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  #21  
Unread 10-11-2020, 08:41 AM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
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I guess it comes down to what you are trying to accomplish with your translation and what aspects of the original you are trying to preserve and what aspects you are letting go of. It's interesting indeed that Derzhavin was writing in what struck his contemporary readers as an archaic diction, but is that really something that you can convey to the modern reader of your translation without an explanatory note? I don't think so, but even if it is, is it an important enough element of what makes the poem worthwhile that it needs to be preserved at the expense of making the poem in English less felicitous in other regards? Every translation is a compromise, and complete faithfulness to the original is always impossible -- since, after all, you are throwing out all the poet's words and substituting words of your own -- and so much of the artistry of translation involves how the translator negotiates the compromises. (My own vague and perhaps subjective objective is to try to make the best possible poem in English for the reader who will never glimpse at the original, though others prefer to make a translation that is an aid to those who want to transition to the original. Reasonable minds can differ. But under my philosophy, I would probably ditch the archaic vernacular completely and try to find the best possible words in the language that is natural to me).
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  #22  
Unread 10-11-2020, 07:44 PM
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Kevin Rainbow Kevin Rainbow is offline
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Archaic language is a natural part of the artistic language of poetry because people have made it so by specifically going out of their way to choose it for artistic, stylistic purposes, and because it has become a very strong tradition through most of the ages. It is only in modern times that people have come up with the idea that archaic language should have no place and that poetry should almost always be watered down to sound like everyday language.

I'm not interested in a poetry-world restricted to only modern, common language. It's a modern "coup" against what poetry has been for most of history, against its capability and spectrum of diversity and transcending merely being modern, and against the human desire to emulate the best examples of art (which are overwhelmingly not from the especially modern end of history).

Last edited by Kevin Rainbow; 10-11-2020 at 07:47 PM.
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  #23  
Unread 10-11-2020, 07:58 PM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
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I get that point of view, Kevin, and I don't reject it. But I can't help also seeing that if you are writing a translation for modern times, and you want it to appeal to people with modern time sensibilities, then it might make sense not to adopt a diction that will sound sloppy or inelegant to them. I would add that avoiding archaisms is not the same thing as sounding like everyday language. You can still write with sophisticated syntax, coinages, altered word order, unusual phrases and heighened imagery, and other characteristics not found in everyday language, all while avoiding "thee" and "thou" and "thine" and other hallmarks of centuries gone by. After all, you are ultimately translating the poem into the language spoken by your audience. That's the whole idea of translation, I would argue. Should a modern translator into English necessarily try to come up with the same translation that a translator who was a contemporary of the original poet might have come up with? I can see the argument for yes, but to me it's more sensible to say that when you engage in translation, all bets are off and you might as well go for a poem in English that your contemporary audience can relate to. When you think of all the great works that are translated into English, it's notable that even the greatest translations ultimately get superseded by newer versions (e.g., Chapman's Homer to Lattimore's Homer to Fitzgerald's Homer to Wilson's Homer) in order to accommodate the ears and diction of contemporary readers.

But again, I'm not refuting your point of view as much as stating another point of view. I get what you're saying and it also makes sense.
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  #24  
Unread 10-12-2020, 09:01 AM
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Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
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I really don’t have a horse in this race, though I like the vivid evocation of the traditional rural dancing. I suggest a compromise that might be a fine challenge to a translator’s magic wand: specifically, to use a very light salting of archaisms, perhaps at the start, to swing your audience’s ear toward your intended effect. Then you might proceed chiefly with current diction. I really wouldn’t stress about being consistent on usage. What you want is a successful translation, not a stuffed owl. Once your translation is published and anthologized, you can happily grin at the coarctated pedants who snarl at your successful imperfections. You want results? Let the results come the easy way. In earlier times, adherence to an obsolete Athenian dialect, or an obsolete Chinese dialect in some Japanese poetry was acceptable because only a minority audience was available. That was then, this is now. Thomas Jefferson said, “Take things by the easy handle.” A little archaism can go a long, long way, saith the Tlce.

Last edited by Allen Tice; 10-13-2020 at 03:33 PM.
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  #25  
Unread 10-12-2020, 10:06 PM
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Kevin Rainbow Kevin Rainbow is offline
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Quote:
I get that point of view, Kevin, and I don't reject it.
I appreciate that.

Though your comment still seems to partake in the idea that there can essentially be no just or reasonable place for archaic language in something written in modern times.


Quote:
You can still write with sophisticated syntax, coinages, altered word order, unusual phrases and heighened imagery, and other characteristics not found in everyday language
Good luck with that. With the exception of heightened imagery, those will be written off as "unnatural", sometimes even more vigorously than archaic language.

