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  #1  
Unread 08-11-2019, 11:11 PM
Jake Sheff Jake Sheff is offline
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Default Paul Verlaine, Chanson d’automne

Paul Verlaine: Chanson d’automne

The hanging groans
Of the violins
…..Of autumn
Impale my heart’s
Malaise with darts
…..Of boredom.

My spirit sours
From the passing hour’s
…..Disquiet;
It joins the tour
Of hurts I store
…..In my eyelids.

I’ll ride the blind
Malarial wind
…..Untethered
From care, a dead leaf
And oblivion’s grief
…..Together.

Original:

Les sanglots longs
Des violons
…..De l'automne
Blessent mon cœur
D'une langueur
…..Monotone.

Tout suffocant
Et blême, quand
…..Sonne l'heure,
Je me souviens
Des jours anciens
…..Et je pleure;

Et je m'en vais
Au vent mauvais
…..Qui m'emporte
Deçà, delà,
Pareil à la
…..Feuille morte.

Literal Translation:

The long sobs
Of violins
…..Of autumn
Wound my heart
With a monotone
…..Languor.

All breathless
And pale, when
…..The hour sounds,
I remember
Former days
…..And I cry;

And I go
In an ill wind
…..Which carries me
Here, there,
Like a
…..Dead leaf.
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  #2  
Unread 08-12-2019, 12:43 AM
Julie Steiner's Avatar
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Jake, I appreciate the difficulty of preserving such a tight rhyme scheme.

But are the sacrifices to maintain that tight rhyme scheme worth it, when the rhymes are as slant as "disquiet" and "eyelids," and the content bears so little resemblance to the original in either meaning or tone?

When I see language as simple and straightforward as "Je me souviens des jours anciens et je pleure" ("I remember former days and I cry") transformed into "it joins the tour of hurts I store in my eyelids" (!!!), it reminds me of one of those humorous paraphrases of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star":

Scintillate, scintillate, globule vivific!
Fain do I contemplate thy nature specific,
Loftily poised in the ether so spacious,
Strongly resembling a gem carbonaceous.


It also reminds me of my own efforts to hold so tightly to a poem's original rhyme scheme that I strangle the life out of the poem. I do this a lot, so I can speak with authority on the subject. The same thing is happening here.

I would encourage you to find some way to loosen the rhyme scheme so that you can speak more naturally.
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  #3  
Unread 08-13-2019, 09:59 PM
Jake Sheff Jake Sheff is offline
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Julie,

Thanks for the read and comments. I’m glad you appreciate and acknowledged the rhyme scheme.

I felt I had to use slant in the 3rd and 6th lines for keeping those briefer lines truly briefer. It proved challenging, but I felt the results were interesting.

I don’t see how the content is so off. At least with regards to meaning. I think the literal translation makes for a lackluster and lousy English poem. I believe to be true to a successful poem in any language, the English version (translation) must be successful as well.

You must translate the effect.

What you state my poem reminded you of is actually different than what my poem does. I say this because I see how strong the effect of comment one is on subsequent commenters; consensus forms rapidly. So to hopefully dispel the perception my translation is similar in action to what you quoted.

The rendition of “twinkle, twinkle little star” is actually the exact same content with polysyllabic, Latinate synonyms in place of the actual song’s Germanic and mainly monosyllabic words – so twinkle becomes scintillate, etc. Or, they are replaced by 12th grade words, where the original is 4th grade level, or the words are associated with being “learned” and technical jargon.

But “it joins the tour of hurts I store in my eyelids” is made up of all basic words from no specific jargon or high-falutin vocabulary. The “tour of hurts I store in my eyelids” are the N’s “former days” which are presumably painful ("hurts") as they result in “and I cry” (tears are in "Eyelids" too) when I “remember” (or “tour”) them.

So this gets to two of my points: 1) what my poem does is not what that “Twinkle Twinkle” rendition does and 2) I’ve worked with the original material to generate novel English figures, whereby a successful English poem is (I hope) born without betraying the original’s meaning (see above where I say the tour is the remembering, etc). It might betray the original signifiers, but not what is signified...I hope.

There is no guarantee that “loosening the rhyme scheme so that you can speak more naturally” would result in a successful English poem. Re-arranging a literal translation of this is not very promising if one wishes to translate the effect of poetry.

