A DRAFT OF MANDELSTAM.

I wanted to bring jamessal’s mom a house gift when I arrived for the wedding, and I knew she loved Mandelstam, so I asked which poem she’d like me to translate for her. She requested “Бессонница. Гомер. Тугие паруса,” one of my own favorites; I’d wanted to translate it for a long time but never been able to come up with a decent rendition of the first line, so I hadn’t done anything with it. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to tackle it, so I spent the bus ride down working on it. I put down a literal “Insomnia. Homer. Taut sails” for the first line and figured something better would come to me later, but it never did. Since I like most of the rest of what I came up with, I thought I’d present it here in its present form (thus at least partially appeasing the hordes who keep clamoring for more Mandelstam) and see what people think. I’ve tried to preserve something of the majestic hexameter rhythm (though not the abba rhyme scheme), but the first line remains a rhythmless stub. So my first question is, can it survive as is, with the ellipses serving as silent placeholders for the missing feet, or do I need to pad it out with phrases like “with the wind” that aren’t in the Russian? And my second question is about the rendering of the final word, изголовью ‘(to the) head of the bed’: does “bed’s head” sound OK, or do I need to replace it with a less awkward-sounding if less accurate word like “bedside”? Any and all commentary is, of course, welcome. (The Russian is below the cut. I know there’s more repetition in my English than in the original, but Mandelstam used repetition freely, and it seemed better than semantic padding to make the rhythm work.)

Insomnia… Homer… taut sails.
To midpoint have I read the catalog of ships:
That long, that drawn-out brood, those cranes, a crane procession
That over Hellas rose how many years ago,
Cranes like a wedge of cranes aimed at an alien shore—
A godly foam spread out upon the heads of kings—
Where are you sailing to? If Helen were not there,
What would Troy be to you, mere Troy, Achaean men?
Both Homer and the sea—everything moves by love.
Who shall I listen to? Homer is silent now,
And a black sea, a noisy orator, resounds,
And with a grinding crash comes up to the bed’s head.


The original:

Бессонница. Гомер. Тугие паруса.
Я список кораблей прочел до середины:
Сей длинный выводок, сей поезд журавлиный,
Что над Элладою когда-то поднялся.
Как журавлиный клин в чужие рубежи—
На головах царей божественная пена—
Куда плывете вы? Когда бы не Елена,
Что Троя вам одна, ахейские мужи?
И море, и Гомер — всё движется любовью.
Кого же слушать мне? И вот Гомер молчит,
И море черное, витийствуя, шумит
И с тяжким грохотом подходит к изголовью.

Comments

  1. David Derbes says:

    headboard? for изголовья?

  2. When I got to the word “long” on line 3, my first instinct was that it was a present-tense verb. Maybe just me…

  3. Anna Marie says:

    I don’t read Russian, but I think perhaps the first line would be stronger with just periods, and no ellipses. It makes the pauses feel more pregnant, and less wishy-washy somehow.

  4. How about ‘bedstead’ rather than ‘bed’s head’?

  5. aqilluqqaaq says:

    Сей длинный выводок, сей поезд журавлиный,
    This long brood, this grallatorial train
    Как журавлиный клин в чужие рубежи—
    Like a gralline wedge to foreign shores
    I don’t think the words ‘grallatorial’, ‘grallatory’, ‘grallic’, or ‘gralline’ get the exercise they deserve.

  6. great translation, sounds very like the original
    and because LH said that any comment…
    i took that, the liberty of changing some words as it was in Russian..sorry
    Insomnia. Homer. Taut sails.
    To midpoint I have read the catalog of ships:
    This long drawn-out brood, this cranes’ procession
    That over Hellas rose whenever long ago.
    Like the wedge of cranes aimed at the alien borders—
    A godly foam spread out upon the heads of kings—
    Where are you sailing to? If Helen were not there,
    What would only Troy be to you, Achaean men?
    Both Homer and the sea—everything is moved by love.
    Who shall I listen to? Homer is silent long,
    And a black sea resounds, orating madly,
    And comes up to the bed’s head with a grievous crash.
    thanks!

  7. Sleeplessness, and Homer. The tightened mainsail blows.
    Halfway through the list of ships I strive to read:
    That endless file of cranes, a long successive breed
    That over Hellas, many years gone by, arose.
    Cranes like a chain that leads to other nations’ shores –
    Over kingly heads, the godly roiling foam –
    Why make for there, Achaeans, if not for Helen’s home?
    To Troy without her would you heave and wield those oars?
    The sea, old Homer even – what moves it all is love.
    Whom should I listen to, now Homer no more sings?
    The blackened sea now swells, dark orator, and flings
    Its booming breaker on the bedhead from above.

  8. 1. I think, this gap should be filled. But please, no reasoning, just picturing, like this:
    Insomnia. Homer. Taut sails. In rows. All set.
    2. David’s suggestion (headboard for изголовье)—I like it very much.
    3. I’d also replace “procession” with “train”—better for rhythm, closer translation:
    That long, that drawn-out brood, those birds, that train of cranes

  9. A solid translation of difficult source material. A few nitpicky comments:
    1. “That long, that drawn-out brood, those cranes, a crane procession” does not, to my ear, really capture the feeling of Mandelstam’s line. The line should flow like the procession it describes, but those three breaks make it sound overly staccato. My own attempt at translation: “That long precocial train, that caravan of cranes”. “Precocial train” captures the meaning of “выводок” about as accurately as is possible in English, I think, but perhaps a more accessible adjective would be better there.
    2. “Cranes like a wedge of cranes aimed at an alien shore” falls flat for me. The repetition of “cranes” seems off, and has no counterpart in the original. And “клин” is of course literally “wedge”, but the English “wedge” seems to me to have a sort of base, vulgar feel that the Russian word lacks. No idea what one might replace it with, though. IMO, that whole line could benefit from some artistic license.
    3. The penultimate line has “a black sea”; picking articles in this sort of situation is always difficult, but in this case I think the definite article is more appropriate, as this is clearly the same sea which is referred to two lines prior.
    4. To my ear, “с тяжким грохотом” conveys a sort of heft that “with a grinding crash” lacks. “Grinding” operates on the level of sensory perception, “тяжкий” on the level of spiritual condition. Taking some artistic license (perhaps more than some other translators are comfortable taking) I’d translate the entire final stanza as something like this:
    The mighty sea and Homer—all is moved by love.
    To whom, then, should I listen? Homer now is silent.
    And now the sea, dark orator—it clamors,
    With heavy thundering it comes toward my bed.

  10. Sleeplessness, and Homer – and taut sails billow high.
    Halfway through the list of ships I strove to read:
    An endless file of cranes, a long successive breed
    That over Hellas rose, so many years gone by.
    An arrow formed of cranes takes aim at foreign shores –
    Over kingly heads, the godly roiling foam –
    Why make for Troy, Achaeans, if it weren’t Helen’s home?
    Without her there, would you still wield and heave those oars?
    The sea, old Homer even – what moves it all is love.
    To whom now should I harken, when Homer no more sings?
    The blackened sea, grim orator, now swells and flings
    His booming breaker on the bedhead, from above.

  11. Congratulations on a fine translation, Language. I spent a very pleasant hour or so with my Oxford Russian Minidictionary and pocket Barron’s Russian Grammar poring over it.
    In my opinion, it was a good decision to stick with the hexameter, and the iambic sounds particularly natural for poetry in the English language, of course (originals and translations).
    I also like the way there seems to be a natural caesura division in all your lines (except one), matching the original e.g.
    To midpoint have I read || the catalog of ships: cf Я список кораблей || прочел до середины:
    The only exception is the second last line, where a single word (“noisy”) spans the sixth and seventh syllables . But that is a trivial point and doesn’t detract from the whole poem.
    I like the abba rhyme scheme in the original (maybe because I instinctively associate Russian poetry with formalist traditions, particularly rhyme) but I realise it would a miracle to be able to preserve rhyme and meter and keep the sense of power and majesty of the original (notwithstanding Noetica’s commendable attempts).
    I see the point of many of the suggestions of commenters. On a few of them I had similar thoughts. But on thinking it over, I like your version better without those changes. Nevertheless, I would love to hear your thoughts about the merits or otherwise of some of the suggestions (only the ones you feel are worthy enough to pass comment on of course).
    This post is getting too long so I’d better stop soon. But I’ll finish up with what is in some ways a trivial non-issue, namely the decision to use who rather than whom in the 10th line. I can think of reasons to justify that as a deliberate decision. Do you have strong views on your choice, or do you feel it makes little or no difference?

  12. Sleeplessness. Homer. Tight canvas.
    I’ve read the file of ships to half its length:
    That long-extended flock, the train of cranes in strength,
    Which long ago rose up above Hellas.
    A wedge of cranes aimed at a foreign land—
    Upon the heads of kings there’s godly ferment—
    What are you sailing for? If it were not for Helen,
    Troy? what is it to you, Achaean men?
    Both Homer and the sea—love moves all that.
    Then, who I listen to? Homer quiet stays,
    And, noisily, orating black sea sways
    And with a heavy thunder reaches for my head.

  13. re изголовье: it means ‘where the head is’, so I think it’s ok to translate it without a reference to bed. Obolensky translated it as ‘near to my pillow’.

  14. Congratulations, jamessal!
    I personally really like the repetition of “cranes” in both places. It may not capture the original exactly, but it has a great feel on its own.
    This was my translation, for what it’s worth:
    Insomnia. Homer. Taut-stretched sails.
    I’ve read the catalogue of ships down to the middle:
    This lengthy litter, flight of cranes, which soared
    Into Greek air, once upon a time.
    A flying wedge of cranes, to foreign borders—
    On royal heads, divinely granted sea-foam—
    Where do you sail? If not for Helen’s beauty
    What good would Troy alone, Achaeans, be?
    The sea and Homer both: it’s love that moves all things.
    Who, then, should I attend to? Homer’s quiet.
    The Black Sea, booming, spreads its noisy preachments
    And draws up to the headboard of my bed.

  15. I think perhaps the first line would be stronger with just periods, and no ellipses. It makes the pauses feel more pregnant, and less wishy-washy somehow.
    You’re absolutely right, now that I look at it with fresh eyes. This is why it’s so helpful to get outside input.
    My grandson is about to arrive for a full day’s babysitting (no preschool today), so I won’t be able to absorb and think about everyone else’s suggestions and alternate translations for a while, but I thank you all—what a poetic bunch of commenters I have!

  16. Also, I think “изголовье” refers to an actual part of a bed because of the fact that the poem is obviously about reading in bed. I chose to use “Black Sea” as a proper noun because I’m pretty sure he wrote this while staying with Voloshin in the Crimea, though that may me neither here nor there.

  17. Also, I think “изголовье” refers to an actual part of a bed because of the fact that the poem is obviously about reading in bed. I chose to use “Black Sea” as a proper noun because I’m pretty sure he wrote this while staying with Voloshin in the Crimea, though that may be neither here nor there.

  18. i always thought sei means this, not that
    i’m glad i was not, that, totally at sea there
    i like once upon a time and a heavy thunder
    …if not for Helen, what Troy’s alone to you, Achaean men?…

  19. marie-lucie says:

    what a poetic bunch of commenters I have!
    I admire people who can write and translate poetry. Congratulations all!

  20. ‘Insomnia. Homer. Swelling canvas.’? (Yeats, ‘Old Tom Again’)

  21. @Sashura: Good try at abba . But it’s a pity you had to ditch the regular meter and in the 2nd stanza land/men doesn’t rhyme and neither does that/head in the 3rd.
    Also, Then, who I listen to? is unidiomatic for me. Did you mean Then, who shall I listen to?
    @read: I like some of your suggestions, but What would only Troy be to you is also not idiomatic, to my ears. Nor is what Troy’s alone to you . Should be What’s Troy alone to you . I prefer Languages’s mere Troy .
    This is a lot of fun as well as being educational. Good on everybody for having a go and Language for being so indulgent as to allow his baby to be ripped to shreds, as it were.
    I was just about to post this when I suddenly realised that to a Russian speaker the short “a” and “e” sounds I referred to, in the first remark addressed to Sashura, probably do sound similar enough to be rhymes (whereas to me as an Australian English speaker they are very different). Is that right, Sashura? And if so, just out of interest, do you hear much difference between man and men ?

  22. The sea, old Homer even – what moves it all is love.
    Whom should I listen to, now Homer no more sings?
    The blackened sea now swells, dark orator, and flings
    Its booming breaker on the bedhead from above.

    this is very good! I thought noboby but me was interested in rhymes anymore.
    I’ve read the last quatrain in a sightly different way. In the first line ‘Sea’ is collective for the fleet, ‘Homer’ is collective for Homer’s heroes. Then it’s clear why they are moved by love. In the second line ‘Homer’ is the Poet as the voice of conscience, of his time. Then, it makes sense as an expression of foreboding – 1915, world war is raging, black sea of mass panic and confusion rises and threatens to destroy all reason, hence, the beadhead, or as I put it, just head.
    I also loved how you reversed the direction of the sway: I saw the sea coming UP to drown, but you did a neat trick with the breakers falling DOWN from above.

  23. re изголовье: in current trade terminology this is indeed specifically a headboard, but I agree with Sashura that the more general meaning of the part of the bed “where the head is” is the relevant one here. I also used pillow in a version I did once.
    I like your version too. I’d agree that the repetitions of “crane” don’t work too well, though.

  24. I like “Insomnia [or sleeplessness]. Homer. Taut sails.” though clearly I cannot understand the original… I have been doing a little bit of furtive poetry translation and I am findin that roughly half of the work is convincing myself that the poets literal words should stand rather than having me attempt to make them more “poetic” — after a number of times passing my eyes over the literal translation of a line trying to figure out what the poet is saying so I can render it more effectively in English, it will hit me that the answer is right in front of me!

  25. (Also I have been finding both in translation of poetry and of prose, that repetition of words which are not repeated in the original can be very helpful to both clarity of meaning and the sound of the English rendering.)

  26. Should be What’s Troy
    thank you, I! that’s exactly what i always need in my attempts of poetry translations..they are full of awkward/ungrammatical expressions, i do them only for myself to learn the language, though i’m not sure how they are helpful
    more technical texts to translate are too like boring or it feels like work for me, too lazy
    about mere Troy, I thought Troy is she there, “Troya odna”, as if she can compete with Helen, so “mere” sounded kind of like that, prosaic, and it’s absent in the original so why to add it if it’s not needed or maybe needed i don’t know

  27. This is wonderful, LH!
    Perhaps
    Till midway I have read the catalog of ships
    etc.?

  28. I apologize for being off-topic here, but because of the love of language on this site, for a month I’ve been wanting to mention here a post I read that keeps troubling me: if you google “the language of war” and “overland” it comes up. War is not the topic of my writing, but I just can’t shake this grim exploration of its lingo.

  29. iching, thanks,
    Then, who I listen to? is unidiomatic for me. Did you mean Then, who shall I listen to?
    I wasn’t sure myself. I was trying to avoid shall or should which sounds to me imperative. I read the original Russian question as ‘Is there anyone to listen to?’

  30. “Grinding” operates on the level of sensory perception, “тяжкий” on the level of spiritual condition.
    Alexei, this is spot on, I agree.

  31. ‘Is there anyone to listen to?’
    “Who shall I listen to?” captures this meaning very well.

  32. The sea, and even Homer — all by love are led.
    To whom should I now harken, when Homer no more sings?
    The dark sea, wildest orator, now swells and flings
    His breaker crashing on my bed’s prow, and my head.

  33. Long time reader, but rare poster here.
    I like the repetition of cranes in the first line of the second stanza. It echoes the alliteration of the original. Also lines 6-10 are great.
    IMHO изголовье doesn’t presume the presence of a bed, rather a head rest or pillow of a sort. I would drop the bed completely and keep the proximity of the sea.
    Overall, I am very impressed, LH! Translating Mandelstam into English is an ordeal.

  34. Sylvia Plath just whispered this into my ear:

    Can’t sleep. That Homer. And his snore.
    The sheep I’ve counted o’er and o’er !
    Taut as a sail, I want to shout:
    If only he would just ship out !
    A flight of sparrows clatters by,
    Cranes crease an arrow in the sky –
    The baby’s preaching in his cot,
    And Helen had what I have not.

  35. Great!

  36. Nice piece of menelousy manglestammering, Stu, to set against the plathitudes of conventional traducery.

  37. I’m not a good reader of poetry. But since I have no knowledge of Russian, I’d just like to point out a couple of things that distracted me:
    1. Crane can mean either a piece of machinery or a bird. Unfortunately, in connection with ships, it tends to suggest the machinery. I liked slawkenbergius’s “This lengthy litter, flight of cranes” precisely because it headed this interpretation off at the pass.
    2. The ‘bed’s head’ bothered me. It might make some kind of sense in Russian, but out of the following:
    “a black sea, a noisy orator, resounds,
    And with a grinding crash comes up to the bed’s head”
    “And, noisily, orating black sea sways
    And with a heavy thunder reaches for my head”
    “The Black Sea, booming, spreads its noisy preachments
    And draws up to the headboard of my bed”
    only the third makes some kind of ‘sense’ in English. Of course, poetry doesn’t necessarily have to ‘make sense’, but when it doesn’t make sense, the mind has to at least try and figure out what the poet meant. For me, the third version seems to offer some kind of glimpse of what might be meant.
    Incidentally, is this ‘a black sea’ or ‘the Black Sea’? The difference is rather crucial. One suggests a troubled state of mind (a black sea), the other suggests a geographical link to the world of Homer (the Black Sea).

  38. Sorry, that last comment didn’t sound fair. Hat’s translation “a black sea, a noisy orator, resounds,
    And with a grinding crash comes up to the bed’s head”
    does make sense. But I still found slawkbergius’s in some way slightly more ‘comprehensible’. As I said, not knowing Russian makes it very difficult for me to judge.

  39. ignoramus says:

    an arrow head of cranes

  40. that’s a black sea in the poem, not The Black Sea

  41. Incidentally, is this ‘a black sea’ or ‘the Black Sea’? The difference is rather crucial. One suggests a troubled state of mind (a black sea), the other suggests a geographical link to the world of Homer (the Black Sea).
    To get overly nitpicky, I’d claim that it’s neither ‘a black sea’ nor ‘the Black Sea’, but is in fact ‘the black sea’. The sea in question is neither some sea that happens to be black, nor the Black Sea; it’s the poetic ‘the sea’ (the Platonic form of the sea, if you will), which now is black.
    I think the original line suggests both a troubled state of mind and a geographical link to Homer, but the former is definitely more crucial to the meaning of the poem.

  42. To get overly nitpicky, I’d claim that it’s neither ‘a black sea’ nor ‘the Black Sea’, but is in fact ‘the black sea’. The sea in question is neither some sea that happens to be black, nor the Black Sea; it’s the poetic ‘the sea’ (the Platonic form of the sea, if you will), which now is black.
    Agreed. But Hat’s version actually gets that meaning, even while using “a.” Such are the subtleties of the articles in English.

  43. an arrow head of cranes
    I thought of that, but used it in none of my drafts since there is already a good deal of important action with heads, and this occurrence of head would be a distraction. Hence my line (see above) with arrow alone, with the wedge- or V-shape merely suggested:

    An arrow formed of cranes takes aim at foreign shores –

    Such suggestion abounds in this superb poem, and we must use it also in translating. Needless to say, nothing will be as good the original (as much as I am able to apprehend its wonders, anyway); and it is easy to take exception to any translation. It is as Quantz advises.
     

  44. I forgot to add her title: “On Reading Mandelstam in the Goddamn Middle of the Night”.

  45. My, what a lot of talent here!
    Just wanted to say that the “wedge” — such a difficult word in Russian — is the V-shaped formation of attacking ships. That is in contrast to the end, where the water and Homer were not moved by hatred, but by love.

  46. Quite so, Mab. Hard to capture everything (as the Achaeans found, to their own long cost).
    For the more pentametrically inclined:
    Insomnia, Homer – and the breeze-filled sail.
    Halfway through the list of ships I read:
    A tedious file of cranes, an endless breed
    That long since through Hellenic skies would trail.
    A chain of cranes that’s drawn to distant shores –
    Proud heads of kings, all soaked in godly foam –
    Why make for Troy, from your Achaean home?
    For Helen there! Or else you’d stay those oars.
    Homer, the sea – by love all things are led.
    Who might I hear, now Homer no more sings?
    The sea, that blackened bard, now swells and flings
    His frenzied breaker crashing on my bed.

  47. To a modern reader the wedge of cranes would be strongly evocative of the 1957 film The Cranes Are Flying, winner of Palm d’Or. The wiki article also shows the film poster with the ‘wedge of cranes’ itself.
    Interestingly, in French the title was changed to Quand passent les cigognes to avoid unpleasant double meaning of both ‘grue’ (crane – bird and technical device, but also slang for prostitute) and ‘voler’ (to fly, but also to steal). I wonder if this might give a clue to how to deal with cranes in English.
    Also, if you can stomach ‘Insomnia’ in folk song interpretation, look at this, or the same poem against the background of what looks like footage from the film ‘Troy’. And a neutral reading here, a man reader, and here, a woman reader.

  48. yes, exactly mr crown

  49. A fright of sparrows clatters by,
    Cranes wedge their way through cirrus sky –
    The baby’s preaching in his cot,
    And Helen had what I have not.

  50. E’en so, good Kroing. Well Klimnt!
    And tetrameters, for these econometric times:
    Insomnia, Homer, tightened sail.
    The list of ships I’ve read halfway.
    Of cranes, a long and drear display –
    As once in Greece, an endless trail.
    The crane-wedge bound for far-off lands –
    Kings’ heads drenched in godly foam –
    Why haul for Helen’s Troy, not home?
    If not for her you’d shun those strands!
    The sea, and Homer – love leads all.
    Who will I hear, now Homer stops?
    The sea, dark bard, declaims and drops
    Around my bed his watery pall.
    (Someone else can try for trimeters. My native tongue is fivefoot.)
    Stu:
    Now lines of mallards pierce the dark,
    Where geese once wound, and many a lark.
    In nine month’s time the babe’s outlucked –
    A sibling squawks, ‘coz Helen’s fucked.

    (From the sublime to the pediculous.)

  51. Stu, is Sylvia Plath’s poem online? I can’t find it. (thanks)
    Noetica, more mileage than Achaeans covered to Troy – great!

  52. David Derbes says:

    I think “wedge” for клин is exactly right; in physics, my day job, “inclined plane” is synonymous with “wedge”. That said, Joni Mitchell in her early song “Urge for Going”, See the geese in chevron flight. Or maybe simply “vee”. (And thanks to Kabir for his kindness and his correction of my spelling of изголовье; my Russian’s minimal.)

  53. Oh Crown, I should be ashamed of myself for misleading you so. You’re a nice guy, and I’m a terrible tease. That is no more by Plath than À l’ombre des couronnes sur des échasses is a work by Proust. I work in the deceptive packaging [Mogelpackung] industry, so don’t buy anything from me before checking the contents of the box.

  54. David Derbes says:

    (I gotta get to work) How about for the last two lines of the second stanza, Once Helen’s gone, what’s lonely Troy to you, Acheans?

  55. Stu, so where is the Plath poem from? Is it by you?

  56. Yes, it just fell out of my head.

  57. I might as well join the merry throng:
    Insomnia. So, Homer. And the canvas strains.
    I’ve read just halfway down his manifest of ships:
    that long ago the Greeks launched like a flock which slips
    its mooring, winging up and stringing out like cranes.
    Wound like a skein of cranes and arrowing abroad,
    heavenly surf surging and anointing kings –
    To what wharf? To what quay? Would Troy be worth such things –
    well, Achaeans, would it? If Helen weren’t aboard?
    Homer and briny foam – swell with love and billow.
    Who should I listen to? Homer’s said enough. It
    falls then to the black sea to huff, puff and buffet,
    and flooding, rumbling up, inundate my pillow.

  58. Hat, because I like your draft substantially as it is, I have only a few minimalist suggestions.
    I like the first line, but I prefer full stops (periods in American-speak?) to ellipses. I think they serve just as well as the “placeholders for the missing feet”.
    In the second line I considered midway but I think the Battle of Midway it brings to mind is a bug not a feature, so I think your midpoint is best.
    In the fifth line I would insert another em-dash: Cranes—like a wedge of cranes aimed at an alien shore—
    In the sixth line, is the final em-dash the best choice of punctuation? Why not a full stop?
    In the tenth line, who or whom – your call.
    I like bed’s head in the last line. The sound is rather jolting and final, fitting with the image I think.
    Good luck with the final polishing!

  59. So much depends upon
    Homer’s naval manifest
    ships glazed with rainwater
    beside the black sea

  60. hey, rhyming abroad and aboard works nice!

  61. Someone else can try for trimeters.
    Okay, I’ll bite:
    Sleeplessness, Homer, filled sails.
    The ship list I’ve read halfway through.
    Broods of cranes flying in queue-
    Ancient from Hellas it hails.
    The wedge flies in formation towards borders,
    On their heads is the froth of the gods.
    Where to? …but where Helen’s at odds,
    Go the Aegean men under orders.
    Homer, the sea, with love billow.
    Homer speaks not, what hark I?
    The noisy sea speaks and waits dark by
    While breakers crash over my pillow.

  62. Incidentally, is this ‘a black sea’ or ‘the Black Sea’?
    Definitely not the latter, and one reason I avoided the definite article was to avoid confusion in reading aloud. I agree with Alan Shaw that my wording captures the necessary meaning (but then, I would, wouldn’t I?).

  63. You, Stu, are being deceived by the Rottwelle, namely ASP Sashura.
    You wouldn’t catch me being taken in by ersatz Pløath.

  64. (I wanted Gods and odds!)
    But nice trimeters, Nij.
    They are far the hardest,
    especially for this task.
    Hexameters again though (which Geraint works so well):
    The ship of sleep slips by me? With Homer I’ll away.
    I’ve halfway read his litany of long black prows –
    A fleet of cranes that past the cloud-rocks plies, or ploughs
    The furrows as in Greece, that fated ancient day.
    An arrowpoint of cranes toward some far-off realm.
    Achaean kings, their heads drenched in the foam of gods!
    But why to Troy? Why strive against such fearsome odds?
    For Helen they forsake the homestead, take the helm.
    Old man sea, and Homer – love moves in every blood.
    What song can I hear now, when Homer’s lyre is hung?
    Arising now, that darkened bard the sea has flung
    His waves, which round my pillowed temples swirl and flood.

  65. Бессонница. Гомер. Тугие паруса.
    Noirguidel. Homer. Khovchirson dalbaanuud.
    Я список кораблей прочел до середины:
    Kholog ongonstny nersiin jagsaaltiig tald n khurtel bi unshlaa
    Сей длинный выводок, сей поезд журавлиный,
    Khuid odokh urt udaan togoruun tsuvaa
    Что над Элладою когда-то поднялся.
    Khurekhgui als Ertnii Gereegid ert urdiin tsagt busgajee.
    Как журавлиный клин в чужие рубежи—
    Bysdiin nutagt dairan orokh togoruun tsavchuur
    На головах царей божественная пена—
    Burkhadiin khoos khaadiin terguun deer giij
    Куда плывете вы? Когда бы не Елена,
    Khaashaa ta nisee ve? Kherev Helen baigaagui bol
    Что Троя вам одна, ахейские мужи?
    Buidkhan Troy tand yu san bilee, Aheiin erchuudee
    И море, и Гомер — всё движется любовью.
    Tengis dalai ch, Homer ch – bugd khairaar khodlono
    Кого же слушать мне? И вот Гомер молчит,
    Kheniigee sonsokh ve? Homer nad ul khariulna
    И море черное, витийствуя, шумит
    Kharankhui dalai l dolgisiig busniulan shuugij
    И с тяжким грохотом подходит к изголовью.
    Khundeer nyrgen derend min’ neg oirton neg kholdono.
    my a relatively free version in my language, i hope, B’ll enjoy reading it

  66. You wouldn’t catch me being taken in by ersatz Pløath.
    Well that’s all right then. Such a flub on your part would have implied an atypical superabundance of niceness, amounting to ingenuousness. Anyway, note that I wrote I “ought to be” ashamed of myself, not “am”. I don’t expect to derogate from being a tease anytime soon.

  67. Не спится что-то мне.
    Бессонница терзает.
    Какой-то грек летает
    В небесной синеве…
    Зачем тебе, еллин,
    Из лодки делать птицу?
    Не стоит за девицу
    Выстраиваться в клин.
    Любовь такая штука—
    С ней лучше не шути.
    А море, черт возьми,
    Кровать мне мочит, сука.

  68. забавно

  69. I don’t see any other way to translate любовью except as “love”, yet the Greeks of Homer’s time would be unlikely to have had any conception of romantic love, which as far as I can tell is a French medieval literary construction. In stories involving Western queenship, you usually find the Queen and the Treasure together, often on a battlefield. If the Treasure is captured it’s a disaster, to be sure, but the capture of the Queen is an unrecoverable disaster unless of course the Queen can be recaptured. Maybe this is also the origin of the chess tradition that says to defend the queen at all costs. You will also find stories of knights competing to win the hand of a princess, not because of any desirable personal traits on the part of the princess, but because the kingship descended through the king’s daughter and a warrior who could prove himself able to defend the kingdom could become the king’s successor. Homer describes Helen as “beautiful” but are not queens always described as beautiful? I’m sure the Aegeans had equally beautiful women in their own back yards; if beauty was the true goal they would hardly have had to finance a flotilla. But only Helen could give them power and wealth.

  70. Бессонница.
    Куда журавли
    Повели
    Ахейцев?
    Клином
    пенным
    Елену
    любим.
    Нас любит
    море
    Гомера –
    и губит.

  71. Go ahead, try! Just remember that your Proust didn’t get past me.

  72. Клином
    пенным
    Елену
    любим.

    Замечательно! Прочитал, расхохотался.

  73. the chess tradition that says to defend the queen at all costs.
    There is no such tradition. On the contrary, a queen sacrifice in order to win the game is a traditional maneuver. It is the king who must be protected against meeting his mater.

  74. In chess, mating is equivalent to death, as with salmon.

  75. Salmon had rather get mated than win, which is why they turn into bagel fillings instead of grandmasters.

  76. Mate in chess is etymologically unrelated to the verb mate. Just saying.

  77. You people are brilliant, that’s all I have to say.

  78. the chess tradition that says to defend the queen at all costs.
    No, as Stu points out. But for bees, yes. We must consult our Vergils.
    Can’t sleép. I’ll try Hómer:
    His shíplist insteád.
    They’re cránes, some have saíd –
    An óld Greek misnómer.
    The cráne-arrows flý –
    Kings’ heáds with gods’ foám.
    Why Tróy and not hóme?
    For hér the Greeks sígh.
    For lóve each must fáll:
    At Hómer’s song’s énd
    The seá-bard will sénd
    Dark wáves over áll.

  79. Sacrificing queen is only for endgame. For chess queens and bee queens a new queen can be made with a pawn and the right steps, but for the human queen, in the days of divine rights, not. The ancient king who sacrifices the queen plays his own endgame, and will soon be out in the cold looking for a new gig. The king who derives the divine right to rule through the queen is dispensable; a new heir can always be made with a new hero.

  80. dameragnel says:

    Well, Hat, I thought your translation gift was splendid, when you came for Jimmy’s wedding, but this…!!! I don’t think I’ve had so much fun in years! Really! What great offerings! So many wonderful options! The questions and discussions so often ones I’ve considered. I must say Aleksei’s contemporary version had me in stitches! Very clever, all!! Such a wonderful homage to Mandelshtam! So very moving. And your version holds up extremely well, still. Thank you for this post!

  81. Sacrificing queen is only for endgame.
    Heavens no! Many’s the time a queen will die for mate in two, flanked by episcopalians and peons aplenty.
    For bees in Vergil, see his Beecolics and BeeOrgyics. There was much confusion about their beehiviour.

  82. Dameragnel:
    I’m sure the assembled company is delighted that you have dropped in. LH’s version is the work of a serious Russian scholar. Some of the rest of us are just at play; but I for one am pleased if our side-dishes add to the banquet.

  83. Sacrificing queen is only for endgame.
    No, not only.
    Hi, ma.
    Thanks, Slawk.

  84. An example of a tactical manoeuvre in chess which forces mate via a queen sacrifice is so common as to have its own name — Philidor’s Legacy . The Wikipedia article on smothered mate here describes a game in 1990 between grandmasters Jan Timman and Nigel Short where it was employed. The wiki article says that it was first described in Lucena’s 1497 text on chess, Repetición de Amores e Arte de Axedrez which predates Philidor by several hundred years. It is uncommon to find it in master games as it is regarded as a beginner’s trap.

  85. Mate in chess is etymologically unrelated to the verb mate. Just saying.
    Etymology can be a bane or a boon to humor. The visible and the risible are indivisible for the rube, but even the scholar makes funny distinctions. To the roué, a miss is as good as a wile.

  86. Gotta hand it to you though, Nijma. Anyone raising chess in such a covern of Russophiles has sprezzatura to burn. Most if us had the nerve to hijack their greatest poetry, is all.
    An Etymo-entomological Excursus
    Of course, there are more bees in Vergil than you can shake a stick at. I should have mentioned his timeless entomological epic, The BeeKneead. The buzzing confusion concerning bees seems to have its source in a linguistic mix-up. Apis is both Latin for “bee” and the Hellenised name for the Egyptian bull god – later to be Anglo-metathesised as the emblematic British bulldog. (The farce that launched a thousand shifts of meaning.) Some dyslexic scholars have erroneously taken Vergil’s Beecolics to be all about cattle, not care of dyspeptic infant bees (for which see Stu, 2010, supra), compounded by an elementary conflation of the words hecatomb (“sacrifice of one hundred head of cattle”) and honeycomb; or, say some, of hecatomb and hexagon (Greek: “a struggle to the death among bees, for kingship”, sc.  “queenship”). This bovine–apian muddle finds modern expression in uncertainty over bees and beeves in Tennyson. Serves him right, of course, for getting the continuation of the Odyssey so wrong. But that’s another story …
    By the way (and seriously), some have thought that Bob Dylan’s mourning dove (in “Shelter from the Storm”, on Blood on the Tracks and elsewhere) borrows from the same locus in Tennyson (“Come Down, O Maid”, final lines):

    The moan of doves in immemorial elms
    And murmur of innumerable bees.

    Suitably, Dylan sings the word mournin’ indeterminately: it could be heard as moaning, morning, or mourning.
    Here endeth the lesson.

  87. I pray I never meet anyone here over a chessboard.
    Noetica: (I wanted Gods and odds!)
    Good Doctor No, do take both “gods” and “odds”;
    There’s quite enough of those to go around.
    But I am not the type who will be found
    Seeking those who spin facades and frauds.
    (okay, “frauds” doesn’t quite work in my idiolect, but it will work in someone’s)
    No one has yet done skaldic verse. Here is a stab at dróttkvætt:
    Sleepless. Scanning Homer.
    Sails that billow outward.
    Reading in the low light
    lists of ships departing.
    Counting cranes til drowsy-
    Keep them all processing,
    Floating in formation,
    Flying seas of Hellas.
    Arrowed cranes advancing,
    Attacking foreign shoreline.
    Gods fomenting warfare,
    Frenzied kings are rabid.
    Where they go? To wipe out
    Wellborn Helen’s love nest.
    Troy is nothing to them,
    They want Helen’s dowry.
    Dropping Homer’s diary,
    Darkened sea advancing.
    Ceaseless breakers sounding,
    Sleep envelops bedstead.

  88. I misrepresented the good Abbé, and should have written: for the exquisite roué, a miss is as good as a mistress.

  89. Most if us had the nerve to hijack their greatest poetry, is all.
    Where I come from in Lake Wobegon, this is not regarded as “hijacking”, it is “play”. Most poetry we ignored; the only thing we ever “played” with was Shakespeare. What else is poetry for?
    I for one am comforted to know that someone out there beyond the wine dark sea is keeping track of the Birds and the Bees and the Orgyholics.

  90. Noetica, those are musings of considerable import. Not only have you restored to their proper light Vergil’s smeninal works of melliphysics, but you have opened a can of typological worms. Consider just this: chronically dyspeptic bees are liable to turn waspish.

  91. WASPish? Worse! The Anglo-Saxon muse
    In Shakespeare’s form our termless theme pursues:
    O Sleep, I’ve missed your boat! On land I’m left
    To read a Grecian mariner’s old book.
    It’s Homer’s tome, of myths and wars a weft:
    A countless row of keels for cranes mistook.
    Cranes that form a “gruesome” victory sign
    To hurl against their foe across the seas.
    O Argive princes, sprayed with godly brine,
    What drives you out, to leave your wives and ease?
    Why sail for Troy, of all the far-flung lands?
    Some woman, surely! Helen draws your oar.
    Yes, Love commands the Bard, the sea, all hands …
    My book slips down and Homer sings no more.
      The sea of sleep in fathomless dark verses
      And thunderous waves my pillowed head immerses.
    (And so to bed, im Ausland.)

  92. dameragnel says:

    Ooooooh….I like “godly brine,” Noetica.

  93. Yes, that’s quite splendid. This may be superseding Peaches in Cluj as my favorite LH thread ever (and it, I see, also involved poetry).

  94. I saw the best minds of my generation rendered sleepless by Homer, starving hysterical naked
    dragging themselves between the linens at dusk looking for a classical fix,
    angelheaded Acmeists burning for an ancient goose-wedge procession of ships,
    for Hellenes navigating the dark sea’s foam to Troy, to their cold-water flats, triremes floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz…

  95. Ginsberg, right ?

  96. Mais oui.

  97. (“angry sheets” would of course be much better than “linens”.)

  98. I might as well get into the spirit of things. Here’s a double dactyl.
    Higgledy piggledy,
    Osip E. Mandelstam,
    insomniac, reading his
    Homer in bed.
    Ships, cranes and Helen merged
    phantasmagorically—
    black sea rose up and crashed
    over his head.

  99. Don’t know nothin’ about these matters, but this-here double dactyl has an agreeably hornpipey thumpity-thump to it. I like your actual production, too.

  100. Noetica – “gruesome” cranes. Magnifique.

  101. marie-lucie says:

    I am overwhelmed by the surge, the jaillissement, the explosion of poetic talent here. Like fireworks on the 4th or the 14th of July.

  102. Or indeed like fireworks on the 5th of November (Remember, remember…)
    I couldn’t resist the possibilities of wordplay on “crannes”, nor the chance to use the word “cagueva” (bedhead), so here goes:
    Mén însonmnie. Honméthe. Né v’lo lé raide cannevas.
    Chu long libée d’navithes, j’l’ai liu jusqu’au mié-c’mîn:
    eune dêviêthie dé vailes, eune vol’lie d’crannes à v’nîn,
    haïssetée y’a eune volée au pays des Grècs, là-bas.
    Eune èrchelle dé crannettes crouaîsant siez les horsains –
    du r’sîn à couronner les crannes ès rouais et reines –
    Par ioù don qu’ou vail’lêtes? Sans aller qu’si Hélène,
    tch’est qu’en s’sait don pouor Trouaie, pouôrres crai-qu’oui d’Achéens?
    Les mathées, et Honméthe – par l’amour nou r’mueûtha.
    À tchi qu’j’êcout’tai, mé? Achteu nou n’ouait Honméthe,
    et la néthe mé tchi ronne en rouoya divuldgéthe
    moulinne auve des runguements amont l’liet au cagueva.

  103. This outburst of poetic creativity can only be compared to Sappho’s ‘Only to God can I compare’. I’ve collected several dozen versions of English translations and about a dozen into Russian (it was also a pop-hit in the 70s) – or to Sonnet 66, also about a dozen Russian versions.
    Amazing, Hat!

  104. Geraint, are you actually in Jersey or in Normandy?

  105. “are you actually in Jersey or in Normandy?” What is this, a trick question? Both, obviously.

  106. ah, great, nice to meet another Anglo-Norman like myself!

  107.   No sleep, so Homer.
    The shiplist I read halfway –
      cranes, in old Hellas.
      Cranes, V over sea.
    Kings to Troy with god-sprayed hair –
      sail from home for her.
      Waves, Homer – love rules!
    The Bard falls mute; dark sea-song
      drowns these drowsy ears.

  108. O minimalism!
    First three haikus, then shrink the
    theme to one cinquain.
    ~~~
    Sleepless —
    Reading Homer —
    Ships fly to ancient shores —
    Not poem, not sea, bring sweet repose,
    But love.

  109. Trond Engen says:

    Since the real poets have forgotten the limerick:
    Out of sleep, into Homer, ahoy!
    Counting ships, gloomy cranes, set for Troy.
    Who leads heroes astray?
    Who blows earworms away?
    Belle Helène being poached by a boy.

  110. Trond Engen says:

    Note to readers: Imagine the required number of initial spaces in line three and four being correctly coded. And imagine it being funny.

  111. M’illumino, immerso.

  112. i wonder how it would sound in Japanese, and/or whether there are translations of Western, Russian and other poetry into Japanese..
    should try to google perhaps

  113. A completely different poem, but I found this at オシップ・マンデリシュタームの世界:
    無題(何故だろう 魂がこんなに歌うようで)
         オシップ・マンデリシターム
    何故だろう 魂がこんなに歌うようで
    愛しい名前がこんなに少ないのは
    何故だろう つかのまのリズムが
    不意に北風の吹く時だけなのは
    それは埃の雲を舞い上げ
    紙の葉を騒がせるだろう
    そして二度と帰らない それとも
    全く別のものとなって帰るだろう
    ああ吹きわたるオルフェウスの風よ
    おまえは海の涯へと去りゆく
    そして創造されえぬ世界を胸に秘め
    ぼくは要りもしない「ぼく」を忘れてしまった
    ぼくは玩具の茂みに迷い込み
    るり色の洞窟を見つけた…
    はたしてぼくは現実のものなのだろうか
    本当に死は訪れるのだろうか
    In English here:
    Why is the soul so lyrical
    And so few are the names I love
    And the ready rhythm but a miracle
    Like Aquillon from above?
    He will raise clouds of dust in a hurry
    He will leaf through the paper stack
    And he will not come back — or maybe
    As another he will come back?
    Winds of Orpheus are embracing –
    You will leave for the sea and sky –
    And, the world not created praising,
    I forgot the superfluous “I”.
    In a make-believe grove I have wandered
    And into an azure cave delved..
    Am I really real, I ponder,
    And death will claim my true self?
    I always find Japanese translations of Western poetry to be strained and clumsy. The grammatical apparatus of Japanese makes itself so blatantly and unsonorously evident, and poetic conceits are converted into contorted explanations. It almost seems like a totally different poem from the English.

  114. Sorry, should have looked further. Here is our Homer poem:
      無題(不眠 ホメロス はちきれそうな白帆の列)
         
    不眠 ホメロス はちきれそうな白帆の列
    私は船舶名簿を半ばまで読みあげた
    あの長々と続く雛鳥の群列 あの鶴の行列
    それはいつかヘラスの空に舞い上がった
    異国へと向かう鶴の楔形のよう
    王たちの頭上には神々しい水泡
    どこへ航海するのだ ヘレネーがいなければ
    トロイアがどうだというのだ アカイアの男たちよ
    海も ホメロスも すべて愛ゆえに動く
    私は誰に耳傾けよう ホメロスさえも沈黙し
    黒い海は雄弁にどよめき
    重い轟音をたて枕辺におしよせる

  115. Sed fugit interea fugit irreparabile amore, singula dum capti circumvectamur tempus. [BeeOrgycs]

  116. And Chinese from here (translator shown at end):
    失眠。荷马。绷紧的风帆。
    我已把船只的名单读到一半:
    这长长的一串,这鹤群样的战舰
    曾几何时集于埃拉多斯的海边。
    如同鹤形楔子钉进异国的边界——
    国王们头顶神圣的浪花——
    你们驶向何方?阿卡亚的勇士啊,
    倘若没有海伦,一个特洛伊又能如何?
    哦大海,哦荷马,——一切都有被爱情驱转。
    我该倾听何人?荷马都沉默无言,
    而黑色的海洋 高谈阔论
    携沉重的轰鸣走近我的床边。
    1915年
    (晴朗李寒 译)

  117. Don’t know how much our readers can stomach of this, but here is another Chinese translation, with explanation:
    失眠的症状。荷马。还有满鼓的风帆
    失眠的症状。荷马。还有满鼓的风帆。
    我已将那些舰船的名册读到了半中:
    这长长的群队,这仙鹤的列车,
    它们曾经腾升在古代希腊的上空。
    就像楔形的鹤阵嵌入异乡的疆界,
    皇帝们的脑袋顶着一朵神圣的浪花,
    你们游向何方?希腊的男子汉们,
    若是没有海伦,你们干吗要特洛亚?
    大海,荷马,一切都依靠爱的驱动。
    我该倾听谁人?荷马却在沉默,
    黑色的海洋滔滔不绝,喧嚣不止,
    它正带着深重的轰鸣走近床头。
              1915年
    * 古希腊的主题和形象经常出现在曼德里施塔姆的诗歌中,在这首诗中,“荷马”、“舰船”、“黑色的海”、”皇帝”、“鹤”等意象,与海伦、特洛亚的神话故事交织一体,营造出了一种与古希腊哀歌相近的诗歌氛围。此外,此诗的韵律和节奏在曼德里施塔姆的诗歌中也是具有典型意义的,曼德里施塔姆喜爱采用这一六音步诗体,诗行中充满停顿,能产生出悠长、滞重的阅读效果,按照布罗茨基的说法,这样的形式能更好地作用于记忆,是面对时间主题的最佳手法:“这即便不是时间的含义,也至少是时间的形式:如果说时间没有因此而停止,而它至少也被浓缩了。”(《文明的孩子》)。

  118. Bathrobe, we are all indebted to you for that … explanation.
      Homer’s crane-ship wedge –
    to Troy for her, sea-spayed kings.
      Love’s sleep-waves win last.

