VOLTA.

Volta: A Multilingual Anthology “contains seventy-five poems in seventy-five languages. Seventy-four of these poems are translations of one poem, the seventy-fifth.” You can read the English poem (the original) at wood s lot for November 18, 2009, where I got the link; it and all the translations (in, among many others, Maltese, Mongolian, Nepali, Nigerian Pidgin, North Eastern English, and Norwegian) are available in pdf form via the first link. Here’s an etymological passage from the long introduction by the poem’s author, Richard Berengarten:

The title ‘Volta’ itself comes from Modern Greek. The noun βόλτα is a noun meaning ‘turn’ and also ‘walk’, ‘stroll’. The Greek expression πάμε βόλτα [pame volta] means literally *let’s go a turn,6 i.e. ‘let’s take a turn,’ ‘let’s go for a walk/ stroll,’ ‘let’s stretch our legs.’ The word βόλτα is also used to mean, more precisely, ‘evening promenade’, βραδινή βόλτα [vrathini volta]. The custom of the evening promenade is expressed in Italian by the word passeggiata and in Serbian, Czech and Slovak by the common word korzo. During certain hours of the early evening, around dusk, everyone in the town who might feel like going for a walk takes a saunter or stroll up and down the main street. The custom used to exist in widely different cultures, including for example, in Portugal. A version of it exists among Jewish communities on the Sabbath.7
The idea of ‘turning’ is embedded in the Modern Greek word and usage: βόλτα is a word of Latin origin (volgere [actually volvere—LH], to turn). So a volta in this sense is a ‘turn’, up and down and back again, in the pleasurable presence of an indeterminate number of other people who, for whatever reasons of their own, happen to be engaged in the same activity. The word volta also exists in Catalan, Galician and Portuguese, and is cognate with Spanish vuelta.8 In all these Romance languages the word has the primary idea of ‘turn’, ‘return’, and more or less the same idiomatic meaning of ‘taking a turn’ as in Greek.


Since the words passeggiata and korzo derive from Latin too, I can’t help wondering if the custom of walking up and down for pleasurable relaxation started with the ancient Romans, or whether it was assimilated into Latin from practice among various other cultures. My guess is that it was pre-Roman, possibly even Neolithic, and widespread in the warm climates around the Mediterranean. It certainly has a Mediterranean ‘feel’ to it.
So the setting and take-off point for the poem ‘Volta’ is an evening walk, a promenade, in a Greek seaside town, as the sun is setting on the horizon. That is: a self-turning, as day is turning into night and as light is evening itself out into darkness.
6. The asterisk before the expression denotes that it is not one that is actually used – in this case, in English.
7. The custom is known as the ‘Sabbath Stroll’.
8. Vuelta was the name of the literary magazine edited by Octavio Paz from 1975 until his death in 1998. I am indebted to Anthony Rudolf for reminding me of this.

I well remember those evening strolls from my visit to Greece. At the end, Berengarten adds:

As the time of writing this (October 28, 2009), I intend to go on gathering translations of ‘Volta’ into more languages. I hope that a future expanded version of this anthology will be published at a later date, possibly as a book. I would especially like to include more translations from African languages, Asian languages including the Indian subcontinent, languages indigenous to Australasia and North and South America, languages of transhumant and nomadic cultures, languages of small pockets, valleys and islands of speakers, and, above all, languages that are threatened with extinction.
Readers who would like to be involved in further developing, helping and advising in any way and with any aspects of this multilingual project are invited to send an email to berengarten@cantab.net.

Comments

  1. And of course “volta” is a common word in modern Italian where it means “time” or “occasion”, e.g. “C’era una volta…” . Is this a fairly recent Greek borrowing?

  2. This is amazing. I wasted five minutes looking for it on Amazon before reading the end of the post. Hope they get it into print.

  3. My Greek etymological dictionary says it’s a late medieval borrowing.

  4. Unfortunately the Yiddish version is not very good. It is at least very indifferently spelled; there are at least some points that are clearly ungrammatical as well. I can’t tell how many there are, though, as some words might just be eccentric spellings of reasonable vocabulary. For instance, the first line would be romanized ‘di zun, a kinig, mit royte beklakh der tog’s malekhdike gelt.’ ‘kinig’ doesn’t mean king, it means ‘reign’—but the poet might been thinking of ‘kenig’ and just kind of winged it when it came to spelling.

