Victoria S. Poulakis, at her site Translation: What Difference Does It Make?, provides multiple translations, with discussion, of bits of Beowulf, The Divine Comedy, Don Quixote, The Iliad, The Metamorphosis, and Tartuffe. For instance, the Beowulf page starts with the first word:
You’ll note that the differences begin with the translated versions of the opening word of the poem, Hwaet. This word, literally translated into modern English, means What, but its Old English meaning is somewhat different. In Old English, when stories were told orally by a storyteller, the word Hwaet was used to get the audience’s attention at the beginning of the story in the way that a phrase like Listen to this! might be used today. Translators know that just using the word What wouldn’t make much sense to modern readers, so the four translators above have chosen words which they hope will convey a similar meaning.
This is a great idea, and I intend to spend some time investigating the site. (Via wood s lot.)
Incidentally, the discussion of hwaet reminds me of the time my friend C. called me over in a bookstore and showed me an old translation (from the ’30s?) that rendered it “What ho!”
(The first “Comparing Translations” entry, about dueling versions of Murakami, is here.)