  119. Opla! The unkindest Freudian cut of all. Shades of Uranus. I meant:
      Homer’s crane-ship wedge –
    to Troy for her, sea-sprayed kings.
      Love’s sleep-waves win last.

  120. Google Tranlate provides this from Bathrobe’s explanation, apparently about meter, subject, and ease of memorization. Not quite sure about the “meaning of time” thing. Interesting what they think it is important to know in order to read the poem:
    Ancient Greek themes and images often appear in 曼德里施塔姆 poetry, in this poem, the “Homer”, “Ship”, “Black Sea”, “Emperor”, “Crane” and other images , and Helen, Te Luoya fairy tale interwoven, creating a kind of elegy and Greek poetry with similar atmosphere. In addition, the poem’s rhyme and rhythm of poetry is also in the 曼德里施塔姆 typical significance, 曼德里施塔姆 sound like using this six-step verse, verse is full of pauses, which can produce a long, lag re-reading effect, according to Brodsky’s argument, in such a way to better effect on memory, is the best way to face the theme of time: “This is the meaning of time, if not, at least in the form of time: if that time did not cease, but at least it was condensed. “(” Children of civilization “).

  121. The Brodsky quote means something like:
    “Although this is not the meaning of time, it is at least the form of time: and while it may not have caused time to stop, it at least condensed it.”
    Sorry, I find this kind of stuff difficult to translate 🙂

  122. “Te Luoya” is, of course, “Troy”. 曼德里施塔姆 is “Mandelstam”.

  123. A dumb question:
    Я список кораблей прочел до середины
    Does this mean reading silently or reading aloud?

  124. That depends to some extent on whether anyone is listening. If nobody is listening, or a wall, or someone who doesn’t understand Russian, then reading silently and aloud amount to the same thing, and so must have the same meaning.

  125. I should be in bed,
    But I looked at the thread,
    And now I can’t leave it alone.
    This wedge of wild birds,
    This grand flight of words,
    Has come squawking on into my home.
    Serious minds
    Discuss translation’s binds
    With every respect for the craft.
    Then Stu sends up “Howl”
    ‘Midst the migrating fowl,
    And there’s nothing to do but to laugh.
    There’s the meaning of “mate”,
    And deep stuff about fate,
    In all manner of metrical schemes.
    We have poems in Chinese;
    We have cows; we have bees,
    And anadromous fish, and triremes.
    Noetica’s verse —
    How it billows and bursts,
    Then throws up its foam on the shore.
    To this happy Hatter,
    This kind of mad matter
    Is just why I come back for more.

  126. In Chinese, 荷马 Hémǎ (Homer) is pronounced the same as 河马 hé-mǎ (hippopotamos).

  127. Ø:
    You have us in στίχοι.
    Bathrobe:
    In Chinese, 荷马 Hémǎ (Homer) is pronounced the same as 河马 hé-mǎ (hippopotamos).
    Yes! It makes perfect sense. 好像奥克拉荷马,是吗?

  128. The Brodsky quote
    in Russian:
    Что есть, в конечном счете, форма времени, если не
    его значение: если время не остановлено этим, оно по крайней мере
    фокусируется.
    It’s from Brodsky’s essay on Mandelstam The Son of Civilization with a passage on ‘Insomnia’. Brodsky explains how Madelstam’s form creates the effect of ‘physically felt time tunnel’.
    Both Japanese and Chinese translations use black sea, not the Black Sea. Chinese adjective seems to say ‘blackening’?

  129. Chinese 黑色的海洋 hēisè de hǎiyáng just means ‘black-coloured sea’. The Black Sea is known as 黑海 Hēihǎi.
    Japanese 黒い海 kuroi umi also means ‘black-coloured sea’, as opposed to the Black Sea, which is 黒海 Kokkai.

  130. Et les alexandrins pour réveiller nos âmes:

    L’insomnie, et Homère; un vent roidit la voile.
    Jusqu’au milieu j’ai lu la liste des vaisseaux.
    Mainte grue assemblée attendant sur les eaux –
    Puis, dans l’Hellas d’antan, l’essor sous pleine toile!

    “V” elles font ensemble, et visent la conquête.
    Cheveux trempés des rois, couverts du sel divin –
    Mais pourquoi, Achéens, traverser l’onde en vain,
    Pour Hélène en danger vous mettant de défaite?

    La mer, Homère, et tous – l’amour émeut tout homme!
    Le grand barde est parti; j’écouterai quel chant?
    Rhéteur plein de rumeurs, la mer se noircissant
    M’engloutit mes tempes puis à sommeil me somme.

    (“Comme le vieil Homère, il rabâche parfois.” –Hugo)

  131. Я список кораблей прочел до середины
    It just struck me as remarkably similar to:
    Земную жизнь пройдя до половины,
    я очутился в сумрачном лесу.
    Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
    mi ritrovai per una selva oscura
    ché la diritta via era smarrita.
    Midway upon the journey of our life
    I found myself within a forest dark,
    For the straightforward pathway had been lost.

  132. thanks, B!
    so it sounds like the original b/c a literal word for word translation, nice meter too
    i have to look up some kanjis though, and in Japanese the first poem sounds closer to me, that’s just individual perception of course, the English translation is rhymed so i am now curious about the original in Russian
    I forgot the superfluous “I”. in my language it’s common to omit the first person pronoun, but to talk to the person one talking to in the third person, Japanese do the same too

  133. Google Translate’s version of the Japanese translation Bathrobe quoted:
    Untitled (white sail of a bursting sequence Homer insomnia)
    Homer bursting white sail and row insomnia
    I gave the list to read the mid-ship
    Bird Crane matrix that drawn-out row the group of those
    It soared to the sky one day Hellas
    Wedge-shaped like a crane toward foreign
    Blisters over the head of the divine kings
    Without Helen, where they sail
    I Achaean men of Troy in that it will do
    Homer also works well because all love the sea
    I’m inclined to listen to silence anyone that even Homer
    Black sea roar eloquently
    Raising a roar of heavy flock to the bedside

  134. “Homer also works well because all love the sea”: so true!

  135. Bathrobe,
    Я список кораблей прочел до середины
    Does this mean reading silently or reading aloud?
    This Wiktionary entry for прочесть

    Verb
    проче́сть (pročést’) (pf., transitive and intransitive), same as прочитать
    1. to finish reading, to read through
    Я прочёл книгу. — I have read a book.
    2. to recite

    would seem to indicate it can be used specifically for reading out loud, but it’s hard to tell from the example if it can mean to read silently as well. Unfortunately, Google Dictionary is uncharacteristically silent on the subject (maybe I just don’t know how to use the right root), there doesn’t seem to be an online Russian/English dictionary, and I can’t put my hand on the one small Russian dictionary I thought I had laying about the place.
    It’s an interesting question, also whether Mandelstam might have been reading in the original, because the passage is supposed to be particularly sonorous. Here is one translation, which is somewhat interesting in spite of the spakes and whences, and another that I find less readable in spite of the more modern language.

  136. Sashura, For the straightforward pathway had been lost.
    The “straight path” is a common theme in Moslem culture, being specifically mentioned in the Fatiha, a sort of declaration of faith, and in that context specifically means a religious path. My bedouin friends couldn’t remember all the words of the Fatiha when I tried to learn it, which is sort of like Christians forgetting the Lord’s Prayer, so I suspect straying from the Straight Path is not all that uncommon.

  137. midway v, midpoint
    This was discussed somewhere upthread in translating середины, in the Midwest at least, the “midway” is the part of a circus or state fair that has the ferris wheel and other rides.

  138. the ferris wheel and other rides and games such as Whack-a-Mole.
    Joni Mitchell met someone on the midway. The battle of Midway was a turning point in WW2. There’s a Massachusetts town called Medway. There is no joy in Mudway.

  139. straying from the Straight Path is not all that uncommon.
    no, it isn’t. Here is another of my favourites:
    They told me that the road I took
    would lead me to the Sea of Death;
    and from halfway along I turned back.
    And ever since, all the paths I have roamed
    were entangled, and crooked, and forsaken.

  140. Cantique misogyne-néobaudelairien à la Russe
    Le sommeil, laudanum favori, me fuit en se sauvant à travers les flots de la nuit étendue jusqu’à une aurore transhorizontale (pute superbe). J’embrasse mon Homère – transgression nycthémérale. Lisant, glissant, tissant ce que je puis d’une paix somnifère, tenue et taquinant. Navires. Grues guerrières innombrables, croiseurs gris et menaçants. Au mi-point de la kyrielle morne je laisse tomber mon bouquin et je m’abandonne moi aussi pour réfléchir sur l’oreiller cuirassé de l’insomnie. Vol bruyant d’oiseaux qui a sali les cieux de la Grèce il y a plein d’ans. Je m’en souviens. Ou non.
    Un V ou bien un coin-con de grues, qui vise quoi? La guerre? Pas pensable. Ces rois achéens-assassins, leurs têtes bruinées de sel pour le petit déjeuner des dieux – ils se lancent sur les eaux vastes et néfastes pour Elle. Oui, la belle Hélène sans merci beaucoup et passez-moi la quiche nom de Christy Moore. Sans mer, si elle ne soit à Troie, on reste chez soi, non? Si. Sans elle ça serait comme sans la conscience chez Hardy: “Tout allait bien.” Merde. Mère de naufrages, de noyades inutiles. Sans elle on s’en foutrait de cette fichue Troie et ses champs de victoire boueux. Bucoliques? Pas une mie. Je me lève pour pisser.
    Retour. Nostos. Toujours l’insomnie. La mer, Homère père de la poésie – et tout ça vise quoi? Ça gagne quoi? L’amour plutôt qu’une femme qui n’est que le véhicule bien culé des amours. L’appétit du monde, de l’onde, des orateurs, des bardes, des hommes, des femmes mêmes, des marins – ça vise pas les blondes! Homère ferme sa gueule vétuste; quelle chanson suivra? Navires … Troie, quatre, femmes … l’amour … mille bercements inconnus ou bien oubliés … Ce rhéteur noir la mer se dresse tumultueusement derrière mon lit en me foutant un coup de vague salée aux oreilles qui me plonge jusqu’à l’aube dans un sommeil immémorial sans fond.

  141. Ugh! Hat, that’s some mangled translation that Google translate dished up. It should be something like the following (unpoetic):
    Insomnia. Homer. A line of white sails looking like they will burst.
    I read out (or: finished reading) the list of vessels halfway.
    That long continuing column of young birds (obviously means ‘brood’), that line of cranes
    At one time soared up into the sky of Hellas.
    Like a wedge of cranes headed for a foreign shore
    Divine foam on the heads of kings
    Where are they sailing? Without Helen
    What would Troy mean, oh men of Achaea?
    Homer, the sea, all move because of love
    Who should I bend my ear to? Even Homer is silent.
    The black sea roars eloquently
    And raising a heavy roar pushes to my bedside.
    (おしよせる oshi-yoseru ‘push-approach’ is used of waves pushing towards the shore, or similar things, literal or figurative, that approach in a relentless fashion — Google translate gives ‘flock’)
    (トロイアがどうだというのだ Toroi ga dō da to yū no da is a nice line that might come out of a dubbed movie. It means something like ‘What the hell is Troy?’ ‘What is Troy to you?’)

  142. Should have been:
    トロイアがどうだというのだ Toroia ga dō da to yū no da

  143. marie-lucie says:

    Noetica: I would be quite unable to write a poem, even just a translation of one, but I have a few suggestions for the French translation (not that they should be considered definitive).
    Warning: Some of my suggestions do not result in “alexandrins classiques”, but they work when read as “alexandrins modernes” where you can have an “e muet” occurring at a natural sentence break, which is not sounded and will not count as a syllable, even if it is followed by a (silent) plural s.

    L’insomnie, et Homère; un vent roidit la voile.

    Jusqu’au milieu j’ai lu la liste des vaisseaux.

    Mainte grue assemblée attendant sur les eaux

    — “Mainte grue” is singular, so one crane cannot be “assemblée” (any more than in ‘many an assembled crane’), but the phrase would work in the plural: maintes grues assemblées. But I would prefer something like ‘i”Grues toutes ailes au vent” which cuts short the potential modern industrial meaning of “grues”).
    Donc peut-être:
    Grues toutes ailes au vent, attendant sur les flots

    Puis, dans l’Hellas d’antan, l’essor sous pleine toile!

    “V” elles font ensemble, et visent la conquête.

    — Peut-être En V pour le plein vol, et visant la conquête

    Cheveux trempés des rois, couverts du sel divin –

    Mais pourquoi, Achéens, traverser l’onde en vain,

    Pour Hélène en danger vous mettant de défaite?

    — peut-être courir à la défaite

    La mer, Homère, et tous – l’amour émeut tout homme!

    Le grand barde est parti; j’écouterai quel chant?

    Rhéteur plein de rumeurs, la mer se noircissant

    M’engloutit mes tempes puis à sommeil me somme.

    – perhaps: la mer, s’obscurissant,
    M’engloutit jusqu’aux tempes, et au sommeil me somme
    ((Sorry about the formatting – I could not keep the lines both indented and together)).

  144. Marie-Lucie, of course I hoped that you would comment on my alexandrins, and I receive your instruction gratefully (and, I hope, graciously). Let me say this first: I am more concerned to make perfect, classic lines (which you and I distinguish from modern variants) than to conform to idiomatic current French. The tone of my translation is rather flat and unadventurous (unlike my later effort, see above, where there are also undoubtedly several departures from idiomicity). I just thought we needed something of this sort in the collection. I have, though, been happy to twist the neck of eloquence as Verlaine enjoins us to do. Voyons un peu:
    “Mainte grue” is singular, so one crane cannot be “assemblée” (any more than in ‘many an assembled crane’), …
    Indeed. I pondered that. I was happy to imbue the line with a little tension concerning the whole–part relation: jointness and severalness. I would have happily written in English “many a crane assembled”! And as you are aware, that alternative line violates classical norms:

    Grues toutes ailes au vent, attendant sur les flots

    The rhyme, too, of flots with vaisseaux would be more Prévert than Racine.
    En V pour le plein vol, et visant la conquête
    Much better, yes. At that stage I was concerned about having too many “-ant” forms (shibboleth for anglophones?), so I avoided such a thing here. But if you like visent, so do I.
    Pour Hélène en danger vous mettant de défaite?
    This was again an effort at twisting syntax. Perhaps I have been working with too much Mallarmé (or too much with Mallarmé). The idea was this, but I transposed the elements in the service of versification:

    [Pourquoi traverser l’onde …] Pour Hélène [[, ainsi] vous mettant] [en danger] de défaite?

    With an implicit vous as subject of reflexive mettant. So your suggestion, while prosodically fine, changes the thought. Which is all right!
    la mer se noircissant
    versus
    la mer, s’obscurissant,
    [S’obscurcissant, je crois.]
    Fine; but I don’t see why we would distance ourselves gratuitously from Mandelstam’s own черное, which is definitely black, not dark. Elsewhere I use the notion of darkness, but I don’t see any advantage just here.
    M’engloutit jusqu’aux tempes, et au sommeil me somme
    Snap! I had exactly that line in a draft, but rejected it because it is suspect at the caesura. I have found no native alexandrin with -es then a vowel, at the crucial point; and certainly not one that is at the end of a syntactic block like la mer … M’engloutit jusqu’aux tempes, with perhaps a comma following. Nor do I yet find a ruling from the theorists on this point. (Of course, tempes would normally be two syllables in scansion; and tempe before a vowel would normally be one syllable.) Tricky. I wonder if anyone has a reliable source, or can quote a precedent for that problematic version of the line.
    Tell me, by the way: do you approve of my M’engloutit mes tempes as opposed to M’engloutit les tempes, which is perhaps more standard? I had a reason for that also, since I definitely wanted the temples to be engulfed for me: not me up to the temples, nor me to be engulfed-at-the-temples, if you follow my drift. But I could not sense how these two would strike the native French ear (and temporal lobe) differently.
    Thank you, Marie-Lucie! I do not claim to be a fluent versifier in French. Prose exercises me enough, and I cannot but be playful with the language – which will of course offend against propriety. I learn so much here, as do others.

  145. I meant this:

    But if you like visant, so do I.

  146. Sashura, I always thought there was something vaguely suspicious about that Straight Path.
    Noetica, my oh my…”The sea of sleep in fathomless dark verses”…ahhh…and the “grue” in gruesome turn out to be French cranes….then, “Je me lève pour pisser. Retour.” Oof. Too, too much. A hasty libation to the muse, lest the well go dry, in the form of a didactic cinquain:

    Mandelstam.

    Sleepless bibliophile.

    Counts Homer’s ships.

    Decides love causes tides.

    Sleeps.

    m-l, after some trial and error with Hat’s setup, this is how I coded the above lines:
    <blockquote>Mandelstam.<p></p>Sleepless bibliophile.<p></p>Counts Homer’s ships.<p></p>Decides love causes tides.<p></p>Sleeps.</blockquote>
    I can also get it to look like this:

    <blockquote>first line
    second line
    third line</blockquote>

    by composing on my (free) blog editor–it’s easy to take out small spaces between lines in the html view.

  147. Bathrobe, do you recognise the Sea of Death tanka I quoted above?
    And what do you think of the Japanese version of Insomnia as a poetic text (not translation)? I hummed it as 演歌 and it went surprisingly well.

  148. vaguely suspicious about that Straight Path
    I shiver when I hear it, it reminds me of the marxist ‘high road of history’ (столбовая дорога истории).

  149. Bathrobe, do you recognise the Sea of Death tanka I quoted above?
    The air in the room stiffens. A lone moth – drunken indoor Icarus looking for a way out, any way out – winds above the green of the gambling table like the serif on a V of cranes. Narrowed eyes over close-held hands turn to Noetica. In the dark (or black) background LH polishes a glass and holds it to the light – flanked by flunkies with more shoulder than Plato, ready to pounce if the game gets out of hand. No, that’s not a yellowing copy of Камень bulging at LH’s hip.
    Noetica intones in measured Middle High Australian, with just the slightest vibrato in certain formants (could he be bluffing?): “Well, … I see Sashura’s Sea of Death tanka. … And I raise you … a reference to Iliad ι l.214, …” Natasha tremblingly finishes doling out the Krepkaya and slips away like a wraith in Hades. Noetica adds: “… with irony.” A gasp. A glass somewhere clinks to the floor, but no one moves. Seventeen seconds, then eyes turn evenly in their slits to the next player.

  150. Trond Engen says:

    Another sparrow-jump into this cranes’ procession:
    A pillow-shy poet from Peter
    saw a hack make a mess of his meter.
      There’s a lady so sweet
      it could levy a fleet,
    but the rhyme forced the hack to delete her.

  151. Sashura, you far overestimate my erudition! I don’t know this tanka on the Sea of Death. Could you tell me more about it?
    As for the Japanese translation, I don’t know if I care for most Japanese translations of Western poetry. They revel in their rank translationese, a totally different idiom from traditional Japanese poetry.
    私は船舶名簿を半ばまで読みあげた. A bald statement of what I did (starting with 私). Perhaps it’s very oddness marks it as poetic diction in modern Japanese?
    あの長々と続く雛鳥の群列 あの鶴の行列
    それはいつかヘラスの空に舞い上がった
    That drawn out brood, that line of cranes
    At one time it (それは) soared up into the sky of Hellas

    What is this clumsy “それは”, which actually means “that”, although I’ve rendered it here less obtrusively as “it”? It’s pure translationese! The translator feels that he has to stop the sentence, and then restart it with それは. In normal Japanese, it would be more acceptable to say:
    あの長々と続く雛鳥の群列 あの鶴の行列は
    いつかヘラスの空に舞い上がった
    That drawn out brood, that line of cranes
    At one time soared up into the sky of Hellas

    or use a modifying clause:
    いつかヘラスの空に舞い上がった
    あの長々と続く雛鳥の群列 あの鶴の行列
    That drawn out brood, that line of cranes
    that at one time soared up into the sky of Hellas

    Perhaps I’m out of tune with Japanese because of my refusal to feel that translationese is “poetic”. I suggest you ask a Japanese what they feel. But to my ears, this is the opposite of poetry.

  152. next player has never held a card in his hands, never staked a penny on one, and yet he sits with us till five o’clock in the morning watching us play.

  153. Marie-Lucie:
    I have it. I suspected there was something simpler going on, with -es at the caesura. See this fragment of a fine book by Roy Lewis. (Snippet view only; but I have it in my collection. Sheesh! I couldn’t afford it at Amazon.) He shows how the -es of the plural of a noun in -e is never permitted immediately after syllable 6 (assuming a caesura between 6 and 7); and for the same reason a verb in -ent (other than in -aient) is also prohibited just there. Of the latter he says: “This restriction is obviously a considerable handicap to the poet.” And the restriction on -es is “even more regrettable”. Yes!
    What is unclear now is whether my choice is acceptable:

    Rhéteur plein de rumeurs, la mer se noircissant
    M’engloutit mes tempes | puis à sommeil me somme.

    I find no ready precedent even for that; but I also find nothing explicitly prohibiting my -es as syllable 6. Hmmm. I’ll look up some other sources, and cobble together a corpus to search.
    If that -es is indeed unacceptable, the following reversal with modifications (et now works) would be a typical 19th-century manoeuvre to get out of trouble:

    Rhéteur plein de rumeurs, la mer se noircissant
    Mes tempes engloutit, | et à sommeil me somme.

    Regardless of idiom and currency. In fact, I rather like it: there is now a reversal in each hemistich. Symmetry at the end.
    Sashura:
    Next player folds? The stakes grow high, as the kibitzers fall away. Might get down to you and me. [Ever so slight a twitch under left zygomatic arch.]

  154. zygomatic arch it was after four in the morning when they sat down to supper. Those who had won enjoyed their food; the others sat absent-mindedly with empty plates before them. But champagne appeared, the conversation grew livelier, and every one took part in it.

  155. the Sea of Death
    it is by Yosano Akiko, a contemporary of Ishikawa Takuboku and a great feminist figure of late Meiji-Taisho. I’ve known it for years in Russian, but never got round to finding it in Japanese or in English. I asked, because I thought you might know a resource on the net.
    I think you are right about それは, but then Japanese phrases are often littered with additional それは or じつは.

  156. the google translate’s word order in the sentence is reverse to the original, like when i try to translate into English or Russian or vice versa into my language
    reads like nonsense in English, but that’s how our brains are built perhaps, that, oriental
    i mean how pc translates too
    so when one translates from English/Russian one have to start from the end of the sentence towards the beginning
    the Japanese translation feels the same with mine, so it’s translationese, to try to keep as close to the original as possible and try to make it sound natural in the translated into language
    B’s back translation therefore sounds pretty close in English to the original in Russian..sure, omitting the rhymes
    well, i’m not an expert in Japanese classical or poetry obviously and just like to read the modern j pop songs lyrics, it feels to me like poetry too, so the things sounding natural and sincere, that’s like the minimal criteria i have of poetry
    i liked oshiyoseru, the same meaning i used in my translation too, if to translate podkhodit as it comes close to the bed’s head, feels kinda too static in my language, though it’s not sounding that in Russian
    a real poet’s translation would sound different perhaps, more polished poetically
    perhaps i’ll ask one to try

  157. has never held a card in his hands A crunching sound breaks the silence in the room. Under the big green baize table the old doggerel has resumed chewing on his στίχοι. He enjoys the companionship, but is understanding maybe one word in a hundred.

  158. marie-lucie says:

    Noetica : Thank you for taking my comments in the spirit in which they are offered. I’ll concentrate on these two lines, especially the second one:

    Rhéteur plein de rumeurs, la mer se noircissant
    M’engloutit mes tempes, | puis à sommeil me somme.

    Se noircissant first brings to my mind someone putting on blackface makeup! the verb would be better without the se, but that would kill the rhythm; s’obscurcissant, based on obscur (which is often associated with nuit in French literature, and does not have trivial connotations), would be better.

    M’engloutit mes tempes | puis à sommeil me somme.

    I had to reread this line several times, first silently, then aloud, before I realized that there was not a syllable missing and that the -pes in tempes was meant to count.
    I had never heard of the “rule” prohibiting endings in -e, -es, -ent in the pre-caesura position, and I don’t think that any of the great French poets needed to think about it. The reason is not a matter of spelling as the wording seems to imply but of pronunciation and rhythm (the reason that -ent is not prohibited in the ending -aient is that here the vowel sound is in the ai, not the e): the pre-caesura position is a strong position in the line, just before a pause, but the “e” at the end of a word is in a very weak position in that word, and therefore normally not pronounced before a pause (note that syllables in -e… are not included in the syllable count if they are at the end of a line: mes tempes at the end counts as two syllables, not three). Placing it in this strong position in the line demands that it should be pronounced (thus “tempe(s)” will sound like “tempeu”), which is unnatural. In the present line, the syllable “peu” just before “puis” is also infelicitous because of the “p-p” repetition.
    I note that your quote This restriction is obviously a considerable handicap to the poet is from a person with an English name writing in English. I don’t think it is any more handicapping to a francophone poet than a “rule” prohibiting the occurrence of “a” in stressed position in a classical English pentameter has ever been to an English poet. Such rules might be useful to inferior poets obsessed with counting syllables rather than with true rhythm, but not to gifted ones particularly attuned to the rhythm of their language (you, Noetica, are very gifted, but not a francophone, even though your French is excellent).
    If that -es is indeed unacceptable, the following reversal with modifications (et now works) would be a typical 19th-century manoeuvre to get out of trouble:

    Rhéteur plein de rumeurs, la mer se noircissant
    Mes tempes engloutit, | et à sommeil me somme.

    This is much better, although there is still a (more minor) problem: the reversal of the verb and its object puts mes tempes before a vowel, requiring a liaison. But a plural noun before a verb, especially with a liaison, tends to be interpreted as the subject of the verb, not its object. However, the problem is relatively minor, since an abundance of liaisons is typical of classical poetry, and the form of the verb, being unambiguously singular, prevents its being interpreted as agreeing in number with the plural mes tempes.
    So much for the form, but what does la mer engloutit mes tempes actually mean? the original Russian seems to mention the “head” of the bed rather than the poet’s, and in French the word is le chevet: something like engloutit mon chevet or se presse à mon chevet might work.
    M’engloutit mes/les tempes: I understand that you might want to emphasize “the sea is doing this to me“, but the use of this construction (especially with les) is normally limited to very familiar contexts and given the strangeness of the juxtaposition of “engloutir” and “tempes”, it makes the whole thing even more jarring.
    et à sommeil me somme.
    It has to be “au” sommeil.

  159. Trond Engen says:

    Over at the counter the village idiot lifts his head from the lambchop the host gives him for charity. Where’s his audience. Where are the free drinks he’s used to have for the unfunny rhyme? Where’s the pad on his back from those happy to play along? Slowly it occurs to him that someone else has the attenton of the audience.
    He sobers in a second. These are familiar sounds. This used to be his game, too. Back home, in a land far away, in a time more and more distant, he used to see himself as a master player. When he left, it was with a feeling that the world was at his feet. What happened? His smalltown stardom was a laugh, his tactics was childish, his bluffs were called. The day came when he was allowed in for pity, then for entertainment, then for pity again. For years now he had cashed in on the pity in the bar, without even noticing the game.
    So what is this? The chance he’s secretly longed for? A way to resume the dream of fame and fortune? The moment to make the move that had made him invincible back home! With the chopstick in his hand he stumbles over to the table, makes his way through the growing crowd of spectators, pushes two of the players aside, waits for the attention, and says:
    “Ibsen”
    His legs fails him first, then his head. Under the table the dog eats his chopstick.

  160. Trond, is this a chopstick or a lamb bone that I’m chewing? I swear I can’t tell. Anyway, it’s good exercise for my zeugma muscles, or whatever that guy said.
    Come down under the table with me and tell me a limerick, and I’ll thump my tale on the floor in genuine appreciation. (I’ll let that Freudian slip stand, or lie. Slipping dogs … ? )
    ** Considers attempting a Homeric allusion — wasn’t it Odysseus’s dog who was the only one who recognized after all those years? Or was it a swineherd? Best not to fake it **

  161. him after all those years

  162. marie-lucie says:

    Ø: wasn’t it Odysseus’s dog who was the only one who recognized after all those years? Or was it a swineherd?
    Both. The swineherd recognized him out in the fields, and the dog within the palace.

  163. Trond Engen says:

    Sous la table, le poète des chiens
    reussit à créer des liens.
      Un os tout mordu
      d’origine inconnue
    et des vers maladroits pour Rien.
    You’re welcome, Ø. I added that bone especially for you. I think the uncertain origin may be why the host gave it away. Goes with having a goatherd and not a swineherd, I suppose.
    (I had my sister and French brother-in-law read it, and they improved all my rhymes.)

  164. Thank you once again, Marie-Lucie. A few observations in response:
    O yes, it has to be et au sommeil me somme. As a non-native francographe I sometimes experiment unsuccessfully with such variations. I have published just one poem of my own in French, many years ago in a small Parisian journal. Having translated Valéry’s early sonnet “Naissance de Vénus” I found myself still enchanted by it; the mere act of translation was insufficient to celebrate and embrace it. So I composed a classically formed sonnet on the same theme. Valéry makes Venus a skipping nymphet; I make her a proper sea-born little babe. My line 8 is this:

    Vénus cède au sommeil avant de vaincre un âge.

    So I got the au right then! (In the tercets that follow I introduce an old fisherwoman, showing the other end of life. Everything intervening is unmentioned.)
    Of course such things are difficult without native French. I translate a lot of rhymed and metred French, but there are knotty matters of scansion that the translator ignores until he tries to compose in the source language. A hugely instructive experience.
    Translating verse requires some knowledge of practice in the source language, then, but thorough facility in the practice of the target language. And one must be a poet. I rarely write anything of my own these days, reserving what poetic spark I lay claim to for my translations. Composing in a “foreign” language it is hard to feel what will work as a figurative shift and what will fail, though one can and must recognise such effects in the pieces one translates. I really don’t know what to say about your s’obscurcir versus se noircir. What strikes you first, perfectly “legitimately” as a native francophone, might not strike another native francophone first. That’s how it is, with apprehension of poetry. Tennyson was ridiculed for many of his choices. Mallarmé was censured for the order of words at the start of “L’Après-midi d’un Faune”. He has been unconsciously misquoted in published print: as here; and here (where old Leonard Bernstein comes so close to saying something deeply percipient). Here are those first lines:

    Ces nymphes, je les veux perpétuer.
                        Si clair,
    Leur incarnat léger, qu’il voltige dans l’air
    Assoupi de sommeils touffus.
                   Aimai-je un rêve?

    If Tennyson was a master, so certainly was Mallarmé. That word order is a brilliance whose effect eludes every translation I have seen of the Faun (except my own, I hope). And then, the scansion of that first broken line divides the critics. So much is contentious, and so much melts into air.
    … mes tempes at the end [of the hemistich] counts as two syllables, not three …
    But standard classic French scansion does have mes tempes as three syllables, except at the end of a feminine-rhyming line (where the -es is extrametrical). I still have not seen any precedent, or theoretical ruling, that would settle the behaviour (or the propriety even) of mes tempes at the caesura, followed either by a consonant or by a vowel.
    With respect, I disagree that the French alexandrin accords easily with the prosody of standard French. Consider this (invented) line:

    Roses bleues poussant | follement sous ton ciel.

    That is well-formed. Classical scansion demands that roses count as two syllables, follement as three – and bleues as two syllables! That said, Baudelaire would never use bleues because of that dreadful /ɶə/, except for two cases I have found at the end of a line, like this one:

    Qui séparent mes bras des immensités bleues.

    Lewis cites a rare occurrence from Leconte de Lisle to demonstrate that bleues is indeed taken as disyllabic (I mark the caesura my own way, not his):

    L’eau bleue qu’il pourchass(e) | et dissipe en buées.

    As Lewis comments, “normally a poet will re-cast his sentence rather than demand of his reader that he pronounce such strange forms” (p. 39).
    I suggest that none of this emerges entirely naturally from plain francophony; and of course this very artificiality led to the breakdown of a great tradition that had persisted through centuries, with only a few diehard masters, such as Valéry, carrying the banner after the Great War.
    … what does la mer engloutit mes tempes actually mean? the original Russian seems to mention the “head” of the bed rather than the poet’s, …
    Of course I license myself, as a poetic translator, to reflect the earlier reference to foam on the heads of the Achaean kings. This is all implicit in Mandelstam – or to be more accurate, I actively read it in the poem to the extent that I can grasp the intent at all. Every literary translation is such an act of reading, and an act of interpretation. This is inescapable. There is a logic to it all: My bed is a ship (otherwise why would it be under siege from the sea?); I too am a mariner on a quest; and I too will have my head (temples, hair, ears, what you will) smeared and soaked by the godly spume. It is a standard sort of culmination, that the mere soaking should progress to a complete inundation. Such is the stuff of hypnogogic dream-states.
    Enfin nous arrivons à cette variante, pour conclure mon exercice:

    Rhéteur plein de rumeurs la mer, s’obscurcissant,
    Mes tempes engloutit, et au sommeil me somme.

    Perhaps with that punctuation, also. There are innumerable other ways to go, but this will do! At least here we have an abundance of intrusive sibilance, to mimic the noisy oration of the sea’s slithery and officious licks of foam. If I were publishing it, I would rework the whole.
     

  165. Trond Engen says:

    Improved all my lines, I meant.

  166. I see now that it was not Stu but The Modesto Kid who did the Ginsberg. Sorry, Kid.

  167. 卑怯
    その路をずつと行くと
    死の海に落ち込むと教へられ、
    中途で引返した私、
    卑怯な利口者であつた私、
    それ以来、私の前には
    岐路と
    迂路とばかりが続いてゐる。
    Sono michi o zutto yuku to
    Shi no umi ni ochikomu to oshierare,
    Chūto de hikikaeshita watashi,
    Hikyō na rikō-mono de atta watashi,
    Sore irai, watashi no mae ni wa
    Eda-michi to
    Mawari-michi to bakari ga tsuzuite iru.

  168. Thanks, Language and everybody, great translations! I can’t help to think that, to remain true to the original, one would need a bit simpler vocabulary (itself a contrast with the subject) and stronger rhymes…
    Something on the lines of (sorry, I just could not resist):
    Insomnia with Homer. Tightened sales.
    I read but half of the enumeration
    Of those ships that in a long formation
    Flew over Hellas back in those days.
    Like pointed line of cranes to alien shores –
    The heads of kings are blessed with sacred foam –
    Without Helen, why is it you roam?
    Oh brave Aheans, what would Troy be worth?
    Like sea, like Homer, all is moved by love
    Whom should I listen to? With Homer fallen silent
    Black noisy sea has made my bed an iland
    And treatens, thundering, to raise above.

  169. Thump-thump, Trond.
    Google Translate renders your piece in unexpectedly vermicular French:
    Under the table, the poet of dogs
    succeeds in creating links.
    A bone bitten while
    of unknown origin
    worms and awkward to Nothing.

  170. oh Bathrobe, thank you so much, waiting thirty years for your one true love.

  171. Trond Engen says:

    … A bone all bitten …
    … and awkward worms for Nothing.
    That “worms” was supposed to say “verses”, though. I changed des verses to des vers “(of (the)) worms” after proofreading, but I think somebody was having me on.

  172. Trond Engen says:

    vermicul m. “a disease shared by dogs and their owners”
    The proofreader denies all accusations of on-having, pointing out that masculines ending in -s have no separate plural form. This only goes to show, yet again, that my French is too shaky for exposition. Add to this that the limerick form has no tradition in French. All that just for the tempting rhyme chien – Rien.

  173. For excuses I don’t see a need.
    You have versed in a tongue I can’t read,
    So if something’s not right,
    I won’t put up up a fight.
    (On my visits to Mars I’m called “Vide”.)

  174. Sono michi o zutto yuku to
    If to go by that road until the end
    Shi no umi ni ochikomu to oshierare,
    To the sea of death you will come I was told
    Chūto de hikikaeshita watashi,
    Midway I turned around
    Hikyō na rikō-mono de atta watashi,
    being me, weak and rational.
    Sore irai, watashi no mae ni wa
    Since then before me
    Eda-michi to
    crossroads and
    Mawari-michi to bakari ga tsuzuite iru.
    detours only continue.
    thanks, B! for romaji, great to refresh some kanjis’ meaning and pronunciation, i looked up 2-3 of them
    if to do this everyday, perhaps i’d be reading fluently in Japanese after some time, i’m pretty fluent in listening and talking, just illiterate with my 8 hundred kanjis, i forgot even those by now
    to say ” moved by love” it seems sound unnatural for the English speaking ears, M, i did that mistake too, but it’s how it sounds in Russian

  175. Trond Engen says:

    Over at the goatherd’s place chilling leads are being discovered as we speak. Once in a while one has to choose between piece of meat and peace of mind.

  176. Thanks, Sashura, Bathrobe, and read! I didn’t know Akiko Yosano, and now (having read about her remarkable life as well) I’m impressed with her.

  177. marie-lucie says:

    the tempting rhyme chien – Rien
    It is tempting, but it is not a full rhyme in the poem, because the rhythm requires rien to have two syllables while chien has only one. In normal speech the two words both have one syllable. So even though the final sound is the same (the vowel represented by en), the difference in syllabification is awkward.

  178. Poète is being counted as three syllables, then? Or table as two? (I hope not both, for then chien would have to have no syllables at all.)

  179. Akiko Yosano
    English wiki doesn’t mention she also had 11 children.

  180. Poète
    I think it’s very common in poetic speech, in Quand Il Est Mort Le Poete it definitely has three, and two in neige in Tombe la neige.

  181. Trond Engen says:

    I can tell how I counted syllables. I didn’t strive for a poetic register at all (as if I would know etc.), it’s a limerick for dog’s sake, so there’s no pronunciation of silent vowels. I saw two syllables in poète. In chiens, liens and Rien, I hoped to get away with the same count for the three of them, either two or three syllables.

  182. Three?! But I won’t quibble. This is all way over my head, literally. Hey, I liked your limerique, Trond. And you know they say that even Homer nods.

  183. Trond Engen says:

    Either one or two! I may have been thinking of the metrical foot. One metrical foot is 12 metrical inches or 30 cm. In French it’s le jambe. If you gather a lot of feet in one place it’s la jamborée.
    And I like it too. It may be the best limérique homérique pour un prof numérique d’Amérique ever written.

  184. Sous la table, le poète des chiens
    reussit à créer des liens.
      Un os tout mordu
      d’origine inconnue
    et des vers maladroits pour Rien.
    Of course Marie-Lucie is right about the syllables, and Trond is right that the register is not high-poetic, so that the bones of contention Marie-Lucie and I were chewing (above the table) do not apply. If they did apply, you could not even rhyme mordu with inconnue. (Note that, to keep it all completely above board, we need an accent in réussit.)
    To get the rhythm rattling along like an English limerick you’d have either table disyllabic or poète trisyllabic. (Happily, table is followed by an l, though there is a pause; and happily also, poète is followed by a d, dental like the t of poète.) The grim reality is that you must choose. “L’homme est condamné à la liberté,” comme nous dit Sartre. Some seek refuge in Krepkaya, some read Dostoyevsky. But there’s no way out in the end. Huis clos. Comme pour les papillons de nuit – mornes grues grises du monde insecte.
    And yes, you’d need liens disyllabic. In fact, with words in -ien (and -ion, and so on, especially in the larger and more negotiable words) even the French classics allow variation: one syllable or two. Sometimes even in the same poem, or line. Forms of ancien occur just three times in Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal. The first (from “Les Petites Vieilles”) is unrhymed, and disyllabic:

    De l’ancien Frascati Vestale énamourée.

    The second (from “Les Femmes Damnées”) rhymes:

    Il en est, aux lueurs des résines croulantes,
    Qui dans le creux muet des vieux antres païens
    T’appellent au secours de leurs fièvres hurlantes,
    O Bacchus, endormeur des remords anciens!

    Here anciens is trisyllabic; and the rhyme with with païens (disyllabic) is on the -ens alone. The third (from “Un Voyage à Cythère”) is again trisyllabic:

    Ridicule pendu, tes douleurs sont les miennes!
    Je sentis à l’aspect de tes membres flottants,
    Comme un vomissement, remonter vers mes dents
    Le long fleuve de fiel des douleurs anciennes;

    For the eye (and for something deep in the brine-sodden ear), -iennes is the rhyme. But strictly no, since the monosyllabic miennes ends in /-jɛn/ and anciennes ends in /-iɛn/. The rhyming element is just -ennes (/-ɛn/); but we see (and hear) a remarkably rich quasi-rhyming of the entire hemistichs: tes douleurs sont les miennes with des douleurs anciennes!
    So ignoring the -s, the words chien, rien, and lien would rhyme simply on account of the -en whether the i is realised as /j/ or /i/. And French, unlike English, is not bothered by the elements preceding the rhyming elements being identical. Very often pas will rhyme with pas even, provided that these are homophones and not exactly the same word. Common etymology is no impediment. In French verse such rime riche is positively preferred. See stanza 19 of Valéry’s “Le Cimetière Marin”, for worms, under-table action, and a pas de deux des pas:

    Pères profonds, têtes inhabitées,
    Qui sous le poids de tant de pelletées,
    Êtes la terre et confondez nos pas,
    Le vrai rongeur, le ver irréfutable
    N’est point pour vous qui dormez sous la table,
    Il vit de vie, il ne me quitte pas!

    Compare the -ions endings in this quatrain from Baudelaire’s “Chanson d’Après-Midi”, in which each line is heptasyllabic:

    Je t’adore, ô ma frivole,
    Ma terrible passion!
    Avec la dévotion
    Du prêtre pour son idole.

    (In all of these we ignore -e, -es, etc. at line ends, where they simply form feminine rhymes to alternate with masculine ones: standard in French for centuries.) Here those rhyming -ion endings are disyllabic, and each is preceded by an /s/ – impermissible in English.
    So certainly there are no problems here with the lesser similarities in those limerick rhymes on -en, however they are preceded. Nor, in loose post-classical practice, with the addition of s.
    Marie-Lucie:
    It may interest you that the ending -ées occurs 38 times in Fleurs du Mal; but only at the end of a line, never at a caesura even. This is relevant to my interest in -es at the caesura. Also relevant, there is not one verbal ending -ent at the caesura (apart from -aient, of course, which occurs at the caesura about 25 times). I still find that while -es and that -ent are generally well covered in theoretical works, their comportment at the caesura is not thoroughly sorted out.

  185. “he Sea of Death
    it is by Yosano Akiko, a contemporary of Ishikawa Takuboku and a great feminist figure of late Meiji-Taisho. I’ve known it for years in Russian”

    So did I, from, of all things, a novel by Strugatsky brothers . Thanks, Sashura!