  5. That’s too bad, but I assume the level of quality (both poetic and linguistic) varies wildly among the translations—one thing that would deter me from trying to carry out a project like this. If I can’t check a translation myself, it would make me very nervous to publish it.

  6. What it does is it makes me want to try my hand at my own. I did a similar thing when I saw a collection of English translations of that banal Hollendish poem about rivers and churches and the like that the Netherlanders seem to like so much. Dutch -> English (xN) -> Yiddish.

  7. the Mongolian translation is great, very smooth and natural sounding, feels exactly like it feels in the English version, just in a different language

  8. That’s good to know—I was hoping you’d comment on it.

  9. Z.D., are you sure? Poking at various Yiddish dictionaries shows both kenig (which is what I’d expect) and kinig in sources that both claim to use YIVO transliteration. (I can’t read Hebrew script.) Perhaps this is a dialect variation.

  10. Years ago I was told about a custom in Mexico called the paseo. In the evening the boys in a village would circle in one direction around the town square, the girls in another direction. If they wanted to talk to each other, they could walk together for a while under the watchful gaze of all the parents in the village, who were watchful guardians of the virginity without which their offspring would not be able to get married. Americans would sometimes join the paseo, but without knowing more than a few words of Spanish, would not be able to get very far with a courtship.

  11. John, it could be. I should have been more diplomatic in my language—instead of “winged it” I should have said “used a variant I’ve never seen”.
    Unfortunately I am more certain about other mistakes; “mit royte beklakh der tog’s malekhdike gelt”, for instance, in addition to being at least questionable (but allowable for poetic license) in terms of sentence construction: “beklakh” and “tog’s” are both errors that seem to me to stem from English; “beklakh” is a misspelling of “beklekh”, and the possessive is not formed with an apostrophe. “gelt”, I have never seen to mean ‘coin’, but if we take it as such, my mind still strains to see how “makheldike” would inflect as such. Neuter nouns like “gelt” only take the -e ending when they are definite. So either “gelt” is indefinite and should be malekhdik (my reading), or gelt is definite and that “der”, set before the masculine “tog’s”, should be a “dos”.
    The next line contains further irregularities: some seemingly just spelling errors and some less comprehensible. “Ven du likht a hant if mir” makes my brain hurt. “Likht” is not a verb (that I am aware of, having consulted all my dictionaries), but a noun; if it WERE a verb, in order to agree with ‘du’ it would have to be *likhst. “if” seems to be a straightforward mispelling of “Oyf” (alef-yud-fey and alef-vov-yud-fey respectively). My expertise fails in trying to ascertain how close the poet has gotten to a meaningful construction, mutatis mutandes, (likht means “light”, not “lay”, as you might expect, and I’d have to ask someone more knowledgeable whether “lay a hand someone” makes as much sense in Yiddish) but the fact that we have still covered a whole other paragraph with what my student’s eyes can see is troubling. As is the fact that we are only two lines in.

  12. Perhaps this is a dialect variation.
    It should be noted that the very wide dialect variation in Yiddish is not reflected 1:1 in its spelling. That is to say, eg, in Poylish Yiddish _u_ is often pronounced /i/, but remains spelled _u_. Not that there is no spelling variation—though there’s no real reason for something written today to evince the same variations that existed before standardization and the disruption of those written traditions—merely that Yiddish is famously diverse in its pronunciations but not as much so in its spellings.

