Monday, March 25, 2013

The Post Below

The post below is a coming together of my own thoughts and an attempt at a translation of Laforgue's Pierrots. Laforgue wrote these Pierrot poems as part of a longer work entitled L'immitation de notre dame la lune, which literally means The immitation of our Lady the Moon. 
Translation is always a dicy business. I realise that the first question is: how does the poet translator circumnavigate the problem that all poems are almost by their nature untranslatable? Has the poet/translator come up with a new poem> If so, how much is this a translation and how much a new poem masquerading as a translation?
I don't on my conscience know the answer to these questions. However , I will be as honest as I can. One of these poems is in fact a translation, the other is well....a transreflection, an extrapolation from the non-existence of a poem which does not have a material counterpart..


Lucy said...

But which is which?

I like the second in particular, it's more image rich and atmospheric to me.

Lucas said...

Hi Lucy
Many thanks for your comment and helpful feedback.
The first poem is a fairly literal translation of Laforgue, the second is my attempt to write about the Pierrots, but they are still I hope recognisable as Laforgue's creations.
I loved your photographs of Hot Cross Buns

Roderick Robinson said...

Not that my opinion's really worth a damn, given my glancing experience with poetry, but Pierrots is definitely a poem - whatever its antecedents. And it didn't take long to make that decision: "molesters of statues" and I was away.

What's more this is a very up-to-date translation with its sly reference to the modern taste for euphemism among public figures brought low. Thank you ex-Cardinal ("inappropriate behaviour") O'Brian for supplying the roots to "improperly dressed" and for creating an atmosphere where words carrying distorted meanings become the raw material for further wordplay "far from respectable ways". I would have thought there was nothing less promising than the over-polished, trying-to-be-meaningless utterances of politicians trying to defend the indefensible, but you have elegantly proved me wrong.

And what better summary of hard-liquor boozing than:

"Where to fly upwards is to sink"

Poetry translation is a fascinating subject provided one isn't required to actually do it. A year or so ago I embarked on a long, long article in which I tried to find out whether poetry had survived in French translations of The Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet, Two Gentlemen of Verona and Hamlet. The answer was yes if, say, a metaphor could be rendered literally, but usually no if there was heavy dependence on allusion. Funnily enough the most successful translations were those of heavily florid descriptive passages which might at first have seemed intractable (eg, Queen Mab); the less successful were the personal reflections.

I concluded that these translations (Hamlet was much better than the others) would be useful for school students who needed detailed accounts of the plots, but less useful for Frenchman looking for proof that WS is as great as he is.

I submitted it to the website beginning with Q that Joe and Lucy frequent. When, inevitably, they kicked it into the long grass I decided to break my 300-word limit (by a long way) and publish it in what was then Works Well where it exhausted most of my regulars.