  186. With, not with with. And the action under the table is rather inaction, unless we think that pères profonds can sleep furiously, unlike Chomsky’s green ideas. And um, there’s only one veritable worm: “le vrai rongeur, le ver irréfutable”. Beaucoup de vers, seulement un ver. (Ou l’envers? …)

  187. The door opens. A stranger walks in. “Where am I,” says the stranger. Through the open door a yellow wood is visible.
    Sashura looks up from a chessboard. “The Restaurant Halfway Along the Road to the Sea of Death.”
    “Is this the door less entered by?”, asks the stranger. “Not really, says Sashura, “that would be the front door.” Nijma peers around the door of one of the libraries and adds, “Though as for that, they’re really about the same.”
    A gnawing sound is heard under the table, then a clicking sound, then a double click. As the stranger opens the door to leave, a mouse darts out of the door and disappears with the speed of a laser, down the road to where it bent in the undergrowth.

  188. A air becomes darker, heavier, and a shimmering form appears in front of the table–a man with a brushy mustache and shadowed eyes. “Who disturbs the Elysio-blogosphere with talk of foam and flying ships and the sounds of the sea?” He looks around. A man in a corner booth has fallen asleep over a book, but who can say if the title is Илиа́да or Ἰλιάς. Rico deftly removes his ash tray, and with a glance at the “no smoking” sign, slips it into the trash. The shimmering figure becomes more distinct, then speaks:

    Blue! it’s me … I come from the caves of death
    Hear the waves breaking in sonorous pitches,
    And I see the galleys spread before the sunrise
    Rising from the shadow over golden oars.

    My solitary hands are calling the king
    Whose beards of salt amused my pure fingers;
    I cried. They sang their obscure triumphs
    The gulfs fled to the sterns of their boats.

    I hear the caracolas and clarion bugles
    Military rhythm of the flight of the oars;
    The clear chant of the rowers chains the tumult,

    And the gods on the prow exalting heroically
    Before their ancient smile the foam is insulted
    Tending their indulgent sculpted arms.

    Noetica looks around at Marie-Lucie, who is leaning over his shoulder pointing to something on the table. “Did you hear something?” Marie-Lucie looks up, but there is nothing there.

  189. marie-lucie says:

    Nijma, the shimmering figure is Helen, who used to run her fingers through kings’ beards (monarques is plural, so it is not just one king).
    Azur can’t be just “blue” – it’s the deep blue Mediterranean sky, making the sea equally blue.

  190. “Nothing,” she replies.
    “It’s the little ol’ worm that wasn’t there,” declares Noetica, in an almost perfect Foghorn Leghorn voice.

  191. Ø!
    Tu oses me parler d’une telle manière? Toi, qui n’existes qu’en absence? 🙂
    Nijma:
    Nice work! Some of the French is imperfectly understood, but you have some fine turns of phrase in there.
    Note that que l’écume insulte means that the foam assaults. Beyond that, as often in Valéry and also in his early mentor Mallarmé, the syntax is quite distorted so that the meaning is ambiguous at best. I agree with Marie-Lucie about azur (a talismanic word with the poets of the late 19C, when this poem was first drafted – August, 1891). I normally use English azure for it. (And weep for pleurer.)
    I have not translated this “Hélène”, but I might have to now. It’s from Album de vers anciens, the same collection as “Naissance de Vénus” and “La Fileuse” (which I have translated) – and “La Conque” (“La Caracola”!).

  192. marie-lucie says:

    Yes, Nijma, Valéry is not the easiest to understand, let alone translate. Good try!
    Noetica, Trond, I will add more tomorrow or the next day.

  193. Tu oses me parler
    Noetica, I swear for a minute I thought we were still talking about bones; that’s how nearly absent or nonexistent or empty my French is. Thank heaven for Google translate.
    qu’en absence?
    I’m sure you will agree that absence is different from emptiness, and that both within and without set theory emptiness is different from nonexistence. But, setting aside the dry bones of Mengenleere, I was just trying, rather dishonestly, to think of ways of refuting a worm. Dishonestly, because for Foghorn the worm is an instance of fowl prey while we are more concerned here with the worm as agent of inevitable corruption: how a father suffers an earth-change into something …
    And I would like to think that if anyone can do voices it’s you. On the page, for sure.
    Perhaps I will style myself None the voice for vers.

  194. to think of ways of refuting a worm
    *steps down hard, twists foot a bit*
    I refute it thus!

  195. fowl prey […] agent of inevitable corruption
    Now that I think of it, there is some precedent for combining these:
    Then t’worms’ll come an` eyt thee up
    Then t’ducks’ll come an` eyt up t’worms
    But we would never go anywhere without our Hat.

  196. And thus I refute Wormley.

  197. Ø:
    Mengenleere
    What is the difference between this and Mengenlehre? Is it a difference much vived? Said theory aside, right: I speak not of bones but of daring (great first line for a saga). As for Google Translate, we all use it. When I post in French I normally check that it will come out well for Googlers. Even an optional comma can switch the meaning wildly.
    LH, and then Marie-Lucie:
    I refute it thus!
    Johnson redux will not answer death’s grim axiom, any more than he beat Berkeley down. Baudelaire (“Au Lecteur”):

    Serré, fourmillant, comme un million d’helminthes,
    Dans nos cerveaux ribote un peuple de Démons,
    Et, quand nous respirons, la Mort dans nos poumons
    Descend, fleuve invisible, avec de sourdes plaintes.

    Now, compare (“Les Petites Vieilles”):

    Ces yeux sont des puits faits d’un million de larmes,
    Des creusets qu’un métal refroidi pailleta …
    Ces yeux mystérieux ont d’invincibles charmes
    Pour celui que l’austère Infortune allaita!

    The first lines of these stanzas are interesting. These are the only occurrences of million in Les Fleurs du Mal (and milliard is not found). In both, million must be read with three syllables to make up the required twelve. That aside, in both there is a rare shift of the semantically and syntactically justified position for the caesura – back one syllable from its regular position after syllable 6. That regular placement:

    Serré, fourmillant, comme | un million d’helminthes

    Ces yeux sont des puits faits | d’un million de larmes

    The second is more comprehensible, with the unshifted caesura, than the aberrant first; but both are puzzling. Turns out there is something special about that comme, which I had not realised. I wonder if it could be derived from everyday prosody? The entire discussion in that linked work looks valuable.
    Nijma:
    I was wrong. There is no “La Conque” in that collection. In my hypnogogic state I was mixing up Heredia’s “La Conque”, the journal La Conque in which Valéry published early drafts, and perhaps the included poem “Valvins” (dreamily confecting that into “Bivalve”, vulve-comme-moule, Lorca’s nacreous whatnots, and so on).

  198. But even as I write, the thread reaches 200! Great discussion: I hope someone is writing it all down.

  199. But even as I spoke, the thread reached 200. Great discussion: I hope someone is writing it all down.

  200. Noetica, I am in such awe of your erudition that when you repeatedly spell “hypnagogic” with “o” for “a” I imagine that this is deliberate and founded on some good principle.

  201. leer/lehr has been a source of amusement to me since the day when an intellectual father-figure of mine, of Central European origin, shortly before giving a big lecture, cut short a conversation saying that he needed to put his mind in Leerlauf for a few minutes. Not knowing the word (which refers to idling — running the engine while not engaged to the drive train), I heard Lehrlauf.
    I don’t really know any advanced set theory, but I’m enamored of the empty set, hence my name.

  202. Well found, good Ø. My principle? I write hypnogogic (in OED as a variant of hypnagogic) on the model of its converse, hypnopompic. This is like the difference between extrovert (modelled on etymologically sound introvert) and more classical extravert. Aiming to be a classicist, I write extravert; so from now on, intent on consistency and on pleasing the more exacting of the colloquists here gathered, I’ll try to write hypnagogic also. (If Homer nods, mustn’t we all? Sheesh!)

  203. But even as I write, the thread reaches 200! Great discussion: I hope someone is writing it all down.
    This thread takes an awfully long time to download. Just in case it ends up breaking the LH site, it may indeed be a good idea to write it all down.

  204. Noetica, do as you see fit of course, but I don’t want to sway you into any foolish consistency. Let me put it this way: if you switch to hypnagogic I may switch to hypnogogic in compensation.

  205. What are Lorca’s nacreous whatnots?

  206. What are Lorca’s nacreous whatnots?
    Thou wot’st not? I refer to Lorca’s “La Casada Infiel”: “montado en potra de nácar”, along with the earlier lines “Ni nardos ni caracolas / tienen el cutis tan fino.” The translation of those is problematic and much discussed. Caracolas (cf. caracoles, “snails”) is multivalent: primarily “conches, shells”, but also referring to certain climbing plants with shell- or snail-like flowers in Murcian dialect (DRAE: “5. f. Mur. Planta trepadora de jardín. 6. f. Mur. Flor de esta planta.”) and presumably also in Andalusian. The Catalan cognate car[a]gola has the same ambiguity. So possibly:

    Neither spikenards nor snailflowers
    ever had skin fine as this!

    Translation is … hard?
     

  207. Snailflowers have a snail-like shape, but what’s up with periwinkle, a word that refers to both a snail and a (to me) completely unsnaily plant?

  208. Quite. What’s a kid to do, confronted with such bivalvence?
    How does your garden grow? Cockle shells all in a row.

  209. OED gives this etymology for “perwinkle.2” (the mollusc):

    Known in this form only from 16th c.; but OE. had in the same sense a word variously read (in pl.) pinewinclan and winewinclan (owing to confusion of the letters p and ƒ = w). The MSS. favour the latter, which may however be a scribal error, as pinewincle would explain the 16th c. literary, and mod. dial. forms. In any case the second element is the same. It is noteworthy that the first certain appearance of per-, periwyncle, agrees so closely with that of perwyncle, periwinkle n.1, from ME. parvenke, perwynke, as if in some way *pinewincle and perwinke had coalesced in the form perwyncle, periwinkle.

    And for “perwinkle.1” (the flower):

    In OE. peruince, a. L. pervinca (App. Herb. 4th c.), earlier vinca pervinca (Pliny), whence also It. provenca, -vinca, F. pervenche, Norman F. pervenke. In ME., pervinke and (after AF.) per-, parvenke, late ME. perwynke, in 16th c. altered to pervinkle, perwyncle, and finally to periwinkle, usual since 1600. (See note to periwinkle2.) The derivation of L. pervinca is not clear: some connect it with L. pervincere to conquer completely, with various suggested explanations. Cf. sense 2.

    Merveilleux! We have a hidden connexion with conquering. Quel tréfonds de sémèmes. Also, periwinkle.2 is connected with the deep, briny, shell-pink ear, with cochlea:

    †2. = cochlea 2 (of the ear). Obs.

    At this point in a superstring-thread it is customary to open a wormhole (a threadwormhole) to the dread Urthread Tabellion, where also there is much lengthy discourse on being and nothingness, and a huge wormlike hydra (drawing again from Valvéry).

  210. I feel as if I am only now beginning to understand Trond’s enigmatic line “Who blows earworms away?”
    We have the word-family conch, conque, cockle, coquille, cochlea. I learn that there is a plant called cockle, too, but let’s not go down that rabbit-hole.
    We have the family mussel, moule (but mollusk is unrelated.). I am pleased to learn that this is indeed the same family as mouse, muscle. I’ll gladly go down that hole. Nijma, what was that creature that ran out the door and around the bend? Noetica, what was that about a Le vrai rongeur?
    I am even more pleased to learn that murex may be another of those mus words. I suppose it would be too much to hope that the Achaean kings wore gowns dyed with royal purple.
    What else can we winkle out of our deep, briny, shell-pink ears?

  211. Sashura looks up from a chessboard.
    How did you know I have several chessboards?
    I never feel at ease with articles. I can see why Hat put ‘a black sea’, not ‘the black sea’, but a chessboard here? Remember the arguments over ‘one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’?

  212. Yosano Akiko… a novel by Strugatsky brothers
    Thanks, Maxim. I highly recommend the novel, ‘A Billion Years Before the End of the World’ (in English: Definitely Maybe). It’s about various academics and scientists, unfamiliar with each other, suddenly coming up against a strange higher power throwing bizarre obstacles at them when they are on the verge of a revolutionary discovery in their field (that’s where the poem comes into it). Some give in and abandon their research, others decide to carry on. And the attacks are spread across the continuum of knowledge, from astrophysics to linguistics. A perfect answer to Snow’s ‘two cultures’ problem.

  213. A wormhole to Tabellian
    In that case, another to Lost for Words II, the canticum canticorum thread.
    my hypnogogic state
    Sweet dreams, then. But since cochlea has been invoked, I am compelled to paste the etymology, at the same time pointing out that a bivalve is not a caracola:

    cochlea
    1680s, “spiral cavity of the inner ear,” from L. cochlea “snail shell,” from Gk. kokhlias “snail, screw,” etc., from kokhlos “spiral shell,” perhaps related to konkhos “mussel, conch.”

    although if you look at a bivalve from the side it does resemble a heart, (Latin cor?) which warms the cockles of my heart {cockles of the heart (1660s) is perhaps from similar shape, or from L. corculum, dim. of cor “heart.”}. As far as the cockle shells all in a row, it gets harder:

    cockle
    type of mollusk, early 14c., from O.Fr. coquille (13c.) “scallop, scallop shell; mother of pearl; a kind of hat,” altered (by influence of coque “shell”) from V.L. *conchilia, from L. conchylium “mussel, shellfish,” from Gk. konkhylion “little shellfish,” from konkhe “mussel, conch.”

    (a kind of hat?!!?!)
    Now this is a strange one, but:

    darnel
    from dial. Fr. darnelle; the first element is obscure, the second is said to be O.Fr. neelle (Mod.Fr. nielle) “cockle,” from V.L. nigella “black-seeded,”

    Yes, nigella is the blessed black seed mentioned by The Prophet that is a remedy for every ill except death. And wasn’t his mother a priestess in the Old Religion?…..

  214. How did you know I have several chessboards?
    Ha, typecasting then. I pictured your current location within the Salon Hat sitting at a window table with chessboard, making the odd comment towards the center of the room. I don’t know why I gave Mandelstam an ashtray, I don’t know if he smoked or not. I was going to put his beard in the soup when he fell asleep, to give him a reason to dream about watery breakers, but his photo shows him clean shaven. Robert Frost ran in and out, I was going to try to channel Frost for a round of Homer, but too many computer hiccups put me out of the mood. If I manage a fire and ice type poem, he can always come back by the other door that he was saving for another day, otherwise it’s The Road Not Taken, or maybe the door not taken, and Way will lead on to Way.
    As far as indefinite articles with chessboards, I’m sure Hat’s fine establishment has more than one chessboard; in fact there are several in the above thread.
    that Straight Path
    I shiver when I hear it, it reminds me of the marxist ‘high road of history’

    Not that odd a metaphor. Even in the link from the translation thread they say translators look for the straightest path to translating. The Christian tradition doesn’t just follow straight paths, it makes them, which is a little more threatening if you think about it. (John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.'”–John 1:23; or Isaiah 40:4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.)(presumably for an army)
    But from the standpoint of someone who has had to deal with the constant harassment of women that goes with being out in public in the Arab world, when you hear Koran tape being played in a bus or taxi, everyone assumes a pious expression, and you know you will not have to deal with harassment on that trip at least.

  215. Hélène:
    Noetica and marie-lucie, thank you for your comments. The translation was for amusement; the poem is spoken by the shade of Helen, but I thought it would be fun to have the ghost of Valery come in and declaim it.
    azure-
    I always thought this was a sort of greenish swimming pool sort of color. The color of the Mediterranean is indeed unique and needs a special name. I remember standing on the ferry between Brindisi and Greece just looking at the color of the sea and sky, identical, and having a lot to do with light, I think.
    The reason I chose this Hélène poem to translate was that it seemed so much like the Mandelstam poem, in translation at least, that they might have read each others’ poems before writing their own. We have dark sea, waves breaking against hard objects on the shoreline, birdlike ships, salty beards, and foam. But in taking apart the French, the similarities seem more superficial. The translation I have is by Janet Lewis, who translates the title as “Helen, the sad queen”. The first stanza:

    Azure, ’tis I, come from the Elysian shores,
    To hear the waves break on sonorous steps,
    And see again the sunrise full of ships,
    Rising from darkness upon golden oars.

    But as Valery has it:

    Azur ! c’est moi… Je viens des grottes de la mort
    Entendre l’onde se rompre aux degrés sonores,
    Et je revois les galères dans les aurores
    Ressuciter de l’ombre au fil des rames d’or.

    The waves aren’t breaking against anything, they’re just breaking sonorously. The ships aren’t rising form darkness, they’re rising from shadow. In the second stanza “upon watery wings” is from “aux poupes de leurs barques”, and really means in the back of the boat, presumably from cowardice. So, no birdlike sails, as Mandelstam sees. The boats are propelled by noisy oars. The kings do have salty beards in all versions, reminiscent of the Norwegian rime giants. Must be a sailor thing. The conques profondes, conch horns, I changed to Lorcaesque Spanish caracolas for Noetica.
    The last stanza is totally muddled.

    And the gods! exalting on the prow with scorn
    Their ancient smile that the slow waves insult,
    Hold out their sculptured arms to my sad shade.

    Valéry says:

    Et les Dieux, à la proue héroïque exaltés
    Dans leur sourire antique et que l´écume insulte,
    Tendent vers moi leurs bras indulgents et sculptés.

    So Valéry’s l´écume, foam, has become waves. The foam is reminiscent of the story of the little mermaid — when the nearly immortal mermaids die they turn into foam on the tops of the waves. But maybe all the foam stuff in all the Homer poems is a more about the Greek tale about Aphrodite being born of sea foam.
    The translation is sympathetic to Helen, but I can’t tell if Valéry’s version is. There are arms in two places. The first time I think Helen holds out her arms entreating the kings. The second time, although I couldn’t follow all the pronouns and objects, I think the gods’ arms are immobile, carved on the bows of the ships. The first line also makes helen sound wistful as if she wanted to see the ships “again”. In the Valéry she seems more of a bystander. In contrast, Mandelstam seems rather naive in thinking that assembling a posse to go after Helen, which is after all not much more than recapturing an escaped slave, is somehow noble and “moved by love.”

  216. Isaiah 40:4 Every valley shall be raised up,.. (presumably for an army)
    I have always thught of this line in terms of liberte, egalite, fraternite… But they sing it in a different way on my disc with The Messiah.

  217. Nijma, Of course a caracol is not a bivalve. Nor is it a coracle, or a curricle.
    I always thought when they sang about “the crooked straight” in The Messiah they were talking about a hand in a variant form of poker.

  218. Noetica:
    If we cast the net wide enough to allow crustaceans, then I will sead your garden and raise you one: squill/squilla. If we allow vertebrates, then I have two more: delphinium and rosemary,
    On the subject of wormholes, just a note of caution: I have discovered that, whereas in the US the threadworm and the pinworm are two different parasites, in the UK and Australia they are the same two but reversed. I don’t know what happens if you enter a threadwormhole and emerge from a pinwormhole (far less a pinwincle hole). It might be as if Alice, having gone through the looking- (what’s the French word for “glass”?), and having gone about eating oysters and conversing with walruses and refuting bishops on the chessboard, were to attempt to get home through the rabbit-hole instead. I mean, you might find that of your bones a coracle was made, or something. There’s just no way to know.
    In any case, it fills me with pride to see that it was a fellow pooch — a hound of Heracles, merrily munching mollusks by the Mediterranean — who made the serendipitous discovery of the Murex’s dyeing power.

  219. Ø:
    Interesting considerations. But now I am diverted!
    Marie-Lucie:
    Thanks yet again for helping me to brush away some cobwebs. Below I present one of a dozen improved versions. I think this one respects Mandelstam better. The alexandrins are of course all formally perfect, and the rhymes now alternate – masculine and feminine – across the stanzas. That is a classical requirement, even if Baudelaire sometimes ignores it. Note that grues could occur only at the end of a line, by the old rules; hence the retention of grue but with less offence to the sober logic of prose. Even a single grue could be in line with all the others. (Or “crane now online”, as Google Translate quaintly has it!) Still, as you will see, “Le Bateau Ivre” came to mind as I composed. 🙂

    L’insomnie, et Homère; un vent roidit la voile.
    Jusqu’au milieu j’ai lu la liste des vaisseaux.
    Mainte grue en ligne, attendant sur les eaux –
    Puis, dans l’Hellas d’antan, l’essor sous pleine toile!

    Elles se font en “V” pour vaincre les troyens.
    Cheveux trempés des rois – le sel divin de l’onde!
    O Achéens, pourquoi vous opposer au monde?
    Hélène en est la cause, épuisant vos moyens.

    Les flots, Homère – eux tous. L’amour la vie obsède.
    Homère s’étant tu, me parviendra quel chant?
    O! la mer s’assombrit – rhéteur retentissant!
    Ma couche elle enveloppe, et au sommeil je cède.

    The exercise has usefully enriched my appreciation of French versification.
    Claudite iam rivos, pueri, sat prata biberunt.

  220. marie-lucie says:

    Noetica
    mainte grue en ligne
    Sorry, you cannot use mainte grue en … because you cannot say gru-e en as three distinct syllables. The final e in grue cannot be pronounced when in front of a following vowel.
    Putting it in the plural: maintes grues en would not help since you would still have to say gru-es. To maintain mainte(s) grue(s) in the verse you must add another word, as in Ces maintes grues en ligne which would be an apposition to vaisseaux.
    Otherwise your new version is more classically correct, but I find it less forceful than the earlier ones.

  221. Quite right! A simple miscount, I assure you. However, you may be equally assured that Ces maintes grues en ligne would never be written by anyone respecting classical versification. Not Baudelaire, not Valéry, not Hugo. If they were to use maintes grues, they would be constrained to count it as four syllables, so that Ces maintes grues en ligne would be seven syllables (not counting the final -e, or course, which we want absorbed into the vowel that follows the caesura). Compare my note above on bleues: two syllables, and seldom seen except at the end of a line.
    How silly of me not to count properly. I’ll make it this:

    En ligne, mainte grue: attendant sur les eaux.

    That is perfect prosodically, and I can live with the sense as happily as if I had found it in Rimbaud or Verlaine. 🙂 We do need there to be cranes, and I will have many a crane in line, but not many cranes at the end of the line. Rhyming them would be noisome.
    In all of Les Fleurs du Mal, -ues (with /y/ pronounced) occurs several times but only at a line’s end. Same for -oues. (And -üe occurs nowhere; ü only in Antinoüs.)
    As for being forceful, I have other more daring versions. But I wanted to play safe, as I practised my prosody and usage.

  222. Correcting or course to of course, bien entendu.

  223. Insomnie. Homère, voiles arc-boutées.
    J’ai lu jusqu’à moitié la liste des vaisseaux.
    Cette couvée sans fin, ces grues en file indienne
    Qui un jour s’élevèrent au-dessus de l’Hellade –
    Craquètement des grues en terres étrangères!
    Sur la tête des rois, de l’écume divine.
    Où voguez-vous ainsi? – sans la sublime Hélène
    Qu’aurait importé Troie, combattants achéens?
    Et la mer et Homère – tout est mu par l’amour.
    Qui donc dois-je écouter? Homère, lui, se tait
    Et la mer couleur d’encre pérore, prétentieuse,
    Et dans un bruit atroce, elle rampe à mon chevet.
    1915 – Trad. Eveline Amoursky

  224. Cute! But she doesn’t rhyme it, and only five of the twelve lines are good alexandrins classiques. I hope she doesn’t intend them all to be. She plays in C major; and I in G# minor on a cor de chasse en Mi bémol, as a pianist. Hmmm … chevet is good; so is much else.

  225. No, just four lines conform: 2, 6, 7, and 10. (Love the surname, though.)

  226. And if we can have maint gavroche ramassé, and if maint prince have assembled, I really think that mainte grue assemblée must also be acceptable (especially with the greater latitude in syntax and sense that the restrictions of classical prosody have always permitted the hapless poetaster – or hapless master such as Valéry or Mallarmé).
    Maint and English many [a] are thought by some to be connected etymologically. They behave quite similarly. There are some uncertainties in French about its proper use, such as the permissibility of maint et maint X sont (or whatever verb). Normally it would be maint et maint X est; but it is easy to find instances of the alternative.

  227. It appears that maint éclair is a kind of inflammable pastry:

    Ta robe de bohème onduleuse et lamée
    Où l’or parmi la soie allume maint éclair.

          (Samain, Chariot)

  228. Noetica, here’s a thank you from the past:
    ‘A mon avis rien n’est plus difficile que de traduire des vers russes en vers français, car vu la concision de notre langue, on ne peut jamais être aussi bref. Honneur donc à celui qui s’en acquitte aussi bien que vous.’

  229. Comme c’est rassurant, Sashura: merci bien!
    Mais si vous me pressez d’entreprendre Onegin,
    Il faut que je refuse, étant un australien.
    It’s all too bloody hard. “Vodka!” I’d be beggin’.

  230. marie-lucie says:

    Noetica, for a “poetaster” with a poor sense of alexandrine rhythm, I give you Eveline Amoursky, whose non-conformities you identified correctly.
    There are many other things I could say, but I don’t have that much time these days. Soon perhaps!

  231. But that comes from the author of Onegin himself.
    That’s why I mentioned Onegin. 😉
    Marie-Lucie:
    Bien compris. I myself had thought to move on from this thread. I quoted Vergil for a reason: “Claudite iam rivos, pueri, sat prata biberunt.

  232. Is there any more about Yosano Akiko and the sea of death?
    read and Sashura, those were translations from the Russian? Are there more translations like that?

  233. hi, N!
    i don’t now, she were a great person it seems, from wiki, i just tried to translate from Japanese when B transliterated it to romaji
    i am very interested in reading more of her poetry too
    i wish i knew French.. so i’ve been looking OM’s poem in German, i don’t know German except just i am thinking to start learning it again if i ever master English sufficiently
    so that it’s not too late to start again and found this and this yesterday, about Paul Celan and his translations, so tragic life
    the first link had OM’s poem translated from PC’s German by Mr. Nomadics, interesting

  234. Bademantel says:

    Schlaflosigkeit. Homer. Die straffen Segel.
    Das Schiffsregister las ich bis zur Mitte:
    Solch eine lange Liste, solche Kranichzüge,
    Die man vorzeiten über Hellas führte.
    Wie ein Kranichkeil: hinein in fremde Grenzen,
    Auf Herrscherhäuptern schäumt die Göttlichkeit –
    Ging’s nicht um Helena, wohin wollt ihr euch wenden?
    Was gälte Troja euch, Achäas Männlichkeit?
    Das Meer und auch Homer – sie alle treibt die Liebe.
    Was bleibt mir anzuhören? Und hier verstummt Homer,
    Und große Reden rauscht das Schwarze Meer
    Und wird mit Donnerklang zum Kopfende getrieben.
    Taken from a site whose name is censored at Languagehat.

  235. read, yes, thank you, I see it now. It starts with
    卑怯
    その路をずつと行くと
    死の海に落ち込むと教へられ
    I can’t resist the Google Translate version:
    Cowardice
    I go with the path by
    Education is to drop into the sea of death,
    I’m halfway 引返Shita,
    I am clever, who has been unfair,
    Since then, in front of me
    Crossroads and
    Continues to occupy only detour.
    There are some links to more of her poems in my URL, also I found out more about the tanka poetry form and the ukiyo-e (floating world) tradition of print-making, but I didn’t find any more about paths.

  236. oh, read, I was driving yesterday and thinking – why hasn’t anyone offered a German translation. Thanks.
    Nijma, my Japanese studies were more political than cultural, so I can’t speak with any degree of authority about her, I only know that she was a monumental figure in Japanese culture. About Tanka and Its History is a good overview of history and modern state of tanka which gives due credit to Yosano.

  237. Why always German and French?
    1)
    Insomnio. Homero, Izadas velas.
    Leí la lista de las naves hasta la mitad:
    alargadas larvas, el vuelo de las grullas,
    que un día se alzaron sobre Hélade.
    Como cría de grulla en tierra extraña
    se esparce la espuma divina sobre la cabeza de los zares.
    ¿Hacia dónde navegáis? ¿Y quién , sino Helena
    a Troya os llama, guerreros aqueos?
    El mar y Homero, todo lo mueve el amor.
    ¿A quién he de escuchar? Homero calla,
    y el negro mar, elocuente, rumorea
    y con grave fragor se acerca a mi cama.
    2)
    Insomnio. Homero. Izad las velas.
    Leí hasta la mitad el catálogo de las naves:
    alargadas larvas, el vuelo de las grullas,
    que un día se elevaron sobre la Hélade.
    Como promesa de grulla en tierra extraña
    sobre la cabeza de los reyes se esparce la espuma divina.
    ¿Hacia dónde navegáis? ¿Y quién, sino Helena
    a Troya os llama, guerreros aqueos?
    El mar y Homero, todo se mueve por amor.
    ¿A quién he de escuchar? Homero calla,
    el negro mar, elocuente, susurra
    y con grave fragor se aproxima a mi cama.

  238. Insônia. Homero. Velas rijas. Naves:
    Contei a longa fila até metade.
    Barcos em bando, revoada de aves
    Que se elevou outrora sobre a Hélade.
    Uma cunha de grous cortando os céus –
    Sobre a fronte dos reis cai a espuma divina –
    Para onde seguis ? Não fosse por Helena,
    O que seria Tróia para vós, Aqueus?
    O mar e Homero – a tudo move o amor.
    A quem ouvir ? Mas Homero está quieto
    E o mar escuro, declamando, com clamor,
    Ruge e estertora à beira do meu leito.

  239. Paul Celan da Mandelstamm (1959-1915)
    (Schlaflosigkeit. Homer. Die Segel, die sich strecken.)
    Schlaflosigkeit. Homer. Die Segel, die sich strecken.
    Ich las im Schiffsverzeichnis, ich las, ich kam nicht weit:
    Der Strich der Kraniche, der Zug der jungen Hecke
    hoch über Hellas, einst, vor Zeit und Aberzeit.
    Wie jener Kranichkeil, in Fremdestes getrieben –
    Die Köpfe, kaiserlich, der Gottesschaum drauf, feucht –
    Ihr schwebt, ihr schwimmt – wohin? Wär Helena nicht drüben,
    Achäer, solch ein Troja, ich frag, was gält es euch?
    Homer, die Meere, beides: die Liebe, sie bewegt es.
    Wem lausch ich und wen hör ich? Sieh da, er schweigt, Homer.
    Das Meer, das schwarz beredte, an dieses Ufer schlägt es,
    zu Häupten hör ichs tosen, es fand den Weg hierher.
    (Insonnia. Omero. Le vele che si levano.)
    Insonnia. Omero. Le vele che si levano.
    Leggevo l’elenco delle navi, leggevo, non arrivai a metà:
    Il passo delle gru, la fila delle fresche poppe,
    alto sull’Ellade, un dì, tantissimo tempo fa.
    Come quel cuneo di gru, spinto nel più straniero –
    Le teste, imperiali, inumidite di schiuma divina –
    Vi librate, nuotate – verso dove? Se Elena non fosse lì,
    Achei, un’Ilio così, domando, che varrebbe per voi?
    Omero, il mare, entrambi: è l’amore che li muove.
    A chi porgo orecchio e chi odo? Vedi, lui tace, Omero.
    A batter su questa sponda è il nero-eloquente mare,
    al letto lo odo mugghiare, trovò la via fin qui.
    Hehe. Maybe that’s enough….

  240. Thanks, Bademantel! It’s funny, my German is not very good and I am not at all a connoisseur of German poetry, but the Celan translation immediately strikes me as more powerful, more full of energy, than the other one. Which makes sense, he being a great poet and all.

  241. Paul Celan da Mandelstamm
    Bathrobe: the version has a bit much of the grand declamatory (early-19th-century) about it, don’t you think ? There was a small typo. In
    Der Strich der Kraniche, der Zug der jungen Hecken
    hoch über Hellas, einst, vor Zeit und Aberzeit

    I have restored the missing “n” in Hecken. Without it, one reads “migrating young sterns” (Hecke or, more familiar to me, Hecks). I hadn’t known Hecke as “nest” or “nesting period”, and by extension I suppose the animals themselves. Apart from these two meanings, Duden gives “brood of fledgling birds or small mammals”, with the example eine ganze Hecke von Mäusen. So the first line could mean
    Cranes streak the sky, young mice in close pursuit

  242. the Celan translation immediately strikes me as more powerful, more full of energy, than the other one
    My feeling also. But, lacking Russian, I cannot form an opinion as to whether the slightly “grand declamatory” tone is in the original.

  243. Unettomuus. Homer. Tiiviit purjeet.
    Luin luettelo aluksista puoleenväliin asti:
    Tämä pitkä poikue, tämä juna nosturit,
    Yli Hellas kerran oli.
    Kuten lentäviä hanhia toisten ihmisten rajoja,
    Sen johtajat kuninkaiden jumalallisen vaahdon-
    Mistä lähteä? Kun ei Helen
    Että olet Troy, Achaeans?
    Ja meri, ja Homer – kaikki liikkuvat rakkauden.
    Kenelle minun pitäisi kuunnella? Ja Homer on hiljaa,
    Ja meri on musta, vitiystvuya, melu
    Ja raskas kaatua tulee päähän.

  244. whether the slightly “grand declamatory” tone is in the original.
    Oh, definitely, as is almost all early Mandelstam.

  245. …and of course,
    Nuqqas ta ‘rqad. Omeru. Stirat qlugħ.
    Naqra lista ta ‘bastimenti sa nofs:
    Dan larva fit-tul, din il-ferrovija ta ‘krejnijiet,
    B’aktar minn Hellas darba kienet.
    Kif jtajru wiżż fil-burduri nies oħra,
    Dwar il-kapijiet ta ‘ragħwa divina Kings-
    Meta inti qlugħ? Meta ma jkunx Helen
    Li inti Troy, Achaeans?
    U l-baħar, u Omeru – kollha li jiċċaqilqu imħabba.
    Lil min għandi jisimgħu? U Omeru huwa sieket,
    U l-baħar huwa iswed, vitiystvuya, l-istorbju
    U ma crash tqil tasal għall-ras.

  246. Amsteldam Spion

    Geen slaap, dus ik lees Homerus. Strakke zeil!
    Halverwege ik enquête de lijn van schepen.
    Een eindeloze lijst, een dynastie van kranen:
    Dat vloog over Hellas vele jaren geleden.

    Een kranen-pijl, gebonden voor buitenlandse kusten –
    Gespoten op koninklijke hoofden, de goddelijken schuim.
    Waar ben je zeilen, bloeddorstige mannen van Achaea?
    Indien niet voor Helen, wat zou je willen in Troje?

    De zee, Homer – alle dingen zijn bewogen door de liefde.
    Homer valt stil. Wat zal ik hoor de volgende stap?
    Dat zwartgeblakerde zee – stormachtige redenaar – stijgt
    En stuurt een doorslaand golf naar mijn bed overstroming.

    (Now we can all get some sleep.)

  247. “What’ll you have?”, says Rico, unobtrusively removing Marie-Lucie’s glass.

  248. Modesto, what is this U ma crash tqil tasal għall-ras?

  249. Homér. A nespavost. A plachty, jejichž řadou
    se dlouho pročítám, když sčítám koráby:
    to opuštění hnízd, ten let, ten jeřábí
    průvod, jenž jedenkrát se vznesl nad Heladou.
    Jak ptáci, jejichž klín se k velké cestě rojí
    – a božsky hlavy králů halí do pěny –
    kam asi letíte? Nebýti Heleny,
    mužove achájští, vytáhli byste k Tróji?
    Homér. A moře. Vše jen láska rozvířila.
    Komu mám naslouchat? Homéra neslyším
    a moře z černých vod se skládá vzletný rým
    as těžkým rachotem si lože odestýlá.

  250. Безсъние. И Омир. Опънати платна.
    Прочетох корабния списък до средата:
    Онуй котило, жеравен влак – над Елада,
    издигнал се в оная древна далнина.
    Като клин жеравен, в чужбина пришълци-
    главата царска с божа пяна озарена,-
    къде отивате? Ако не бе Елена,
    какво е Троя, о, ахейски храбреци?
    Морето, Омир – всичко обич направлява.
    Кого да слушам? Ето Омир пак мълчи
    и черното море витийствува, бучи
    и към възглавницата с грохот приближава.

  251. Just like to point out that the foreign-language versions I gave, despite their variable quality, are all valid translations downloaded from the Internet. They weren’t generated by Google translate.

  252. My goodness, Hat, where did you find them?

  253. Insomni. Homer. Les veles ben tibades.
    He mig-llegit la llista de les naus:
    Aquesta niada, aquest seguici d’aus
    Que a l’Hèl•lade planaven enlairades.
    Com aus que van cap a la terra aliena –
    Als caps dels reis l’escuma lluent dels déus –
    Cap a on aneu? Si no fos per l’Helena –
    Què és Troia per vosaltres, oh aqueus?
    Homer i el mar es mouen per amor.
    A qui he d’escoltar? No hi ha resposta
    D’Homer, i el mar declama i se m’acosta
    Amb un soroll feixuc que fa temor.
        Ossip Mandelxtam
    Übersetzt von Xènia Dyakonova; publicat a la revista Rels, primavera del 2006

  254. My goodness, Hat, where did you find them?
    Heh. It turns out that if you look up the word for “insomnia” in a language and google it together with that language’s equivalent for Homer, you’re likely to find a version of this poem. I had to do quite a bit of work for the Czech one, though, since it was available only from Google Books in snippet view.

  255. Needless to say, no Google Translate from me either.

  256. Sashura,
    They told me that the road I took
    would lead me to the Sea of Death;
    and from halfway along I turned back.
    And ever since, all the paths I have roamed
    were entangled, and crooked, and forsaken.

    I found that fragment or whatever it was very striking. All the more interesting if it came from Japanese into Russian (which I take is your first language) then into English. You can see the Japanese has the word “michi” in three lines, “watashi” in three more, then “ochikomu” and “oshierare” in the remaining line; maybe in Japanese it works partly through repetition of sounds or as puns if the words are used differently.
    The English starts out with a very strong meter, but as the poet turns back, the meter breaks step and becomes shorter, finally losing itself in a series of “ands” at the same time the path becomes hopelessly tangled. At the same time the thoughts are strongly parallel, and in part it is the repetition of the forms and metaphors that make it memorable.

  257. I figured it out now. Modesto got his Finnish by using Google Translate on the original Russian version. But since Google Translate uses English as a “hub”, some English words have come through in the Finnish.
    I’m not sure about Nuqqas ta ‘rqad. Omeru. Stirat qlugħ….

  258. The second one was a Russian-Maltese translation using Google Translate.
    Truly 玉石混淆 (a mixture of jade and rocks).

  259. Fine, Hat. I can’t make mine rhyme:
    Es no vindrà, el vent somnolent. Homer, al seu lloc.
    Arribo a la meitat de la llista dels vaixells.
    Un llinatge sense fi, una falange de grues
    Que han volat, fa molts anys per sobre de la hélade.
    Grues en forma de fletxa, dirigida a la vora distants –
    Els caps dels reis, mullats amb l’escuma divina.
    S’afanyen a quin lloc, homes d’Acaia?
    Si no fos per Helen, t’agradaria anar a Troia?
    El mar, Homer – l’amor mou l’univers.
    Homer és mut. Ara què vaig a escoltar?
    Aquest mar fosc, declamador de les tempestes:
    Les onades s’estavellen sobre el meu llit.
    (Enough! AllMondeSTUMM!)

  260. Helena.

  261. With some trepidation, with so many fluent or nearly fluent speakers of Spanish, (but also with more of a chance to find out how close it is to being idiomatic and poetic), here is a Spanish version in Lorcaic gypsy ballad style:
    No duermo. Homero. Velas llenas.
    Su lista marinero casi he leído.
    A través cielos ancianos Helénicos
    Vuelan las grúas en desfile.
    Como flechas apuntadas a las fronteras
    Los reyes tapados con espumilla
    ¿Quienes son? Sin Helena, son nadie
    Y sin ella Troya nada no sería.
    Y el mar, y Homero, moviendo por amor
    ¿A quien oigo, que Homero no dice?
    Un mar negro ruidoso resuena
    A la cabeza con fuerte caída.

  262. it came from Japanese into Russian (which I take is your first language) then into English.
    I am note sure if that’s how it happened. English-speaking cultures have as long a history of interacting with Japanese as does Russian.
    It’s not a fragment, it’s a full poem in the genre of tanka, usually in five lines, 31 syllables broken in the 5-7-5-7-7 order. I knew it in Russian and then googled the key words to find it in English. In English three words are used to convey eda-michi (one word) and mawari-michi (one word) – entangled, crooked, forsaken. In Russian it’s two: глухие (remote, forsaken) and окольные (detour, roundabout way, devious way) – and no repetitions, not even of conjunctions. But yes, repetitions or not, it is a striking piece – in all three languages.

  263. I put an audio clip of Mandelstam reading The Gypsy Girl on my blog. It gives a very good idea of how he actually declaimed his own poetry.
    I couldn’t fine ‘Insomnia’, don’t know if it exists.

  264. Nijma:
    I cannot parse “Su lista marinero casi he leído”, for a start. Someone else will speak with authority on the text, perhaps.
    But I do know that this is fabulously interesting. Too damn interesting! Of course I made some elementary errors in my Catalan just now (like a singular instead of a plural form). This may be better:
    Es no vindrà, la brisa del son. Homer, al seu lloc.
    Arribo a la meitat de la llista dels vaixells,
    Llinatge sense fi. Una falange de grues
    Que han volat, fa molts anys per sobre Grècia.
    Una fletxa de grues, cap a la vora distants.
    I els caps dels reis mullats amb la divina escuma.
    Els homes d’Acaia s’afanyen a quin lloc?
    Si no fos per Helena, per què trien Troia?
    El mar, Homer – mou l’amor a tots.
    Homer es converteix en silenci. Quina cançó ara?
    Aquest mar fosc, declamador de les tempestes:
    Les onades s’estavellen sobre el meu llit.
    No doubt this is still peppered with glitches.
    Some languages are better accommodated in Google Translate than others, it seems. One with few speakers like Catalan must get less correction from users, and the system lacks a lot of vocabulary. Several forms seem unsettled in that language anyway.
    My Dutch piece above, “Amsteldam Spion”, Google translates into pretty straight English (though it destroys my anagram on the old name for Amsterdam):
    Amsteldam Spy
    No sleep, so I read Homer. Tight sail!
    Halfway I survey the line of ships.
    An endless list, a dynasty of cranes:
    It flew over Hellas many years ago.
    A crane-arrow, bound for foreign shores –
    Sprayed on royal heads, the godly foam.
    Where are you sailing, bloodthirsty men of Achaea?
    If not for Helen, what would you want in Troy?
    The sea, Homer – all things are moved by love.
    Homer is silent. What will I hear next?
    That blackened sea – stormy orator – rises
    And sends a resounding wave to flood my bed.
    Translating that result into Dutch again, then that back into English, the variation from the first English is slight. This must be a good sign. It may have to do with the similarity of the two languages. Of course I had to fiddle things to achieve it. The two changes are inconsequential, and are perfectly idiomatic:
     Halfway through I survey the line of ships.
     …
     A crane-arrow on its way to foreign shores –
    Enormously instructive.

  265. peppered with glitches
    That’s a nice expression, Noetica, to match “salted with solecisms”. Hinweis: this is not a sneaky gloss on your translation.

  266. Condiments curious. Spice of the spurious.

  267. The internet knows of no translations into Estonian or Hungarian. Odd.

  268. Maybe Studiolum would know about a Hungarian version.

  269. I love “玉石混淆” (which Google Translate renders as “Jade Confusion” — perhaps that will be the title of my memoir.)

  270. My own memoirs will probably have to be called “Jaded Confusion”.

  271. re: Celan
    GS: whether the slightly “grand declamatory” tone is in the original.
    LH: Oh, definitely, as is almost all early Mandelstam.
    Yes, but very limpid too. Line 6, for instance, is literally: “On the heads of kings [is a] godly foam.” Celan’s version of that line is rather tortured by comparison.
    I agree though that his version stands out, despite being so different in syntax, rhythm (nominally both hexameter but M. has mostly 4 stresses per line where C. has a full 6) and diction. I know he loved Mandelstam and knew Russian well. Interesting what he does with the “black sea.” If I read it correctly, it’s “the sea, the blackly eloquent [one].”