  13. volta is also a river founded in Central Ghana, and the river is considered a one of the 3 primary means of existence. Each has an implication on the other. Living (volta), Dying, Existing. The action of the living, for example, can affect the gods or spirits of the departed, while the support of family or “tribal” ancestors ensures prosperity of the lineage or state. Neglect, it is believed, might spell doom

  14. in brazil we had an anthology by hyperpolyglot and occasional linguist carlos amaral freire with translations from 60 poems. it was a disappointment, i was expecting many more languages from him. he took inspiration from a very interesting figure, a czech emigré and spiritualist named francisco lorenz who lived in a very isolated rural land in brazil, with few books (if any), no electricity, and still mastered about 100 languages, with keen attention to regional variations. not mentioning his apparent mastery of many subjects. nice guy, he sort of built a village there, and spent his days teaching the kids as the sole schoolmaster around. amaral freire owns some of his papers. his last work was a chinese grammar that he had to write on bread bags for lack of proper paper.
    but i digress. (a lot.)

  15. oh i forgot to mention the main thing: lorenz published many obscure hard-to-find books and the one amaral freire took his inspiration from was an anthology with translations from poems from 100 languages. i believe he translated them into esperanto. i’ve seen other crazy things like that by him. i thing he translated the bhagavad ghita into esperanto too etc.

  16. The first attestation according to the online abridged Kriaras Dictionary of Early Modern Greek is from the Apokopos, an late 15th century Cretan poem on a descent to the underworld. (Printed in 1509, and the first known printed text in Modern Greek.) There, the word still has its original Italian meaning of “turn”: έκαμαν βόλταν λάμνοντας “they turned around running”.

  17. Peignoir de bain says:

    Is it the same volta as in volte face?

  18. Jennifer Rueda says:

    Interesting. I’m new to Langauge Hat. As I’m sure is known, “da la/una vuelta” in Spanish is to take a walk/stroll. There are many other phrases, like
    dar la vuelta al mundo = go around the world
    dar una vuelta al manzana = to go around the block (apple??)

  19. My favourite use of the word volta is in Portuguese. In capoeira, the two players in the circle (the roda) may stop executing moves for various reasons (because someone wants to cut in, or maybe just because they’re tired and need a breather); they’ll spend a few moments walking or jogging around the fringe of the roda. This is referred to as volta ao mundo, something which one of the players may say to initiate it.

  20. No Hindi I noticed, but the presence of an Urdu version reminds me of my need to learn to read its script.

  21. Not wishing to detract from the site but…
    In the header of the Persian and Arabic versions, the script for the language names has come out back to front, with all letters in their isolated rather than joined forms. So for Persian, instead of ‘Farsi’, it looks something like the equivalent (in the Roman alphabet) of ‘I S R A F’.

  22. marie-lucie says:

    Peignoir de bain: Is it the same volta as in volte face?
    Oui! The expression is always faire volte-face (to turn about, turn around), a direct adaptation of Italian volta-faccia “demi-tour” (turnabout), attested since 1598 (a time of great Italian influence in France).

  23. volte face
    Is this also “about face”, the military term for a particular marching maneuver, along with “left face”, “right face”, “halt”, and “forward march”?

  24. marie-lucie says:

    Nijma: volte-face, about face
    Yes, about face is a literal translation of volte-face, going back to the Italian original in order to translate the volte part (which is not a word in French).
    Actually, in Italian volta faccia literally means “turned face”, meaning that the face is turned towards the opposite direction.

  25. In the header of the Persian and Arabic versions, the script for the language names has come out back to front, with all letters in their isolated rather than joined forms.
    Yikes! “Arabic”, pronounced arabeeya, or rather al-arabeeya with the definite article, should be العربية, spelled right to left with the proper letters connected, not ة ي ب ر ع ل ا spelled left to right with all non-connecting forms of the letters. (It looks like it might have been done on a computer that did not have Arabic enabled properly.) “Farsi” is فارسی , not ی س ر ا ف.
    As a matter of curiosity, the “g” in برنجارتن Berengarten is transliterated as ج , could there be Egyptians about? Also, the title of the piece, “Volta”, in Arabic is given a phonetic transliteration, ڤولتا , while in Farsi the title is translated as تفرج , which the wikiled.com beta translation tool defines as 1)outing, 2)paseo, 3)promenade.

