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Unread 08-19-2019, 01:46 AM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: San Diego, CA, USA
Posts: 6,619

Originally Posted by John Isbell View Post
I think you could also push this line - "with such bell as of old time hath been accustomed" - to suggest that of old time means "back when England was Catholic." I like your point that the curfew at sunset is a weird time for a literal curfew. Surely the fire would be being lit then, not extinguished?
Don't forget that the busy housewife would have been cooking on that fire for most of the day.

The NYSE is tolling the start of the day, not its ending, as I take it.
I'm not sure how literal you're being, but there are video clips of both the NYSE opening (9:30am EDT) and closing (4pm EDT) bells at .

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Overall, I agree with Cathy's assessment of the group of translations, and also your assessments, John. The more I read others' attempts, the better Richard Wilbur's translation looks to me.

Like Cathy, I found interesting and admirable things going on in all of them--even in Seidel's, which surprised me--and also in all of them, I found other things that I either mildly disliked or downright loathed--which did not surprise me at all in Seidel's case. (Every Seidel poem I've ever read conveys the same message: "Behold, nothing is sacred to me! Have I shocked you yet?") At first I found Seidel's liberties with the original text fresh and creative, but then the whole exercise started to look less and less about honoring the beauty of the original, and more and more about Seidel wanting me to watch how cleverly he could doodle a mustache on the Mona Lisa. Meh.

I would put X.J. Kennedy's translation as my second favorite, because I like some of his turns of phrase very much. But the narrator's tone seems quite different from the original. It strikes me as almost flippantly nonchalant. I prefer poignancy.

The POETRY website uses Donald Revell's translation, "Mirabeau Bridge." His refrain:

     The night is a clock chiming
     The days go by not I Just no.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 08-19-2019 at 01:55 AM.
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Unread 08-19-2019, 02:38 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 4,952

Hi Julie,

Yes, I thought about the NYSE closing bell afterward. The opening bell gets all the press.
You're right about the fire, but I don't think a curfew would require putting out the fire before the field workers had their dinner, a point I think you've made. Interesting to reassess Gray's curfew bell.
The Kennedy seemed wrong to me in its conception - just do the French. But then, I do like Clueless, which doesn't just do Austen. And I too disagree with the Revell refrain. POETRY can do better, it has many options, as you've shown.


Oh - just to say, the fact that Gray's curfew bell may originate in the Angelus doesn't mean Gray would be conscious of that, as you also noted. I doubt he'd have done the research into the possible Catholic origins of that particular tradition. For him, i think it's just part of the time-honored English way of doing things.

Last edited by John Isbell; 08-19-2019 at 02:48 AM.
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