bitter.” So I think “very hard” is too mild.

“brute, dense, and bristly” is pretty good for selvaggia e aspra e forte, but again “bristly” is relatively mild (it can have a cute connotation, as in a bristly beard). I’m assuming you mean that as a translation for aspra, appears again (intentionally for sure) in the Wood of the Suicides in Canto 13. It should be a word, if possible. that carries the sense of roughness and spikiness and severity. And I think you could do more with forte, yet again a word that pops up often in Dante, as far back as the Vita Nova, often with a sense of “painful” or “tormenting.”

In line 7 I don’t think “near-death misery” is a ideal, since your phrasing has a somewhat light feel and Dante is dead serious here.

Lastly, I’d change the final phrase to “I came to see,” since “had” adds the sense of being forced to do it.

Good luck with it,

Andrew

Last edited by Andrew Frisardi; 08-30-2018 at 12:06 AM.
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Old 08-30-2018, 12:20 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Hello, Andrew. I have enjoyed playing with this, and I am happy with the result—a faithful, colloquial translation of the Italian into terza rima.

I have revised line 3 to get “straight” in there.

I’m comfortable with “dura” being “hard” given that “hard/difficult” has to be the meaning of “duro” in Canto 3, line 12.

I’ll see what I can do to replace “bristly” but “-y” rhymes are oddly hard to come by there, and rhyme-considerations are up there competing with the other factors. There are more than enough boring blank verse translations of the Commedia and enough barely readable rhymed-translations.

I’ll also see what I can do about “near-death misery,” but I like it—it means what the original means and solves many problems for me.

Also, I think I like "had to see" because Dante makes clear that he is only, with great reluctance, relating all the awful things he "had to see" as a necessary part of the good he found.

Thank you,
Aaron

Last edited by Aaron Poochigian; 08-30-2018 at 12:27 AM.
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Old 08-30-2018, 12:49 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aaron Poochigian View Post
I’m comfortable with “dura” being “hard” given that “hard/difficult” has to be the meaning of “duro” in Canto 3, line 12.
Not true, actually. As commentators point out, Virgil's response to Dante in Canto 3 indicates the sense of "painful, causing distress, mental torment" etc. Also, Dante often echoes the Vulgate in his word choices, where it can have this sense.

It's good to be colloquial, but any good translation of Dante also has to be multivalent and sensitive to biblical and other connections.
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Old 08-30-2018, 12:58 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Yes, but I take the passage's primary meaning as "hard/difficult." I accept that, by making choices, the translator loses some of the richness of the original, though other richness is introduced. In short, if the reader is that intent on encountering the exact same multivalence as the original, he/she should just learn Italian. I don't translate for scholars--they can read the original.
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Old 08-30-2018, 04:51 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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"came to see" is better than "had to see"--thank you, Andrew.

Also, "the brute woods bristled with such density" for "the woods were so dense, brute and bristly"

Last edited by Aaron Poochigian; 08-30-2018 at 05:00 AM.
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Old 08-30-2018, 05:32 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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Of course something is lost in translation, Aaron, I wasn’t suggesting otherwise. But I think you could push harder in that line. It’s not a bad translation, just a bit flat imo. “It’s hard for me to do” sounds like a lyric from Taylor Swift, lacking the tragic feel of the original.

How about

Talking about it torments me anew

and then finding another solution for the rhyme two lines down?

Nuances aren’t just for scholars.
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Old 08-30-2018, 08:15 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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It would be an easy fix: Talking of it's a painful thing to do. I just prefer what I have. Again, what I actually said was someone who wants every bit of the multivalence would be better off learning Italian.
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Old 08-30-2018, 11:40 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Which do we prefer?

Talking about it's hard for me to do:
the brute woods bristled with such density
that, just by thinking of them, I renew

the fear I had—a near-death misery!

Or

Talking of it's a painful thing to do:
the brute woods bristled with such density
that, just by thinking of them, I renew

the fear I had—a near-death misery!

. . . . .

The latter, yes?
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Old 08-30-2018, 03:13 PM
Bill Carpenter Bill Carpenter is offline
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I prefer the former because "hard" is punchier than "painful" and "thing" is not punchy. Also the slight promotion of "of" in the latter has little semantic value, and if you stress "it's" instead, that has little semantic value.

I hope this is the beginning of a long journey -- hopefully with Andrew as your Virgil.
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