  26. in Farsi the title is translated as تفرج , which the wikiled.com beta translation tool defines as 1)outing, 2)paseo, 3)promenade.
    Yes, it’s pronounced tafarroj, and tafarroj kardan is ‘to take a walk for pleasure.’ It’s from Arabic tafarruj ‘viewer, observer, spectator,’ derived from the root فرج f-r-j ‘to open; split; dispel (e.g. grief, worries); comfort’; obviously the two languages have taken the concept in different directions.

  27. The Nepali version is good.

  28. David Marjanović says:

    Poking at various Yiddish dictionaries shows both kenig (which is what I’d expect) and kinig in sources that both claim to use YIVO transliteration.

    This variation also exists in southern German dialects.

  29. dos yidish iz prost un poshet katastrofish. nisht tsu fartrogn. a gantse bushe.

  30. Thanks for pointing this out, I’d missed it on wood s lot.
    The Welsh version is lovely, as you’d expect from one of Wales’ best young poets. Eurig Salisbury has expanded the title to “Tro Ar Hyd y Prom” (A ‘Turn’ Along the Prom), which effectively translates the poem to Aberystwyth, where he lives, but also reflects the meanings of “volta” discussed in the notes. Aberystwyth being on the west coast of Wales, evening walks along the prom can be spectacular, and are popular with the town’s students.
    There are touches of cynghanedd in there, and echoes of Dafydd ap Gwilym’s high style but no violence is done to the original sense. If I’d seen the poem with Eurig’s name on it, but out of the context of this project, I would’ve taken it as an original composition, except that he usually works in full cynghanedd.
    Thanks again.

  31. My pleasure, and it’s nice to see you around these parts, Nic!

  32. dos yidish iz prost un poshet katastrofish. nisht tsu fartrogn. a gantse bushe.
    (that means he doesn’t like it!)

  33. There is a difference between normativity and mistakes or pure .inventions. You will never see published so a bad translation of a literary text in Yiddish. I will be surprised if anybody here, between eminent languages-lovers- would tolerate the same treatment of their literary language (like the mine of English..). There are many dialects and sub-dialects in Yiddish but the are no raison to publish a translation in a dialect (without saying it) and at least in an invented personal sub-dialect. Do we have to explain that?

  34. Nobody’s disagreeing with you, usher! As I said, it’s inevitable quality will vary in a project like this, and unfortunately Yiddish seems to have gotten the short end of the stick.

  35. “The short end of the stick”? That makes no sense. I need more coffee.

  36. The shtick?

  37. I can’t say I’m impressed with the Chinese.
    ‘paraffin lamps in the bows’ is translated as 蝴蝶结捆绑的煤油灯, which roughly means ‘paraffin lamps tied in bows’.
    ‘though your scars are grey flecks in her eyes’ becomes 穿越你的疤痕的是她眼里的灰色斑影, meaning roughly ‘what goes through your scar is the grey flecks in her eyes’. I could swear this guy has misread ‘through’ for ‘though’ :)
    ‘King sun…, day’s sovereign coin’ becomes 太阳王似钱币主宰着一天, meaning something like ‘Sun king like a coin dominates for a day’.
    ‘porous city’ becomes 多孔的城市, ‘many-pored city’. Maybe that’s what it’s supposed to mean… (shrug shoulders).
    ‘instrument and guardian of your light’ becomes 你的光学仪器和守护者, which seems to mean ‘your optical instrument and guardian’.
    Where the poet compares himself to the parts of an eye, finally professing himself to be ‘blinded’, the Chinese merely says 被迷惑, meaning ‘baffled, confused, mystified, puzzled’.
    The Chinese fairly closely follows the English order of words, not the grammatical sense. This tends to result in fragments.
    The grammatical structure at ‘hers is the ancient right to walk this quayside … and hers, the darling freedom, to tread you like a dancer’ seems to have been lost. Instead, we get fragments like this:
    她拥有着自古以来漫步码头边沿的权力
    作为你的光学仪器和守护者
    她在如井般深邃的瞳孔中收集着你的光
    以及她自身如舞者紧随你的,亲爱的自由,
    ‘she has the ancient right to walk the quayside,
    as your optical instrument and guardian
    gathers your light in her pupils deep like wells
    and the darling freedom that she herself follows you closely like a dancer’.
    Sorry, I can’t seem to figure out the grammatical connections. All I can say is that the Chinese construction definitely does not reproduce the structure ‘hers is the right to… and hers the darling freedom to…’, because 以及 is used to join nouns, not sentences.
    In the following, I run the lines together to show how the English is grammatically connected. The Chinese is not so connected.
    ‘you touch me, and my skin becomes a cornea, my spine an optic nerve, and my body trembles  
    half dazzled by the pool of gold you pour over this sea and city, and I’m blinded’
    becomes
    当你轻触我,我的肌肤化成了眼膜 我的脊椎成了眼脉,我的身体不住颤抖 你将一池令人目眩的黄金灌入海洋、城市,我被迷惑了
    ‘When you lightly touch me, my skin becomes a cornea, my spine becomes an optic nerve, my body can’t stop shivering you pour a pool of gold that dazzles people into the sea, the city. I am confused.’
    At any rate, I think it’s clear that whatever the innate poetic qualities of the Chinese, it is rather different from the English.