  272. OK, my cup runneth over. I decided to look for a Croatian translation, googled the appropriate words, and found this, by Neven Jovanović, a Zagreb professor:
    Nesanica. Homer. Jedra napeta.
    Ja pročitah dopola katalog brodova:
    tu dugu procesiju, ta jata ždralova
    nekoć davno nad Heladu nadvita.
    Udarni klin ždralova u tuđu zemlju uperen —
    Kipte glave kraljevske od božanske pjene —
    Kamo plovite? Da nema Helene,
    Što bi vama bila Troja, junaci Aheje?
    I more, i Homer — pokretač svem ljubav je.
    Koga sad da slušam? Eto, Homer šuti,
    Eto, crno more elokventno šumi
    I uz buku zaglušnu pristiže pod uzglavlje.
    But it is introduced by a paragraph saying “Languagehat translated Mandeljštam’s Homer poem into English. Others have enthusiastically joined in the comments. I got the itch…”
    Ouroboros!

  273. Noetica,
    I appreciate your comment, but of course I do share your (and Leonard Cohen’s) interest in Lorca.
    As far as I can tell, mostly examining La Casada Infiel and La Monja Gitana, the gypsy ballads were written with four stressed syllables in each line but without a strict number of syllables. Listening to the poems spoken by native speakers on YouTube seems to confirm this impression. Lorca does rhyme the vowel of the second to the last syllable in the second and fourth lines, always with an ee sound, represented by Spanish i. Sometimes the vowel in the accented syllable of the first and third lines are rhymed as well, usually with a, but not always. Alliteration is sprinkled throughout, but I don’t see a formal pattern to that, as with the Viking drápa or dróttkvætt.
    Basically I’m trying to do what you did with the French forms, to see what can be learned about a particular poet or form by trying to compose something in the form.
    “Su lista marinero casi he leído” is meant to be “I have almost read his sailers’ list” with an inverted subject verb order, to get the i of leído to fall on the right spot for the vowel rhyme. If you take some liberties, you can get the phrase into 3 stressed syllables, while if you were to try with “la mitad”–half–the count of stresses goes over. I found it difficult to pack all the ideas from the Mandelstam into three stressed phrases, and even more difficult to get the i to fall in the right place, but I suppose if you were writing from scratch in your native tongue it would be easier.
    I did run it through Google Translate and as a result changed one spelling error and a preposition (hard to convert prepositions exactly from English). Google translate doesn’t do too well with Spanish verb forms other than infinitives or with any order but subject/verb/object, also it messes up some pronouns and objects. I understand you can change the subject-verb order in Spanish and also sometimes the noun-adjective order, but I can’t think of an instance where Lorca does that. Lorca doesn’t seem overly concerned with form, except as it imparts his vision. Apparently Lorca’s lectures, which some hoped would explain his technique, merely led deeper into the woods.

  274. Not four stressed syllables, in the gypsy ballads. Three. Or less.

  275. marie-lucie says:

    Nijma, “Su lista marinero casi he leído”
    One of the problems with this sentence is that su lista marinero is incorrect. If marinero is an adjective here, it should agree with lista which is feminine. But the original is about the list “of ships”, so possibly su lista de las naves (which has the same number of syllables, and the stress in the same place).
    “casi he leído”: this means “I have almost read”, where casi applies to the act of reading, not to the extent of the reading (it does not mean “I have read up to a point”). If you were not trying for poetry you could say la lista de las naves casi toda la he leído (“I have read almost the entire list of the ships”).

  276. Casi-Wasi era oso,
    Casi tuvo ningun pelo –
    Así no era Wasi oso, casi.

  277. Mi mimo d’imitativo.

  278. Polish, found here:
    Bezsenność. Homer. Żagle są napięte.
    Ja do połowy przeczytałem spis okrętów:
    Te długie stada ptactwa, te żurawi sznury,
    Ten wyląg, co nad Grecją podniósł się do góry.
    Nad obcymi państwami klin żurawi stoi
    I spływa piana bogów po królewskiej głowie.
    A gdyby nie Helena, to co wam po Troi?
    I dokąd to płyniecie, achajscy mężowie?
    Miłość wszystko porusza – Homera i morze.
    Kogo mam teraz słuchać? Milknie pieśń Homera,
    Czarne jest morze, przemawia i wzbiera,
    Jest coraz bliżej, huczy, bije w moje łoże.
    No Hungarian yet.

  279. Curious how “original” – origo, nothing new – has managed to absorb its opposite novitas – news. I put that down to curiositas and confusio:

    A confusio was the Roman term for the mixture of goods in such a way that it was not readily reversible. On this view, … the question is simply what happens when two people’s money has been mixed in such a way that it cannot be reversed.

  280. Danish, from here:
    Sen søvnløshed. Homer. Og vindens stramme sang.
    Jeg læste halvt til ende listen over skibe,
    Den lange udredning, det tog af traner vilde,
    Som over Hellas hæved sig mod sky engang.
    En tranefylking imod fremmed land,
    På fyrsters hoveder ses hellig fråde.
    Hvis ikke for Helena, stod din flåde
    Da ud mod Troja, du Achaeas mand?
    Homer som hav, af elskov drives alt på færde.
    Hvem skal jeg lytte til? Homer forbliver stum.
    Det sorte hav, en taler i sit store rum,
    Når tungt, med drøn på, tæt op til mit hovedgærde.

  281. Mi mimo d’imitativo
    Or was the idea that news spurts up from the fons et origo ? The Renaissance move from imitation to production, from naturata to naturans ?

  282. Latvian, from here:
    Bezmiegs. Homērs. Stīvas buŗas.
    Es kuģu sarakstā līdz pusei tiku:
    tai putnu barā, dzērvju kāsī,
    kas reiz pret grieķu salām laidās.
    Kā dzērvju ķīlis svešā malā –
    ap galvām valdnieku dievišķās putas –
    kurp traucat, achajiešu pulki?
    Bez „Helēnas kas būtu Troja?
    Ir jūŗa, ir Homērs mīlestībā viļņo.
    Kam lai es klausu? Homērs klusē,
    bet melnā jūŗa saka runu
    un milzu bangām ap galvgali dārd.

  283. Lithuanian, from here:
    Homeras. Nemiga. Ir burės virš galvos.
    Giesmė išvardina visus laivus Atrido –
    Tas gerves skrendančias, tą būrį jų išdidų,
    Kuris Eladoje pakilo kitados.
    Kaip gervės rudenį – į svetimus kraštus.
    Karalių garbanos – iš dieviškųjų putų.
    Ko plaukiat Trojon? Jei ne Elena – kuo būtų,
    Achajų didvyriai, tas miestas jums svarbus?
    Ir jūra, ir giesmė – vien meilei tepavaldžios.
    Kurios klausytis man? Štai, mūza, tu tyli.
    Tik jūra kalba dar – grėsminga ir gili –
    Ir su sunkiu triukšmu galvūgalyje beldžias.

  284. I notice that Mandelstam’s poem can be found online translated into most of the major languages of Europe, as well as Chinese and Japanese, which are perhaps the most “intellectual” languages of the non-European world. But I haven’t been able to find anything in languages like Turkish, Persian, Arabic, Hindi, Thai, Vietnamese, Tagalog, etc.
    I’m going to be very discriminatory here and suggest there is a pattern here: those languages for which we can’t find translations are “intellectual lightweights”, at least in the modern world. One might even use the word “backward”. Just an idle stone thrown into the pond…

  285. Bear in mind that not everything is online; I’m quite sure there are translations into at least some of those languages, but Google Books doesn’t have much coverage of them.

  286. Maybe.

  287. Maybe they reckon they have better things to do with their time than moping around indoors reading insomniac poetry.

  288. A native Hungarian speaker and I have just made this translation:
    Álmatlanság. Homér. Feszített vitorla.
    Hány hajó! Olvastam a listáját félig.
    Egy végtelen leltár. Darúk nagy flottája –
    Repülte át Hellászt sok évvel ezelőtt.
    Egy daru-nyíl, célja ismeretlen partok.
    Az Akháj királyok, jámbor só hajukban.
    Merre vitorláztok, O merész hőseink?
    Mennétek Trójába, ha nem az Ilona?
    Tengert, Homért – mindent a szeretet mozdít.
    Homér már nem beszél. Kit fogok hallani?
    Feketedett tenger, a viharos szónok
    Dob egy sós harsogó hullámot párnámra.
    Every line has twelve syllables. After the sixth there is a respectable caesura of sound, sense, and syntax. We adopted a principle of no coalescence at, for example, -lja is- (the point of a caesura, incidentally). This appears to accord with Hungarian prosodic norms.
    We aimed for a “mid-high-poetic” register, with restraint in choice of vocabulary and some slight archaism (like older Homér instead of standard modern Homérosz). We attempted some modest, and modestly cross-linguistic, play of sounds: “Merre … O merész  … / Mennétek …” (mer, Homer, men).
    Google Translate’s account of this version would be misleading. Here is a literal rendering back into English:
    Insomnia. Homer. Stretched sail.
    How many ships! I have read half the list.
    An endless inventory. A large fleet of cranes –
    It flew over Hellas many years ago.
    A crane-arrow to unknown shores.
    The Achaean kings, holy salt in their hair.
    Where are you sailing to, O brave heroes?
    Would you go to Troy, if not for Helen?
    Sea, Homer – love moves everything.
    Homer no longer speaks. Whom shall I hear?
    Blackened sea, the thunderous orator
    Flings a salty wave upon my pillow.

  289. Bear in mind that not everything is online;
    Cerddi Osip Mandelstam (Cyfres Barddoniaeth Pwyllgor Cyfieithiadau Yr Academi Gymreig) by Stephen Jones. Couldn’t find any extracts from it online.
    Also, there must be translations into Georgian, Ukrainian, Belorussian?
    And what about Hebrew and Yiddish?

  290. But I haven’t been able to find anything in languages like Turkish, Persian, Arabic, Hindi, Thai, Vietnamese, Tagalog, etc. I’m going to be very discriminatory here and suggest there is a pattern here: those languages for which we can’t find translations are “intellectual lightweights”, at least in the modern world.
    Even so, it would make more sense to say that it is not the languages, but the associated cultures that are “intellectual lightweights”. However, there is a simpler consideration that doesn’t involve a boxing metaphor. What are the ancient Greeks and Homer to those peoples (except possibly for Turks and Iranians) ? I can imagine there are ancient epics, say about a tea dynasty, that are important to an educated Chinese, but a matter of complete indifference to an educated Westerner. They would be slurped appreciatively only by a few East Coast intellectuals in search of an exotic taste.

  291. there must be translations into Georgian, Ukrainian, Belorussian
    My thought as well, but Google Books falls down completely when it comes to Georgian. (I haven’t tried the others.)
    What are the ancient Greeks and Homer to those peoples (except possibly for Turks and Iranians) ? I can imagine there are ancient epics… that are important to an educated Chinese, but a matter of complete indifference to an educated Westerner.
    Well, yes, exactly, and I’m hoping the esteemed Bathrobe was indulging in a little japery rather than expressing his considered views. The vast bulk of the great poetic traditions of (to take two obvious examples) Persia and China are utterly unknown to the West except in a few unrepresentative scraps that have become popular in usually execrable translations (Coleman Barks, Arthur Waley, I’m looking at you). The exceptions in terms of translations would be Edward FitzGerald’s Omar Khayyam, brilliant if very loose renderings of unimportant poetry, and Ezra Pound’s “Rihaku” [Li Po], brilliant if even looser renderings of great poetry, but that’s just a few poems. And the Arabic, Malian, etc. epics are utterly unknown, as are the national poems of Vietnam (the Tale of Kieu [Truyện Kiều]) and Georgia (the Knight in the Panther’s Skin [ვეფხისტყაოსანი, Vepkhist’q’aosani]) and doubtless many other traditions. We are all ignorant about almost everything, and we generally deal with that fact by pretending that anything we don’t know can’t possibly matter.

  292. I think Stu is absolutely spot on about lapsang souchong. Mandlestam’s map of the world shows more the intensity of interaction of respective cultural traditions, rather than their respective ‘weight’. It is, first, where Hellenistic tradition is strongest and most relevant, and, second, where exposure to and interest in Russian culture has been strongest. The second explains Japanese and Chinese translations. I once spent a night in a sing-along bar in Tokyo (that was just before karaoke machines) singing Russian war-time songs to the accompaniment of an accordionist – in Russian. But the Japanese guests all had well-thumbed song-books with the same songs in Japanese. In China there was a huge White Russian community up to 1950s.
    For the same reasons I’d expected the translation to be available in Welsh and Georgian. M. translated Vaja Pshavela and Titian Tabidze.

  293. Ukrainian, from here:
    Безсоння. І Гомер. Шатри тугих вітрил.
    Я список кораблів пройшов до половини:
    Сей довгий виводок, сей поїзд журавлиний,
    Що над Елладою вгорі відмайорів.
    Як журавлиний клин у дальні рубежі, –
    На головах царів ця піна божественна, –
    Куди ви пливете? Коли б не та Гелена,
    Що Троя вам одна, ахеяни-мужі?
    І море, і Гомер – все діється любов’ю.
    Почути заклик чий? І от Гомер мовчить,
    А море чорне все витійствує й шумить.
    І з гуркотом тяжким лягає в узголов’я.
    (Note that вітрил [vitryl] can rhyme with відмайорів [vidmayoriv] because both final -l and final -v are pronounced /w/.)

  294. thanks, Hat, it’s so beautiful – I’d say sounds better than in Russian. I can almost hear my grandmother reciting it.
    And it’s not just vitryl-vidmayoriv, note how much allophony is added in Ukrainian (soft fricative G – Gh, soft в-w):
    ГОмер-довГИй-вГОрi
    ГОловах-ГЕлена
    ГОмер-ГУркотом-ляГАэ-узГОлов’я
    полоВИни-журавВЛИний-ВИдмайорив
    любоВ’Ю-моВЧИть-ВИтийствуэ-узголоВ’Я

  295. Glad you like it! I wish I could hear a recording of someone reading it aloud; my acquaintance with Ukrainian is minimal.

  296. Wow, thanks for the idea LH! You prompted me to search YouTube for a reading of Бессонница. Гомер. Тугие паруса. — turns out there are a great number of them, many of them set to music. Take a listen at: http://video.mail.ru/mail/lydial/7806/9183.html

  297. 300 comments! Who’da thunkit?

  298. and most of it is on-topic – congrats!

  299. Stu:
    The Renaissance move from imitation to production, from naturata to naturans?
    My Mi mimo d’imitativo is a variation on my earlier M’illumino, immerso, itself an ironic-oneiric translation of our Mandelstam piece, in imitation of Ungaretti’s suprafamous Urminimalisch poem:

    M’illumino
    d’immenso

    O auto da automimesis que je, um, vise is this very thread and its Hattic nematic companions. Discourse like this feeds off itself ouroborically, as LH exclaims above in not so many words. Uranic (if sometimes eUrocentric) ouroboresis is a theme, courtesy of Valéry, in Tabellion also. Here, we churn and rechurn (like the return of nostos) a foaming tide of seamemes, just as the Achaean oarsmen did. Intertextualists will be pleased that a panther’s skin (see LH’s comment, a little above) occurs as an image for the ever-self-renewing sea in “Le Cimetière Marin” (again, as dealt with in Tabellion), near where the ouroboros writhes. The last two stanzas:

    Oui! grande mer de délires douée,
    Peau de panthère et chlamyde trouée,
    De mille et mille idoles du soleil,
    Hydre absolue, ivre de ta chair bleue,
    Qui te remords l’étincelante queue
    Dans un tumulte au silence pareil,

    Le vent se lève! … il faut tenter de vivre!
    L’air immense ouvre et referme mon livre,
    La vague en poudre ose jaillir des rocs!
    Envolez-vous, pages tout éblouies!
    Rompez, vagues! Rompez d’eaux réjouies
    Ce toit tranquille où picoraient des focs!

    The wind-ruffled pages of literature, the elements as tempestuous participanthers in the ouroboric auto da fée-latio de seaoie-mêmne … I could go on. (Do you doubt it?) Exegetic note: Valéry’s panther is of course a spotty leopard, not the blackened-sea variant that comes most readily to mind.
    LH:
    I have just started reading Clarence Brown’s Mandelstam. Wonderful! The only thing I knew about Mandelstam before was that you were an enthusiast, but I now see that he belongs among my concerns also. The symbolist influence, the fate similar to Lorca’s (both died under totalitarian oppression in the late 1930s), the Valéry-like immersion in pan-European myth and metre (he translated Petrarch, and experimented with Hippopotamic hexameters – caesura and all). But I have a question for you. Brown hardly mentions Petrarch, and I can’t find which sonnets of his Mandelstam translated. Do you know offhand where I can find that material? (I dabble in Petrarch sometimes myself, so I’m always interested in other approaches.)
    Bathrobe:
    Another poet and translator of interest is Xu Zhimo: contemporary of our symbolists and post-symbolists. He died at the age of 34 in 1931, in a plane crash. It would be interesting to examine his case along with Mandelstam and a few others, yes? He discovered and translated poets like Baudelaire (“Une Charogne”, etc.), and spent time in the US and England. Have you had much to do with him? I worked with an accomplice to translate a couple of his poems, which I found very westernised. Do you think there is much depth of Chinese literature behind his production? He might be an interesting tenuous bridge between the mutually incognitae terrae that LH refers to above. (Or if he had lived on …?)
    Over 300 posts now? Uroborissimo! Mi minio di minimalismo.*
    *”I illuminate [as one colours a manuscript: with minium, etymon for miniature] myself with minimalism.”

  300. I’m glad you’re reading Clarence Brown; it’s an excellent book. Mandelstam translated four
    sonnets of Petrarch. Here they are:
    1 (Valle che de’ lamenti miel se’ piena)
    2 (Quel rosignol che sì soave piagne)
    3 (Or che ‘l ciel e la terra e ‘l vento tace)
    4 (I di miei più leggier che nessun cervo)
    I’ll be glad to answer any questions you might have (or toss them to Sashura, as the case might be).

  301. Thanks iching for planting the seed of thinking about double dactyl in my head upthread. This is the easiest, most natural metered form I have ever tried to compose with. LH, if you think it would be useful to carry this comments thread off course I will post a little of what I’m working on over here, otherwise and likely either way I will post them on my blog.

  302. This is (or is quite close to) the form that “It Ain’t Necessarily So” is written to! Wow! Never mind blogging it, I’m a gonna set this to music.

  303. Thanks very much, LH. I’ll process those and report back. Mi muro d’illimitato.

  304. Yes, it was japery, but I was hoping I might be able to provoke a thoughtful or illuminating response. What I got was mostly defensive. I agree that there is no particular reason for most of these peoples to be interested in Mandelstam writing about Homer in Russian. And yet, it seems to me that an openness to and interest in Western intellectual thought in the 19th and 20th centuries is one mark of cultures that have gone on to rebound from colonialism and develop something that could challenge the West culturally and economically. The Chinese have their own ancient culture and probably don’t really need to take an interest in people like Mandelstam. But they do. The fact that they do suggests that they are intellectually awake, and that they are ready to actively consider and absorb new ideas and concepts. The ones that aren’t interested in Mandelstam may have wonderful old traditions that they can be justly proud of, but maybe they’re just a little…. sleepy.

  305. A small collection of “Бессонница…” translations into English (currently 29 translations, yours will be #30):
    http://riftsh.livejournal.com/37684.html
    http://riftsh.livejournal.com/38492.html

  306. Безсоння. І Гомер. Шатри тугих вітрил.
    this version takes us back to your original question: Taut sails. They added шатри – ‘tents of taut sails’. here.
    And a different Ukrainian version (from here):
    Безсоння. І Гомер. І тужава вітрил.
    Я список їх човнів зчитав до середини.
    Сей шерег видовгий, сей потяг журавлиний,
    Що над Елладою колись-то переплив.
    Як журавлиний клин у дальні рубежі, –
    На головах царів ся піна вдохновенна, –
    Куди ви пливете? Якби ж то не Єлена,
    Пощо та Троя вам, ахейськії мужі?
    І море, і Гомер – усе живе любов’ю.
    Кого ж послухаюсь? І ось Гомер мовчить,
    І моря чорнота зміїться і шумить,
    І гул її тяжкий уже ув узголов’ю.
    Переклав Іван АНДРУСЯК

  307. What a collection, Riftsh!
    I like the seventh best of all, by Alan Myers – for its unmatched formal virtuosity. I see that one commenter strongly disagrees. To him I say this: why have verse at all, if we don’t care about form? By your reckoning a paragraph of prose is the best we could do, to celebrate what Mandelstam sculpted out of the void for us. The original is in hexameters, and it has a particular rhyme scheme. To respect those same constraints is an admirable and challenging decision. In a very serious sense the translator’s burden is more oppressive than the originator’s.
    All this caesura talk | reminds me that I missed / that feature in my verse, | so rugged and rough-hewn. / I have to make it good: | I simply can’t resist / the call to mend, and give | what none can now impugn:
    Sleeplessness, and Homer. The tightened mainsail strains.
    Halfway the marshalled ships I scan, then can no more.
    Lineage of war-birds assembled, poised to soar
    Over ancient Hellas – an endless fleet of cranes.
    A wedge, this crane convoy – at foreign coastlines aimed.
    Achaean princes’ heads, sprayed with the foam divine!
    Heroes, where do you sail, across the seething brine?
    Who would go there, if Troy were not for Helen famed?
    Homer, even the sea – it’s love that drives them all.
    Whom shall I hear now, though? Homer his song forsakes.
    Stentorian and dark, the sea swells up and makes
    Above my bed a wave crash with a mighty fall.

  308. for N, if you haven’t seen it already
    haiga
    there were a few of Yosano Akiko’s poems
    i wish the site was bilingual though, or maybe it is, i haven’t read all the poems there yet

  309. Noetica, I agree: Myers’ approach to translation is perfectly legitimate.

  310. Безсоння. І Гомер. І пружність парусів.
    Я кораблям лічбу довів до половини.
    Цей довгий виводок, цей поїзд журавлиний,
    Що над Елладою підвівся і злетів,
    Як журавлиний ключ — до невідомих меж…
    В священній піні — чола і рамена.
    Ахейські воїни! Коли б то не Гелена,
    Чи Троя вам сама була б потрібна теж?
    І море, і Гомер — тримаються любов’ю.
    Кого ж бо слухати? І ось затих Гомер,
    Лиш море Чорнеє вітійствує тепер
    І гуркотом важким сягає узголов’я.
    І. Качуровський

  311. Безсоння знов. Гомер. В тугих вiтрилах бриз
    Я список кораблів пробіг до половини.
    Цей довгий ключ, цей потяг журавлиний
    Що над Елладою колись піднявсь увись.
    Мов журавлиний клин в чужинські рубежі, —
    На головах царів морська кипінь шалена, —
    Куди ви пливете? Якби не та Єлена,
    Що Троя вам одна, ахейсЬкiї мужi?
    І море, і Гомер — підвладне все любові.
    Кого ж мені почуть? Ось і Гомер мовчить,
    І море Чорнеє розгойдано шумить
    І з гуркотом тупим враз уриває мову.
    Григорій Зленко

  312. Znowu bezsenność. Homer. I żagle napięte.
    Ten ciąg żurawi, to ogromne stado,
    Ktore sie wznioslo kiedys nad Helleda:
    Ja do polowy przeczytalem spis okretow.
    Niby zyrawi klin w obce rubieze –
    Ponad glowami krolow boska chmura pienna –
    Dokad, dokad plyniecie? Gdyby nie Helena,
    Coz dla was Troja, o achejskie meze?
    Wszystko zyje miloscia – i Homer, i morze.
    Kogoz mam słuchać? Oto Homer zamilkł
    I czarne morze szumi proroczo falami,
    I z ciezkim hukiem wzbiera do wezglowia loza.
    Ryszard Przybylski

  313. m-l, thanks.
    If marinero is an adjective here, it should agree with lista
    Oops, I was going to correct it but started humming La Bamba (“Yo no soy marinero, soy capitán…”), How much of my Spanish comes from songs!
    If you were not trying for poetry you could say…
    The great poets seem to have a way of saying complex things with few words; I think that’s where the skill is.

  314. read,
    i wish the site was bilingual though, or maybe it is,
    Thanks, I added it to my post. Parts are bilingual but not the Yosano Akiko poems. Some of the poems (not all) have art; it makes the eye stop and consider the poem instead if just rushing on to the next one.

  315. Noetica,
    Stentorian and dark, the sea swells up and makes
    Above my bed a wave crash with a mighty fall.

    I have to laugh as in each successive revision your waves have gotten higher and higher until now they are not merely lapping against the headboard, but actually crashing down from the ceiling. 🙂
    It is a standard sort of culmination, that the mere soaking should progress to a complete inundation. Such is the stuff of hypnogogic dream-states.
    Perhaps Chicago dreamstates are farther inland than Australian ones, or perhaps I’m just on the second floor and don’t have to worry about a bathtub above me overflowing, but it seems to me that the dream state imposes a barrier between the dreamer and the object dreamed about, much like television. One runs but goes no place, one falls but does not land on anything, one reaches out for chocolate but the scene changes abruptly…indeed it is the daily scenes from ones life that impose themselves over the fourth wall of the dream state and appear there transformed.

  316. Bathrobe:
    And yet, it seems to me that an openness to and interest in Western intellectual thought in the 19th and 20th centuries is one mark of cultures that have gone on to rebound from colonialism and develop something that could challenge the West culturally and economically.
    The western world hasn’t paid all that much attention to Arabic literature. They know about Romeo and Juliet, but how many of us have ever heard of Layla and Majnoon? Where is even one translation of that into English? (Not that the trials and tribulations of arranged marriages would strike a chord here, we’re more likely to bemoan our own choices.) Maybe a handful have read Mahmoud Darwish–he’s been translated into 20 languages. But few westerners are aware that there’s a whole tradition of western influence on Arabic poetry. A cab ride with an Arab is as likely to yield quotations from Macbeth as from Omar Khayyam.
    I’m not really sure I follow the “rebound from colonialism” thing; I’ve never been sure what that was about beyond being a buzzword.

  317. marie-lucie says:

    Very interesting, Nijma. Please tell us more, like what to read for an overview and where to find some of this literature.

  318. m-l
    Of the poets in the link, I don’t know where to find any of them in translation.
    Rumi. More Rumi. (The Persion Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī. Everybody loves a mystic.) The Rubiyat online. A Mahmoud Darwish poem. Another Darwish poem (Rita, his first love, was Jewish, Mahmoud was Palestinian.) An international poetry forum with some Asian poets.
    Um Kalthoum also did many songs with classical themes and authors, she’s quite respected in the Arab world for composing songs from the Arab heritage, but I don’t have access to YouTube right now to point to anything particular.
    There is Bulbul Ensemble (with poor quality concert excerpts), that draws its repertoire from “the golden era of Arabic music, which includes compositions by Muhammad Abdel-Wahhab, the Rahbani brothers, Sayeed Darwish and Farid al-Atrash, and pieces performed by Om Kalthoum, Fairouz, Sabah Fakhri, and others.”
    Compared to Shakespeare and T.S. Eliot, not much.

  319. marie-lucie says:

    NIjma, thank you.
    Hozo, I’ll let you have the last word.

  320. “Rebound from colonialism”: some buzzword — one hit on Google.
    I don’t pass judgements on colonialism, unlike (say) Said. But the European conquest of much of the world (find a pre-WWI map of the world to see what I mean) was a fact, and for most of the world it was a pretty transforming experience, involving loss of political independence, economic subjugation to the West, and a loss of confidence in local cultures. Europe, and then America, became the global norm, a situation that hasn’t really changed much to this day. The Chinese and Japanese, and many other peoples are very aware of the heritage of colonialism, and while it’s possible to be cynical about “anti-colonialism” as a catchcry, there’s no doubt that it’s still a propelling force that hasn’t been played out yet.
    My comments above weren’t meant to put down non-Western cultures or excuse Western ignorance of non-Western cultures. But I was interested to see an apparent pattern (Hat rightly pointed out that lots of things aren’t on the Internet) whereby the only parts of the non-Western world to take an interest in Mandelstam are China and Japan. I was also a little disappointed because I thought at least something might be available in languages like Turkish, Arabic, Persian, or Vietnamese. Tagalog might have been stretching it a bit.
    Because of the sheer amount of material available, knowing Chinese or Japanese gives you overwhelming access to modern culture (i.e. Western culture), which becomes immediately apparent if you go into bookshops in those countries. I was wondering what the situation is with other non-Western cultures. My question was phrased in a provocative way, but I find the extent and nature of the influence of Western literature on these other traditions a very interesting topic. Nijma’s link to the section on Western influence on Arabic poetry is close to what I was looking for.

  321. Bathrobe:
    Because of the sheer amount of material available, knowing Chinese or Japanese gives you overwhelming access to modern culture (i.e. Western culture), which becomes immediately apparent if you go into bookshops in those countries.
    First, an aside. The bookshops of Nanjing and Chengdu have endured my plundering of their copious English holdings. (And Beijing, but less.) They too are amazing, and so cheap that it does feel like plunder.
    Second, something to demonstrate your point. In a book-barn in Wuhan (2008) I was astonished to find a pile of copies of Petrarch’s Secretum, in Chinese. Picked one up as a souvenir. I checked at Amazon that evening: not one edition was available at the time in English (or Italian, or the original Latin).
    (Third, um … did you notice my question above, about Xu Zhimo?)
    Nijma:
    How much of my Spanish comes from songs!
    My German, shaky as it is, draws from Bach chorale settings (linguistic Brunnquell aller Güter). I found this got me into some interesting conversations in Kreuzberg, but that’s another story.
    … your waves have gotten higher and higher until now they are not merely lapping against the headboard, but actually crashing down from the ceiling.
    Perhaps you will tell me which part of “с тяжким грохотом” suggests “merely lapping”. 🙂 The Oxford Russian Dictionary has “crash, din” for грохот; so “with a heavy [or hard] crash [or din] comes to the head of the bed”, I had thought.
    … one reaches out for chocolate but the scene changes abruptly
    Well, my hypnagogic states would yield the dark rhetorical chocolate with no trouble at all. In Freud’s accounts (empirically if not theoretically compelling) there is often a surreal exaggeration of some detail from the preceding day’s action. And Mandelstam gives us his own clear precedent, to work with such personification and concrescence as the demands of our creative re-imagining might determine.

  322. Noetica:
    I did check out Xu Zhimo, who I’d never heard of before, so I can’t say very much. I’d like to have a look at more of his work, although I haven’t got round to it. (I did, however, know of Yosano Akiko).
    Xu Zhimo is obviously an important figure in the same way as the Arabic poets found in the link that Nijma gave. “Western influence on other traditions” is possibly a bit unfashionable as a topic in these postmodernist times, but I find it quite fascinating and suspect that one day it will roar back into favour.

  323. In Japan, of course, the towering figure is Hagiwara Sakutarō, the ‘father of modern poetry’.

  324. Layla and Majnoon
    I STR finding at least a partial translation online back when I was reading Museum of Innocence — will try and dig it up…

  325. Sofi Nuri’s translation is online at the Turkmen Institute.

  326. N, i saw some of them are written in romaji and it seems to me that the translations are pretty loose and doesn’t sound as it sounds in Japanese, imho, of course
    My comments above weren’t meant to put down non-Western cultures or excuse Western ignorance of non-Western cultures..My question was phrased in a provocative way, but I find the extent and nature of the influence of Western literature on these other traditions a very interesting topic.
    so it could be that some cultures practice more of personal modesty and lack of the individual desire, ambition for fame, immortality etc than it’s normal in the west
    if the main philosophy one is accustomed to is that of detachment, void and transience of one’s presence in the world, or that of equality and collectivism, for example, than not much could possibly be left after one’s life and that just would mean that people were more true to their convictions and beliefs, than intellectually lazy, perhaps
    even in the west, Emily Dickinson, Kafka, they are known to the world just by some happy chance, it could be that for the countless others elsewhere those chances were lost or consciously suppressed due to their beliefs even before of their creating something original, meaningful and significant or what was created was lost or remain unknown
    that could apply maybe to the translations from western literature too
    and even if all the notions of that, western colonial might and superiority of the western/white culture were that, true and obvious, why one would need to assert them, making such dividing statements, i wonder, what it gives to one, intellectual satisfaction? feelings of one’s cultural, hopefully not racial, superiority?
    but i think honesty is important too, if one thinks those thoughts and prefers to talk about them just in their own cultural circle, (here i think it is that circle, though), that’s more troubling and could be perceived just plain racist
    though for an educated liberal person thinking such thoughts is kinda like unbecoming, for what all that education is wasted then like
    and couldn’t it be interpreted that just the mere fact that “Europe, and then America, became the global norm, a situation that hasn’t really changed much to this day” is the evidence of the non-western world’s openness and maybe intellectual too curiosity?
    well, i’m glad that there are other, more eloquent than me defenders of us, the lightweights, around here, so i’ll leave it at that
    this is not, sure, to offend B in any way, cz i appreciate his interest in our language and culture a lot, that’s very rare, like that, a daytime star as we say

  327. read, I’m sorry you’ve taken it that way. I don’t believe in the superiority of Western or white culture. Colonialism is something that happened, and Europe/America as a global norm is a fact of life at this stage in history. I’m not defending this or condemning it, merely noting that it is how things are.
    I do tend to see recent history (say, the last couple of hundred years) as one of Europeans overwhelming the rest of the world, and the rest of the world then trying to come out from under that blanket. I also think that’s how much of the non-Western world tends to see recent history. The aftermath of the colonial era is still playing out around the world, and the fact that you feel so strongly about it only shows how fresh it is in people’s minds.
    You are right. There is no compelling reason for regarding Mandelstam, or Emily Dickinson, or Kafka, or Pushkin, or anyone else as “superior” to others who, through some throw of the dice, didn’t make it. When it comes to that, there is probably also no reason why they should be translated into other languages. What I found interesting was that translations of Mandelstam could be found on the Internet in only two non-Western languages. I threw out a provocative question suggesting that other cultures may be a bit too “sleepy” to be chasing poets like Mandelstam, and I was hoping that someone would come back with an interesting explanation. The response of non-Western cultures to Western cultures is too complex on many levels to be characterised in terms of “sleepiness” or “backwardness”, but it would have been interesting to hear something other than “We don’t pay any attention to their culture, either” or “Do you really believe that Western culture is so superior?”

  328. marie-lucie says:

    I found this relevant metaphor in a comment I read today on Language Log:
    There is of course a big difference between a linguist and a translator – as there’s a difference between a nutritionist and a chef.

  329. Myers’ approach to translation is perfectly legitimate.
    That said, it is also as LH wrote here:

    I don’t like bad free verse translations any better than Brodsky did, but the answer is not to try to cram oneself into a rigid scheme of rhyme and meter but to try to give a feel for the swing of the original while availing oneself of the flexibility of the modern English tradition.

    Hmm. It depends partly on your aims. Here we have been canvassing a multitude of alternatives, and rhymed versions must count heavily among those (since the original rhymes).
    But what would be best in a serious critical anthology for non-russophones? The restriction to one version is so limiting. I do think it is important to reflect the rhyme and rhythmic structure of the original, along with the sense as it is given in non-paralinguistic terms. I am coming more and more to favour a multiple approach. For Russian into English, we might present all of these components:
    1. The original text.
    2. A transliteration, so the sounds are more apparent to the acyrillic reader. (We see this quite often for Sanskrit, along with a de-sandhified version too.)
    3. A prose translation. Nothing fancy; just “literal” meanings.
    4. A verse translation that could work on its own as a poem. This should use any selected resources from English practice that are suited to the structure, tone, and register of the original. (The surface sense can be taken more for granted, since we have that in the prose. Metre and the like are negotiable, to compromise between the choice in the original and corresponding choices in English verse. I normally use pentameters when translating hexameters, for example.)
    5. Notes of various sorts, all on the same spread of pages as what they refer to in the first four components.
    The ideal layout, if this were done in print, might be a book with pages in landscape. The first four components could then be arranged left to right across a two-page spread (since they must be coordinated line line by line), with notes at the foot (since some pages will require many or long notes, and some few or short).

  330. [Mad laments.] I meant line by line.

  331. read, Bathrobe is joking. It’s called playing devil’s advocate. It just means expressing some ideas to get other people involved in conversation about a subject. The problem is, we’re all a bit sleepy about that, since people who are interested in language are already interested in being around people who are different from them. So Bathrobe isn’t fooling anybody and didn’t get a very big discussion about the subject he’s interested in.
    The whole “colonialism” thing is sort of a red herring, I think, if what you’re talking about is large numbers of people moving to a different region, or setting up local governments where there were none before, or even developing new industries in order to make a profit. The real issue is about being in contact with a more economically or politically dominant or high status culture. I would imagine the issues would have been similar in Greek and Roman times.
    There is probably good reason for a more minor culture, however you define it, to be interested in the more dominant culture than vice versa. If you take the Middle East as an example, first Britain, then the U.S. have been very involved in the region. So there is basically only one dominant outside culture in their region for them to get interested in. But for us, there are dozens of regions in the world, which would take impossible amounts of time in order to understand properly. They would only need an “anthology of English literature” while we would need an “anthology of world literature”, much abridged and diluted.
    Those who have spent time in other cultures also sometimes lament that other cultures are more interested in western “bubblegum culture” than in the western values we want them to discover–that is, more interested in McDonalds than in rule of law, more interested in Michael Jackson than in separation of church and state, more interested in using the internet for pornography than for preserving their cultural heritage.
    But some very interesting things can also happen when there are two are more cultures in close proximity, besides the inevitable friction, that is. If you go back to medieval Spain, and the conquista and reconquista, you have actually three traditions, Christian, Islamic, and Jewish living together in the same cities. During that time all three groups experienced a resurgence in their mystical traditions, whether Christian philosophers, Sufi, Zohar, or Kabala, and older traditions from the 5th c or so were polished off and reinterpreted.

  332. what other explanations would you like to hear? ‘merely noting how things are’ is the strange feeling, what gets me
    otherwise, it’s like, whatever, not the first time ever to be called backwards, the whole nations and cultures, and there perhaps people get just as we say zaigaa barikh – keep, regain one’s distance and decide, like, to each their own karma, and prefer to not engage further in exchange, i guess
    didn’t mean to sound like defensive maybe
    and sure one can’t compare Pushkin or Dickinson or Mandelstam one to other or to any anonymous authors of any moving folklore

  333. Noetica: Perhaps you will tell me which part of “с тяжким грохотом” suggests “merely lapping”.(posts happy face)
    Well. Yes. Hmmm.
    You and I live on continents where we can see grand bodies of water like the Pacific and Atlantic, which really do crash impressively, with huge waves and all, and are quite dangerous, but here we’re talking about the Mediterranean. It’s azure, fer cryin’ out loud. They go out and putz around on it with ferries. And we’re talking about the kind of wave that rolls into shore then hits a headboard, about the size of a surfboard I would imagine, and splashes a little, making a pleasant sound of the type they record for new age subliminal relaxation tapes.
    If you’re going to whip out your Big Dictionary though, you have me at a disadvantage, at least until Hat finds an online Russian dictionary for his Hatters. But according to Google Translate, the part where it says к изголовью means “to the headboard”, к specifically means
    1. to
    2. for
    3. by
    4. towards
    5. toward
    6. into
    7. against
    8. unto
    9. near
    10. gainst
    or as Hat puts it:
    And with a grinding crash comes up to the bed’s head.
    Maybe the wave breaks off shore, then rolls up over the rocks, maybe not even touching the bed, we don’t know, but as Mandelstam’s book falls, the sound of the surf is for sure getting closer. The rest is left to the imagination…and to the dream.

  334. If we’re talking about Arabic literature it wouldn’t do to forget Alf Layla Wa Layla, the Kama Sutra, or the folktales that were told in the women’s quarters before the advent of television.

  335. Nijma:
    And with a grinding crash comes up to the bed’s head.
    But the Russian does not mean up to in a way that suggests ascending. It’s like “A prescriptivist walks up to me and says ‘Got a light, mac?’ “* So an assault from above is not at all ruled out. If we work with the idea of the bed as a boat (for which I sketch an argument somewhere upthread: “there is a logic to it all …”), we ought to imagine a wave of the sea crashing over the prow – the bedhead.
    The verb Mandelstam uses is imperfective, so we are to envisage an uncompleted process. It seems indeterminate whether the relevant process is the actual arrival of the wave, considered as extended in time (which is fair enough for a lumbering great wave), or its approach before actually hitting. But crashing is more naturally what a wave does just as it hits, rather than as it is rolling toward a vessel. (We are not imagining broken, crashing surf, thundering up a beach toward the poet or his bed-ship.)
    * Cf. ” ‘Got a light, mac?’ ‘No, but I’ve got a light brown overcoat’ ” (Vivian Stanshall, “Big Shot”, History of the Bonzos, 1974).

  336. Middle East – first Britain, then the U.S. – there is basically only one dominant outside culture in their region for them to get interested in.
    You are forgetting France (and Spain and Italy to a lesser extent). France’s involvement in the Middle East and French-Arab interaction has been and is very strong.

  337. what would be best in a serious critical anthology for non-russophones?
    This is a very good outline, Noetica. I’d only disagree on the horizontal (landscape) layout. While attractive in principle, landscape books are a pain to keep. Perhaps it would be implemented in electronic form with modern tablets and desktops all having landscape screens (or landscape option).
    Sadly, for physical (print) books there are always various practical constraints.

  338. I don’t see the format as an insuperable constraint, Sashura. With other genres we match the design to the requirements of the contents. People don’t complain about the width of atlases, or the thickness of dictionaries. I’d be calling for a more flexible approach from publishers. But then, what hope is there if we can’t even convince major players to prefer footnotes to endnotes, as all serious readers do?
    If we had to stick to the conventional format, I would suggest that component 2 go under component 1 on the left page:
    1. Russian
    2. Transliteration
    And component 4 under 3 on the right:
    3. Prose crib (lineated to match the other components)
    4. Verse translation.
    With 5 (the footnotes) spread over both pages. Then we’d still have everything associated with a passage of the original in one place, in one opening of the book. Serious enquirers (the ones who will want such a book) wouldn’t mind that this fragments the text, if they can be spared having to juggle with thumbs and sundry digits between pages at various points.
    But try telling that to publishers these days. It’s all much easier online, where creative solutions are cheap and available, at the expense of a little imaginative effort.

  339. read:
    What would I like to hear? Well, some reasons and background. Like:
    * All those languages/countries mentioned have a smaller presence on the Internet, so the kind of stuff that has gone online is limited (Hat suggested this). Mandelstam fans just haven’t posted anything yet.
    * For xxx reason, Mandelstam is less well known in those countries. (One confession here: until I came to LH, I knew Mandelstam as a name, nothing more). The Arabic source that Nijma linked to made the very interesting observation that Shakespeare had only a minimal influence on Arabic poetry compared to Eliot. That’s something I find quite puzzling and it would be very interesting to know why. Similarly for Mandelstam, if he is in fact less well known.
    * The publishing industry in those countries is still small scale or suffers from a small market. Perhaps it is harder to publish obscure material and make a profit.
    There are many possible reasons, and no one here (including myself) seems to know enough about these literatures to venture any observations.
    As for my “provocation”, I’m now sorry I used the word “backward”. Perhaps I’ve become inured to it because the Chinese are happy to use the equivalent word 落后 so often. In fact, “backward” is one of those slippery words that can convey valid information at the same time as a value judgement. When Chinese use 落后, they generally refer to economic, social, or medical backwardness, but the term also carries within it an attitude of dismissal towards the cultures and people so described. (I have heard Mainland Chinese refer to Hainan and its people as 落后. One person even mentioned the fact that Hainanese has only one word to mean both ‘eat’ and ‘drink’ as proof that the Hainanese are backward. This kind of thing makes me cringe. But in an intellectual sense, Hainan is somewhat “backward”. There is very little intellectual stimulation and many locals prefer drinking tea and gambling to, say, reading. So while I’m happy to look for those aspects of Hainan that make it interesting, living there can leave something to be desired, and “backward” is, regrettably, one word that is used to capture that.)