I greatly appreciate your eyes on this and the experience and wisdom you bring. I know my approach is different in principle, but not without love or deep respect for the art, which we share.

Best,
Jake
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  #4  
Unread 08-13-2019, 10:36 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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Jake,
I like a challenge, but even I would not attempt to translate such closely rhymed short lines. What you have created sounds a bit like the original in terms of the meter, even allowing for the slant rhymes. But it doesn't make a lot of sense, and the effect it creates on a reader (on me, at least) is a sort of "What the hell is going on here?" It sounds more like a parody of a poem than a poem. Really, I don't want to discourage you. Put that melody to use, but do it on a poem that gives you more wiggle room, or give yourself more wiggle room by (for example) only rhyming every third line. To capture the tone and mood are in some ways the most crucial things to do, but the poem also has to make sense. The rhyme and meter are part of the overall effect, but getting them right without getting the other things doesn't do a lot of good.

Susan
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  #5  
Unread 08-13-2019, 10:43 PM
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Allen Tice Allen Tice is online now
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Definitely interesting.

It's weird, but not so weird as Louis Zukovsky's Catullus versions. Might be back.
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  #6  
Unread 08-14-2019, 02:11 AM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Of course, to really reproduce the effect of the French rhymes, you would have to use a high percentage of identity rhymes:
longs/violons
l'automne/monotone
suffocant/quand
l'heure/pleure (an identity rhyme according to the French rules)
vais/mauvais
de/la

But neither you nor I worry about your not being able to pull that off. Why not? Because although identity rhymes are admired in French, in English they have negative connotations (of inattentiveness and/or just not knowing any better). Using identity rhymes in English would give readers a bad impression of the poem.

I think we agree that such factors need to be taken into consideration in order to translate the effect on readers that the original had.

Speaking of effects, Verlaine's French narrator and your English narrator don't sound like the same person at all. This is mainly due to the diction choices I mentioned.

One narrator (Verlaine's) speaks in ordinary language, for the most part; he gets a little fancy with blême, but for the most part he doesn't make a lot of linguistic flourishes, because he's too depressed to bother showing off for us. But this restraint actually emphasizes the high degree of difficulty involved with pulling off so many identity rhymes. It sounds so natural and effortless that it seems as if the narrator doesn't even notice what an amazing thing he's doing. Which, of course, makes it all the more impressive.

The other narrator (yours) turns a simply expressed concept like vent mauvais ("bad/evil wind") into a "malarial wind," apparently because he wants to sound more dramatic and erudite than the original--even though malaria is associated with the hot, muggy air of summer, not autumn. The etymology of a word derived from mala aria ("bad air") may seem to support the choice of a disease-related word, as does the crib's "ill wind," but I think both are misleading. The expression "It's an ill wind that blows no good" does not refer to sickness.

Your comment on Susan's translation about translators needing to show their own creativity made me think, "No, a good translator shouldn't try to upstage the genius of the original by drawing attention to his or her own talents." I think there is a lot of creativity involved in finding ways to disappear, so that the reader doesn't notice the translator, and all the credit goes to the original poet.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 08-14-2019 at 02:16 AM.
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  #7  
Unread 08-14-2019, 02:35 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
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Hi,

Just the footnote to this interesting discussion that Verlaine's poem was used on D-Day by the Allies.

Cheers,
John
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  #8  
Unread 08-14-2019, 07:54 AM
Jake Sheff Jake Sheff is offline
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Julie,

I think my usage of “effect” was misunderstood. I meant aesthetic effect.

In a perfect world, where everything is done ideally, a translation would match the diction, and a translator would disappear so that all credit goes to the original poet. I don’t think we live in a perfect world.

And if this poem succeeds – as you say it does, by calling its effect “amazing” and “impressive” (Verlaine is a Genius – this is settled, so let’s not question it) – using ordinary language while still deploying identity rhymes, which you admit would give English readers a bad impression of the poem, then you are saying the would-be translator’s task is impossible. You are literally saying A: this French genius’s poem succeeds with amazing identity rhymes in an impressive ordinary language and B: identity rhymes to English readers are off-putting, so C can only be: Good luck!

My narrator “wants to sound more erudite and dramatic.” My intent was a successful English poem – so without the benefit of identity rhymes, this was the trade-off I found. Identity rhymes for “whatever works.”