  38. LH, thanks for your intervention but I have only reacted to this sentence: “(that means he doesn’t like it!)”.

  39. I’m pretty sure he was just interpreting your comment for the non-Yiddish-speakers.

  40. I was indeed, and mostly for humorous effect—as I wagered that that it’d be hard for afile a total non-Yiddish-speaker to fail to interpret it. I was, after all, just earlier in this thread going on and on about just how bad I myself found that poem. You’re quite right that even at a glance, the ‘uberzetsung’ (!!!) easily flies off the rails of terrible, erratic spelling, into the green and expansive pastures of mangled syntax and lazy composition. Nisht geredt fun the poetic sensibility of the thing, which I might characterize, if I were being tactful, as ‘clumsy’.

  41. Or:
    Beemes, un merstns tsu humor, vayl s’hot mir gedakht az afile a gantser goy volt gekent farshteyn ayer meynung, reb yid. Take, hob ikh ersht gehat gegebn a verter-mabl vegn punkt vi shlekht ikh halt fun dem aleyn. Ir zent take gerekht az afile in flug ken me zen vi di ‘uberzetsung’ fligt lunatish fun shlekhtn oysleyg biz nisht-tsu-fartrogn sintaks un umpasike formes. Nisht geredt fun di poetishe mides, vos me volt efsher gekent rufn zey ‘klotsik’.

  42. zey ‘klotsik’/as ‘clumsy’
    Is that where “klutz” comes from?
    I for one appreciated the translation; Google Translate wouldn’t even start to tell me what it meant, and just plain googling the phrase brought back Your search – dos yidish iz prost un poshet katastrofish. nisht tsu fartrogn. a gantse bushe – did not match any documents. Although “katastrofish” did sort of sound like catastrophe.

  43. I’d always thought Z.D. Smith was a girl, but I was probably thinking of Zadie Smith.
    And where’s that guy who’s a doctor and also publishes children’s books in Yiddish? Zackary Berger.

  44. Moby Dick was a katastrofish.

  45. katastrofish
    In Arabic, feesh is the negation of fee “there is”. Which leads to the old joke, “What kind of fish is in the Dead Sea?” Mafee fish. (ma fee= there isn’t). But I understand Yiddish is closer to German than to Sinaitic languages.

  46. marie-lucie says:

    Yiddish is a Germanic language, stuffed with Hebrew words in the same way as English is stuffed with French and Latin words (though not for the same reason).

  47. I can’t say that I’m impressed with the English version.
    Seems like a vanity project rather than one really concerned about the language.

  48. Nijma, that’s right. Many of the Yiddish-derived words that we enjoy in English—klutz, schmuck, putz—are pronounced with an ʌ in English that derives from its rounded (but English-absent) partner, ɔ. That ʌ is analyzed according to English spelling rules as a <u>, leading to very confusing etymologies for some. But the original Yiddish words are all romanized and pronounced with an <o>.
    And I am a man, full-throated and red-blooded. My preferred name format has often struck me as unsuitable, given the Zadie similarity, and the fact that there’s some nobody film producer identically-named, who is treading on my internet turf. So sometimes I consider a slightly more distinctive nom de plume.