  340. i don’t know, ‘provocations’ which potentially could offend others, are they worth consideration
    if the answers too are not very enlightening
    well, that’s how the western mind works, i know
    it’s difficult to get the devil’s advocate games and sarcasm/satire
    being from ‘small’ country, i, for example, don’t feel my culture lesser than any other, it’s just different, one can’t compare dew to snowflakes like
    and one answer to your inquiry could be just geographical, Mandelstam is read in Russian in the former USSR influence areas, so there is no need to translate him and than the next closest neighbours are China and Japan, so there he’s translated, further it goes, less influence of Mandelstam, i mean, Russian on other cultures maybe

  341. I threw out a provocative question suggesting that other cultures may be a bit too “sleepy” to be chasing poets like Mandelstam, and I was hoping that someone would come back with an interesting explanation. The response of non-Western cultures to Western cultures is too complex on many levels to be characterised in terms of “sleepiness” or “backwardness”, but it would have been interesting to hear something other than “We don’t pay any attention to their culture, either” or “Do you really believe that Western culture is so superior?”
    Pro tip: the likelihood of interesting explanations is inversely correlated with the “provocativeness” of the question. I would think it would be blindingly obvious that if you stick the word “backward” into your question, that’s what will stand out and be focused on, and you’re going to get answers like “We don’t pay any attention to their culture, either” or “Do you really believe that Western culture is so superior?” If you want to know why the translations available on the internet are limited in the ways they are (geographically, culturally), it’s best to ask why the translations available on the internet are limited in the ways they are and skip the provocation. (I see this kind of thing all the time on AskMetaFilter, where questions are frequently derailed by the poster’s insistence on being cute, ironic, provocative, or what have you. People who just ask the question they want answered get the best answers.)

  342. Well said LH.
    I would like to try to rerail this amazing and delightful thread back to discussing Mandelstam’s poem and LH’s translation.
    One issue I raised and described as trivial is the choice of who instead of whom in the line Who shall I listen to? Homer is silent now, .It might be a trivial and/or boring issue but I am still interested in a brief discussion. Some of the suggested translations have used who and some whom. Does anyone have a strong opinion that whom should not be used? And if so is that because you think that whom is basically obsolete in modern English or because it is not the best choice for this particular poem? I get the impression that whom is still alive (if not very well) in my Australian English, while shall on the other hand is as dead as a doornail (except maybe in poetry and legalese).

  343. iching: out of “Who shall I listen to?”, “Whom shall I listen to?”, “Who will I listen to?”, “Whom will I listen to?”, all except the last sound natural to my ear. I reckon I prefer the second (or perhaps the third) option in this poem but am not sure why. “Who will I listen” is nicely alliterative.

  344. (I took a moment to look up the prescription for use of “shall” vs. “will” the other day and was pleased to find it as incoherent as ever… Fowler’s Modern English Usage, OUP, 2002, notes: “it is unlikely that this rule has ever had any consistent basis of authority in actual usage, and many examples of English in print disregard it.”

  345. Of interest for translators thinking about word choice: Jonathan Galassi’s brief reflections on translating Leopardi’s poetry include scans of his corrected proofs.

  346. it would be great if the definite indefinite articles would become obsolete, maybe it’s happening already, no? i read yahoo news headlines, for example, and there are usually no any articles in there

  347. One issue I raised and described as trivial is the choice of who instead of whom in the line Who shall I listen to?
    I (like many Americans) use whom only directly after prepositions, so “To whom am I speaking?” but “Who am I speaking to?” It would never have occurred to me to use whom in that line, but I certainly wouldn’t object if someone to whom it came naturally used it in that context.
    i read yahoo news headlines, for example, and there are usually no articles in there
    Headlines are a special case; due to space limitations, they omit all sorts of small words that are otherwise required. They are not good samples of English usage.

  348. “Who shall I listen to?”
    In American English anyway, there’s quite a difference in feel between this and “Who will I listen to,” particularly in a context like the one in this poem. “shall” says to me that the speaker is pondering a choice, where “will” focuses more on what the upshot will be.
    (The question of who vs whom seems much less consequential to me).

  349. it would be great if the definite indefinite articles would become obsolete
    Why in world would it be great?
    It happens, of course, just as languages without articles sometimes develop them over time.
    But why would you want to eliminate important source of nuance in English language?

  350. Why would anyone want to have a headline with no article?

  351. Makes for quicker reading of the news, clearly.

  352. i know, i think, the rules how to use those articles etc. and i try to memorize them and still the articles seem like redundant, if in news headlines those could be not used, maybe their usage will get further become limited due to space restrictions too and time saving and then drop like obsolete in some time, like, in 50-100 years
    if whom and shall could become obsolete than the articles also could get not needed anymore in the future, no?

  353. Looks like Newspeak in the year 2050 still has definite and indefinite articles:

    One character, Syme, says admiringly of the shrinking volume of the new dictionary: “It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.”

  354. marie-lucie says:

    Judging from examples frequently discussed on Language Log, headlines which dispense with articles and other short words (in order to save space) are particularly common in England. Some headlines are compatible with several interpretations, and are therefore difficult to understand unless the reader is already familiar with the situation discussed under the headline. But the article below the headline describes the situation in full sentences.
    If people started to speak like headlines, perhaps that would show that articles and other short words were on their way out, but thus far no native English speakers speak like that (only very small children speak English without articles).
    I mentioned earlier that in many languages which have articles, historical study shows that those articles started as demonstratives (like this and that in English). Singular indefinite articles (like a ~ an) usually started as the number ‘one’ (as in French, Italian, Spanish, German, and many others). Plural indefinite articles are less common, but usually start either for a plural form of ‘one’ or from words with indefinite number meanings such as ‘some’. So it is much more common for a language to develop articles from its own existing words, than for it to lose those words altogether.
    This does not mean that all languages will some day develop articles: using articles is only one way to make some subtle distinctions which can often be expressed in a different way in other languages (for instance, with a form of the verb rather than a word used with a noun). And with the course of time, articles can themselves disappear as independent words, through being reduced to becoming prefixes or suffixes.

  355. marie-lucie says:

    The situation with whom and shall is different: even if those words are not used, a word with the meaning and function is used (mostly who and will).

  356. marie-lucie says:

    a word with the same meaning and function

  357. read:
    Of course I realize one reason one might prefer not to have articles is that if your native language doesn’t have them, the rules for using them seem fiendishly complex. Just like the rules for anything that your own language lacks, eg, case inflections for English.
    Russian-speakers can speak English ignoring the articles just as English-speakers can speak Russian ignoring case endings, and still manage to make themselves understood. But native speakers will still consider them less than fluent.

  358. marie-lucie says:

    the rules for using them seem fiendishly complex
    I am not about to try to figure out the rules for using articles in English, but sometimes “fiendishly complex” means that whatever needs to be explained is not stated in the clearest manner, or that the rule-writer tried to include every possible exception, regardless of its practical usefulness. A reference grammar will list everything, without making a pedagogical difference between the more common uses (which need to be learned and practiced) and the rare ones which one might encounter in writing but which are not needed for most practical purposes. With difficult topics like this one, it might be worth read’s while to consult several grammars of English, especially those written for speakers of Mongolian or Russian or Japanese, and to see which one seems to be clearest on the topic.

  359. marie-lucie says:

    less than fluent
    Am I missing the meaning of “fluent”? Not long ago I encountered a description of someone who claimed to “speak freely” in a certain language as “not the same as fluent”. To me “fluent” does not imply “as well as native speaker”, but it does imply being able to participate “freely” in a normal conversational give-and-take: asking and answering questions, stating one’s opinions on a variety of topics, rephrasing if someone does not understand, without much hesitation, regardless of whether the person makes a few mistakes or not. So someone does not have to have mastered the subleties of a language (especially in writing) to be considered fluent: indeed, there are people who (given enough time and the use of a dictionary) can write a perfect letter or text in another language but whose auditory understanding and oral delivery of even simple sentences is painfully slow. Or am I wrong about the meaning of the term?

  360. Well, there are degrees of fluency, I think. Perhaps I should have said “less than perfectly fluent.”
    Misusing or failing to use articles probably won’t seriously impede communication most of the time, though occasionally it might. It’s the cases when it might that the materials you mention should (and probably do) focus on.
    At the other end are the cases when it doesn’t make any difference to the meaning, or at most a very subtle one. There’s also the aesthetics of it. Some of us (and you know by now I am one) do consider both nuances and aesthetics important. Still, I wouldn’t deny a person’s fluency based on that alone.

  361. what would be best in a serious critical anthology for non-russophones?
    Here is a shot of a Koran, Abdullah Yususf Ali’s classical translation, with the three columns, one in English, one a transliteration and one in Arabic. Personally I find it annoying for many reasons: the King James style of the English, transliterations useless for pronouncing the Arabic, the only useful part, the Arabic, hidden in the fold, and the hugeness of the book that makes it hard to hold open.
    This book looks like fun. Reader review: “It consists of 252 quatrains by Rumi in an elegant and legible nastaaliq hand, which I found very useful as a way of familiarizing myself with this script which can be quite challenging to beginners. Each quatrain is followed by a transliteration, a word for word translation, and a clear translation in contemporary English. This is ideal for someone learning to read, write and pronounce Persian. There is a glossary of terms which is good as far as it goes but is quite brief. Something along the lines of the notes to Nicholson’s Selected Poems from the Diven-e Shames-e Tabrizi would have made the volume even more useful for the student of Rumi.” You can see the layout by clicking on “first pages”.

  362. Noetica,
    we ought to imagine a wave of the sea crashing over the prow
    Of course we can imagine whatever we like. It’s a dream, and it’s poetic license. I wasn’t suggesting an ascending wave though, more like the way the surf crashes when the tide comes it. (Is the Aegean big enough to have tides?) I have a really hard time seeing the wave and the bed in the same frame though, this is the fourth wall between sleep and waking that cannot be bypassed. Beds don’t usually float, much less steer. And waves don’t really crash against a boat at sea. The boat moves up and down into the swells and valleys no matter how huge the waves are, and I’ve never seen very big waves in the Mediterranean. The waves don’t break until they are just off shore, just like in the surfer flicks. I’m not convinced that the “assault from above” theory is borne out by the Russian though. If you look at Slawk’s version, and I get the idea he’s very meticulously clear in conveying meaning into English, he says, “The Black Sea, booming, spreads its noisy preachments
    And draws up to the headboard of my bed.” At that point we probably don’t need the bed anymore, but maybe something more like a shoe. And if you scroll down you can see some of the unobtainable (for me at least) chocolate. Or perhaps these are the beds–and the waves–we are looking for.

  363. Misusing or failing to use articles … doesn’t make any difference to the meaning, or at most a very subtle one.
    This is very reassuring. A fine example of such subtlety is a recent translation of Kingsley Amis’ The Russian Girl – “Эта русская”. Translated back into English it’s simply That Russian. So the translator avoided literal ‘русская девушка’ without the article, but translated the article as a pronoun.
    And the other way round, capturing the subtleties of a Russian text with English articles isn’t easy as the example with ‘black sea’ shows.

  364. Am I missing the meaning of “fluent”?
    This is a wonderful description of fluency, marie-lucie.
    But how shall we describe what comes between fluency and full native ability?
    And your definiton applies to a non-native speaker’s proficiency. There is, obviously, an educational component. Some native speakers of a language could be less fluent in their own language than a better educated foreigner.
    Secondly, I would add the cultural references dimension to the notion of fluency. To be fluent, one must have if not the knowledge of common cultural references in the foreign language, but at least the ability to recognise when such reference is employed. Celine of Naked Translations recently mentioned someone translating 9/11 as the ninth of November. That’s extreme, but when Hat titled a post on Dostoyevsky Who’s on First, few commenters recognised it as an American cultural reference until someone bravely asked ‘what’s that?’

  365. Is the Aegean big enough to have tides?
    No, neither the Black Sea, nor the Aegean has tides, but I have seen storms on the Black Sea as ferocious as anything I have in Normandy, Brittany or Wales. On the other hand my memories of Oyster Bay are of a warm gentle sea lapping on the white sand with horseshoe crabs scuttling about.

  366. I don’t agree at all with Bathrobe’s suggestion, tongue-in-cheek or not, that Homer could be used as a measure of the ‘backwardness’ or ‘progressiveness’ of a language (are my articles right here?). However, Dryden’s translation of Virgil’s Aeneid in 1694s and Gnedich’s of Iliad (1829) and Zhukovsky’s of Odyssey (1840s) were events of national importance, a sort of coming-of-age of the national language. Vikenty Veresayev, a prominent writer and classics scholar of the Chekhov generation and an older contemporary of Mandelstam, translated Homer in the 20th Century. His versions are widely considered to be the best. And his translation of Sappho’s ‘Equal to Gods’ is one of my favorite poems in Russian.

  367. his [Veresayev’s] translation of Sappho’s ‘Equal to Gods’ is one of my favorite poems in Russian.
    Sashura, could you post it? I don’t know it.

  368. landscape books, Noetica
    Atlases and Dictionaries would have a dedicated shelf of their own, poetry its own. I have an old bookcase with shelves perfectly deep for deep-blue Oxfords and light-blue ‘Библиотека поэта’ volumes, but a few landscape designed antologies which we keep there have to be laid horizontally, it is a nuisance.

  369. Alan, I assume you ask about the Russian translation?
    Богу равным кажется мне по счастью

    Человек, который так близко-близко

    Пред тобой сидит, твой звучащий нежно

    Слушает голос


    И прелестный смех. У меня при этом

    Перестало сразу бы сердце биться:

    Лишь тебя увижу, уж я не в силах

    Вымолвить слова.
    Но немеет тотчас язык, под кожей
    
Быстро легкий жар пробегает, смотрят,

    Ничего не видя, глаза, в ушах же —

    Звон непрерывный.
    Потом жарким я обливаюсь, дрожью

    Члены все охвачены, зеленее

    Становлюсь травы, и вот-вот как будто
    
С жизнью прощусь я.
    Но терпи, терпи: чересчур далёко
    
Все зашло…
    And here is the song version which was a big hit in 1975 and again in 2005 when the original album was re-released.

  370. That’s really lovely. Written in perfect sapphics, too.

  371. transliterations useless for pronouncing the Arabic
    What on earth is this supposed to mean?

  372. That’s really lovely. Written in perfect sapphics, too.
    It is indeed wonderful, but I must pedantically point out that perfect sapphics are possible only in Greek and Latin (and other languages with quantitative verse); in English, Russian, etc., all you can do is approximate them in a way that would inevitably seem crude to a speaker of Greek or Latin.
    I do wish Veresayev had left off the last two lines of his version (only three words in Greek: αλλα παν τολματον ‘but all can be dared/endured’); they may not even belong to this poem, and (in my opinion) they are a falling off from the magical effect of what precedes.

  373. Beds don’t usually float, much less steer.
    …but they do!

  374. perfect sapphics are possible only in Greek and Latin (and other languages with quantitative verse)
    True, but I think it makes sense to judge modern imitations on their own merits. These seem to me to work. Probably helped by Russian being used to meters with a strict syllable count. Whereas in English it’s hard to make the lines with the central – x x – pattern sound like anything more distinctive than loose pentameters.
    I agree about the ending. He was probably trying to make a complete poem out of it, as others have done.

  375. These seem to me to work.
    Oh, I absolutely agree. I was just, as I said, being pedantic.

  376. He was probably..
    that is, obviously

  377. marie-lucie says:

    (fluency)
    I think that the bar is being set much to high for a definition of “fluency”. To me it does not necessarily mean “native-like competence”, but the ability to “speak freely”, to say what one wants to say, even with mistakes: the language “flows” out of the speaker’s mouth. For the listener, fluent if imperfect speech is much easier to process than a very slow, frequently interrupted succession of individual words, even if the resulting sentences are perfectly grammatical. If I am wrong about the definition, then what term would be preferable?
    Sashura: Secondly, I would add the cultural references dimension to the notion of fluency. To be fluent, one must have if not the knowledge of common cultural references in the foreign language, but at least the ability to recognise when such reference is employed.
    Last year, just before Christmas, I was in France and happened to sit on a bus behind two young women who were probably of Algerian origin. They spoke just like any French girls of the same age, but their conversation showed that they were unfamiliar with the meaning and details of Christmas customs. Should I say that they were not fluent in French?
    Do speakers in Scotland have much knowledge of the vocabulary of baseball? Are most Americans familiar with that of cricket? Are either of those groups not fluent in English? Are ten-year-old children not considered fluent in their native language, even though there are entire categories of adult experience that they are not familiar with and therefore don’t have the vocabulary for (eg politics)?
    Céline of Naked Translations recently mentioned someone translating 9/11 as the ninth of November. That’s extreme,
    Writing abbreviated dates in English is not fully standardized as to the order of months and days, otherwise forms to be filled which require mentioning dates would not have to specify DDMMYY (a logical progression) or MMDDYY. A person in France who knows about le 11 septembre does not necessarily recognize that date under the form 9/11, especially if pressed for time. But I would not list this error under the category of “non-fluency”: it is not a question of language, but of “cultural competence” – something which varies within a speech community as well. Cultural competence is very important for a translator, but should not be confused with “linguistic competence”. A person can be culturally competent without being linguistically fully competent.
    when Hat titled a post on Dostoyevsky Who’s on First, few commenters recognised it as an American cultural reference until someone bravely asked ‘what’s that?’
    The commenters here are an international bunch (part of the appeal of this blog). There is no reason for even English speakers outside of North America (in New Zealand or India, say) to know about “Who’s on first”.

  378. marie-lucie says:

    p.s. Besides, the ones who did recognize the cultural reference did not have a reason to ask about it.

  379. LH, what do you mean, what is this supposed to mean? You mean why doesn’t the transliteration work? I’ve never tried to analyze it, but most systems are somewhat intuitive in that I can just pick it up and if I know a little bit of Arabic already I can get close to the pronunciation. Maybe someone else can figure it out, I made the link high enough resolution to be readable. On the lower left of the page on the left is the sura Baqara 62 or 2:62.
    With Koran mostly I’m trying to follow along while a native speaker is reading (reciting) it, and tend to get lost often. With this book the only way I can find the place again is to find a word in Arabic I already know and wait until the speaker gets to that point in the text.
    I have less reason to want to know how to pronounce Koran, but have tried to learn the fatiha and the corsi aya. One day I sat down with the person who gave me the Koran, an Egyptian, and wrote out my own transliteration of Corsi Aya. It is said to be useful for insomnia (ha! and you probably thought this comment was going to be off-topic!), also the bedouins use it to get someone to return. If you drink tea with them, after you leave they will recite corsi aya over your tea glass to get you to come back, say, to purchase items you have looked at.

  380. LH, what do you mean, what is this supposed to mean?
    I mean it’s ridiculous to say that the transliteration is “useless for pronouncing the Arabic.” It is extremely helpful, indeed essential for those who do not know the Arabic alphabet. I’m sorry if you don’t like it, but that’s neither here nor there.

  381. Atlases and Dictionaries would have a dedicated shelf of their own, poetry its own.
    You must keep a more orderly bibliodrome than I do.
    In my opinion, the demands of content and of the serious reader trump everything else, including snugness on shelves. I appreciate orderly storage too; but Procrustean hankering to range poetry volumes levelly, and atlases levelly, is among the enemies of usable design for the reader. So is a refusal to experiment with the internal arrangement, once the external dimensions of a volume have been set. I have a fine volume of the first half the Aeneid (not to hand, so I can’t give a citation). Each page has a block of Latin, and under that a block of copious annotation, including word-by-word explication. But for very common words there is instead a fold-out, anchored near the end of the book. The user can consult that along with the current page. Everything is laid out so that there is no need for riffling or page-marking with thumbs. Wonderful! Why are there not more books like that? Old-think. Discrete-category-think. Fear of difference. 🙂

  382. Of what possible use is a “transliteration” that does not reflect the way a language is actually pronounced?

  383. Trond Engen says:

    Transliterations that are too close to the pronunciation may deny me access to a quick understanding of some of the inner workings of the language.

  384. marie-lucie says:

    Nijma,
    Your comment does seem puzzling. I understand that the Qur’an was written in Classical Arabic and that people frown upon other versions reflecting how the language is spoken in various countries. Is it that the transliteration you showed gives the Classical pronunciation, or the pronunciation of a different form of Arabic than the one you are familiar with? or is it that the transliteration is not accurate for the pronunciation it is supposed to reflect?

  385. marie-lucie says:

    Speaking of transliteration, perhaps people quoting Chinese or Japanese poetry in the original spelling could also provide a tranliteration. Even if we don’t understand those languages, a tranliteration would give the rest of us some idea of the sounds of the poems quoted. (I appreciate it when LH provides transliterations from Russian, even though I have a basic knowledge of the Cyrillic alphabet).

  386. marie-lucie says:

    (more on fluent and fluency)
    I just finished reading an article in Slate (nov 11) by André Aciman on Stefan Zweig, where the writer is described as “fluent”, with a meaning that I am not familiar with: most things (including words) came very easily to him. Is that a common meaning? does it relate to what Andrew and Sashura seem to understand about being fluent = ‘fully at home in a language’?

  387. 390! longest thread ever?
    a transliteration would give the rest of us some idea of the sounds of the poems quoted
    i endorse this nice and useful for me suggestion

  388. Most of the features of that Arabic transliteration scheme are shared with others, like long vowels are doubled, ṣ for ص, ṭ for ط, j for ج. It uses s̠ for ث, ẓ for ض and n̄ for tanwin, which are unusual, but don’t seem indefensible.

  389. more on fluency
    isn’t fluent from flowing freely, fluidly?
    Marie-Lucie, my observations relate mostly to the purposes of translation, not personal ability of native speakers of a language. And your examples illustrate my point. But my strees is on the ability to recognise a cultural reference, not necessarily the knowledge of it.
    I think the French-Arabic women’s unawareness of the meaning of Christmas and its customs is a result of laîcité, not insufficient linguistic fluency. And anyway the modern Christmas gift-giving and Santa are American inventions (Washington Irving and the Coca-Cola ad campaign), aren’t they?
    The English and the Scots may not know the subtleties of baseball, but most would understand what ‘home-run’ or ‘to cover one’s bases’ means, while I would expect most Americans to be aware of ‘level playing field’ and ‘fair play’ even without attributing these to cricket. Maybe ‘spin’, ‘spin-doctors’ and ‘sticky wicket’ as well? And don’t forget, in English-speaking world cricket is much more popular than baseball, maybe more than football, diagonally, from Pakistan down to Australia and New Zealand, it’s all passionate cricketland. It’s like driving on the left: when you are on the Continent, you may think it’s just the queer English, but globally more people may be driving on the left, than on the right.
    And there is a good reason to understand what ‘who’s on first’ is about – simply to share in Hat’s enjoyment of the Dostoyevsky passage.
    Another strong reference is in Mandelstam’s cranes. To a modern Russian reader the 1960s poem:
    Sometimes it seems to me that soldiers
    Who didn’t come back from the bloody fields
    Not in the earth lay down, some time ago,
    But turned into white cranes.
    would ring strongly. But could there be a hidden reference in Mandelstam’s poem, apart from the obvious ‘wedge formation’? The popular Greek myth about the war between the pygmees and the cranes is mentioned in the Iliad. And there is a Krylov fable about the quarelling ‘democratic’ frogs asking Jupiter to send them a tsar, he does – a Crane who starts eating up the frogs. Krylov’s fable is based on La Fontaine’s, whose, in turn, is based on Aesop.

  390. The Japanese version:
    Mudai (fumin Homerosu hachikire-sōna shiraho no retsu)
    Fumin Homerosu hachikire-sō na shiraho no retsu
    Watashi wa senpaku meibo o nakaba made yomi-ageta
    Ano naganaga to tsuzuku hinadori no gunretsu ano tsuru no gyōretsu
    Sore wa itsuka Herasu no sora ni mai-agatta
    Ikoku e to mukau tsuru no kusabi-gata no yō Ō-tachi no zujō ni wa kōgōshii suihō
    Doko e kōkai suru noda Herenē ga inakereba
    Toroia ga dō da to yū noda Akaia no otoko-tachi yo
    Umi mo Homerosu mo subete ai-yue ni ugoku
    Watashi wa dare ni mimi katamuke-yō Homerosu sae mo chinmoku shi
    Kuroi umi wa yūben ni doyomeki
    Omoi gōon o tate makurabe ni oshiyoseru
    (Not sure if suihō is the correct reading for 水泡; it looks wrong)
    Incidentally, you can get the romanisation from Google Translate. You just have to choose to translate Japanese into Japanese (i.e., effectively no translation) and click ‘Read phonetically’. The romanisation will appear.

  391. The same can be done for Chinese (Chinese-Chinese translation, plus ‘Read phonetically’). This is the first poem:
    Shīmián. Hémǎ. Běng jǐn de fēngfān.
    Wǒ yǐ bǎ chuánzhī de míngdān dú dào yībàn:
    Zhè zhǎng zhǎng de yī chuàn, zhè hè-qún yàng de zhànjiàn
    Céngjǐ héshí jí yú Āilāduōsī dì hǎibiān.
    Rútóng hè-xíng xièzi dīng-jìn yìguó de biānjiè——
    Guówáng-men tóudǐng shénshèng de lànghuā——
    Nǐmen shǐ xiàng héfāng? Ākǎyà de yǒngshì a,
    Tǎngruò méiyǒu Hǎilún, yīgè Tèluòyī yòu néng rúhé?
    Ó dàhǎi, ó Hémǎ,——yīqiè dōu yǒu bèi àiqíng qūzhuàn.
    Wǒ gāi qīngtīng hérén? Hémǎ dōu chénmò-wúyán,
    Ér hēisè de hǎiyáng gāotánkuòlùn
    Xié chénzhòng de hōngmíng zǒu- jìn wǒ de chuáng-biān.

  392. The second Chinese translation:
    Shīmián de zhèngzhuàng. Hémǎ. Hái yǒu mǎn gǔ de fēngfān.
    Wǒ yǐ jiāng nàxiē jiànchuán de míngcè dú dàole bàn zhōng:
    Zhè zhǎng zhǎng de qúnduì, zhè xiānhè de lièchē,
    Tāmen céngjīng téngshēng zài gǔdài Xīlà de shàngkōng.
    Jiù xiàng xièxíng de hè-zhèn qiànrù yìxiāng de jiāngjiè,
    Huángdì-men de nǎodai dǐng-zhe yī-duo shénshèng de lànghuā,
    Nǐmen yóu xiàng héfāng? Xīlà de nánzǐhàn-men,
    Ruòshì méiyǒu Hǎilún, nǐmen gàn ma yào Tèluòyà?
    Dàhǎi, Hémǎ, yīqiè dōu yīkào ài de qūdòng.
    Wǒ gāi qīngtīng shéi rén? Hémǎ què zài chénmò,
    Hēisè de hǎiyáng tāotāo bù jué, xuānxiāo bùzhǐ,
    Tā zhèng dài-zhe shēnzhòng de hōngmíng zǒu-jìn chuángtóu.
    1915-nián
    * Gǔ Xīlà de zhǔtí hé xíngxiàng jīngcháng chūxiàn zài Màndélǐshītǎmǔ de shīgē-zhōng, zài zhè shǒu shī-zhōng, “Hémǎ”, “jiàn-chuán”, “hēisè de hǎi”,” huángdì”, “hè” děng yìxiàng, yǔ Hǎilún, Tèluòyà de shénhuà gùshì jiāozhī yītǐ, yíngzào-chū le yī-zhǒng yǔ gǔ Xīlà āigē xiāngjìn de shīgē fēnwéi. Cǐwài, cǐ shī de yùnlǜ hé jiézòu zài Màndélǐshītǎmǔ de shīgē-zhōng yě shì jùyǒu diǎnxíng yìyì de, Màndélǐshītǎmǔ xǐ’ài cǎiyòng zhè yī-liù yīn-bù shītǐ, shīháng-zhōng chōngmǎn tíngdùn, néng chǎnshēng-chū yōucháng, zhìzhòng de yuèdú xiàoguǒ, ànzhào Bùluōcíjī de shuōfǎ, zhèyàng de xíngshì néng gèng hǎo de zuòyòng yú jìyì, shì miànduì shíjiān zhǔtí de zuì jiā shǒufǎ: “Zhè jíbiàn bù shì shíjiān de hányì, yě zhìshǎo shì shíjiān de xíngshì: Rúguǒ shuō shíjiān méiyǒu yīncǐ ér tíngzhǐ, ér tā zhìshǎo yě bèi nóngsuō le.” (“Wénmíng de háizi”).

  393. Āilāduōsī dì hǎibiān
    should be
    Āilāduōsī de hǎibiān

  394. Denshi Jisho says
    水泡
    is suiho.

  395. See Century Dictionary’s definition 2 of fluent.

  396. Yes, but ‘suihō’ doesn’t sound very poetic. There is also the reading ‘minawa’, which sounds better to me, but I’m not sure if that’s meant here.

  397. Sashura:
    The popular Greek myth about the war between the pygmees and the cranes is mentioned in the Iliad.
    It is time to reveal my hand, since you long ago revealed your own. Iliad Book 9, 214 has a mention of salt that seems echoed in Mandelstam’s piece. The Achaian kings sought out Achilles with a view to reconciliation. A feast and sacrifices were prepared in the usual fashion, but this time alone it is said that Patroclus sprinkled godly salt (πάσσε δ’ἁλὸς θείοιο) on the morsels of meat as they roasted. So there is my proposed irony: that in our poem, the heads of the kings are themselves spread with godly salt (since briny foam must leave salt), as if for a god’s breakfast, a wholesale sacrifice. The campaign on the plains before Troy was just that.
    If you had bid higher, I would have raised you a thoroughly concealed coin-con reference (see my neo-Baudelairean piece, above).

  398. marie-lucie says:

    vacuØ: Thank you for the reference for “fluent 2” (polished, etc). I know and have always been using “fluent 1” (freely, etc), which is the primary meaning, while Sashura obviously uses “fluent 2”, hence the misunderstanding between my interpretation and his. Other meanings seem to confuse “fluent” with “fluid” (eg “fluent lines” of a boat), and the characterization of Stefan Zweig I referred to seems to have yet another meaning, not covered in the definitions.
    I think that when you see newspaper articles about someone speaking “fluent X”, the author (who does not speak X) heard the person speaking X freely, but was not in a position to judge of the quality of that person’s command of language X. If a foreigner is speaking English, you rarely read a comment to the effect that this person speaks “fluent English”, as speaking freely seems to be taken for granted. The opposite would be “halting” English rather than “unpolished” English. I am reminded of a work evaluation once (as a tour guide) which said that I spoke French “very well”: this was written by a person who probably had “had” some French in school many years ago but would have been incapable of judging how “well” I spoke. French is my language, it would be ridiculous to say that I speak it “fluently”: such a comment is appropriate for a second-language speaker, not for a native speaker.
    Sahura: the French-Arabic women were not talking about gifts or Christmas trees (which they must have known about) but about the religious aspect (the secular aspects did not originate in America but have been hyperinflated there). This was a matter of cultural knowledge and had nothing to do with their command of the language: they spoke like any other young people raised in France, that is, they were totally fluent 1. I would not have noticed them at all if they had been talking about something else.
    About the cultural references, of course knowing the cultural connotations helps in understanding and enjoying some aspects of the language, both in ordinary speech and in literature, but people (including children in their own language) can speak fluently (= freely) without necessarily knowing those connotations. I myself know the common metaphorical meaning of “level playing field”, etc but does my ignorance of cricket or baseball or golf mean that I am not “fluent” in English? (I don’t aspire to be “polished”). In that case, how many people qualify as “fluent speakers” of their own language, let alone of others?

  399. Incidentally, you can get the romanisation from Google Translate. You just have to choose to translate Japanese into Japanese (i.e., effectively no translation) and click ‘Read phonetically’. The romanisation will appear. The same can be done for Chinese (Chinese-Chinese translation, plus ‘Read phonetically’).
    Great heavens, the things you learn around here! Thanks!

  400. Now over 400 comments. I think this may be a record.

  401. marie-lucie: I understand that the Qur’an was written in Classical Arabic and that people frown upon other versions reflecting how the language is spoken in various countries.
    Yes, unlike colloquial Arabic, the Koran is “fully voweled”, meaning it has all the vowel markings above and below the letters. Ali makes it very clear in his preface how Islamic scholars have checked and rechecked the edition for all the jots and tittles. You would think they would be as careful with the sound of it. But then Ali (writing in 1934) uses English words like ye, behold, O, Thou, and hast (but not -est endings on verbs), also idiosyncratic capitalization, so with the English, accuracy is not the highest consideration–he says he is striving for an “exalted tone”.
    MMcM: Most of the features of that Arabic transliteration scheme are shared with others
    Yes, of course it must be a straight symbol-for-symbol representation of the Arabic letters. I notice it also uses triple vowels, but I haven’t got a handle on that. Here’s the whole “Key to Transliteration“.
    So why is it so impossible to use? I mean, I can’t even follow along while someone else is reading it in Arabic. I can follow old Arabists like Burton without any trouble without pouring over their charts, even if their systems seem a bit archaic. Maybe the word and syllable divisions aren’t clear? The familiar “bismillah” (in the name of Allah), is rendered as “Bismillaahir”. So the common phrase بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم which I would write as “Bismillah, al-Rahman, al-Raheem”, in this scheme becomes “Bismillaahir – Rahmannir – Rahiim.” (more in my URL)

  402. you can get the romanisation from Google Translate.
    I think I saw a ‘read it’ button as well, but now can’t find it. Did you see it, Bathrobe? Even transliterated Chinese may not be easy to read to ‘hear’ it.

  403. There is a ‘Listen’ button, but it’s read by a computer. Horrible and hard to understand.

  404. バスローブ says:

    You can also get a transliteration of Arabic. Perhaps Nij would care to comment on it 🙂

  405. E.g. بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم = Bsm al-Lh ar-Rḩmn ar-Rḩym

  406. I know and have always been using “fluent 1” (freely, etc), which is the primary meaning, while Sashura obviously uses “fluent 2”
    like Monsieur Jourdain, I never realised I did. But that’s nicely caught, thanks.
    Marie-Lucie, with respect, I can see where we differ, but you also seem to be making a logical sidestep in your argument: first, you say that native speakers who may lack certain language skills for educational reasons or do not know cultural references present in a different strand of English should still qualify as ‘fluent’, then you say that the word itself should not be applied to native speakers at all but only used to describe the proficiency of a foreign (second-language) user of the language?
    Maybe eloquent is the more appropriate word?

  407. So why is it so impossible to use?
    The fact that you do not like it does not mean it is “impossible to use.” Try not to take your own reactions as universal truths.

  408. برنس الحمام,
    Yeah, I saw that. It leaves out the vowels, which is fine for written Arabic, but not for spoken Arabic. It doesn’t do too well with the ta’ marbuta ة at the end of Allah either, I always thought that was pronounced “ah”.
    Here it is fully voweled if you want to play with it:
    بِسْمِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
    but it seems google strips out the diacritical markings.
    I like the little hooks at the bottom of the ḩ though, it reminds you to pronounce that type of H (ح) with a little more breath.

  409. aqilluqqaaq says:

    Pointed and character-for-character as I read it:
    بِسْمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
    bi-s°mi ◌◌-lːaːhi ◌◌-rːaħ°maːni ◌◌-rːaħiːmi
    The three šadda diacritics mark geminate consonants through assimilation of the three definite articles, no? The fact that Bismillaahir – Rahmannir – Rahiim suffixes the assimilated article to the preceding word, rather than prefixes it to the following seems unobjectionable, though I’d probably simplify to bismi-l-laahi-r-ramaani-r-rahiim(i) with aan for ann in ramaani.

  410. aqilluqqaaq says:

    rahmaani

  411. The fact that you do not like it does not mean it is “impossible to use.”
    The “you don’t like it” argument is one of the least intellectual ones I have ever seen here. How can anyone *know* what I like or don’t like? How can anyone know I don’t actually have one of these devices to keep DARPA and languagehat from reading my mind? If the Eliyasee system is supposed to be so useful, how about explaining what it is good for and how to use it. Or maybe explaining why it isn’t one of the 16 Arabic Romanization systems listed in Wikipedia?

  412. Trond Engen says:

    So I have the record now? Yippee!
    And I’m even so modest I don’t need anyone to congratulate me.

  413. aqilluqqaaq, I don’t follow all of your symbols, but yes, the ٱل of ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ and ٱلرَّحِيمِ look to me like definite articles. Not so sure about الله . And ل and ر are sun letters, so I follow you about the shadda. But I was always taught the pronunciation was like aš-šams, not iš-šams. I’ve never been able to hear the dif

  414. yikes, touchy keyboard.
    …again:
    aqilluqqaaq, I don’t follow all of your symbols, but yes, the ٱل of ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ and ٱلرَّحِيمِ look to me like definite articles. Not so sure about الله . And ل and ر are sun letters, so I follow you about the shadda. But I was always taught the pronunciation was like aš-šams, not iš-šams. I’ve never been able to hear a difference in consonant pronunciation with a shadda anyhow (although they seem to hear it) so doubling a consonant is not like adding another syllable.
    As far as “bismi-l-laahi“, that’s not what I’m hearing, either from memory of listening to many pious speeches or from comparing to the online Koran recitations. And yes, attaching the definite article to the noun it goes with instead of to the end of the preceding word would help a lot.

  415. marie-lucie says:

    O fluent Sashura,
    I am considering two cases, depending on what meaning one gives to fluent:
    – with fluent 1 (the basic meaning), to say that a native speaker of language X “speaks X fluently” is normally redundant. Only if such a speaker had a considerable problem of expression would you say that person is disfluent. One can use the term about a native speaker if the native language is not mentioned, “Soandso’s speech is (not) very fluent”.
    – with fluent 2, anyone might be considered as fluent if their speech was highly polished and displayed evidence of wide cultural knowledge. This (to me new) meaning of fluent excludes the competence of a huge number of people speaking their own language. Then what word would you use to describe that competence?
    Eloquent is not the same as fluent (either 1 or 2); eloquent speech not only has to flow but also to display organization, argumentation, etc. Some people can “rattle on” for hours on trivial or uninteresting matters, while others prefer the short but pithy statement: only the second type could (sometimes) be eloquent (there is a phrase an eloquent silence, but a fluent silence is contradictory).

  416. “Fluent silence” is a phrase to conjure with. According to Google, it is in use as the name of a church of some sort in Seattle, WA, and as the title of a wall hanging by Jean Stillmock (what a name!) of Omaha, NE; also in an analysis of “George Bataille and the philosophy of vampirism”, Adrian Gargett writes, “Poetry is fluent silence.”

  417. Also one of Salem S. Alnauimi’s poems, “Poems Full of Life” contains the passage, “A maverick poet/ with a fluent silence,/ when people jargon/ with their own names.”

  418. The humble fruit of my own stylos (sorry for the mixed metaphor), ladies and getlemen of the jury. I had to dispense with rhyme, but tried to retain the meter.
    Insomnia. Homer and taut white sails.
    Halfway I read the catalogue of ships:
    This long continuous brood, this winged train of cranes,
    That soared above the ancient Hellas once.
    A wedge of crains to alien far frontier–
    The kings’ heads crowned with the foam divine–
    Where are you sailing to? If not for belle Helena,
    What would be Troy to you, o brave Achaean men?
    Both Homer and the sea are moved by love alone.
    Whom should I listen to? Lo, Homer silent falls,
    And Black Sea, preaching, fills the room with noise
    And, with a heavy roar, draws up to my headboard.

  419. marie-lucie says:

    The fact that a phrase does occasionally occur does not mean that it is meaningful (at least in the ordinary sense of the term).
    This reminds me of Chomsky’s “colorless green ideas sleep furiously”, intended as an example of a grammatical but meaningless sentence, starting from which another linguist apparently constructed a sonnet. Many of you Hatters have more acute ears and a more vivid imagination than I have, and will able to hear and decode “a fluent silence”.

  420. Faeces, I just noticed a typo. Oh well.

  421. i wonder what spisok korablei he was reading, in the Iliad or some actual list of ships, maybe there were any Arctic or other expeditions going out at that time and then he recalled Homer..
    about the cranes, i saw in 1979, i think, there was Japanese cultural month or week around that time, a very beautiful Japanese animated movie, about a girl and her mother turning into a crane, i wanted to find it again and never could find because don’t know its title or who were the director, asked around my friends when I was in Japan, nobody recalled such a movie
    “draws up” sounds close to podkhodit, preaching too, if madly, to vitiistvovat’

  422. i’m like tempted to write a composite version compiling the phrases i liked in this or other translations which were sounding imo the closest to the original

  423. The fact that a phrase does occasionally occur does not mean that it is meaningful
    Certainly — I was not meaning to gainsay your assertion that the phrase is contradictory/meaningless — just happen often to find beauty in contradictory/meaningless phrases.

  424. marie-lucie says:

    TMK, I take your point. But I am not a poet, only a linguist.

  425. Here it is fully voweled if you want to play with it:
    بِسْمِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
    but it seems google strips out the diacritical markings

    Well, Google doesn’t exactly ‘strip out’ the diacritical markings; they weren’t there in the first place. If Google wanted to be a little more helpful, they would try and put in the markings for you, but (in my ignorance of Arabic) I strongly suspect that there aren’t any programs that can do that with a reasonable degree of accuracy.

  426. “they would try and put in the markings for you”
    What I mean is they would try and fill in the vowels for you.

  427. Then what word would you use to describe that competence?
    Marie-Lucie, but that’s what I was asking in the first place, except from the point of view of a non-native speaker. As you progress in a language other than your own from basics to fluency – what is beyond fluency, native ability? I have a friend here who learned, or rather picked, much of his French from builders-artisans while renovating properties. He speaks fluently now, but his wife, with a polished academic French says she gets embarassed by his French in a gentile company.
    Yes, eloquent is different, as always I am humbled by your preciseness.
    Perhaps the word we’re looking for is mastery. It is widely used in pair with language and covers both native and non-native ability.
    It is also interesting to see how yours and mine mother tongue influenced the usage of ‘fluent’. You describe it as ‘freely’, but in French you don’t use librement in that sense, or can you? I thought it was facilement or couramment. ‘Freely’ is the Russian word for ‘fluent’ – свободно (svobodno – freely), and another word for fluent looks like a back translation of couramment – бегло (beglo – as though running). Beglo implies fluency, but not necessarily a polished fluency, and svobodno has that element of comfortable educated mastery.

  428. Fluent silence reminds me that there is a movement to make John Cage’s 4’33” the number one hit for the Christmas season, so that it will be played constantly on the radio. Apparently something similar was achieved last year with a piece by Rage Against The Machine, hence this effort is called Cage Against The Machine. More here.

  429. the heads of the kings are themselves spread with godly salt
    thanks, Noetica, that’s a really sharp observation – and it fits! Look:
    Как журавлиный клин в чужие рубежи—
    На головах царей божественная соль—
    Куда же вы? Елены не было бы коль,
    Что Троя вам тогда, ахейские мужи?
    instead of:
    Как журавлиный клин в чужие рубежи—
    На головах царей божественная пена—
    Куда плывете вы? Когда бы не Елена,
    Что Троя вам одна, ахейские мужи?
    I think you are right, rhyming ‘pena’ and ‘Helena’ definitely reveals Mandelstam’s hand.
    Коли (koli) or коль (kol’) is a colloquial version of если (if), but with an homophonic allusion to wedge, stake (кол).

  430. marie-lucie says:

    Sashura: the usage of ‘fluent’. You describe it as ‘freely’, but in French you don’t use librement in that sense, or can you? I thought it was facilement or couramment
    Parler librement means ‘to speak one’s mind, without fear of consequences’ (eg there are no spies around, or you trust the person you speak to not to stab you in the back as a result). For speaking another language freely, it is parler couramment (not facilement = ‘easily’). “Je parle couramment l’anglais et l’espagnol, mais mon espagnol est loin d’être aussi bon que mon anglais”.
    There is also the verb maîtriser, which can have another meaning. For instance, I once read a magazine article about the well-known French linguist Claude Hagège (who grew up with French, Italian and Arabic and later learned a number of other languages), which claimed that il maîtrise plus de cent langues!. If Hagège did make that claim, he did not mean that he spoke 100 languages fluently but that he understood their structure (or the most significant parts of their structure, from his point of view as a linguistic typologist).