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all while avoiding "thee" and "thou" and "thine" and other hallmarks of centuries gone by.
Would you have the same negativity about "hallmarks of centuries gone by" if we were scientists and what happened with language and poetry had happened with science instead? If most of the better and best examples of science were from centuries ago, if Einstein and DNA were hallmarks of hundreds of years ago instead of modern times, and science had devolved to the point that people today were involved in leechcraft, witchcraft, phrenology, astrology, etc detached from far better days of science, would you still believe that the 'hallmarks of the past" should be avoided? Imagine a bunch of scientists demonizing such "archaic" scientific items as evolution, relativity, DNA, etc. and telling each other they should avoid those thing at all times. Imagine scientists discouraging people from practicing science in a way Einstein did back in the 16th-17th century because it doesn't correspond enough with the modern rituals and superstitions.

I doubt you would believe that would be the right thing to do in science; but it is essentially what you do in language and poetry when you tell people to avoid the "hallmarks of centuries gone by".



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I really donít have a horse in this race, though I like the vivd evocation of the traditional rural dancing. I suggest a compromise that might be a fine challenge to a translatorís magic wand: specifically, to use a very light salting of archaisms, perhaps at the start, to swing your audienceís ear toward your intended effect. Then you might proceed chiefly with current diction.
Thanks.

Isn't it already a very light salting though? It's hard to imagine it getting any lighter without it virtually not having a place.
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  #26  
Unread 10-13-2020, 08:01 AM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
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I wonder, though, how a reader of your translation is supposed to know that the original was written in language that might have seemed archaic to Derzhavin's contemporaries? I suppose that could only be handled in a note, but perhaps the same is true for Russians today who read the original, so maybe that's not really a problem after all. Anyway, the knowledge that Derzhavin himself was purposely writing in an archaic language does provide a good reason to do so in even a modern translation.

But what about a very old poem -- one, say, written in 1620 -- that you are translating into English today, a poem that used language that was fresh and contemporary at the time? Would you advise that the English version use the language conventions of Shakespeare or Marlowe and try to sound as if it had been translated in 1620, to be read by English speakers of 1620? Or would you allow that a more modern English vernacular would be appropriate?

I go with the latter, since the language you are translating into if you translate a poem today is today's language. The Russian or Spanish poet of 1620 did not "intend" that English versions should forever say "quoth" instead of "says," for example, but if he or she was writing in what was then considered natural and colloquial language then it makes sense for the translator today to give the modern reader the same experience of reading a poem that is natural and colloquial.

(I don't begin to understand your science analogy, by the way. The "hallmarks" I was speaking of were questions of language usage, like "thou" and "thee," and not scientific truths.)

Last edited by Roger Slater; 10-13-2020 at 08:27 AM.
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  #27  
Unread 10-13-2020, 09:46 AM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Derzhavin (1743-1816) is supposedly addressing Anacreon of Teos (c. 570 – c. 485 BC), rather than Derzhavin's own contemporaries. Presumably one doesn't include an apostrophe to Anacreon--especially obliquely as "Teian singer"--without assuming that one's contemporary audience knows that Anacreon was a poet of antiquity.

The question is whether, when addressing someone 2000 years older than your contemporary audience, it makes sense to your eavesdropping contemporary audience to use forms of your own language that are archaic from your perspective, but which were still in the far future from the perspective of the person you're addressing.

(On the other hand, anyone familiar with Anacreon's poetry knows that although he occasionally praises the charms of beautiful young women, he definitely preferred the charms of beautiful young men. And, notoriously, his highest praise of all was for the simple charms of getting drunk as a skunk.)

[Edited to say: Okay, that's unfair. He praised getting a buzz, not being drunk to the point of impairment.]

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 10-13-2020 at 12:50 PM.
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  #28  
Unread 10-13-2020, 03:50 PM
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Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
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Oh, he got pretty drunk. To just this side of incoherence, I’d say. Lyrically buzzed? Obviously he could hold his winesack pretty well. Perhaps Derzhavin was reading the Anacreontea, an extensive florilegium of secondary stuff with their own beery (wine-soaked) moods. — I rather want a Pepsi now.

Last edited by Allen Tice; 10-13-2020 at 04:09 PM. Reason: Τυπογραφικ ερρορ
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  #29  
Unread 10-13-2020, 06:34 PM
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Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
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Leave the beginning as is. For the rest, Gandalf imagines that at Mt. Doom Frodo would do this with the last lines. (Itís a Brooklyn thing.)

If you saw these beauties thus,
Grecian gals youíd no more heed,
And thine Eros, winged by lust,
Would be fast pinned down indeed.

Good luck, stay healthy, stay safe,
Allen
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  #30  
Unread 10-15-2020, 08:01 PM
Tim McGrath Tim McGrath is offline
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How can you not love the language of Shakespeare and John Milton? The language is alive. It is current, not archaic. What Faulkner said about the past applies as well to poetry as it does to Southern history.

Last edited by Tim McGrath; 10-17-2020 at 04:21 PM.
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