09 November 2014

Translating Poetry

It may well come from the way in which we were taught Latin, and if memory serves, C S Lewis, on being sent to a tutor had a similar experience in being taught Greek, but both Ben Trovato and I are particularly comfortable with a method which starts teaching the student ab initio by immersing him (or her) into complex texts in the target language and using exegesis to allow her (or him) to draw out the meaning of serious writing immediately, instead of wasting time on "my aunt's pen" or "my postilion has been struck by lightning".

(As an aside, imagine how much easier it would have been to achieve a decent translation of the mass for use in the OF if this method had been chosen to educate the translators, who would never have needed to bother with "dynamic equivalence".)

He and I had both learned French through the medium of the standard text Mots d'Heures, Gousses, Rames and he was excited to learn some time ago that I had come across a German equivalent.  I'm afraid that I forgot completely his entreaty for some examples until he reminded me earlier.

Here then are three, from Mörder Guss Reims.  The only requirement for the learner is to read them aloud with an exaggerated German accent.  You will be amazed at how quickly you begin to pick up the deeper meanings hidden within the verses.  I have nevertheless included the basic critical apparatus normally available only to the teacher.

Jahn1 Kid Dudel kämmte tauen
Reih' Ding' ohne Bohni.2
Stuka Vetter inne satt3
Und Kohl Titt' mager roh nie.4


1 Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (1778-1852) better known as ''Turnvater" Jahn, the Grand Old Man of German gymnastics.
2 "By combing the goatskin on his bagpipes, he thawed out a row of things without an attic."
3”His cousin was inwardly tired of dive-bornbers."  c.f. Tennyson's ”Locksley Hall " :
“Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rained a ghastly dew
From the nations' airy navies grappling in the central blue.”
4 “And he never likes cabbage nipple raw.”


Myriade Lied - Alarm!
Itzt fliess' was weit1 Asen2 oh!
An Hefe-Revier dort mehre wend?
Alarm Warschauer3  …Tuck oh!4

1 In the middle of a song festival the alarm is sounded because something is flowing far away.
2 The collective name of the old German gods. Their leader was Odin, alias Wodan, Wotan or Wuotan, the god of the wind, the dead and of war, and the leader of the hunt, all of which must have kept him fairly busy.
3 The reference to the Warschauer Bridge locates this incident in Berlin. Perhaps the River Spree had flooded at this spot.
4 "Oh., what a spiteful trick!"

Der Wasserkrug, Erdmann, an die Winterkrug Erdmeil'1
Hie von der Krug hat sie-Gespenster, Ginsterkrug Erdsteil.2
Hieb Ortekrug, Erdkart’ — wisch Kotterkrug, Erdmaus;
Hansa Olaf tu' Gitter in ein Literkrug Erdhaus! 3

1 An earth-man is told to move the water jug one land-mile (1,609 metres, in contrast to one sea-mile or 1,852 metres) to the winter jug.
2 This part of the earth was given over to jugs filled with gorse.
3 Meanwhile a Norwegian from the Hanseatic League is urged to erect some bars in a litre jug, which the poet calls an earth-house. It is not clear whether the bars are meant to keep the earth-mouse in or out.


Mike Cliffson said...

Yeah, and the Thailand national anthem
AAh waah Tana, Siam etc

Mike Cliffson said...

apropo, have you previously posted further French than pas d'elle yeux une que nous, which it couldn' be worse then post agincourt english lessons to french princesses about outerware..
or could it?
awaited further footnotes with baited breadths

Left-footer said...

Ttony - brilliant!

Mike - (from an ancient "Punch")
WW1 army officer at French farmhouse door: S'il vous plaît, madame, du pain et du lait pour la messe.

Farmer's wife: Pour la Messe? Quelle religion!

Mike Cliffson said...

heard that crosslsanguage pun interminably from my (by then Catholic) Dad who-d
had it from my grandfather, 4 years in the trenches, and gassed.
his had the horficer at a french shop, slighly different order, same difference.
Remembrance Sunday, after all. God rest all their souls that may!

There were a number of others similar, the american soldier in france , s one and the brit widower in France even today had probably best not appear in a family -friendly blog, not even the combox