  431. If you had bid higher, I would have raised you a thoroughly concealed coin-con reference
    Noetica, in fact, I do have a higher bid.
    In Mozart and Salieri (Pushkin) there is a phrase that has become idiomatic: There is no truth on Earth, but neither there is one on High (higher up). Venedict Yerofeev in Moscow–Petushki/Cockerels (or Moscow Stations) has alcoholic hobos who are plotting to seize power in a Russian region and proclaim independence. They need a question-reply password. This is how it goes:
    Q: There is no truth in legs (an idiomatic invitation to sit down)
    A: But neither there is one higher.

  432. There is a higher truth in the British expression “to get a leg over”. The aim is more sublime than a climb on a stool.

  433. thanks, Marie-Lucie, I think I got into a muddle here: I thought couramment was from courir, but it is of course from courant.

  434. Courant is the present participle of courir.

  435. marie-lucie says:

    Sashura, Grumbly, you are both right.
    Courant is the present participle of courir. but it is also used as an adjective in its own right, meaning “ordinary, everyday”, as in la vie courante “everyday life”.

  436. More about “bismillah”:
    A comment on my website points out

    the first /a/ on ar-ra7maan is only a helping vowel on a hamzatu-l-waSl, and both the hamza and the vowel disappear when preceded by any other vowel > bismillahirra7maan

    also that the issue of waSl (وصل) is extremely important in tajwiid (not completely sure what this means), but it’s a sacred text, right? And finally, most interestingly,

    As far as where you put the word breaks in, it’s a moot point as the actual flow of sound should be unbroken, with no attention paid to word boundaries until the reader takes a breath.

    That’s sort of fun.
    It also partly explains why the Eliyasee transliteration system is so hard to follow. It’s as if someone wrote in English, “di-juice-ee-yit ” instead of “did you see it”. The second is certainly easier to follow even if the first is more accurate, but why is probably a good question for a linguist. (So if my original comment was puzzling, the unraveling of it reveals even more curious pieces.)
    If you want to listen for yourself and see whether it sounds more like “Bismillaahir – Rahmannir – Rahiim” or “Bismillah, al-Rahman, al-Raheem” you can hear Open Quran here with a variety of voices (click the “Quran Viewer” icon at the top, then make sure the “Show Quran Reciter” box is checked).

  437. Bathrobe,
    By ‘strip out’ the diacritical markings, I mean, “bismalla al-rahman al-rahim” in normal Arab handwriting would be:
    بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
    The only unattached markings are the dots and lines that are part of the letters. In the Koran, the same phrase fully voweled looks like:
    بِسْمِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
    the slanted lines over and under the characters being vowels, the small w characters mean to double the consonants, and the circles are place markers for letters without vowels. Now if you put the fully voweled phrase into google translate, then reverse the languages so you can use the romanization feature, suddenly the phrase looks like:
    بسم ٱلله ٱلرحمن ٱلرحيم
    The only marking left (besides Allah, which I suspect is in a class by itself) is something over the aleph, (أ) but I don’t know what it is. But wait, if I mouse over the phrase, I can still see “original text” with all the vowel markings.
    But if I choose the “read phonetically” option, it still gives only consonants, even though I can see it *knows* what the vowels are when I mouseover. Weird.

  438. Bathrobe:
    If Google wanted to be a little more helpful, they would try and put in the markings for you, but (in my ignorance of Arabic) I strongly suspect that there aren’t any programs that can do that with a reasonable degree of accuracy.
    Why on earth not? They have the definitions of all the words in Arabic, in fact they will offer to do a dictionary lookup of most single words on the same page. The Oxford English Arabic Dictionary of Current Usage has vowel markings on the Arabic words, even if it doesn’t give pronunciation. Wehr’s influential Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic doesn’t use the vowel markings, but it does put vowels into its transliteration system when it shows the pronunciation. Both are copouts though, they act as though Modern Standard Arabic is really Arabic, when in fact nobody speaks it. Islamic Nation and all that. This would be an opportunity for google to show some leadership, and put up the language as it’s actually spoken….
    Hmmm, I’m looking up “we” and google gives MSA نحن “nahnoo” but not colloquial “ehna”. No leadership there.
    It wouldn’t be that hard to put in the colloquial either and identify where it’s spoken. Spanish dictionaries do that all the time with Latin American phrases.

  439. I think you are right, rhyming ‘pena’ and ‘Helena’ definitely reveals Mandelstam’s hand.
    Коли (koli) or коль (kol’) is a colloquial version of если (if), but with an homophonic allusion to wedge, stake (кол).

    Quite. And the equally колoquial but strikingly oblique reference to Homer’s morsels of meat as колбасы all but clinches the thing.

  440. Hey, it feels like Stanley meeting Livingstone! I wonder if there are surviving drafts of the poem which could show how Mandelstam’s imagery developed.
    More on изголовье – bedhead/pillow. BBC Radio 4 runs a Robert Forrest drama based on Sei Shonagon’s The Pillow Book ( 枕草子, makura-no sõshi). The Russian translation of the book is “Записки у изголовья” (zapiski u izgolovya), the same ‘bedhead’ as in Mandelstam’s poem. Which supports the use of ‘pillow’ in some of the versions here and in Obolensky’s prose translation.

  441. Courant is the present participle of courir.
    I am confused again: if courant is p.p. of courir, then couramment could be taken as both ‘runningly’ and ‘flowingly/fluently’?

  442. on foot-notes vs end-notes
    Noetica, do you know Bradda Books? They published Russian literature for English students with very sensibly organised notes: general introduction at the beginning, running short foot-notes at the bottom of pages, and longer, commentary-like end-notes with background and deeper explanations of context and usage. I am not sure if the publishers are still around.
    And Progress Publishers and some others in Russia did parallel books with English-Russian texts on opposite pages. Shakepseare’s sonnets published like that were very popular (with Samuil Marshak’s translations)

  443. marie-lucie says:

    Sashura: if courant is p.p. of courir, then couramment could be taken as both ‘runningly’ and ‘flowingly/fluently’?
    The two meanings are one in l’eau courante “running water”.
    Couramment is never used with the concrete sense of courir, even in the “water” context. If not in the context of speaking a different language, it usually means “ordinarily, as a matter of course”, as in En français contemporain on emploie couramment des expressions traduites littéralement de l’anglais, par exemple “c’est pas ma tasse de thé” – Vraiment? – Oh oui, c’est tout à fait courant.

  444. Marie-Lucie, what I am trying to pin down, is whether the Russian word бегло (beglo), meaning fluently, but literally it is ‘runningly’ could be a back translation from the French couramment.
    Russian aristocratic intelligentsia who were creating the modern language from Peter’s times to the period when Pushkin’s circle was active imported many words and phrases, sentence and grammar structure, and notions from French. Defending these imports Pushkin says: ‘No pantalony, fraque, gilette, – vsekh etikh slov na russkom net’ – ‘But pantalones, tails, waist-coat, – all these words do not exist in Russian’.
    ‘Au courant’ corresponds to Russian ‘быть в курсе’ – to be aware of what’s happening. There is курьер – courier – runner/messenger.
    But what is less known is that many of those words naturally translated into native Russian. So could it be that beglo is one of such lucky back translations? Beglo govorit’ to me sounds newer than for example, ‘lovko’ – skillfully, masterly, or archaic krasno bayit’ – speak red/beatifully. Both of the latter have a slightly different meaning, so realising that gap in the language, Pushkin, Wolf or Vyazemsky, I’m theorising of course, started using couramment translated as beglo to describe the good mastery of a non-naitve language.

  445. marie-lucie says:

    Sashura, I don’t know enough Russian to help you. It is indeed quite possible that “couramment” was translated literally into Russian.
    I just looked up courant and couramment in the TLFI. A relevant example I had forgotten is lire couramment, meaning reading reasonably fast, without stumbling over most words like a child just learning. It is an achievement when a child starts to lire couramment. Similarly, parler couramment means speaking at a normal rate, without stopping all the time because of limited vocabulary and grammar. Neither implies perfection, just what can be expected of the average person for communication in everday circumstances.

  446. oh thanks, that’s probably enough to propose a theory if not for a proof.

  447. but why S do you want it to be a translation from any other language, can’t it be just naturally developed meaning of a native word
    beglo govorit’ -=svobodno perhaps but beglo prochest, beglo oznakomit’sya all mean perhaps some slightness, not depth in one’s attitude, so it could be beglo means less than fluent
    in my language we say fluent – us tsas – which means water and snow, literally, that’s really like strange, why it’s called so and what water and snow have to do with language fluency

  448. marie-lucie says:

    read: water flows, snow slides (sometimes), these are natural, uninterrupted motions if there are no obstacles. Metaphorically, speech is said to “flow” out of a person’s mouth when they speak their own language or one that they know how to use. The words “flow”, “flood”,”fluid” and “fluent” or “fluency” all come from the same root. But this metaphor is not necessarily used in all languages.

  449. M-l is water and snow in English ;0
    Japanese say for fluent – pera-pera, perhaps that also imitates the uninterruptedness of speech

  450. why do you want it to be a translation from any other language
    I don’t want to – I can’t help it, it’s the passionate curiosity that makes my tail straighten and I do a Pluto-like set: a smell of linguistic game in the air. French is my fifth language and the more I learn the more I get excited about the obvious links between it and Russian. You must know more than I do how much Mongolian (or Turkic) influence there is in Russian – and I think you would recognise the feeling.
    And of course ‘beglo’ could have developed its ‘fluent’ meaning naturally.

  451. there are several words in Russian i tried to tell here that they could have our language roots, like kherem (wall)- Kremlin, baigal(nature) – Baikal, arbat(ten) – Arbat, tumen (thousand)- Tumen’, ijil (same)- Itil’, yam(station)- yamshik etc but LH seemed always kind of unenthusiastic about them, though those words’ etymologies are obvious for us
    but that’s kind of different from what you describe, i like to see our traces elsewhere and you look for the foreign influence on your own language

  452. Sashura:
    Noetica, do you know Bradda Books?
    No, but that sort of division of labour between short footnotes and extended endnotes is also found in The Arden Shakespeare (my preferred editions), and surely elsewhere.
    The Aeneid (I–VI) I mentioned above (with the fold-out list of common words) is by Cylde Pharr. Just take a look at the table of contents, and the first page of the poem itself (p. 15). This edition has everything – except of course a running translation, since that would defeat the instructive purpose. A compendious grammatical appendix, wordlists, an introductory essay, directions for use, even pictures. Only one of the eleven Amazon reviewers gives it less than five stars. One mentions “the text’s impeccable format”; “What a beautiful thing!” exclaims another.

  453. And the publishers even got the author’s name right !

  454. Um, Clyde. Accuracy I charge for.

  455. I read the catalog
    I’d write catalogue – what is the difference? it’s not American/British, is it?

  456. Of course, Sashura. That -gue is British and Commonwealth, and Vespuccians trim it to -g. Just like programme versus program, though program is all but universal when it concerns computers.

  457. “Catalogue” is a common alternate spelling in the US, whereas “programme” is not used at all (or rarely).

  458. ah, thought so, thanks.

  459. Yevtushenko says that Marina Tsvetayeva once said that Pasternak’s handwriting ‘was like flying cranes’.
    In that article Yevtushenko also refers to Khruschev’s admission that he was set up against Pasternak’s Zhivago by the writers’ union bureaucrats (poet Surkov). Many prominent literary figures joined in the campaign against Pasternak. When Khruschev holidayed on Adriatic, Tito, his host, gave him Zhivago to read, he did – and was surprised to find nothing ‘counterrevolutionary’ in the novel. It must have been too embarassing to backtrack, but apparently he gave a good trashing to Surkov. According to a recent BBC radio play – literally, physically. ‘It’s jusst a book, and what did you make it into!’ Khruschev was shouting while punching Surkov.
    There is no reference to Mandelstam in the article, but Pasternak says to Yevtushenko: ‘You know, in my generation people often turned out to be weak and unfortunately also betrayed. But still, we never jumped with joy at that’. (“Знаете, люди нашего поколения тоже часто оказывались слабыми и иногда, к сожалению, тоже предавали… Но все-таки мы при этом никогда не подпрыгивали от радости”.)
    Pasternak must have been thinking of his own lapse when Mandelstam was arrested in 1934.

  460. Noetica,
    I’ve noticed you write “British and Commonwealth” English, and you are Aussie, but what about Canada (sometimes) and Ireland? Wouldn’t non North-American be more accurate? Of course write what you damn well please, but I thought it was slightly interesting.

  461. (Or non-US.)

  462. Crown, don’t you think “non-US” is rather misleading advertising for such mixed English pickles ? The term “British and Commonwealth English” itself pretty much amounts to “cornichons and cucumbers”. Even worse, “non-US” would also cover the jingle-jangle English I have to deal with every day in the IT industry here in Germany and France.

  463. is jingle-jangle roughly the same as mumbo-jumbo?
    I like B&C English, or BAC English – and don’t forget Indian English. I listened to a language programme on Radio 4 the other day where a British professor claimed it is a powerful and growing influence in British English. One example is the proliferation of -ing (‘I am wanting’ in place of simple I want). I suppose it’s not felt in America as strongly as in the British and Commonwealth English?

  464. Okay, although “non-US” goes rather well with “non-you”, I now see.
    Sash, I thought Injah, though it has its own head-of-state, was part of the Commonwealth. I could be wrong, however.

  465. I once did a lecture on ‘The Great Game of Our Time’.
    Sorry, I wasn’t trying to imply that she is not, just pointing out that Indian English influence within the British English sphere is growing and may have potential to outgrow that of England herself.

  466. marie-lucie says:

    Canada is part of the Commonwealth too.

  467. Yes, Canada is Commonwealth as well. But I suppose its English is more heavily influenced by US-American ways than elsewhere.
    I use British and Commonwealth English as the handiest term for those varieties of English (especially native) that yield, when they yield to external regulation at all, to British norms more than to American ones. The domain includes Britain itself, and places that are or have ever been in the Commonwealth, or otherwise under recent sustained political domination by Britain.
    The term is inevitably loose. It is most applicable with spelling norms, since spelling is such a visible and determinate matter. (In Australia we use few American spellings, the name of the party currently in government being a rare case: Australian Labor Party.) With vocabulary less. (We take on a great deal of American vocabulary unknowingly; many young Australians use the adjective alternate as LH and Alan Shaw do in this thread, while the rest of us resist.) With pronunciation also less. (We are robustly non-rhotic, but beyond that the story gets murky.) Our grammar is more fluid. (We would seldom say as the British might I hadn’t got [time], using I didn’t have [time] instead; but we also shun American gotten.) And punctuation? It’s probably slightly more of a mess than in America or Britain. (Most people care little and understand less in this area. It is present only in written language, so there are fewer daily prompts. We read English from many places, and usually without monitoring or commentary from others, and we do that far more than we write.) There are vague differences in certain logical underpinnings too, but I have never seen these discussed. (We, with the British, would say That man in the corner is taller than anyone else in the room; but Americans are, in my experience, more ready to accept That man in the corner is taller than anyone in the room. Not when it is drawn to their attention!)
    We have some advantage in Australia. We recognise, understand, and can usually produce American English, even if we prefer to use a more British-leaning variety. Spoken, with imperfections of course; but certainly written, which is slower and more codified. I have to make a definite decision every time I do serious writing (or especially, serious editing) to use British or American standards. I can do either with fluency, believe it or not! Just occasionally I have to check a spelling or a vocabulary choice. Editors here have to know the different punctuation protocols very thoroughly. I make a special point of that. Because we have to make that effort, many of us know facts about American punctuation that are obscure even to very competent American writers.
    British style manuals are certainly more accepting and more cross-regionally aware than American ones, especially for punctuation. There are two kinds of dash that the anglophone world uses at the sentence level (rather than in ranges of numbers and the like) – that one, the spaced en dash which* I always want, as opposed to the normally unspaced em dash (—) which* all Americans know and use. It is most uncommon for an American manual to recognise this diversity. Even here though, I am using American terms: en dash, em dash, not British en rule, n-rule, etc.
    * Non-restrictive which without preceding comma.

  468. So, is there a reference book(s) or web resource which you’d say you use most frequently?
    It’s interesting what you say about punctuation and editing. I’ve long given up on rules and generally follow either Russian rules (commas for subordinate clauses, parenthesis, gerund etc.) or logical stops as in ‘kill no, mercy – kill, no mercy’ (казнить нельзя, помиловать – казнить, нельзя помиловать). Can you think of the most common instance where British punctuation differs from American? I also notice that the usage of which/that is very different.

  469. The hard-and-fast division of labour between ‘which’ for non-restrictive clauses and ‘that’ for restrictive clauses wasn’t started by the Americans, but it has been much more zealously pursued by them. However, my impression is that even Americans don’t always follow the so-called rule, which is still in many ways an artificial distinction that people have to remind themselves to follow. People in the writing and editing trade are probably better at it than your average Joe Blow.

  470. I’m not sure Canadian English is more influenced by the US than it is by Commonwealth & Irish tradition. Maybe m-l has a strong sense of that.
    Australian “Labor” Party is interesting: according to Wikipedia, it was a change that was proposed by a US-born early official, and it was part of a larger contemporary (1910-ish) movement to “modernise” the spelling of ou endings. There was also apparently a push to spell the colour maroon “marone” instead; that sounds to me the way it might be pronounced by some Aussies, but I could be wrong.
    I haven’t seen the unspaced m in British usage, though perhaps you’re not saying you have, either, Noh. Lately, I’ve been compromising: I use the spaced em — it’s a little thing I invented myself.
    “Anyone” vs “anyone else”: that’s a matter of logic more than local usage; or not?
    When I lived in the US and someone drew my attention to a difference in usage (“I don’t have” vs “I haven’t got”, for example), I’d usually adopt the US one so as not to stand out. Since I moved back to Europe I’ve reverted to the British usage with a few of these, but I’ve found that a lot are now common in Britain too (“on” the street, for instance).
    One style thing that irritates me daily is the spelling checker’s underlining of non-US spelling. Believe me, I need the spelling checker, but I do find it annoying.

  471. As an AuE speaker I can confirm that I pronounce the colour maroon to rhyme with bone. To pronounce it like the stranded-on-a-desert-island maroon (rhyming with spoon)… Well I can’t begin to imagine the extent of confusion and chaos that would cause…

  472. I think I’ve read somewhere that Labor was (traditionally) politically left but culturally pro-American.

  473. Like Tony Blair except politically left, in other words.
    (Joke.)

  474. and also who/that:
    the house that Jack built, but the poet who wrote Insomnia, not the poet that wrote Insomnia.

  475. Robopoem input:

    Jack and Jill
    Went up the hill
    To fetch a pail of water
    Jack fell down
    And broke his crown
    And Jill came tumbling after.

    Robopoem output:

    Jack and jill went up the hill sheep
    A pail of water jack heir weep

  476. Like Tony Blair except politically left, in other words.
    I chuckled.

  477. As an AuE speaker I can confirm that I pronounce the colour maroon to rhyme with bone.
    I think I never use the word. I only hear it in the speech of older Ozfolk. Such as women who do volunteer work in op-shops, bless them: the kind who call any blue darker than Mallarmé’s azure navy. They do rhyme maroon with bone, yes.
    Like Tony Blair except politically left, in other words.
    Labor here is decreasingly left over recent decades, and resembles its conservative opponents more and more. Our Greens are currently in an ad hoc coalition with the Labor government, along with a couple of independents, after an extremely close election. The Greens are considered genuinely left – assuming that the term still has meaning.
    I’m not sure Canadian English is more influenced by the US than it is by Commonwealth & Irish tradition.
    Not that I claim it is (or would know). My wording was: “But I suppose its English is more heavily influenced by US-American ways than elsewhere.” I remember thinking I ought to write “than other Commonwealth Englishes are”, but I feared that such wordy precision might grow tiresome.
    “Anyone” vs “anyone else”: that’s a matter of logic more than local usage; or not?
    It’s at a boundary, isn’t it? That’s why I put it like this: “There are vague differences in certain logical underpinnings.” Similarly, I find Americans are more prepared to say “I’ve read every book there is,” where we would probably say, finickily, “I’ve read every book there is on the subject.”
    I haven’t seen the unspaced m in British usage, though perhaps you’re not saying you have, either, Noh. Lately, I’ve been compromising: I use the spaced em — it’s a little thing I invented myself.
    Again I should explain. First, we are talking only about dashes as sentence punctuation – not as used in ranges, or as substituting for hyphens (controversial in itself). The em dash is indeed common in British publishing. It’s the standard at Oxford UP, for example. But it is not de rigueur in British and Commonwealth, as it almost is in American. (Chicago only knows about the em dash.) As for spacing, the en dash (again, when it is used as sentence punctuation) is always spaced. The em dash usually is not, but especially in newspapers it may be spaced. In fact the distinction breaks down, because not every space is a full word-space: often there will be hair spaces or other thinner spaces, and these are hard to discern, care about, or write about. Hence a great deal of confusion, such as we find even in the CGEL chapter on punctuation, discussed in another thread here.
    (“I don’t have” vs “I haven’t got”, for example)
    Yes, of course that’s a difference also, distinct from variation in the past participle for get: got (BrComm); gotten (American). And to be clear: as I said earlier, we in Australia use fewer expressions with got than the British do.
    One style thing that irritates me daily is the spelling checker’s underlining of non-US spelling. Believe me, I need the spelling checker, but I do find it annoying.
    In MSWord, do you mean? Select all (CONTROL-A is easiest), and change the language setting (in many versions: Tools menu, Language, Set language) to English (UK). Then it’s American spellings that get underlined.
    The hard-and-fast division of labour between ‘which’ for non-restrictive clauses and ‘that’ for restrictive clauses wasn’t started by the Americans, but it has been much more zealously pursued by them.
    Sure, the distinction is respected more in the US than elsewhere. It may be “artificial”, but that is not (pace the most zealous and evangelising anti-prescriptivists) a reason to condemn it. It is an enormously valuable use of two quite distinct words, to keep clear what is often otherwise muddled. I observe the distinction religiously myself, against my preference for British ways. Similarly, I wholeheartedly adopt the non-British use of double quotes (” “) as primary, because they are more salient and are not distractingly mistaken for an apostrophe as British single quotes often are.
    So, is there a reference book(s) or web resource which you’d say you use most frequently?
    In this forum I have condemned Chicago 16 as not worth a bagful of spraints. Does anyone here doubt that I could defend that assessment at length? But in fact we have to use it when we edit to American standards. For writers as opposed to professional editors, Merriam Webster’s Manual for Writers and Editors is a wonderful guide to American practice; and despite what the first Amazon reviewer writes, it will not contradict Chicago on anything important. For well-regimented American usage as opposed to standards applied in publishing more narrowly, I have seen nothing to surpass The Gregg Reference Manual (I link to the Kindle version; take a look at those reviews, which refer to some of the many other versions). Astonishing detail and precision. I have fewer quibbles with it than with any other style manual. For British practice New Hart’s Rules is what we need. But I prefer the more soigné version that forms the first half of The Oxford Style Manual, a volume of 1056 pages that includes also a version of New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors. I collect these things, at ruinous expense.
    Chicago is also online, currently in editions 15 and 16. A yearly subscription is cheap, and I would certainly maintain one if I didn’t have free access through a university. Handy for finding what you need fast, bearing in mind that the print version runs to 1026 pages; but the search engine is almost brain-dead, and the hits are annoyingly self-contained, so you can’t just browse.

  478. It is an enormously valuable use of two quite distinct words, to keep clear what is often otherwise muddled.
    Can you expand on that?

  479. Can you expand on that?
    Required preliminary reading (just section 1 of the entry headed “that”). Then we all have a common basis for discussion.

  480. Ah but do you pronounce “maroon” the way I do or do you pronounce “bone” the way I do, or neither one?… Are the two separate usages for “maroon” independent words that happen to look and sound the same — the insulting or dismissive term which I understand to be a racist insult, though I used to think it was a mispronunciation of “moron”, and the purplish color — and then there is the verb which I can’t see how it would have much to do with that color either. Has my folk etymology that the epithet “Maroon” got started referring to escaped slaves in the Caribbean anything to do with reality?

  481. Okay. Reread. Good to go.
    But maybe not until tomorrow. It’s late here, and I had my fair share of scotch with Thanksgiving dinner.
    Definitely tomorrow, though. After I drop Robin off at her parents’, I’m planning a blissful nothing. Pronoun quibbling should fit in perfectly.
    I am curious about what you’ll say. I feel like I’m in what would seem a winning chess position if I didn’t know my opponent.

  482. Plus, this argument just about guarantees 500.

  483. I’m not a follower of any sport, but even I am slightly perplexed by Noetica not having occasion to use the word ‘maroon’. The Queensland rugby team in State of Origin matches is known as the ‘Maroons’ (for the colour of their jerseys), and the ‘Mighty Maroons’ (rhyming with ‘bones’) is a phrase familiar to every Queenslander.

  484. Has my folk etymology that the epithet “Maroon” got started referring to escaped slaves in the Caribbean anything to do with reality?
    I once visited a Maroon village in Jamaica, it was about 25 years ago now. There’s an entryin Wikipedia about them. They were very nice & welcoming, I think they made money from tourism. I remember I had a difficult long drive along dirt roads into the mountains to find the place, but it was well worth the trouble. They considered themselves to be completely separate from the rest of the country. They certainly didn’t think the name Maroon was racist; they were very proud of their history — of their ancestors having escaped from slavery — and independence.

  485. I wonder if there is a Mandelstam translation into Jamaican/Maroon English?
    Are we sure that the name Maroons refers to colour and not maroon – stranded, left behind?
    and thanks for the mention, AJP, I didn’t know that Usain Bolt and Colin Jackson are both Maroons.

  486. They certainly didn’t think the name Maroon was racist; they were very proud of their history
    Right but someone using “Maroon” as a dismissive epithet — e.g. Bugs Bunny saying “What a Maroon!” — would be using the term in a racist fashion, no? Unless my juvenile understanding that this was a mispronunciation of “moron” holds any water…

  487. Bugs Bunny saying “What a Maroon!”, is that hypothetical or you mean you’ve heard it used that way by Mr Bunny? Either way (both ways) I find it hard to believe it was meant to refer to black people who escaped from slavery. As we’ve just established, it’s not a very common usage of the word.
    Sash, there’s a whole ‘nother Wikipedia section on Maroon. This one starts,

    Maroons (from the word marronage or American/Spanish cimarrón: “fugitive, runaway”, lit. “living on mountaintops”; from Spanish cima: “top, summit”) were runaway slaves in the West Indies, Central America, South America, and North America, who formed independent settlements together. The same designation has also became a derivation for the verb marooning.

    Crudely written, but you get the idea.

  488. marie-lucie says:

    In French there are two words marron. One refers to a type of chestnut, hence the word for “brown” (less reddish than English maroon). The other one (which has the feminine form marronne) refers first to an escaped slave who has found a free life in the wilderness, and secondarily to a person outlawed from a profession but continuing to practice illegally, such as a disbarred lawyer or a doctor stripped of his licence. According to the TLFI, the second marron comes from cimarron, a word from a native Caribbean language which referred originally to a wild animal; a shortened form was adopted for a domestic animal gone feral, and later extended to an escaped slave.
    The two meanings of marron have nothing to do with each other, and neither do the English meanings of maroon. To be marooned (= “stranded”) does not have a counterpart in French, but it derives from the second meaning.
    The pronunciation difference in Australian English may come from the fact that one word was borrowed from French and the other from Spanish, and that Australian preserves a distinction which was blurred in other varieties of English.

  489. marie-lucie says:

    AJP: Maroons (from the word marronage or American/Spanish cimarrón: “fugitive, runaway”, lit. “living on mountaintops”; from Spanish cima: “top, summit”)
    Wikipedia is wrong here: cimarrón has nothing to do with “cima” (or French “cime”). The French word marronnage (referring to the practice of going maroon) is derived from marron, not the other way around.

  490. someone using “Maroon” as a dismissive epithet — e.g. Bugs Bunny saying “What a Maroon!” — would be using the term in a racist fashion, no?
    No. Your juvenile understanding was correct; this was a mispronunciation of “moron.” The Maroons of the Caribbean were and are so little known to the vast majority of Americans that there would be no point in using the term as an insult.

  491. And jamessal, you’ll want to be very sure of your ground before going up against Noetica on punctuation. I wouldn’t dare, myself.

  492. I have always assumed that Bugs Bunny’s “maroon” was a playful variant of “moron”.

  493. you’ll want to be very sure of your ground before going up against Noetica on punctuation.
    Oh, I know it. I’m just really curious about his take on the which-that thing.

  494. I’m curious, too. Pronoun quibbling as a spectator sport. Can’t wait.

  495. One refers to a type of chestnut
    マロン in Japanese, one of the few instances of Katakana French in the Asian supermarket. Along with ピーマン. (What Australian and Indian English calls capsicum, per a parallel discussion.)

  496. No. Your juvenile understanding was correct
    Huh! stranger things have happened to be sure…

  497. Speaking of Bugs, here is a nice takedown of one of Safire’s On Language columns from 5 years back: What a Maroon

  498. And jamessal’s prediction was correct; this is comment #501.

  499. I think Buggs Bunny also uses ‘ultramaroon’ which suggests the link to colour, not ‘moron’.
    Is there a Welsh link here? Carrot in Welsh is moron, and wasn’t there an episode when chefs were trying to make Buggs into a ‘French Rarebit’ (Welsh Rarebit)?

  500. Yeah, but where’s Noetica? We said three o’clock, senior parking lot — everybody heard me. Could it be he’s… scared?
    Come four, I’m closing the LH window, signing out of Gmail, turning off my phone, and celebrating my victory!

  501. It’s the wee hours of the night in Australia, Jamessal. This may have to be a slow-motion rumble.

  502. Excuses, excuses.
    Which isn’t to say I’m refunding your ticket, Empty. (Do you still go by “Empty”? I haven’t been around much lately.)

  503. These days he’s “M. T. Nestor”.
    (I just made that up.)

  504. I think Bugs Bunny also uses ‘ultramaroon’ which suggests the link to colour, not ‘moron’.
    No, it just adds an additional color pun to the “moron” insult. Bugs is multifaceted, like Mandelstam.

  505. Yes, I was wavelaid by sleep.
    Ø, take my flick knife, OK? And hand him your switchblade, Jamessal. Let’s keep this clean.
    I cannot promise to give full and prompt attention to this scuffle. Anyway, this is a Mandelstam thread, so we have to stay on topic even as we rumble. This which arrived from Amazon yesterday disappointed me. There’s no table of contents, nor any index of first lines or clear identification of the poems. And it’s only about 110 pages. All grist, of course; but shoddy publishing. At least there’s an introduction, and a few scattered notes. The last lines of “our” poem:

    … No sound now from Homer,
    and the black sea roars like a speech
    and thunders up the bed.

    Interesting take. Here the sea is moving along the bed toward the headboard. It makes some sense: the poet does identify the headboard as the sea’s target, not the whole bed. Have any others worked with the same idea? Discussion of that translation can be found here (“W.S. Merwin has been named as the next U.S. Poet Laureate”), and the whole of it can be seen in the preview of this expanded and better publication from the same translators.
    [Salutes. Adopts signature stance of the South Dragon school, of which he is a philosopher-editor third dan.]
    Punctuation and pronouns are limited resources, yet expressive needs are practically unlimited. We often have to choose which needs to satisfy and which to sacrifice. Do we omit commas to make our sentence smooth on the page, or insist on every one that is demanded by consistency (whatever that amounts to, exactly) or “logic” (according to whose systematisation?)? The question that launched a thousand disputes over serial commas – not a topic to be diverted to, though there are interesting parallels.
    I propose that we go with the majority of major English grammars and relax about calling both which and that “relative pronouns”, for this discussion. Some surly revisionists thunder that that is not a pronoun (as if these were not mere terms of art, chosen by the artists themselves). We can also simplify matters by ignoring relative constructions concerned with persons, and so set aside who and whom, along with the disputed use of that as a substitute for either of those.
    It can hardly be denied that in current American that is preferred as the relative pronoun in restrictive constructions. A plain-vanilla COCA search on the string “or one that” gets 156 hits, while “or one which” gets just 1. Let’s look at the expanded context for that isolated find (just as COCA gives it, but with my emphasis and insertion of “Ø” to mark a null relative):

    today. Let’s start including your phone calls. Ashburn, Virginia, hello. 1st CALLER: Ashburn, Virginia Hello. I’d like to direct this to Senator D’Amato. If the United States can pinpoint what country or countries are behind this, is the United States obligated to retaliate militarily? And if so, to what degree? I’ll hang up and listen to your question sic. Sen. D’AMATO: Well, I think, certainly, if there is a terrorist attack like the kind [Ø] we have seen at the World Trade Center or one which involves the taking of life, that we have an absolute obligation to strike back at that country that has made this or brought it about. I think Ronald Reagan did it. He did it effectively. The problem is the use of these groups- I think the Ambassador indicated they’re very, very difficult. They’re small cells – eight, nine, 10, 11. Most of them are militants. They probably don’t know where the source of a good deal of their funding is coming (1993, “Terrorism in America”, CNN_King)

    In medias res. A live talkback exchange, in which the senator had probably just been distracted by a performance error from the caller (marked with sic in our text), had just issued a null relative [Ø] parallel to the which we are focusing on, and also needed to deploy that in other ways nearby. Contrast a typical occurrence of “or one that” from among its 156 hits, also from 1993 and also classified as spoken by COCA:

    very touchy issue. PETER STEINFELS: So the result is either no portrayal or one that is simply bland and meaningless. JEFF GREENFIELD: So while big events, (ABC_Jennings)

    Some other searches that predominantly capture which and that as restrictive relatives do not show such a stark contrast, but their evidence is still compelling:
    “and one which” 118 hits
    “and one that” 1205
    “one of those which” 3
    “one of those that” 183 [about 120 for non-persons]
    “and any [n] which” 11
    “and any [n] that” 135 [about 125 for non-persons]
    “and anything which” 4
    “and anything that” 157
    “or anything which” 0
    “or anything that” 171
    Traditional British usage is different. OED gives old evidence, of course. A search on “or one which” in quotations gets 8 hits:
    1 expenditure:  ure animal, or one which has reached a balance bet
    2 glass eye:  white eye, or one which in some other respect, as
    3 saulted:  ted’ horse, or one which has been bitten [by the t
    4 sidero-1:  ew mineral, or one which I cannot find described.
    5 teacher, n.:  I may say) or one which instructs, and so is coin
    6 telescope, n.:  ope’ table, or one which can be pulled out to twic
    7 theorem, n.:  e judgment, or one which is announced as needing p
    8 typic, a.:  cal fever’; or one which observes a particular typ
    A search on “or one that” in quotations gets 37 hits, but only 4 of those refer to non-persons:
    12 encrain :  ither wrung or one that is spoilt in the withers.
    13 gay, a., adv., and n.:  tupid movie or one that makes no sense or one with
    16 lending, vbl. n.2:  a Companie; or one that hath extraordinarie Lendin
    19 misfire, n.:  cartridge, or one that had been used but had not
    I submit that the distribution of that and which in restrictive constructions is still like that in current British. I offer this piece as a sample, from Denis Davison – a distinguished professor at the University of Manchester (who has honoured us with his presence here). Search for that and which, and see how which is what the author prefers in restrictive relative constructions, as with the third which in this sentence (subject to a caveat that we might explore later):

    In rare examples of the older type like (2), HAVE can be a transitive lexical verb meaning ‘possess’, the word order may involve a sentence brace in which the NP – which is object of HAVE – precedes the participle, and the participle is an object predicative which may carry adjectival inflection. (p. 2; I have adapted the typographical styling of the punctuation)

    On statistical grounds alone (as opposed to the advice of most major American style guides) we should think that the American preference for that has moved closer to the grammaticality end of the spectrum and further from the mere style end. No such claim can be supported for British English. I will contend that the American way makes clarity and readability much easier to achieve. I will contend that the choice to use punctuation as the sole non-contextual means of distinguishing restrictive and non-restrictive uses is by comparison unmotivated, clumsy, and impractical. I will contend that if the shift in American practice has its roots only in prescriptivist dogma (which might be disputed), that is not relevant. Provenance is not proof of poor usage.
    [Folds arms ritually, standing easy. No twitch is discernible under either zygomatic arch. Waits.]

  506. Jamessal, this guy is a cool customer, and he’ s gonna be hard to take. You know the crowd is with you. A draw is a win here.
    A few things to remember: He will try to distract you by “stay[ing] on topic”. He will dump data on you. He will try to throw you off balance with expressions like mere style. He will do his best to divert your attention with crazy talk about hair spaces, and little Ziplok bags of otter crap.
    Listen, he’s blown a lot of smoke, but he hasn’t even started contending yet. Keep an eye on his barycenter and don’t be afraid to strike the first blow.

  507. Do you still go by “Empty”?
    Yeah, sure, whatever. Or just call me “Null Relative.” Sheesh.

  508. For Denis Davison read David Denison. I was distracted by remembering Dennis Davison, a lecturer in English whose poetry workshops I attended in the 80s.
    [Resumes nonchalant waiting.]

  509. For Ziplok read Ziploc. I was distracted by the otter crap, dammit.

  510. Noetica, my genuflections to your study.
    However, one element is missing from the original thesis I proposed: the competition between ‘who’ and ‘that’ in constructions such as ‘one of those people who/that’. Both give 1.15 mln hits. I have a curious resistance to that not on grammatical or style grounds, but on ‘humanistic’ ones. The use of ‘that’ instead of ‘who’ blurs the distinction between the animate and the inanimate. ‘One of those people who translate Mandelstam’ or ‘that translate Mandelstam’? ‘One of those rabbits who steal lettuce’ or ‘that steal lettuce’?
    Thanks for the links to W.S. Mervin and Flaxen Wave. Interesting, both passages there use the Black Sea, not a black sea. And I can see why Brodsky raged against free verse translations of Mandelstam.
    None of the translations here have approached the изголовье from a different angle: Dahl, with the modern meaning (bedhead, where head lies, pillow), lists an archaic изголов (изголов) meaninig ‘top of an island, cape, promontory’. Declined as in the poem it could be изголову or изголовью.

  511. *buys sembei from vendor, tries to get comfortable in too-small seat, waits for jamessal to enter ring*

  512. waits for jamessal to enter ring
    i wonder what makes this debate different from the debates with N (for Nijma), except perhaps that she’s female obviously and can’t express her opinions freely without being rebuked pretty painfully to read

  513. marie-lucie says:

    read,
    I agree that some comments lately have been hard on Nijma, and I said so earlier (and a few other people – all men – also did), but everyone here knows that you and I are female too, and I don’t think anybody has rebuked you or me for expressing ourselves freely.

  514. that’s because we express ourselves within the limits permitted by our gender i guess, i try to be like “civil” within my language abilities too
    but if one attempts the more that, aggressive tone and that’s it, the end of camaraderie
    i think Nijma’s comments sound bold and if i didn’t know that’s she’s woman i wouldn’t think that she is one
    so i wonder what makes “this” debate different, both seem on language matters and pretty heated, but why in N’s case it always revokes that strong response
    the other day, the Koreas were fighting and i came here and here’s fighting too! nanka one could like despair at people

  515. a woman, c/rse the articles

  516. marie-lucie says:

    (read, the Korean situation is serious, but the “fight” here right now is not – don’t worry).

  517. i’m not talking about right now, i understand enough English to get that this debate is very enjoyable for all participants
    i’m talking about N, her discussion was not that innocent if i read correctly then of course

  518. the American preference for “that” has moved closer to the grammaticality end of the spectrum and further from the mere style end.
    Deep waters there. Irrelevant, too, if I — and Empty (thanks for my switchblade!) — am not mistaken.
    I will contend that the American way makes clarity and readability much easier to achieve.
    Ain’t that the whole point? Unfold your arms! Demonstrate! Unless I’m missing something, our common basis has now been thoroughly established and it’s still your move.
    I will contend that if the shift in American practice has its roots only in prescriptivist dogma (which might be disputed), that is not relevant.
    Don’t bother. We agree on that.
    I want to know why you think the American way is better — also, come to think of it, if you think that superiority makes any appreciable difference in prose. Do you really find the TLS and LRB “clumsy” compared to the NYTBR and NYRB? (Not that you said that exactly, of course.) I propose we let the linguists drown themselves in Lake Grammatical. (Assuming a distinction between the pros and we laity, if you’ll allow it.)
    [Retreats to corner unwinded and unscathed. Wonders how the senior parking lot turned into a genuine boxing ring.]

  519. Do you really find the TLS and LRB “clumsy” compared to the NYTBR and NYRB?
    “In their use of relative pronouns,” I should add, seeing as you’ve already expressed a general preference for British ways.

  520. but if one attempts the more that, aggressive tone and that’s it, the end of camaraderie
    Don’t be ridiculous. The problem was not tone but smug and aggressive ignorance, compounded by insistent derailing. I have no problem with aggressiveness as long as it’s not personal (“That’s an idiotic idea” is fine, “You are an idiot” isn’t), and I certainly don’t base any judgments on gender. On the internet, nobody knows what gender you really are, anyway. And I’d appreciate it if you’d drop the subject, which is a pointless derail in an already long thread.

  521. (Obviously I have no problem with derailing in the sense of conversations swerving naturally from one topic to another and winding up in surprising places, but annoying and absurd derails like “Waah, you’re mean to women” are another matter.)

  522. It’s six thirty-five on Sunday morning in Melbourne. Galas are screeching in the trees, a pair of kangaroos are hopping down the road, a koala climbs down the mulberry branch outside Noetica’s bedroom window… Noetica is stirring, stretching his arms… He walks across to his laptop…

  523. whatever, though i don’t remember N saying you “you are idiot” which you do now to me
    but i expect that this comment will be deleted, and that will show how you are biased and mean to selected people here, mr feminist
    sorry of course that this great thread ends like this, but the human nature is not perfect everywhere, alas

  524. thanks for my switchblade!
    It’s here if you need it.
    turned into a genuine boxing ring
    You’re the one who was selling tickets.
    between the pros and we laity
    Good move. Keep him guessing.

  525. It’s here if you need it.
    I meant to imply that you’d already slipped it back to me, having proved yourself a partial ref.

  526. Eight o’clock. He can’t still be in bed. Perhaps he had a bad night, worrying about this and that. Or, at any rate, that.

  527. Surely not that!

  528. marie-lucie says:

    read,
    i don’t remember N saying you “you are idiot” which you do now to me
    NO, LH is not calling you an idiot, he is just giving an example of what not to say.

  529. Crosenrantz:
    Galas [sic] are screeching in the trees, a pair of kangaroos are hopping down the road, a koala climbs down the mulberry branch outside Noetica’s bedroom window…
    Pretty close. Yes, at 6:30 am the trees around the creek behind the house were full of screeching galahs, exactly of the sort depicted at Wikipedia. These are ubiquitous, noisy, stupid birds. They only fly because they’ve seen other birds doing it. No kangaroos on the road, but I was among many of them yesterday just 4 kilometres away. I have seen no koalas here, but they can be hard to spot. They never eat mulberry. Are you thinking of goats?
    Noetica is stirring, stretching his arms… He walks across to his laptop…
    And yes, I did wake up soon after you posted, and I did check this thread.
    Marie-Lucie and Read:
    but everyone here knows that you and I are female
    Marie-Lucie, of course I knew you were female, but I had no idea that Read was also of that persuasion. Nor, Read, do people here automatically know that “your language” is Mongolian. Not everyone monitors every LH thread every day. It is useful to repeat such information from time to time, if indeed you want it known. Compare my wording above (“I only hear it in the speech of older Ozfolk”) with alternatives that disclose nothing (“… my older compatriots”).
    I don’t want to say anything about certain other action here at the salon. But Read, I don’t agree with analyses of LH discourse that are couched in terms of gender (or sex, dammit). For a long time I did not know that Nijma was female. And for a longer time no one knew that I was male, which suited me perfectly – except I was irritated by an assumption that my name was female (it is a Greek neuter plural; see the Tabellion thread). Off-web life is tiresomely dominated by such considerations, and it is liberating to be free of them here. It is not – or not necessarily, and certainly not for me – a matter of experimenting with alternative sexual or gendered personae. Good luck to those who want to do that, though! Read, I think you add a wonderful colour to the LH rainbow, and I’m glad you’re here. Don’t take this as demeaning, but I have found your comments fresh and cute. That has nothing to do with sex (or gender, dammit).
    … the Koreas were fighting and i came here and here’s fighting too!
    Aggressiveness and mock violence, like the exchange between Jamessal and me, are problematic. We are respectful but playful; there are boundaries (watch me kick his East-Coast ass if he dares to cross the line). One cultural difference between USards and Australians concerns acceptable level or violent talk and of use of weapons. Roughly, they pack heat and we don’t. Geoff Pullum at Language Log, in a move that I read as more American than British or Commonwealth, issued a death threat against transgressing commenters:

    Unable to bear any longer the tedious work of seeking out all the instances of these two comment types so I can delete them, I have decided that from now on I will hunt down the relevant commenters and kill them. […] From now on, if you are going to post either of the two sorts of comments I have just described, please supply your actual name and residential address so I or Language Log security staffpersons Luca and Enzo can track you down. (“Boring preposition jokes: new termination policy”)

    I felt sick in the stomach when I saw that joke, and even more when I saw it hailed by like-minded moroons across the blogosphere. Pullum disallowed comments for that post. Shrewdly. How would he like a “joking” reply along these lines:

    We know were you live Pullum. Death to all fascist antiprescriptivists. (Fabricated text to make a point)

    We don’t do any of that here, at the civilised and respectfully anarchistic LH salon. I have used occasional hints of possible violence in my surreal flights of fancy. (See above: “LH polishes a glass and holds it to the light – flanked by flunkies with more shoulder than Plato, ready to pounce if the game gets out of hand. No, that’s not a yellowing copy of Камень bulging at LH’s hip.”) I would only ever do so consciously, cautiously, and with misgivings, as I adapt to the diverse ways of others here. And note that I did not set up the present pseudo-physical skirmish with Jamessal (he’s a good kid, really; needs a little guidance). But I will experiment, as always.
    By way of contrast to this haven of humane ideals, the Language Log culture is deplorably insular and totalitarian. Bryan Garner, a usually respected non-linguist and moderate prescriptivist who collects and values descriptive data, is attacked personally there:

    So what does Garner say in GMAU? He’s an idiot. (“Five more comments on that [which versus that] rule”, Arnold Zwicky, posted in 2005)

    Compare all of this with LH’s policy, stated above:

    “That’s an idiotic idea” is fine, “You are an idiot” isn’t.