Also there has to be some “poetic license.” This concept seems to be forgotten today, especially with regards to facts and the picking apart of “malarial wind.” Things get "lost in translation." In a perfect world, this wouldn’t happen. It’d be ideal if nothing was lost or gained, I agree.

So Verlaine is amazing and impressive, my N is trying to upstage the genius and draw attention to his talents? That mind-reading seems a little harsh. How, in an imperfect reality, will a reader not notice the translator (who in all respectable publications gets credit) and why should all the credit go to the original poet? These are language-objects. If the original poet wrote (made) in German, why, in a Just World, should all the credit go the original poet and none to the English translator and none to the French translator. Translation is work.

Plus, I think the original genius would be grateful to have his work opened up to a broader audience, both in time and place.

I can't appreciate Homer in the original Greek, but some English versions did a fine job of getting him to me. Imperfect is better than nothing (gone forever, oblivion), perfect the enemy of good.

Think of Aristotle -- how much was translated into a middle eastern language and from those sources into European languages. It's impossible to imagine it was all done so without losing and gaining things.

In your opinion, were the translators of the King James Bible upstaging the genius of the original and drawing attention to their talents? (Talents English teachers have been pointing to since the 17th century. While English preachers continue pointing to the content.)

I feel like the aesthetic effect is primary, and trade-offs both unavoidable and necessary. I don't see, in your view, much "poetic license" for trade-offs, which is why I bring these large examples to the discussion and ask, "Could these really be here today with nothing gained and nothing lost?"

I think we are having a healthy debate and I hope my tone doesn’t come across as uncivil in text. Also, I don’t want my gratitude for your attention and thoughtful comments to get lost in the discussion. I’m thankful to have this discourse with you ☺

Best,
Jake

Last edited by Jake Sheff; 08-14-2019 at 07:57 AM.
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  #9  
Unread 08-14-2019, 08:43 AM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Jake, we are in complete agreement that keeping the identity rhyme just for the sake of technical requirements would have interfered with English readers' ability to experience the poem positively. I just feel that turning the simple diction into something far more ornate interferes with English readers' ability to experience the poem accurately.

Not all writers are happy with all translations of their work into another language and/or medium. One famous example:

Quote:
In the early 1980s animator and director Hayao Miyazaki asked Ursula K. Le Guin, the author of the Earthsea series, for permission to create an animated adaptation of Earthsea. However, Le Guin, who was unfamiliar with his work and anime in general, turned down the offer. Years later, after seeing My Neighbor Totoro, she reconsidered her refusal, believing that if anyone should be allowed to direct an Earthsea film, it should be Hayao Miyazaki.[14] The film, however, was directed by Miyazaki's son, Gorō, rather than Hayao Miyazaki himself, which disappointed Le Guin. While she was positive about the aesthetic of the film, writing that "much of it was beautiful", she took great issue with its re-imagining of the moral sense of the books and greater focus on physical violence. "[e]vil has been comfortably externalized in a villain", Le Guin writes, "the wizard Kumo/Cob, who can simply be killed, thus solving all problems. In modern fantasy (literary or governmental), killing people is the usual solution to the so-called war between good and evil. My books are not conceived in terms of such a war, and offer no simple answers to simplistic questions."

She stated that the plot departed so greatly from her story that she was "watching an entirely different story, confusingly enacted by people with the same names as in my story". She also praised certain depictions of nature in the film, but felt that the production values of the film were not as high as previous works directed by Hayao Miyazaki, and that the film's excitement was focused too much around scenes of violence. Her initial response to Gorō Miyazaki was "[i]t is not my book. It is your movie. It is a good movie". However, she stated that the comment disclosed on the movie's public blog did not portray her true feelings about the film's vast departure from original stories; "taking bits and pieces out of context, and replacing the storylines with an entirely different plot..."

Le Guin's mixed opinion of the film is indicative of the overall reception of the film, particularly in Japan. In Japan, the film found both strong proponents and detractors. Many of the opinions can best be summed up in a response to Le Guin's comments on her website, that the weak points of the film were the result of "when too much responsibility was shouldered by someone not equipped for it."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tales_from_Earthsea_(film)
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  #10  
Unread 08-14-2019, 08:50 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
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Julie, I like LeGuin’s point about killing people. Movie adaptations are a tricky business.

Cheers,
John
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