    But Language Log commenters are directly assailed by that sort of thing all the time, by an élitist clique of academic linguists who think they own language. They lash incompetently against anyone adept at giving valuable advice who utters a shibbolethic syllable against their own iron norms. And Pullum stands head and shoulders above the rest for meanness of spirit, narrowness of theoretical vision, and unbridled offensiveness.
    Sashura:
    I have a curious resistance to that not on grammatical or style grounds, but on ‘humanistic’ ones. The use of ‘that’ instead of ‘who’ blurs the distinction between the animate and the inanimate. ‘One of those people who translate Mandelstam’ or ‘that translate Mandelstam’? ‘One of those rabbits who steal lettuce’ or ‘that steal lettuce’?
    First, rabbits – along with galahs – are as animate as we are. Or are you taking animate neo-cartesianly to mean “having a soul”, which for Descartes applies only to human persons? Second, why should we take the relative that to be somehow demeaning? It has always been used for human and non-human antecedents, hasn’t it? I specifically excluded substitution of that for who in setting terms for the discussion with Jamessal; it is a separate issue, though there are points of connexion that might have to emerge. For the record: I see no advantage in resisting that substitution, and I consider your avoidance of it inclining toward the idiolectic. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, any more than with my own squeamishness about thus.
    LH:
    Uh, careful … it’s not sembei in that bag.
    More soon.

  530. Or, at any rate, that.
    Surely not that!

    I really liked that.

  531. You really liked which?

  532. a partial ref
    Not me, kid. Look, all joking aside, this is him against you. No blades, no heat, a straight up no holes bard battle of wits.
    * Psst, still got your Occam’s razor? *

  533. a straight up no holes bard
    On another thread, marie-lucie reminds us that avoir les idées larges is the opposite of “being narrow-minded”. So a “no holes bard” would be someone whose views are so wide that you could drive a truck through them.

  534. no holes bard
    What obscene monster of web epicenity have I prefigured above, eh Stu (Brute)?
    Anyway, I propose to make more than a partial ref to Mandelstraum. I remind all players that we must preserve the regulation measure of ontopicity, if Guinness is to accept our claims for this thread. It need not be forced; there is still a great deal to say.
    Speak, O Lattimore, of those men and their ships.
    Tell what the Bard once told – what Agamemnon spoke,
    how then we’re led to a list of ships (mother of sleep),
    and cognitive poetics, cultural memory.
    For did not Aesop say – no, surely it was Osip –
    “The Russian language is a Hellenistic language.
    By virtue of a whole series of cultural
    conditions, the vital forces of Hellenic culture,
    having conceded the West to Latin influences
    and having tarried only fleetingly in childless
    Byzantium, rushed to the bosom of Russian speech
    and imparted to this the self-assured secret
    of the Hellenistic world view, the secret
    of free incarnation; therefore the Russian language
    became nothing less than sounding and speaking flesh.
    (“On the nature of the word”, 1922,
    translated Andrew Reynolds, mentioned here by Hat.)
    At this bidding rose Lattimore, old orator of longer lines,
    and he declaimed as well as any other has, either since
    or even yet to come, though many a fine Fagle will try:
    “… There will not even for a small time be any respite
    unless darkness come down to separate the strength of the fighters.
    There will be a man’s sweat on the shield-strap binding the breast to
    the shield hiding the man’s shape, and the hand on the spear grow weary.
    There will be sweat on a man’s horse straining at the smoothed chariot.
    But any man whom I find trying, apart from the battle,
    to hang back by the curved ships, for him no longer
    will there be any means to escape the dogs and the vultures.”
    So he spoke, and the Argives shouted aloud, as surf crashing
    against a sheerness, driven by the south wind descending,
    some cliff out-jutting, left never alone by the waves from
    all the winds that blow, as they rise one place and another.

    They stood up scattering and made for the ships; they kindled
    the fires’ smoke along the shelters, and took their dinner,
    each man making a sacrifice to some one of the immortal
    gods, in prayer to escape death and the grind of Ares.
    But Agamemnon the lord of men dedicated a fat ox
    five years old to Zeus, all-powerful son of Kronos,
    and summoned the nobles and the great men of all the Achaians,
    Nestor before all others, and next the lord Idomeneus,
    next the two Aiantes and Tydeus’ son Diomedes,
    and sixth Odysseus, a man like Zeus himself for counsel.
    Of his own accord came Menelaos of the great war cry
    who knew well in his own mind the cares of his brother.
    They stood in a circle about the ox and took up the scattering
    barley; and among them powerful Agamemnon spoke in prayer:
    “Zeus, exalted and mightiest, sky-dwelling in the dark mist:
    let not the sun go down and disappear into darkness
    until I have hurled headlong the castle of Priam
    blazing, and lit the castle gates with the flames’ destruction;
    not till I have broken at the chest the tunic of Hektor
    torn with the bronze blade, and let many companions about him
    go down headlong into the dust, teeth gripping the ground soil.”
    He spoke, but none of this would the son of Kronos accomplish,
    who accepted the victims, but piled up the unwished-for hardship.
    Now when all had made prayer and flung down the scattering barley,
    first they drew back the victim’s head, cut his throat and skinned him,
    and cut away the meat from the thighs and wrapped them in fat,
    making a double fold, and laid shreds of flesh above them.
    Placing these on sticks cleft and peeled they burned them,
    and spitted the vitals and held them over the flame of Hephaistos.
    But when they had burned the thigh pieces and tasted the vitals
    they cut all the remainder into pieces and spitted them
    and roasted all carefully and took off the pieces.
    Then after they had finished the work and got the feast ready
    they feasted, nor was any man’s hunger denied a fair portion.
    But when they had put away their desire for eating and drinking
    the Gerenian horseman Nestor began speaking among them:
    “Son of Atreus, most lordly and king of men, Agamemnon,
    let us talk no more of these things, nor for a long time
    set aside the action which the god puts into our hands now.
    Come then, let the heralds of the bronze-armoured Achaians
    make proclamation to the people and assemble them by the vessels,
    and let us together as we are go down the wide host
    of the Achaians, to stir more quickly the fierce war god.”
    He spoke, nor did the lord of men Agamemnon neglect him,
    but straightway commanded the clear-voiced heralds to summon
    by proclamation to battle the flowing-haired Achaians;
    and the heralds made their cry and the men were assembled swiftly.
    And they, the god-supported kings, about Agamemnon
    ran marshalling the men, and among them grey-eyed Athene
    holding the dear treasured aegis, ageless, immortal,
    from whose edges float a hundred all-golden tassels,
    each one carefully woven, and each worth a hundred oxen.
    With this fluttering she swept through the host of the Achaians
    urging them to go forward. She kindled the strength in each man’s
    heart to take the battle without respite and keep on fighting.
    And now battle became sweeter to them than to go back
    in their hollow ships to the beloved land of their fathers.

    As obliterating fire lights up a vast forest
    along the crests of a mountain, and the flare shows far off,
    so as they marched, from the magnificent bronze the gleam went
    dazzling all about through the upper air to the heaven.
    These, as the multitudinous nations of birds winged,
    of geese, and of cranes, and of swans long-throated
    in the Asian meadow beside the Kaÿstrian waters
    this way and that way make their flights in the pride of their wings, then
    settle in clashing swarms and the whole meadow echoes with them,
    so of these the multitudinous tribes from the ships and
    shelters poured to the plain of Skamandros,
    and the earth beneath their
    feet and under the feet of their horses thundered horribly.
    They took position in the blossoming meadow of Skamandros,
    thousands of them, as leaves and flowers appear in their season.
    Like the multitudinous nations of swarming insects
    who drive hither and thither about the stalls of the sheepfold
    in the season of spring when the milk splashes in the milk pails:
    in such numbers the flowing-haired Achaians stood up
    through the plain against the Trojans, hearts burning to break them.

    These, as men who are goatherds among the wide goatflocks
    easily separate them in order as they take to the pasture
    ,
    thus the leaders separated them this way and that way
    toward the encounter, and among them powerful Agamemnon,
    with eyes and head like Zeus who delights in thunder,
    like Ares for girth, and with the chest of Poseidon;
    like some ox of the herd pre-eminent among the others,
    a bull, who stands conspicuous in the huddling cattle
    ;
    such was the son of Atreus as Zeus made him that day,
    conspicuous among men, and foremost among the fighters.
    Tell me now, you Muses who have your homes on Olympos.
    For you, who are goddesses, are there, and you know all things,
    and we have heard only the rumour of it and know nothing.
    Who then of those were the chief men and the lords of the Danaans?
    I could not tell over the multitude of them nor name them,
    not if I had ten tongues and ten mouths, not if I had
    a voice never to be broken and a heart of bronze within me,
    not unless the Muses of Olympia, daughters
    of Zeus of the aegis, remembered all those who came beneath Ilion.
    I will tell the lords of the ships, and the ships [sic] numbers.
    Leïtos and Peneleos were leaders of the Boiotians,
    with Arkesilaos and Prothoenor and Klonios;
    they who lived in Hyria and in rocky Aulis,
    in the hill-bends of Eteonos, and Schoinos, and Skolos,
    Thespeia and Graia, and in spacious Mykalessos;
    they who dwelt about Harma and Eilesion and Erythrai,
    they who held Eleon and Hyle and Peteon,
    with Okalea and Medeon, the strong-founded citadel,
    Kopai, and Eutresis, and Thisbe of the dove-cotes;
    they who held Koroneia, and the meadows of Haliartos,
    they who held Plataia, and they who dwelt about Glisa,
    they who held the lower Thebes, the strong-founded citadel,
    and Onchestos the sacred, the shining grove of Poseidon;
    they who held Arne of the great vineyards, and Mideia,
    with Nisa the sacrosanct and uttermost Anthedon.
    Of these there were fifty ships in all, and on board
    each of these a hundred and twenty sons of the Boiotians.
    But they who lived in Aspledon and Orchomenos of the Minyai,
    Askalaphos led these, and Ialmenos, children of Ares,
    whom Astyoche bore to him in the house of Aktor
    Azeus’ son, a modest maiden; she went into the chamber
    with strong Ares, who was laid in bed with her secretly.
    With these two there were marshalled thirty hollow vessels.
    Schedios and Epistrophos led the men of Phokis,
    children of Iphitos, who was son of great-hearted Naubolos.
    These held Kyparissos, and rocky Pytho, and Krisa
    the sacrosanct together with Daulis and Panopeus;
    they who lived about Hyampolis and Anamoreia,
    they who dwelt about Kephisos, the river immortal,
    they who held Lilaia beside the well springs of Kephisos.
    Following along with these were forty black ships,
    and the leaders marshalling the ranks of the Phokians set them
    in arms on the left wing of the host beside the Boiotians.
    Swift Aias son of Oïleus led the men of Lokris,
    the lesser Aias, not great in size like the son of Telamon,
    but far slighter. He was a small man armoured in linen,
    yet with the throwing spear surpassed all Achaians and Hellenes.

    And there, not halfway through the drear catalogue,
    Lattimore nods et cède au sommeil pour maintenant.
    And we are left aware of what our Mandelström
    had read in bed that fateful 1915 night:
    of how a goddess goaded men away from home,
    just as the demigodly Helen also did;
    of bulls and goats, bees round pails of milk,
    marauding armoured men like geese and grey-hued cranes;
    resounding sea that rises, sending death to Trojans
    and deathlike sleep to us until those other birds,
    galahs of raucous voice and precious little brain,
    alarm us from our austral slumbers at the dawn
    to join in playful combat once again, of which
    and that, whereof we cannot stay forever mute.

  535. Noetica,
    In my idiolect humans, dogs, cats and rabbits all have souls, I talk to them and some even write on my blog, not many galahs around here, though, I’m afraid. Mandelstam and rabbits were on the same, animate, side in my examples. Sorry, I thought it was clear. The opposite, inanimate, would be ‘One of those books that/which mention Mandelstam’ not ‘who mention Mandelstam’ or ‘One of those rocks that/which Sisyphus pushed’ not ‘rocks who Sisyphus pushed’.
    ‘Humanistic grounds’, obviously, is not a serious grammar point, but rather a mnemonics exercise. Another one I’ve used is for translating Russian impersonal sentences (Темнеет. Морозит. – Darkens. Freezes.) into English with ‘It is’. What is that ‘it’ that you need in English? It’s the Higher Power (god) that makes it dark or freezing. It’s also how I explain to students the Russian third person constructions without the subject: he/she/it is implied, but not mentioned out of superstition – it’s better not to bother Higher Power without good reason. Not much to do with grammar, but when you see the light in their eyes you know it will stick in their memory. Likewise, while Russian has the proclivity to use nominal sentences (Insomnia. Homer. Taut sails.), they are, I think, rare in written English, which might be the reason why some of the translators (Sleeplessness, and Homer. The tightened mainsail blows.) felt uncomfortable with them and added verbs.
    I do understand that you’ve narrowed the subject for purposes of argument, but still, alarmed at your charge of idiolecticity, I apllied to the authorities for an adjudication. It appears that they gave it a serious consideration a long time ago (incidentally, under one heading ‘That’ and ‘who’ or ‘which’):
    ‘That’ is evidently regarded by many writers as nothing more than an ornamental variation for ‘who’ and ‘which’, to be used, not indeed immoderately, but quite without discrimination. (…) There was formerly a tendency to use ‘that’ for everything: the tendency now is to use ‘who’ and ‘which’ for everything. ‘That’, from disuse, has begun to acquire an archaic flavour, which with some authors is a recommendation’.
    And further:
    ‘That’, used of persons, has in fact come to look archaic: the only cases in which it is now to be preferred to ‘who’ are those (…) in which the antecedent is ‘it’, or has attached to it a superlative or other word of exclusive meaning.’
    What is your squeamishness about ‘thus’?
    The authorities I quoted provide this example of ‘improper’ use of ‘that’ which might amuse the regulars here:
    ‘It is opposed to our Constitution, that only allows the Crown to remove a Norwegian Civil servant.’
    I’ve just checked if the adjudication I quote is available online, it is. How things have changed.

  536. Nansen was a great man, Sash.
    Noetica, I don’t read it, and you won’t find me defending Language Log or the logpeople — not the smug & dishonest Mark Liberman or (sic) his loathsome sidekick Arnold, anyway — but I do find Geoff Pullum pretty funny. His piece doesn’t have any satirical impact when you think it through: he’s not Swift or South Park or Hunter Thompson, it’s only about his own exasperation, but pretending to want to shoot his readers is surely not too scary?

  537. Noetica, that was a brilliant laying-out of the background to the Mandelstam poem. I wonder how many readers of the poem have actually gone back to Homer and reread the passage leading up to the somniferous (and apparently somniloquent) catalog, with its clear prefigurations of the poem’s imagery? I know I didn’t. We are all in your debt.
    As for Pullum, I agree with AJP, but then I would, being a bloody seppo.

  538. (My problem with Pullum, since the subject has come up, is that he can dish it out but he can’t take it: he issues bloodcurdling threats and makes wild accusations, all in fun of course, but when commenters do the same thing he bridles and shuts off comments.)

  539. Trond Engen says:

    On Pullum, I think I agree with both of you. I like him the best when he’s either low-key or so over the top that it’s clear that he’s tongue-in-cheek; it’s the in-between constant shift of tone that’s hard to digest. I can’t say I’ve noticed smugness and dishonesty in Liberman. Or in Zwicky. Liberman’s thorough takedowns of pop-psychology and media talking-points are pure joy.
    (I read the Log regularly but far from thoroughly, scanning for topics that catch my interest, so I may have missed something.)

  540. You wouldn’t notice it, my hatred is personal; don’t let me influence you, Trond.
    Heh, heh.

  541. I agree with Trond about Liberman, but to each their own.

  542. Sashura: Fowler has no authority in this jurisdiction. Here, the usage in question is expressly allowed by the relevant statute in Section 2. Continue sidetracking the debate and a charge of idiolecticity may indeed be issued.

  543. I trust you are not attempting to employ the 1833 Half Scrotum, which has long been banned. You may, of course, apply Cobblethorpe’s 1960 Beeching execution variant, but remember that the short rules only apply from the 2nd turn in reverse order during November.

  544. Just remember you mustn’t call anybody an idiolect.

  545. You can, however, say their ideas are idiosyncratic. (Hate the idiosin, but love the idiosinner.)

  546. “I may not agree with your idiotic views, but I will defend to the death your idiotic rights”. No wonder liberals are usually on the defensive.

  547. marie-lucie says:

    Just remember you mustn’t call anybody an idiolect. – You can, however, say their ideas are idiosyncratic.
    Yes, those technical words have an unfortunate resemblance to “idiot” which can throw a brick into polite conversation even if it might not cause duels. First-year linguistic students are usually taken aback by “idiolect”, an individual’s way of speaking.
    About “idiosyncratic”, a word also pertaining to individual preferences, I learned the word when I was studying English literature (in France), as one of my profs used it frequently. When I came to the US as a student, I once used the word in the middle of a student group (not in class): everyone fell silent! Then somebody changed the subject. I did not hear the word again (or say it) until a few years ago, when it started popping up again in both print and conversation. It seems to be on everyone’s lips nowadays.

  548. Please, please, can someone declare me officially an idiolectic – I wil forever bear the badge with pride.
    To add to Noetica’s map of references I highly recommend ”Бессонница. Гомер…” Материалы к комментарию ‘Insomnia. Homer. Notes for a commentary’ by Mikhail Bezrodny. It’s an astonishing compendium, line by line, of reference sources and parallel quotes from dozens of poets from Pushkin to Brodsky and from Homer to Dante to Byron. It’s in Russian and very long, I can’t afford the time to translate it all, though I think it’s worth it.
    On cranes the compiler provides several dozen poetic quotes with similar usage of журавли-корабли. A comparison to Blok’s famous ‘Ночь. Улица. Фонарь. Аптека.’ shows a popular nominative usage of the time. There is a quote that shows a direct link to Dante’s Divina Comedia. Akhmatova tells of a meeting with Mandelstam when he just burst out crying on hearing her reciting Dante in Italian: ‘From you, in your voice, those lines!’ There are quotes from poets after M. who picked up on ‘read to midpoint’ Dante-Mandelstam theme.
    On foam-Helena, the author confirms Noetica’s and mine speculation about the implied eroticism of the lines, referring to the myth of the birth of Aphrodite from the ‘foam of the sea.’
    On black sea, the compilation cites a reference in the Iliade to the ‘black pont’(sea) which I have missed completely.
    Re “витийствуя” the author thinks there is a link to Pushkin’s well known poem “Клеветникам России” rebuking the French press for criticising the Russians’ brutal put-down of a Polish uprising in the early 1830s.
    On “изголовье” there is a collection of poetic quotes with similarly used word.
    On the difficult “море, витийствуя”, the author thinks there is a link to Cicero’s classic ‘murmur maris’.

  549. obscene monster of web epicenity
    I meant to say “know wholes bard”.

  550. Just so long we have no holes bored, Ø.
    Meanwhile, I can’t devote time to the task here right now. Later, yes.

  551. marie-lucie says:

    Please, please, can someone declare me officially an idiolectic – I wil forever bear the badge with pride.
    Sashura, in linguistic terms, we can all be called “idiolectic” and be proud of it.

  552. Sashura: I DECLARE YOU IDIOLECTIC!!!!!
    I also declare BANKRUPTCY! (For fans of The Office.)

  553. When do I get the badge?
    Marie-Lucie, thanks, absolutely.

  554. “No holes” Bard is currently holed up with his pal “Two loos” Lautrec.

  555. Jamessal:
    Unless I’m missing something, our common basis has now been thoroughly established and it’s still your move.
    I’m glad that you see me as having presented “our common basis”. Someone had to do the heavy lifting, I suppose, to present detailed propositions. And at least some spectators needed to be brought up to speed.
    I now take it that you agree with me about everything, except this:

    … the American way makes clarity and readability much easier to achieve.

    Read carefully. My words were easier to achieve, not impossible. But you responded with this:

    Do you really find the TLS and LRB “clumsy” compared to the NYTBR and NYRB? (Not that you said that exactly, of course.)

    And you commented again to clarify:

    “In their use of relative pronouns,” I should add, seeing as you’ve already expressed a general preference for British ways.

    So now I respond.
    Right, I did not say that exactly. I am most familiar with the TLS, and there I find much exquisite writing, some of which cleaves to traditional British ways, some to American, and some to mid-Atlantic. Some use only that for restrictive relative constructions (let’s call them RRCs, and the other sort NRRCs), except where the least flexible principles of English grammar supervene – I mean, of course everyone writes “of which”, never *”of that”, whether in an RRC or an NRRC. No points can be scored from that observation. Other TLS writers use a mixture of that and which in RRCs, and while some of these may have a harder time fashioning clear elegant sentences, there are ways to manage. It’s when writers stick to only which in RRCs that they get noticeably into trouble. They may not realise it; but some of their readers will, and their editors should. In a quick survey just now, I haven’t found such writers in the TLS. But I can illustrate what happens, with two writers who do restrict themselves almost entirely to what in RRCs (and of course NRRCs).
    The first is Ralph Penny, whose A history of the Spanish language has been discussed in this forum for other reasons. Look at this excerpt, in which I mark features of interest in bold:

    But it is at least arguable that there are some characteristics shared by all or most of the surviving varieties of Peninsular Romance (and which therefore belonged to the Latin spoken in most if not all of the Peninsula), which may be contrasted with the corresponding features of Gallo-Romance, Italo-Romance, etc. The characteristics which have been assigned to the Latin of Spain, at different times by different scholars, are its archaism, its conservatism and its Osco-Umbrian dialectalism. Paradoxically there are a number of features which allow the Latin of Spain to be described as innovatory. (p. 10)

    This may be readable enough, taken in isolation. But I can assure you: it is hard going if the aim is to follow a sustained argument, or absorb the message of an entire chapter. Does punctuation work well for this writer, instead of differential use of which and that? Look at the comma after the closing parenthesis, before a which. Why is it there? According to the British orthodoxy (as formalised in CGEL, with some circumspection), that comma is what signals an NRRC. The preceding parenthetical should not make any difference. But does that work? Going back and parsing again, we find that Penny seems to have intended an RRC, which might be schematised like this (with omission of the parenthetical and other inessential material, and using a that with no comma; X and Y both plural):

    there are {some characteristics shared by X that may be contrasted with the corresponding features of Y}

    But is this right? Penny could have meant this, for all we can know from his syntax and punctuation:

    there are {some characteristics shared by X, which [NRRC] may be contrasted with the corresponding features of Y}

    Or even this, for all we can know from his syntax and punctuation:

    there are some characteristics shared by {X, which may be contrasted with the corresponding features of Y}

    This last alternative is weird; but in this ambience the shift from characteristics to features is unsettling; and that use of a comma canonically indicates an NRRC reading. The truly interested reader is left to make good sense of one or other ill-formed alternative.
    Does it matter? Sometimes. Is there a genuine uncertainty here anyway? I don’t know! (So there is at least a meta-uncertainty.) Are such uncertainties distracting? Often. Does context help? Not reliably, and it is inefficient to rely on it constantly. The other uses of which in this excerpt at least alert us to Penny’s avoidance of that; but what is the status of the first one, within the parentheses? NRRCs are supposed to have a comma, by the CGEL orthodoxy: so is that an RRC in the parenthetical, as opposed to the construction that follows the parenthetical? Can we even be sure of the referent of the which in the parenthetical? I look for ways to apply it to all or most of the surviving varieties of Peninsular Romance, as opposed to some characteristics. Add, to all of these considerations, one use of the serial comma (before etc.) and one avoidance of it (before its), and we have a difficult passage – for the reader who cares! In another thread I used Penny’s parentheses to demonstrate Nunberg’s cryptoprescriptivity, since real authors (even academic linguists) do things with parentheses that Nunberg considers “inadmissible”; but I do censure Penny’s profligacy. I would rearrange many of his sentences for good order and clarity. Look at this review of his book at Amazon:

    if what you want is extreme detail, then this is the book for you. i myself found it hard to follow as every sentence is at least three lines long and interspersed with constant parenthetical notes that sometimes themselves take up three lines!

    As you can see, I had to agree. I also grew more inclined to accept the judgement of Bryan Garner on writers who do not distinguish that and which. I think I read in a comment somewhere at Language Log, Jamessal, that you “use Garner”. So you can look this up; and others can go to Amazon and search his book with the phrase copious whiches. That will deliver the page that has this text:

    Before reading any further, you ought to know something about these two groups: those in the first [not distinguishing that and which] probably don’t write very well; those in the second [distinguishing that and which] just might. (Garner’s modern American usage, p. 806; I recommend reading to the end of p. 807)

    That is a startling summation, but empirically supported. I have to agree, since my experience bears it out also. Penny furnishes an example, for all his brilliance as an historical linguist whose book has pride of place with fifty others at my bedside. (Yes, Homer is there too, and now Mandelstam.)
    David Denison is another devotee of whichcraft. His chapter entitled “Syntax” in The Cambridge history of the English language (1998, vol. 4, pp. 92–329) is huge and glorious, and that volume is often a guest alongside Penny, Mandelstam, and the Bard. Look at this, and its surrounding sentence. Now, you might think the meaning is perfectly obvious. But can you be sure? There is a comma preceding the which, but it is the second of a parenthetic pair of commas; so it has lost its capacity to signal an NRRC. And the reader must know, by this point in the chapter, that the author seldom uses that for an RRC. So what is the referent of this which: the central portion of our period, or a 100,000-word corpus? Context and good sense suggest the latter; but the author slows careful readers down by forcing them to rely on those. A similar imposition is made upon the reader’s resources here. Without checking ahead in the text, and without puzzling out what is most likely as opposed to clearly stated, can you know what will be discussed along with what, in which sections? The author, refusing to avail himself of a natural and available separation of roles for the scarce English relative pronouns, makes our task harder than necessary. Such a writer will do that again and again, as in this similar case. To what does the which refer? Denison’s is a superb exegesis for its wealth of data and theoretical prowess, needlessly made turbid. (LH: The inconsistent styling of the commas in that last sentence might be of interest too, ugye?)
    Last, by way of striking contrast, I bring you Geoffrey K. Pullum: a prolific and brilliant stylist who hardly ever uses which in an RRC, and then only in compromised constructions that are of doubtful classification. After all, pace Pullum himself it seems, restrictiveness is a relative business. I surveyed the top portions of all the Pullum posts at Language Log for the last six months (you can do that by starting here, and clicking for a continuation at the bottom of the page). I found him using that 35 times in RRCs, and which 0 times. Similar results are found by surveying solo published work of his, though that and which are mixed in CGEL, with its many authors and shared editorship. The irony is, of course, that Pullum is militantly against giving budding writers, or budding editors, the very advice that would help them to approximate his own stylish lucidity.
    Know thyself? Many academic linguists are not good introspectors of their own practice. They would do well to respect the work of others who shine at giving advice for those seeking grace and clarity, as they themselves shine in their academic analyses, more remote from language as it is actually marshalled in considered use. They would do well, in short, not to resist waves change that will break over their bedheads, like it or not.
    [Reaches into hip pocket. Retrieves Jamessal’s switchblade, and offers it to the younger protagonist. Wha–! when and how did he get hold of that?]
    Here, kid. You might be needing this after all.

  556. It is probably a bit beside the point you are making, but in the examples you cite I didn’t find many where ‘which’ could be substituted with ‘that’.
    By the way, the terms ‘restrictive relative clause’ and ‘non-restrictive relative clause’ appear to be avoided by careful linguists (I think they use terms like ‘integrated’) because there are exceptional cases where a relative clause is clearly ‘integrated’ but not ‘restrictive’.

  557. “… the American way makes clarity and readability much easier to achieve.”
    Read carefully.
    I did read that carefully. I also read this carefully:
    It is an enormously valuable use of two quite distinct words, to keep clear what is often otherwise muddled. I observe the distinction religiously myself.
    My point is that in arguing against the reflexive anti-prescriptivism of some linguists you’ve overstated the utility of the distinction in question. But let me return to that; Robin is having an operation this afternoon (no cause for concern, although any sympathy for her should be awarded me in form of points toward the match), and I have a few things I need to get done before I take her to the doctor. Rushed, I trust myself better to quibble with your reading of your first example than to generalize about language and clarity. I think if we provide the sentences surrounding your first example, even the meta-uncertainty disappears:

    It is also important to consider here the ways in which the Latin spoken in Spain differed from that spoken in other provinces. Such consideration must not assume that the Latin of Spain was in any sense uniform; we have just seen that it was probably far from uniform. But it is at least arguable that there are some characteristics shared by all or most of the surviving varieties of Peninsular Romance (and which therefore belonged to the Latin spoken in most if not all of the Peninsula), which may be contrasted with the corresponding features of Gallo-Romance, Italo-Romance, etc.”

    Sentence 1 promises a future consideration. Sentence 2 offers a caveat about that consideration. Sentence 3 argues that the author will be able to fulfill his promise in spite of the caveat, then, in an NRRC, restates the promised consideration.
    In sum, for this example, context and punctuation seem sufficient to me, and I’m skeptical that a consistent adherence throughout the text to the distinction in question would add much in the way of ease and clarity. It may surprise you, but I’m actually sympathetic to your battle against what you call cryptoprescriptivism. I just think that even your reasoned prescriptivism is prone to the same mistake as so much unreasoned prescriptivism: a squinting loss of perspective; an undervaluation of all the other writer’s tools. But as I’ve only taken up a portion of your comment and examples, I may yet change my mind. To be continued.

  558. The other uses of which in this excerpt at least alert us to Penny’s avoidance of that; but what is the status of the first one, within the parentheses? NRRCs are supposed to have a comma, by the CGEL orthodoxy: so is that an RRC in the parenthetical, as opposed to the construction that follows the parenthetical? Can we even be sure of the referent of the which in the parenthetical? I look for ways to apply it to all or most of the surviving varieties of Peninsular Romance, as opposed to some characteristics.
    We may have to appeal to the refs here, because it seems perfectly clear to me that the “which” within the parentheses refers to “some characteristics”; the author is making explicit, in a parenthetical aside, the implied inference of his observation “that there are some characteristics shared by all or most of the surviving varieties of Peninsular Romance” — the inference being that the characteristics “therefore belonged to the Latin spoken in most if not all of the Peninsula.” Together the observation and the inference assure that the author will be able to proceed in the face of his caveat: he will be able to compare the Latin spoken in Spain to that spoken in other provinces — even though the Latin of Spain was not uniform — because, as we can infer from recent study, there were characteristics consistent throughout Spain and those characteristics can be contrasted with with “the corresponding features of Gallo-Romance, Italo-Romance, etc.”
    If I’m squinting much myself, let me know and I’ll start with a fresh look. Right now, I’m having trouble seeing how a few thats could clear up any ambiguity, because I’m not seeing the ambiguity.

  559. Edited to use ‘that’ (i.e., ‘there are some characteristics shared by surviving varieties of peninsula Romance that may be contrasted with the corresponding features of Gallo-Romance, Italo-Romance, etc.’):
    It is also important to consider here the ways in which the Latin spoken in Spain differed from that spoken in other provinces. Such consideration must not assume that the Latin of Spain was in any sense uniform; we have just seen that it was probably far from uniform. But it is at least arguable that there are some characteristics shared by all or most of the surviving varieties of Peninsular Romance (and which therefore belonged to the Latin spoken in most if not all of the Peninsula) that may be contrasted with the corresponding features of Gallo-Romance, Italo-Romance, etc.
    Kind of clumsy.
    Edited to get rid of the parenthetical ‘which’ and a comma (there are some characteristics shared by surviving varieties of peninsula Romance which may be contrasted with the corresponding features of Gallo-Romance, Italo-Romance, etc.):
    It is also important to consider here the ways in which the Latin spoken in Spain differed from that spoken in other provinces. Such consideration must not assume that the Latin of Spain was in any sense uniform; we have just seen that it was probably far from uniform. But it is at least arguable that there are some characteristics shared by all or most of the surviving varieties of Peninsular Romance (and therefore belonged to the Latin spoken in most if not all of the Peninsula) which may be contrasted with the corresponding features of Gallo-Romance, Italo-Romance, etc.
    For me, a slight improvement.
    The problem, it seems to me, is not a failure to distinguish between ‘which’ and ‘that’; it is simply an over-fondness for ‘which’, a feature found in certain styles of English — particularly (in my impression) that of voluble English academics waxing enthusiastic about their subject. This habit, rather than the failure to use bland old ‘that’ for restrictive relative clauses, is what could make the prose of these people hard to read over a long stretch. But if you use an imaginary vocalisation that reproduces the British accent and delivery of such people, it seems to me that their prose isn’t quite as muddy as Noetica makes out.

  560. Hehe. I just produced an ungrammatical sentence. It should of been:
    It is also important to consider here the ways in which the Latin spoken in Spain differed from that spoken in other provinces. Such consideration must not assume that the Latin of Spain was in any sense uniform; we have just seen that it was probably far from uniform. But it is at least arguable that there are some characteristics which were shared by all or most of the surviving varieties of Peninsular Romance (and therefore belonged to the Latin spoken in most if not all of the Peninsula), which may be contrasted with the corresponding features of Gallo-Romance, Italo-Romance, etc.
    Here I’ve had to insert a ‘which’ (it could of been ‘that’) before ‘shared’.
    Using ‘that’:
    It is also important to consider here the ways in which the Latin spoken in Spain differed from that spoken in other provinces. Such consideration must not assume that the Latin of Spain was in any sense uniform; we have just seen that it was probably far from uniform. But it is at least arguable that there are some characteristics that were shared by all or most of the surviving varieties of Peninsular Romance (and therefore belonged to the Latin spoken in most if not all of the Peninsula), which may be contrasted with the corresponding features of Gallo-Romance, Italo-Romance, etc.
    Sorry!

  561. For good measure, using all ‘that’s:
    It is also important to consider here the ways in which the Latin spoken in Spain differed from that spoken in other provinces. Such consideration must not assume that the Latin of Spain was in any sense uniform; we have just seen that it was probably far from uniform. But it is at least arguable that there are some characteristics that were shared by all or most of the surviving varieties of Peninsular Romance (and therefore belonged to the Latin spoken in most if not all of the Peninsula) that may be contrasted with the corresponding features of Gallo-Romance, Italo-Romance, etc.
    Not an improvement.

  562. Thanks for your take and those edited versions, Bathrobe. I’ll consider them, take up the rest of Noetica’s comment, and start searching for my own examples tomorrow.
    Night all!

  563. The eventual determination of meaning is not the problem. The meaning is very likely this:

    But arguably at least, most or all of the surviving varieties of Peninsular Romance inherit three features attributed at various times to the Latin spoken in the Peninsula (or most of it): archaism, conservatism, and Osco-Umbrian dialectalism. By these features they may be contrasted with Gallo-Romance, Italo-Romance, etc. Paradoxically, there are also innovations in the Latin of Spain.

    We can safely assume that the attribution was by scholars, and not by dairymaids. The meaning could be given even more simply, if we strip away even more superfluous qualification:

    But arguably, surviving varieties of Peninsular Romance inherit three features attributed at various times to Peninsular Latin – archaism, conservatism, and Osco-Umbrian dialectalism – by which they may be contrasted with Gallo-Romance, Italo-Romance, etc. But there are also innovations in the Latin of Spain.

    The point is that, to arrive at this meaning from the long and cumbersome version, we had to exert ourselves in retrieving background knowledge (perhaps also context), and parsing more than once if we wanted to be sure we had really got it. Such extra effort may be unconscious; and we may not feel the burden over short bursts. We had also to deal with the author’s relative constructions, which fail to make use of an available distinction between that and which. (None of us was benefited by that oddity!) All these features contribute to the slow treacly inertia of the text. As Garner suggests, a writer who does not make the distinction between that and which is likely also not to use other available resources well. Penny is a good example.
    Jamessal, you write:

    Sentence 3 argues that the author will be able to fulfill his promise in spite of the caveat, then, in an NRRC, restates the promised consideration.

    But even with the context you show, we cannot easily be confident of that. For those who avoid using that, a comma preceding which is the only mark of an NRRC. But this author has a habit of putting a comma after a closing parenthesis that practically everyone agrees should not be there. For example:

    The more frequent a set of forms, the less likely it is to be affected by analogy, and (it follows), the more likely it is to show … (p. 113)

    In Spanish, the analogical pressure exerted by the accentual pattern of the majority of verbs ([…]), was instrumental in shifting the accent … (p. 154)

    However, learned verbs ([…]), retained all their vowels … (pp. 155–156)

    Penny’s practice with commas and parentheses is unreliable; so his relative constructions are inclined to be indeterminate, since his restriction to which demands accurate punctuation. Again readers are exercised unfairly, even if they can wade through by an effort of will and patience. Elegant it ain’t.
    The author does eventually use the occasional that, especially in the concluding chapter; see especially around p. 319 if you can, where that and which alternate unaccountably in RRCs, as they do not elsewhere in the book. This only confirms that Penny has this use of that in his repertoire, but has no interest in putting it to good use for us. All this, despite his obvious striving to convey his precise meaning throughout. (There is more to say about his view concerning early pronunciation of Quixote, as discussed at another thread. I will still argue that he is too quick with that.)
    More, Jamessal, when you have responded to more of the many points I set out in detail earlier (with Denison, Pullum, and so on).
    Sashura:
    Sorry, I’ll get to you later about animacy and idiolect.
    Bathman:
    (it could of been ‘that’)
    (A glass clinks to the floor.)

  564. Glad you picked that up 🙂 The ungrammatical ‘could of’ is a dig at myself for constructing an ungrammatical sentence in the previous post.

  565. his relative constructions are inclined to be indeterminate
    I guess indeterminacy is considered a fault in ‘clear writing’ (one of the grand goals of modern English prose), but I wonder whether that indeterminacy isn’t inherent in the language. The overuse of ‘which’ characteristic of certain styles of English tends to treat it as a way of adding information, a way of constructing or extending sentences, as it were. It doesn’t necessarily require rigid adherence to the ‘restrictive/non-restrictive’ stricture. You can tell people to stop using the device if you don’t like it, but to insist on a hard-and-fast distinction between ‘restrictive’ and ‘non-restrictive’ in all circumstances seems to me rather mechanical and restricting. People who use this want it to flow and warble; they don’t want to be hemmed in by an artificial grammatical requirement.
    (In the sense that it is a stylistic habit, The use of ‘which’ could perhaps be compared to the journalistic use of pre-modification, as in ‘the resource-rich nation’, ‘the sword-toting samurai’, or varying the way something is referred to, again as in ‘the resource-rich nation’ or ‘the sword-toting samurai’. For the journalist, this is a very economical way of including information. But for me — unlike the overuse of ‘which’ — this is a distracting and artificial way of constructing sentences and I don’t particularly like it. The ungainliness becomes quite obvious when you have to translate sentences containing this device into languages that don’t use it.)

  566. In other words, it’s a stylistic mannerism. I happen to find it quite acceptable, but if the ‘restrictive/non-restrictive’ distinction is terribly important to you, you might find yourself modifying your writing style to avoid this way of building thoughts and sentences. This will not only give rise to greater so-called ‘clarity’; it also has the potential to bring about heavy modifications in the way you formulate your sentences and put your thoughts down on paper. Not everyone would necessarily agree that this is a good thing.

  567. later about animacy and idiolect.
    No problem, I shall be forever grateful for your contributions here submitted already.
    While, as non-native speaker, I don’t have much to say on that/which/who in English. In Russian parentheses (вводные обороты или слова) are always in commas and often do not require which/that.

  568. But even with the context you show, we cannot easily be confident of that.
    “Easily” I’ll give you. Take out the adverb and I would disagree. If we follow the logic of Penny’s paragraph, I think we can be confident that the comma after the closing parenthesis introduces an NRRC. But more to the point — and to really get this thing started (I think we may be losing the crowd) — I also the think the difficulty and lack of elegance owes less to a lack of consistency distinguishing “which” and “that” than to a general over-stuffing of the sentence. The sentence could, and should, be rewritten in countless ways that would allow the author to use “which” in the same proscribed function as do Auden, Nabokov, Joyce, Beckett, and countless other exceptions to Garner’s “startling summation.”

  569. Your point about Pullum I have to dismiss out of hand. There’s no irony in his cleaving to one practice himself while arguing that others shouldn’t have to.

  570. Your examples from Denison are all well chosen. If he followed your advice, he’d write less ambiguously. But he’d also write less ambiguously if he simply paid more attention, and that way he’d get to keep using “which” however he liked. Approaching a relevant type of RRC, he’d have two words to choose from, each of which feels different in the mouth and looks different of the page. Without the consistency you’re advocating, he might have to work a little harder for clarity (though not as hard as I think you think), but he’d have more stylistic freedom. The idea that people who choose the latter course are necessarily, or even generally, poor writers seems preposterous. Your and Garner’s impression needs a lot more examples to stand empirically supported.

  571. Examples from Auden by Richard Davenport-Hines.
    “Wystan also recorded a brief dialogue which recorded the tension at home, and Dr. Auden’s weariness with histrionics.”
    Clearly an RRC.
    “Cecil Day Lewis described him as ‘an extreme neurotic’ in the early 1930s, but he resolved many of his difficulties and was successful in a career which was as constructive as his father’s, and required much of the solitary intellectual concentration which characterised Wystan.”
    Ambiguous as to whether it’s an RRC or NRRC, but it doesn’t matter — the meaning is perfectly clear. I like this example in particular because it flies in the face of my personal preference to omit when possible relative clauses followed by forms of BE. I wouldn’t do it here — the author has established his rhythm, he’s in control.
    “The inspiration for Auden’s railway parable is a short story ‘The Great Good Place” by Henry James which opens with an author named George Dane in his rooms…”
    Again, ambiguous about the type of clause, but to no significance.
    The whole book is lucid though it pays no heed to stylistic orthodoxy. It isn’t even internally consistent — the punctuation is virtually ad hoc — and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The man can write. Period.
    Note also that this isn’t a fiction book, taking stylistic license. It’s a biography, conveying information clearly and elegantly.

  572. Bathrobe: This fight is supposed to be between Noetica and me, mano-a-mano, but I like this point so much — if the ‘restrictive/non-restrictive’ distinction is terribly important to you, you might find yourself modifying your writing style to avoid this way of building thoughts and sentences. This will not only give rise to greater so-called ‘clarity’; it also has the potential to bring about heavy modifications in the way you formulate your sentences and put your thoughts down on paper. Not everyone would necessarily agree that this is a good thing. — that I’ll have to second it anyway. Who needs a switchblade when I have allies sneaking into the ring?

  573. Not that I would presume to moderate our good host’s domain, of course. What’s that thirty-man fake wrestling match called again? The Royal Rumble?

  574. Richard D-H writes the way he speaks, the way he spoke when he was fifteen.

  575. I too write as I speak when I was fifteen. The difference is that now I’m among people who don’t mock me for it, but actually seem to appreciate it.

  576. I’m sorry to say this is off the topic of that which we were a-discussing; would someone explain what “literals” are in this amazon review:

    Having read and loved “Spies”, I had to read My Father’s Fortune, which is not really a biography of Frayn’s father, more of his own early years, and a delight. However, there are a number of literals in here, which is a shame. What has become of editing within publishing houses?

  577. OED: Printing. A misprint of a letter.
    1622 R. HAWKINS Voy. S. Sea [170] Errata sic corrige… The litteralls are commended to favour. 1880 Print. Trades Jrnl. xxx. 6 We noticed rather a large number of literals.
    I had thought it was obsolete, but I guess not.

  578. Thank you, Language.

  579. marie-lucie says:

    I didn’t know “literals” in this sense, but even after seeing the definition I am not sure what this means:
    The litteralls are commended to favour

  580. I don’t understand it either, and it’s not in any of the editions of Hawkins’s Voyage into the South Sea accessible through Google Books (the 1622 edition isn’t available, presumably because it was reprinted in 1968, but without this text!). Any ideas?

  581. ML: Totally off-topic, but is there a French textbook you’d recommend for a total beginner? I’m just starting to force myself to use the Rosetta Stone program for a little while every day, and I wanted to supplement that with a more traditional, grammar-based approach.

  582. AJP: Thank you again for the Auden biography.

  583. The litteralls are commended to favour
    The expression to commend to favour is not well covered in OED, though we get the usual meaning well enough. It means “to recommend for favourable acceptance or consideration”.
    Now consider a certain sense of favour, in OED:

    3. Kind indulgence. a. Leave, permission, pardon. Chiefly in phrases, by, with (your, etc.) favour; by the favour of. Also, under favour: with all submission, subject to correction. Obs. or arch.
    1580 Baret Alv. F255 Sauing your displeasure+or, with your fauour. 1588 Shakes. L.L.L. iii. i. 68 By thy fauour+I must sigh in thy face. 1590 Swinburne Testaments 287 If the wife+depart from her husband, without his good fauour. 1611 B. Jonson Cataline i. i, With fauour, ’twere no losse, if’t might be enquir’d What the Condition of these Armes would be. 1613 Shakes. Hen. VIII, i. i. 168 Pray giue me fauour Sir. 1622 Callis Stat. Sewers (1647) 21 Under the favor of these books. 1662 Stillingfl. Orig. Sacr. i. i. §20 (ed. 3) 21 By the favour of so learned a man, it seems probable. 1699 Bentley Phal. 135 Under favour, I say it’s an Anapæst. 1700 Dryden Cock & Fox, With your Favour, I will treat it here. 1750 G. Jeffreys in Duncombe’s Letters (1773) II. 253 Under favour, poetical justice is so far from being ‘a chimera’, that [etc.]. 1823 Scott Quentin D. xv, Under favour, my Lord..the youth must find another guide.

    That seems to explain our problematic sentence. It means “the literals are submitted to your indulgence and pardon”.
     

  584. marie-lucie says:

    is there a French textbook you’d recommend for a total beginner?
    Jamessal, if I were in your shoes, I would go to a used academic bookstore, go to the Languages section and browse through the French textbooks. There are dozens of “first-year” textbooks to chose from, and they tend to cover the same grammatical material in pretty much the same order (and if you learn everything in such a textbook, you will know a lot of French), so the difference is mostly in the presentation and the type, variety and interest of the practice exercises. Browse through the pages and see what appeals to you. These textbooks are expensive if new, but quite cheap secondhand. Many of them come packaged together with CD’s nowadays, and if you are lucky the CD might still be there, a big plus since it should have much of the book material, and probably some additional stuff (French spelling is almost as difficult as English spelling, though not for the same reasons, and you really need the audio input at the beginning).
    I would try to choose a textbook written by two or three authors, with a mix of French and English (or other) names: it is likely to be more accurate and uptodate in grammar and vocabulary, and more pedagogically appropriate, than one with all French or all English authors.
    As a more relaxing but important complement to your efforts, you can rent French movies with subtitles and view them more than once – at first you are going to need all the subtitles, the next time(s) you can pick up a few new things by (re)hearing them in context. Comedies are best – understanding deep movies can feel too much like work.
    Of course, these recommendations are valid to other languages as well.

  585. French spelling is almost as difficult as English spelling, though not for the same reason
    marie-lucie, again I cower before the height, width and breadth of your knowledge – as if in the film Independence Day, I see with trepidation a massive unknown artefact of superior intelligence darkening the sky. I considered myself an expert griper on the godawful difficulties of French spelling, although my most penetrating insight to date has been merely that English spelling is no better. Then here you come with a codicil: “though not for the same reason” ! I have of course thus been obliged to cancel my griping tour, and await further, detailed instruction from you on this matter. I’m serious: please explain !

  586. Jamessal:
    You dismiss too readily what you should consider for longer; and sometimes you do not follow what I have set out with precision and caution. I wrote:

    But even with the context you show, we cannot easily be confident of that.

    Your reply:

    “Easily” I’ll give you. Take out the adverb and I would disagree.

    Take out the adverb and I would disagree too! As I stressed at length, ease in securing the message is exactly what we miss, in Penny’s prose. He mires his text with insouciant relative constructions, dulled further by promiscuous use of parentheticals and nonstandard punctuation, in pursuit of qualifications that make a fetish of detail and that rely on those carelessly managed means. I offered crisp alternative versions of his problem sentences, above; so obviously I could come to terms with them. Eventually and with effort, we can extract the message. Who disputes that? But I showed, earlier, some of the troubles we might encounter on the way.

    … I also the think the difficulty and lack of elegance owes less to a lack of consistency distinguishing “which” and “that” than to a general over-stuffing of the sentence.

    Fine; but these go together. I chose Penny as an interesting example, rather than a writer who was utterly incompetent, partly because he illustrates Garner’s summary point which* you appear not to read with care. (* Flag that which of mine.)
    You continue:

    The sentence could, and should, be rewritten in countless ways that would allow the author to use “which” in the same proscribed function as do Auden, Nabokov, Joyce, Beckett, and countless other exceptions to Garner’s “startling summation.”

    Sure. It should be rewritten in one of those “countless ways”. Now pay attention. I am not “proscribing” all restrictive uses of which. I wrote, above:

    It is an enormously valuable use of two quite distinct words, to keep clear what is often otherwise muddled. I observe the distinction religiously myself, against my preference for British ways.

    But of course I know that others, including many fine writers, make a different choice. And note: I do not say that I apply the distinction inflexibly, or that I deny myself nuances. As I have said (and I think you agree), restrictiveness is a matter of degree. Yes, I make many plain NRRCs with comma-which, and many plain RRCs with that. But because I religiously observe (that is, with care and constancy of principle) the general tendency of that toward restrictivity and of which toward non-restrictivity, I can work freely between those extremes. So I can and do use non-restrictive which without a comma, when that punctuation works better in the context, or when the restrictiveness is less relevant or less than complete. See the example we flagged above; and those marked with an asterisk far upthread. And of course, we would all sometimes want a normal restrictive that with a comma preceding, in cases like these:

    Do not dismantle any munitions that contain TNT, that are marked with a red warning label, or that show signs of rust.

    Downright dangerous to substitute which à la Penny and Denison:

    Do not dismantle any munitions which contain TNT, which are marked with a red warning label, or which show signs of rust.

    The reader might take it that a red label is what will show the presence of TNT. (Don’t try this experiment at home.) The prescription (often covert) that Pullum and others make (use a comma to mark an NRCC, and no comma with an RRC) is ridiculously simplistic. Garner’s frank prescription, for those who ask for it from him, is at least as rational. As you have agreed, it is closer to counting as grammatical orthodoxy in American English than as a mere pedantic foible. I wish Garner had gone further to cover what I do, about flexibility with commas and the like; but his brief is to give a robust guideline. He does that. A host of willing readers accept it as cogently supported, and mainstream everyday American English is in accord.
    You write:

    Your examples from Denison are all well chosen. If he followed your advice, he’d write less ambiguously. But he’d also write less ambiguously if he simply paid more attention, and that way he’d get to keep using “which” however he liked. Approaching a relevant type of RRC, he’d have two words to choose from, each of which feels different in the mouth and looks different of the page. Without the consistency you’re advocating, he might have to work a little harder for clarity (though not as hard as I think you think), but he’d have more stylistic freedom.

    An interesting mix of concession to my view and unsupported assertion. He could use only which as his relative pronoun and work just “a little harder for clarity”? With complex material like that? Anyway, does this writer have a great deal of stylistic freedom to preserve? I cannot think that denying himself one of the two available workhorse relative pronouns serves him as a guarantor of freedom! In fact, he is probably just inattentive. Look at this isolated instance from Denison:

    … any language that lacks morphological case-marking …

    His chapter might include other uses of that in an RRC, but this is the only one I have found. The containing sentence has two other, non-relative uses of that; and the entire paragraph has not one occurrence of which. Denison might, therefore, have had reason to prefer his wonted which: that is put to other use, and which is not over-exposed here at all. Which would show concern for style; its avoidance here appears haphazard.
    You continue:

    The idea that people who choose the latter course are necessarily, or even generally, poor writers seems preposterous. Your and Garner’s impression needs a lot more examples to stand empirically supported.

    But note again what Garner says, with which I am sympathetic (I now add emphasis):

    Before reading any further, you ought to know something about these two groups: those in the first [not distinguishing that and which] probably don’t write very well; those in the second [distinguishing that and which] just might.

    We do not have to read Garner’s comment as restricted to edited and published text, though I have given some evidence that the observation is sound if it is taken that way. Turning to candidate text for publication, we find Garner’s remark amply borne out. That’s my experience, anyway. A good many writers are careless in their choice of that or which, and most of these that I deal with are enormously grateful if I fix things for them, after I make the offer and explain. Those who require less intervention overall are typically also the ones who distinguish use of that and which already.
    Finally, you write:

    Your point about Pullum I have to dismiss out of hand. There’s no irony in his cleaving to one practice himself while arguing that others shouldn’t have to.

    The problem is not that Pullum argues “that others shouldn’t have to”. Of course they shouldn’t have to! The problem is that Pullum rails, ex cathedra as he seems to think, against sound advice that people might be offered, and that they usually are enormously grateful to receive: advice that could well have been distilled from Pullum’s own polished and efficient style. (See above: “The irony is, of course, that Pullum is militantly against giving budding writers, or budding editors, the very advice that would help them to approximate his own stylish lucidity.”) We could wish him to be aware of this – and everyone to be aware of the crucial role played by moderate, well-informed, and well-argued prescriptive advice.

  587. Thank you very much for the advice, ML.
    There’s no irony in [Pullum’s] cleaving to one practice himself while arguing that others shouldn’t have to.
    I’m not sure I stand by that. More thinking and (hopefully) scribbling tomorrow.
    Night all! Good to see you, Stu! (Is chess in our near future?)

  588. I see Noetica has taken me up even before I could publish my self doubt. It also appears I stand guilty of some careless reading (I had thought my argument was beginning to feel a bit simple!); I’ll make amends and see if I can make up for these lost points tomorrow.

  589. Subtle ! “I’ll make amends and see if I can make up for these lost points tomorrow”. Ain’t the same thing, innit ! It’s not like saying “before you can overtake, you have to catch up”.

  590. Stu, what’s your point? What’s not the same thing as what?
    To me Jamessal’s use of make amends seems a little odd, in almost the same way as Janis Joplin’s use of the phrase in the song “Oh Lord Won’t You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz” (“My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.”)
    But we shouldn’t be bothering him with these comments. He needs every ounce of concentration for the match.

  591. Do not dismantle any munitions which contain TNT, which are marked with a red warning label, or which show signs of rust.
    The meaning is perfectly clear to me. To interpret it as misleading suggests that ideological commitment is overcoming commonsense. It’s a bit like saying: “You’ve got to follow my rule because if you don’t follow it I’ll claim that I can’t understand what you’re saying”.

  592. Stu, what’s your point? What’s not the same thing as what?
    “Making amends” and “make up for these lost points”. My initial reaction was as yours: “Jamessal’s use of make amends seems a little odd”. Then I concluded that it actually makes good subtle sense, just as does “My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends” in a slightly different way.

  593. It’s a bit like saying: “You’ve got to follow my rule because if you don’t follow it I’ll claim that I can’t understand what you’re saying”.
    But that’s one of the purposes of rules: to cut off discussion. I myself am no friend of endless discussion about stylistic peanuts, but I am also no friend of stoopid rules. In case of doubt, I cut off the rule. I roll my own under the guidance of those whose prose I admire.

  594. Bathrobe:
    The meaning is perfectly clear to me. To interpret it as misleading suggests that ideological commitment is overcoming commonsense. It’s a bit like saying: “You’ve got to follow my rule because if you don’t follow it I’ll claim that I can’t understand what you’re saying”.
    “The” meaning is perfectly clear to you? Only because I delivered a meaning to you clearly first, using the perfectly unambiguous that. Look again. Try to set aside any priming for one interpretation or another:

    Do not dismantle any munitions which contain TNT, which are marked with a red warning label, or which show signs of rust.

    Exactly those words would do, according to the unmodified usage of Penny and Denison, in any of three quite distinct situations. Munitions not to be dismantled are:

    Those that contain TNT (marked with a red warning label) OR show signs of rust.

    Or:

    Those that contain TNT OR are marked with a red warning label OR show signs of rust.

    Or:

    Those that contain TNT (marked with a red warning label or showing signs of rust).

    Accidents happen when people don’t predict how their messages might be read by perfectly commonsensical readers, just as Mars probes (costing US$327.6 million, 1990s value) fail when people don’t check which units of measurements are in use.
    Beware the obvious. Beware what “is perfectly clear” to you. Take note when “commonsense” is apparently overcome by “ideological commitment”. Sometimes it is; sometimes it isn’t. The world of writing engages editors for good reasons; and the academic world includes philosophers for good reasons.

  595. In case of doubt, I cut off the rule. I roll my own under the guidance of those whose prose I admire.
    Which is why I would recommend against your employment by NASA or a bomb-disposal operation, Stumann. There are Procrustean rules to avoid so that prose can spring joyfully from the page. There are rules to shun so that our life-affirming transgressions are brought into sharp relief (no, to enable transgressions). And there are rules that save lives, Mars probes, and readers’ time and patience.
    Remind me sometime to tell you about a former colleague, a computer scientist who went to work for NASA as a technical consultant in Bayesian this-and-that (ich vais?). He couldn’t give a straight answer to an “elementary” problem involving probabilities. Too simple for him.

  596. Beware the obvious. Beware what “is perfectly clear” to you. Take note when “commonsense” is apparently overcome by “ideological commitment”. Sometimes it is; sometimes it isn’t.
    Excellent advice, Noetica. What I wrote above about “stoopid rules” in general is not – just because of that generality – to be taken as implying that I think the TNT sentence is perfectly clear. It’s not, in view of the various legitimate understandings of it that you spell out.
    Ambiguity is easy to obtain by accident, but difficult to obtain by art – when deliberate, that is, for instance when writing an article on a complex issue, to whose complexity simple syntax could not do justice.
    Some features of what I called “rolling my own under guidance” could be described like this:
    1. Experiment all you like, but make sure they’re controlled experiments, not drunken binges.
    2. Know thy league. Don’t dick around with and/or/neither+commas+semicolons in important matters.
    3. In the first instance, aim to attain subtlety only through simplicity.

  597. Which is why I would recommend against your employment by NASA or a bomb-disposal operation, Stumann.
    You mistake me, Doctor. The road to hell is paved with many registers. I was talking about blog prose, not NASA or bomb prose. I am infamous for my exactions in the workplace, when it comes to documenting technical and commercial matters. But there’s no point in performing open-heart surgery on peanuts.

  598. Just so, Studude. But I had to provoke a suitably grumbly 600th comment. I’m quite sure you are capable of the minutest exactitude.

  599. When my daughter asked at school yesterday whether there’s any money in philosophy*, the teacher told her that oil companies and others employ philosophers to advise CEOs on ethical issues. Is this true? They don’t seem to have much influence.
    *You may laugh, ’60s generation, but I’ve found that future employment is something kids worry about constantly.

  600. I used to know (slightly) a fellow who called himself a phenomologist. He claimed that he was gainfully employed doing phenomology — not teaching or research, but real-world stuff. I wish I could remember what sort of outfit he worked for. I’m sure I never had any real idea what he did for them.

  601. I meant phenomenology. Or was it pheronomology? No, pretty sure it was the former.

  602. paved with many registers
    The word “register” means something in linguistics. Also in music. Also in the field of heating and ductwork. Why any of this? Music->Linguistics? But why music? And why the duct sense?

  603. And this is why I try never to go up against Noetica in a fair fight. If I have to, I just confront him with a loaded pun.

  604. Hey, that’s my paving-stone ! It has nothing to do with music or ducts, but only with linguistics. Here register = “a form of a language used for a particular purpose or social setting”. What I am saying is that you can always confuse yourself and other folks with poorly constructed sentences, whether they are high-tone or low-tone sentences (or folks).

  605. You can also confuse folks with barely intelligible sentences about paving-registers.

  606. Id est, well-constructed but barely intelligible. Like a dumb blonde.

  607. Garner’s summary point which* you appear not to read with care.
    Before reading any further, you ought to know something about these two groups: those in the first [not distinguishing that and which] probably don’t write very well; those in the second [distinguishing that and which] just might.
    But Garner’s summation isn’t about all writers not distinguishing between “which” and “that.” It’s about people with measured opinions on the matter: those on the one hand who point to “many historical examples of copious whiches” and those on the other who “view departures from this distinction as ‘mistakes.'” Not only does this additional context make it difficult to apply Garner’s summation to even candidate prose (and thus make it seem more reasonable), but it also calls into which question the tone of the probably you emphasize. I read it as deliberately provocative in its off-handedness; and when you consider the measured tone of the preceding paragraph (in which he sums up a linguistic debate he’s presuming to settle), I think my reading stands.

  608. And this is why I try never to go up against Noetica in a fair fight. If I have to, I just confront him with a loaded pun.
    Don’t count me out yet, Hat. It was looking bleak before bed last night, but I think I just scored a solid point. More later. I have to go buy cream to make ice cream.
    also calls into which question
    Just a typo. Which. Which. Which. Dammit!

  609. Noetica: A prescription is a command; your phrase prescriptive advice is self-contradictory. That’s what justifies Pullum’s substance: he is not opposed to sensible advice on how to write well, but to bug-brained ideological claims about what is and is not correct English. His rhetorical style as Pope of the Grammarians either justifies itself or it can’t be justified.

  610. That’s another point, Jimsal.
    Why a duct? A register is just another name for a grille through which hot or cold air is released from the duct into the space being heated or cooled.

  611. You dismiss too readily what you should consider for longer; and sometimes you do not follow what I have set out with precision and caution.
    The morning after, this charge feels dubious. Yes, ease of reading was the issue at hand, but I didn’t reveal any carelessness by first using a sentence or two to address whether Penny’s “which” usage introduced any genuine structural ambiguity. I did continue: But more to the point — and to really get this thing started (I think we may be losing the crowd) — I also the think the difficulty and lack of elegance owes less…. I understood your point; I addressed your point; I even noted that I was addressing your point.

    Now pay attention. I am not “proscribing” all restrictive uses of which. I wrote, above:
    It is an enormously valuable use of two quite distinct words, to keep clear what is often otherwise muddled. I observe the distinction religiously myself, against my preference for British ways.
    But of course I know that others, including many fine writers, make a different choice. And note: I do not say that I apply the distinction inflexibly, or that I deny myself nuances.

    No, you didn’t say “inflexibly”; you said “religiously.” I guess yours is a lax religion to afford so much nuance. Am I really supposed to glean as much from mere careful reading? Even when you associate yourself with a strict Catholic like Garner? Here, the paragraph you didn’t include:

    You’ll encounter two schools of thought on this point. First are those who don’t care about any distinction between these words, who think that which is more formal than that, and who point to many historical examples of copious whiches. They say that modern usage is a muddle. Second are those who insist that both words have useful functions that ought to be separated, and who observe the distinction rigorously in their own writing. They view departures from this distinction as “mistakes.”
    Before reading any further, you ought to know something about these two groups: those in the first probably don’t write very well; those in the second just might.

    He draws both camps crudely, then gleefully joins the second. Where you see nuance, he sees mistakes. After you endorsed his views, you can hardly blame me for missing the chasm between “religiously” and “inflexibly.”

  612. I wish Garner had gone further to cover what I do, about flexibility with commas and the like
    I wish he had, too. I also wish you’d bothered to define religiously before:
    religiously…that is, with care and constancy of principle
    But then we might not have been able to entertain a crowd. Which I’m enjoying.

  613. Jamessal:
    Garner’s words, yet again:

    Before reading any further, you ought to know something about these two groups: those in the first probably don’t write very well; those in the second just might.

    My recent comment on this (emphasis now added):

    We do not have to read Garner’s comment as restricted to edited and published text, though I have given some evidence that the observation is sound if it is taken that way.

    This was a way to introduce an extension of the basic idea in that sentence. I did not claim this extension as the core of Garner’s statement, but as how we might take up his thought and run with it. I did not say “here Garner means this”; I pointed out something that fits with what he says, remembering that the book itself is addressed to those preparing text for publication. I made that move explicitly, and in response to this from you:

    Without the consistency you’re advocating, he [Denison] might have to work a little harder for clarity (though not as hard as I think you think), but he’d have more stylistic freedom. The idea that people who choose the latter course are necessarily, or even generally, poor writers seems preposterous. Your and Garner’s impression needs a lot more examples to stand empirically supported.

    Well, I write so much, and expose so much quoted material that bears tellingly on our theme. Someone has to! All you have offered so far are quotations from Davenport-Hines, which I will get to soon. They might exhibit a writer faring well without this distinction between that and which. We’ll see. But of course, I don’t dispute that a writer can do that anyway; nor does Garner (note his “probably”). You find the odd opportunity to quibble, in the mass of focused and shrewdly found material that I bring you. I would be disappointed if you could not do that! But you do not acknowledge the strong and palpable hits. Where is your analysis of Denison’s stylistically inept isolated that? You do not deal fairly with real examples when they are handed to you.
    Most published prose that we would take seriously is professionally written, professionally edited, or both. Still, many examples of poor writing in print are typified by careless use of resources for relative constructions and the like. We cannot do a full or unbiased survey here. But we could give illustrative examples to support our positions: of serious writers with something to say whose expression fails them, along with our diagnoses. I have done that; you have not.
    Garner is not as unsubtle as you apparently assume. Remember, once again, that he writes for writers seeking guidance. Not all of them are yet evolved as subtle stylists. As I keep having to point out then, he gives rules that they can apply robustly – which does not mean without exception. This is how he continues, after his discussion of the two opposing camps:

    So assuming you want to learn the stylistic distinction, what’s the rule? The simplest statement of it is this: if you see a which without a comma (or a preposition) before it, nine times out of ten it needs to be a that. The one other time, it needs a comma. Your choice, then, is between comma-which and that. Use that whenever you can.

    Of course he doesn’t spell out all the alternative ways, and all the codicils, and all the available subtleties. That would overwhelm most who come for his advice, and dilute the main message. (Garner does not write like Penny!) We have looked at some of these complications above. They are important; but not essential in a generalist vade mecum. Garner does not seek to endue his readers with the mastery of a Joyce or a Lattimore. Good enough if he can help some to write like Pullum, his prickly antagonist.
    I also wish you’d bothered to define religiously before.
    And I had expected, when I wrote with care and subtlety, that you would not jump to the first facile and uncharitable interpretation that enters your head. Do some of the positive work here. Stop merely trying to unsettle my barycentre, when your own is kept so low to the ground and unventuring. Show me your own advice to writers, which presumably will ignore the admitted grammatical tendency of that toward restrictiveness, and of which away from it. Me, I endorse Garner’s advice – with additions and special cases for the advanced student, such as I have already suggested.
    Finally, we should try to table material that both of us can cross-examine, in front of the jury. Davenport-Hines is not available for preview at Amazon, and only has snippet view at Google. Even with this encumbrance I can see that the author does use that in the canonic way, respecting its role as the primary choice for RRCs:

    His self-discipline involved him in a series of decisions that are examined in another poem …

    … the sort of punishment that is imposed by punishers who fear their own perversion …

    There were forms of religious behaviour that were “a scandal to the imagination” …

    His Michaelmas-term lecture of 1960 “Genius and apostle” concluded ringingly, in words that were full of excitement for Anne Ridler, “Analogy is not identity. Art is not enough.”

    The poem raises many ideas that would be characteristic of the later Auden.

    And I could give many more. You allow that some excerpts you present from Davenport-Hines are hard to classify. (I agree. My point! I have spoken of the fluidity, the relativity of these matters – against the simplistic analyses of Pullum and his accomplices.) But I would question also your first example (with my corrections in bold):

    Wystan Auden also recorded a brief dialogue which revealed the tension at home, and Dr. Auden’s weariness with histrionics.

    “Clearly an RRC”? Not necessarily; not clearly. For the moment, trim the sentence of an unessential continuation; and then add a comma before which:

    Wystan Auden also recorded a brief dialogue, which revealed the tension at home.

    Looks perfectly reasonable as an NRRC, and arguably does not change the meaning at all. I cannot see much context, so you have an advantage. If there was only one such recording near that time, or that is mentioned recently in the text, this recorded dialogue is singled out rather neatly, and does not need any further specification by restriction. Now add that unessential material again:

    …, and Dr. Auden’s weariness with histrionics

    That is an afterthought, of sorts. Its comma takes precedence; and the sentence would be noticeably weaker and harder to parse with both commas present. As I have said more than once and illustrated in my own use, a which in an NRRC does not always need a comma. Not for advanced players.

  614. Noetica, I’m afraid that I’m a bit pressed for time in ‘real life’, but I just wanted to point out that while the TNT example is, as you say, ambiguous if scrutinised closely, the sentence needs rewriting, not merely a bit of fiddling with ‘which’s’ and ‘that’s’. For instance, you could write the following and perhaps expect the reader to understand the sentence as meaning ‘munitions that contain TNT or show signs of rust’:
    Do not dismantle any munitions that contain TNT, which are marked with a red warning label, or that show signs of rust.
    But you’d be a poor technical writer if you did so and if you really wanted to make sure that the user understood what was meant, you would rewrite the sentence. E.g.,
    Do not dismantle any munitions that contain TNT (marked with a red warning label) or show signs of rust.
    Or getting back to your original example giving three separate situations where munitions should not be dismantled:
    Do not dismantle any munitions that contain TNT, are marked with a red warning label, or show signs of rust.
    Do not dismantle any munitions which contain TNT, are marked with a red warning label, or show signs of rust.
    In the end, the problem is one of maintaining clarity, and if you are going to posit major explosions purely on a failure to clearly mark restrictive/non-restrictive clauses with ‘which’ and ‘that’, I think your focus is too narrow.

  615. I’m playing defense because 1) you struck the first blow, offering a river of arguments and examples whose tributaries could very well carry us to comment 1000, and 2) I’m the underdog here — nobody has asked me to write a book on punctuation. Indeed, if this argument accomplishes nothing but a teasing out of your views, I would consider it well worth it.
    I also wish you’d bothered to define religiously before.
    And I had expected, when I wrote with care and subtlety, that you would not jump to the first facile and uncharitable interpretation that enters your head.

    Except I didn’t, if you’ll remember. I initially asked you to expand on what you wrote. The uncharitable reading came after a misrepresentation of Garner (as I saw it, and I guess we’ll argue about that in time) and several unreasonable accusations of careless reading.
    But more later. I’m going to think and search for examples tonight.

  616. Stop merely trying to unsettle my barycentre, when your own is kept so low to the ground and unventuring.
    To emphasize my last sign off: I consider that a fair demand, and tomorrow (or more likely, unfortunately, Friday), I’ll set forth my views, which (to acknowledge the “palpable hits”) you’ve already influenced.

  617. You seem to want concessions from me concerning “care and subtlety”. But I had to correct two errors in the first example you presented (though you are the one with the book). Never mind the fact that I later dismantled that example, as your best shot at finding an incontrovertible which used in an RRC: I see no acknowledgement of my fixing the very wording for you. How long would that have taken you? Instead you make time for excuses, as if it were not you who had sought the discussion.
    you struck the first blow, offering a river of arguments and examples whose tributaries could very well carry us to comment 1000
    So much for the earlier accusation that I had offered nothing then, when you wrote:

    Unless I’m missing something, our common basis has now been thoroughly established and it’s still your move.

    I think you were missing something in what I had already presented. Details had to be laid out, and we are still mining them. That’s foresight.
    I’m the underdog here — nobody has asked me to write a book on punctuation. Indeed, if this argument accomplishes nothing but a teasing out of your views, I would consider it well worth it.
    I have expressed many views on punctuation in other threads. And in this one I have articulated the essence of my use of that and which. I’m still waiting for you to give your positive account.
    I’m going to think and search for examples tonight.
    Fine, as long as they are examples that address our differences and not our common ground. I have a stock of excellent examples with which in RRCs from a fine writer, if you need them. But you don’t, because that is not something we contest! I’m still waiting to see what you have to say that distinguishes your view sharply from my own.
    ————-
    I have just seen your last comment, made as I checked what I had written till now. I’ll retain what I said; but I will also thank you for acknowledging that your views have shifted. That’s the sort of development we are all here for, I hope. I too have been strongly influenced by exchanges at the LH symposium; and I hope that will continue.

  618. your views have shifted
    I have been strongly influenced
    ?

  619. A prescription is a command; your phrase prescriptive advice is self-contradictory
    I don’t think so. Can advice ever be anything but prescriptive or normative (“counterfactual”) ? I think of advice as a suggestion about what someone should do. Is that an unreasonable description of what advice is ? Would, say, “descriptive advice” make any sense ? “Tentative advice” is a suggestion more tentative than it could have been, but is still a suggestion as to what to do.
    Advice is an offer which can be accepted or rejected. It is different from a command, which can also be regarded as an offer – but one you can’t refuse without consequences (if there were no consequences, then the command would not be a command, but a bossiness).

  620. Jamessal:
    O, this is interesting. The full sentence from Davenport-Hines (as I have now pieced it together from Google’s snippet view), with all the words shown correctly, and all the original punctuation:

    Wystan Auden also recorded a brief dialogue which revealed the tension at home, and Dr Auden’s weariness with histrionics: his brother caught in an accident, his mother starting to make a scene, and his father’s exasperated repression of the incipient drama:

      [author’s indented quotation]

    Trivially, but for the record, in accord with British practice there is no stop after “Dr”.
    It is important to report everything accurately, or at least to say what one is altering (see my note, when quoting Denison: “I have adapted the typographical styling of the punctuation”). After all, punctuation is essential to our topic.
    More seriously then, while we might normally quote a syntactically complete part of a sentence and seal the end with a period, it was misleading for you to do that in the present case, Jamessal. We need the details accurately reported. Now that I see the full sentence I am even more sure that the author intended an RRC with his which. The omission of the customary comma is even more warranted because of the long continuation that is now revealed, though omission of the comma after home might have worked as an alternative. I observe also that the sentence has two colons. I would have edited to remove the first one. The whole sentence now looks rather poorly constructed.
    I don’t get all of your meaning in your comment on the second example. There are two instances of which, and I can’t see what you intend to say about them. But we could let it pass if you prefer.
    Google won’t let me check all of your third example (should be matched single quotes, but never mind). The omission of commas is unusual and a little awkward for the reader. I take it to be clearly an NRRC, since the identity of the short story is fully specified already.

  621. Crownberger:
    your views have shifted
    I have been strongly influenced
    ?
    ?
    Jamessal wrote: “… I’ll set forth my views, which (to acknowledge the “palpable hits”) you’ve already influenced.” If they have been influenced, they have shifted, ugye?
    And yes, I wrote: “I too have been strongly influenced by exchanges at the LH symposium; and I hope that will continue.” But I don’t know why you quote that, followed by a floating question mark. Is this an attempt at concrete poetry? Not surprising from an architect; but I would have expected more cantilevering, and a few revealing register marks in the paving. Je n’y pige que dalle.

  622. A slip, two comments back. I meant: “I am even more sure that the author intended an NRRC with his which.”
    And yes, Grumbleton. Thanks for saving me an excursus on prescriptive advice. We must work (sometimes at least!) with the language as others use it. If what Garner offers is called prescription, it is certainly also sought out as advice. A doctor issuing a prescription does not enforce it with a knock on the door at 4 am from Luca or Enzo. Not this side of the Urals, anyway.

  623. I meant that you’re not giving us any reason to think that the shifting of Gymsal’s views is directly comparable to your having been strongly influenced. The LH exchanges might have strongly influenced you to believe that you’d been right all along.
    I do like the metaphor of cantilevered sentences much more than the metaphor of concrete poetry, and I’ll try composing some once I’ve decided what they are. Concrete is a cold, grey, abrasive material that can easily be compressed without any harm coming to it. Its performance is calculated. It behaves very badly in the presence of tension — in fact it cracks, and large chunks can shear off near the roots — it needs reinforcement, and takes a very long time to reach its ultimate strength. Its quality is monitored by the performance of “slump tests”. Concrete is cheap in some places, but working with it is always labour-intensive.

  624. Crane:
    I meant that you’re not giving us any reason to think that the shifting of Gymsal’s views is directly comparable to your having been strongly influenced. The LH exchanges might have strongly influenced you to believe that you’d been right all along.
    I laughed aloud at the last sentence. [*Ahem*] Anyway, I already write way too much. If you seriously expect me to Spakfilla all the gaps, and to limn the similarities between Gymboy’s changes of mind and my own, go seriously expect something else. Go read Hegel, for example. You’ll be hearing from my plasterers about this.

  625. Je n’y pige que dalle
    Registered here locally as ich verstehe nur Bahnhof.

  626. I hate Hegel.

  627. Spakfilla
    is that a real Australian word (brand?), or a spasmoid of American spackle and English polyfilla?
    I’ve seen claims that around 50 percent of Usainian and Ukainian usage are different?

  628. I hate Hegel
    Is this another of your pet peeves, such as “hating” Descartes because he didn’t accord animals a status equal to humans ? Perhaps even Hegel once kicked an importunate puppy, I just don’t know: but perhaps you might find something of his worth reading nevertheless, say the lectures on aesthetics.
    Whatever you read first, let it not be the Phänomenologie des Geistes, in whatever language, if you value your sanity. His other stuff is instructive and readily understood, on the whole. Here and there you will encounter a few consecutive pages of unintelligible rubbish on things like “the general and the special”, but you soon learn to ignore them. I actually stike out whole passages of that kind in irritation, so I won’t waste my time on them the next go-round.
    I think Hegel must have just popped an opium pill when he wrote like that. Sartre was addicted to speed. It just goes to show.

  629. I don’t “hate” Descartes, I really do hate the spindly little psychopath. Maybe what I mean with Hegel, since I’ve never read a word he wrote, is that I don’t like historians who have been influenced by him. Luckily, they’re dying out. Thank you for putting me straight. Everyone since Kant seems to have had something to say about aesthetics; they’ll have to form an orderly queue and wait until I’m in an extreeemely good mood. That’s a very good idea to strike out the bits you didn’t like.
    Isn’t spackle a British verb as well, Sash? I admit I’ve forgotten.

  630. From Texas I remember something called “spackling paste”.

  631. That’s a very good idea to strike out the bits you didn’t like.
    The hairs on the back of my neck signal that you’re mocking me in some obscure way. I strike out certain bits because they don’t make sense even on close reading – not because I “don’t like” them. The passages I don’t agree with get a large question mark written in the margin, or something like “what sheer and utter crap !”.

  632. I’m not bloody mocking you, for Chrissake. I think it’s a good idea to cross out the silly bits in a long book so you can save time the next time round. If I were mocking you, I would have done it in a more colourful way. I’d have suggested ripping the pages out, probably. And I didn’t say I was going to do it too; I don’t write in books, but in this case I can see the advantage.

  633. I believe that “spackle” is first of all a verb, but can be a noun. I spackle with spackling compound, but some people spackle with spackle.
    *
    Register has the following senses, that I mentioned yesterday:
    (1) a place where important stuff is inscribed
    (2) a pitch range in music
    (3) one of several alternative ways of using a language
    (4) part of a heating system.
    A brief squint at my tiny-type dead-tree OED last night suggested to me that both (2) and (4) are derived from another sense of the word, a certain part of a pipe organ, and that the latter sense may have owed something to confusion of “register” with words in the “regulate” family.
    Presumably (3) is derived from (2)?
    *
    There were hot-air registers underfoot in my grandparents’ house, but I doubt that this is true of the road to hell. It’s probably just paved with cobbled-together excuses.

  634. More seriously then, while we might normally quote a syntactically complete part of a sentence and seal the end with a period, it was misleading for you to do that in the present case, Jamessal.
    You’re right, I’m sorry. But I think if we include the full context, you’ll see why I still regard the clause in question as restrictive:

    ‘He was the gentlest and most unselfish man I have ever met — too gentle, I used sometimes to think, for as a husband he was often henpecked,’ Wystan Auden wrote of his father. On a visit home in 1929 he noted a trivial incident involving his father. ‘My father goes to buy stamps. They give him halfpenny ones, and he takes them as he doesnt [sic*] want to trouble the girl to change them.’ This very English diffidence typified Dr Auden’s non-professional dealings with the outside world. He disliked fuss or trouble, yet had married someone who seemed to excite them. Wystan Auden also recorded a brief dialogue which revealed the tension at home, and Dr Auden’s weariness with histrionics: his brother caught in an accident, his mother starting to make a scene, and his father’s exasperated repression of the incipient drama:

    John (on the stairs) — I’ve knocked a hole in the wall.
    Mother (going out) — O John
    Father — For God’s sake, dont [sic*] say anything

    [*My notes]
    The also in the sentence we’ve been analyzing calls us back to this sentence — On a visit home in 1929 he noted a trivial incident involving his father — a sentence whose whole predicate defines Auden’s note. For our example and this earlier sentence to be parallel at all (as the also indicates they are) the clause in question would have to be restrictive. The sentence is about the information in the dialogue, not the fact that Auden recorded the dialogue. Indeed, given the focus of the paragraph on Auden’s father, it would be bizarre to write primarily that Auden had recorded a dialogue and then add, as if it were of secondary importance, what the dialogue revealed.
    I apologize again for not providing the full context earlier; but I think my failure to do so — my assumption that I didn’t need to — not only proves what a careless reader I am but also speaks to my larger point: that the intended reading is immediately clear and obvious even though the author didn’t bother to distinguish between which and that. He relied on context and a subtle parallel instead. Now you’ve said repeatedly that you don’t necessarily see a problem with that kind of approach, but I wonder if you think Garner would have whipped out his red pen.
    I also question your characterization of Davenport-Hines’s approach as “for the advanced student,” but if you’ll forgive a little more temporizing (I’m lucky to have been able to steal this much time today), I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to articulate my doubts, in one great heaving of my barycentre!

  635. re: register
    The linguistic sense probably does derive from the musical, which almost certainly derives from organ registers. These are more or less equivalent to stops or ranks; a “rank” is a single set of pipes, and a “stop” is the mechanism for activating it (or originally for “stopping” it: in early organs all ranks were always active). Each rank of pipes had a uniform tone quality (depending on its material and mechanism of sound production) over its entire range; that range itself could cover various segments of the organ’s total range, and was designated, in English terminology, by “feet” (4-foot, 8-foot, 16-foot, the length of the longest pipe in the rank).
    So organ registers indicated both a specific tone quality and a specific pitch range, and that was how the word was later applied to registers of the voice and other instruments. It’s rarely applied to a total pitch range, but mostly to segments of it, with their attendant tone qualities. Thus one might say that a singer’s lower or chest register is particularly rich, dark, or whatever.
    It’s not hard to see how this might be applied to speech. There are also “high” and “low” registers, with various finer distinctions in quality.
    The suggestion that heating “registers” may also derive from organ registers is interesting, and may be plausible if you consider the stop mechanism in early organs. Basically it was just a sliding piece of wood with holes in it. When the stop was open the holes lined up with holes going to the pipes, and when closed they didn’t, shutting off the flow of air from the wind chest.
    There are some additional senses of “register” that might be pertinent here as well, such as the meaning of alignment of images or pages in printing. There seems to be a similar idea here to the pipe organ stop mechanism, but which came first, I don’t know.
    Finally, in relation to organs, the term “registration” combines distinct senses of the term. It refers first of all to the combination of stops used for a specific piece or musical performance. Since that comes out as a list of stops, we also get the sense of “registration” as a list or record.
    Connection to Mandelstam? Well, we’re not really worried about that at this point, are we? But wait! From the “Conversation about Dante,” as translated by Clarence Brown:
    It is absolutely incorrect to conceive of Dante’s poem as a single narration extended in one line or even as a voice. Long before Bach and at a time when large monumental organs were not yet being built, and there existed only the modest embryonic prototypes of the future marvel, when the chief instrument was still the zither, accomanying the voice, Alighieri constructed in verbal space an infinitely powerful organ and was already delighting in all of its imaginable stops and inflating its bellows and roaring and cooing in all its pipes.
    There’s some important organ pipe imagery in his poems, too, for that matter.

  636. Isn’t spackle a British verb as well, Sash? I admit I’ve forgotten.
    I blame it on the Irish. In England everybody says ‘polyfilla’. I pecked the difference from Bill Bryson, which amused me because in Russian it is ‘shpaklyovka’ – verbal ‘shpaklevat’ ‘. Sounds like something with Germanic origins.
    *leaves ‘pecked’ typo for ‘picked’ to spur the race to the South Pole*

  637. There is no German verb along the lines of *spackeln. A plastery stuff that you use to smooth surfaces is Spachtelmasse. This just means “thick stuff applied with a Spachtel“. Spachtel is a trowel or spatula, and Grimm says it is a variant of the nhd. Spatel from the Latin spathula.
    Howsomever and be that as it may, the OED says that “spackle” is a proprietary name (like kleenex), and even capitalizes the entry !

    1928 Official Gaz. (U.S. Patent Office) 7 Feb. 17/1 Spackle.+ A surfacing compound for filling imperfection so as to bring up to a smooth and level surface areas that are to be painted or decorated. Claims use since Aug. 1, 1927.

    It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that the patent owner was a German who had named his Spackle (TM) after Spachtel.

  638. I’d have suggested ripping the pages out, probably.
    I did actually consider that, so irritated was I at these patches of syntactically well-formed gobbledygook. (Long ago here I put forward my groundbreaking conjecture that Hegel was the actual inventor of écriture automatique)
    But the gook seldom, if ever, began at the top of page 2x+1 and ended at the bottom of page 2x+2+2n, where x, n >= 0. So if I had ripped out pages containing gook, readable stuff would have been ripped out as well.

  639. Sashura:
    leaves ‘pecked’ typo for ‘picked’ to spur the race to the South Pole
    When I saw pecked I wondered simultaneously if it was a literal (qv), an error borne of excess and refined Russophony, a semantically laden formation from Latin pectus, or a crane-inspired poeticism. I prefer the last. We are never too far adrift of Mandelstam.
    is that a real Australian word (brand?)
    I know we have Spakfilla here in the Wide Brown Land. At the bottom of the screen in that link I see a graphic for Polyfilla also, but a search in the site draws a blank for that. (There is, in Australia, no tradition of common sense, intuitively founded communication, or sound web design.) Nor can Polyfilla be found by perusing the lists under “Products”.
    On the difficult “море, витийствуя”, the author thinks there is a link to Cicero’s classic ‘murmur maris’.
    Now that’s interesting, as I’m sure is the rest of the commentary you cite. OED’s etymology has the noun coming from the verb, but notes at “murmur, n.”:

    [… The Eng. n. coincides in form with the L. murmur, by which some of its senses may have been directly influenced.]

    And the first sense:

    1. a. Subdued continuous or continuously repeated sound; an instance of this. Now ra