  49. anou, Sterl, would you produce your own poem ( book, project, whatever) and let people judge it before judging others’ work s’il vous plait?

  50. You do not need to be a cook in order to declare that something tasted awful.

  51. Seems like a vanity project
    Yeah, I was a little bothered by that. I love the idea of having people do translations of a single poem into a bunch of very different languages, but I can’t imagine choosing a poem of my own as the starting point. Has a whiff of hubris.

  52. Re criticism: what lukas said.

  53. klutz, schmuck, putz … all romanized and pronounced with an
    You sure about putz? I thought it was פּוץ (vs. שמאק).
    its rounded (but English-absent) partner, ɔ
    Isn’t that the caught vowel in plenty of English dialects?

  54. don’t like don’t eat then, nobody forces one to eat or not eat whatever and tastes vary etc
    so if you don’t like it, don’t read and just pass it by instead of fouling people’s mood
    sure, any art, poetry can’t be judged, it’s so subjective and what one finds beautiful, to others it could be nothing, but the amount of work one put into anything creative should be respected imo, if you didn’t do the same efforts, you can’t judge a thing negatively, depends of course on whether the piece of art is not inherently hateful like racist or inciting violence etc

  55. Remember the one about the household where everybody wanted to eat but nobody wanted to cook? Finally one guy agreed to make dinner, but the deal was that nobody could criticize the food — or if they did, they had to take over the job. One day he served some grilled dung. They all took one taste, looked at each other in silence, until one blurted out “This taste like shit! … Good, though!”

  56. nobody could criticize the food — or if they did, they had to take over the job
    Sounds like empty is fishing for usher to put up a Yiddish translation.

  57. Trond Engen says:

    Translation for fish is putting up like Yiddish to usher an empty sound.

  58. i mean one said one word about vanity and the whole project, the work of the seventy four different people got sounded devalued, i don’t know, the commenter himself sounds vain, and suggesting nothing himself instead, just of course, people would wonder what a high critic and knowing and a gourmet that person is

  59. I’m not fishing for anything, Nijma. Just tossing out a dumb joke. I like Trond’s katastrofishly unYidiomatic response.

  60. David Marjanović says:

    Many of the Yiddish-derived words that we enjoy in English—klutz, schmuck, putz—are pronounced with an ʌ in English that derives from its rounded (but English-absent) partner, ɔ.

    Are you sure about the latter two? Because they have /ʊ/ in all kinds of German I know of.

    Isn’t that the caught vowel in plenty of English dialects?

    Not even close. In modern RP, the caught vowel is very, very close to [o], and actually reaches it in some British accents (the former [ou] has, after all, moved far out of the way). [ɔ] is only used for economic reasons (so that diacritics can be avoided).
    In America, I think it’s [ɒ] or [ɑ] everywhere depending on which mergers have happened.
    Does anyone know about Scots?

  61. David Marjanović says:

    [ɔ] is only used

    Completely wrong. I meant: “The phonemic transcription “/ɔ/” is only used [...]“.
    In the following, words that make sense based on German are in bold (even though I don’t always understand the sentences they form), and Hebrew-derived words that I happen to know are in italics. The rest I don’t understand, except that I suppose take is from generic Slavic tak = “so, just so, this way, like this”:

    Beemes, un merstns tsu humor, vayl s’hot mir gedakht az afile a gantser goy volt gekent farshteyn ayer meynung, reb yid. Take, hob ikh ersht gehat gegebn a verter-mabl vegn punkt vi shlekht ikh halt fun dem aleyn. Ir zent take gerekht az afile in flug ken me zen vi di ‘uberzetsung’ fligt lunatish fun shlekhtn oysleyg biz nisht-tsu-fartrogn sintaks un umpasike formes. Nisht geredt fun di poetishe mides, vos me volt efsher gekent rufn zey ‘klotsik’.

  62. David Marjanović says:

    verter

    Oh, Wörter. Should be in bold then.

  63. Isn’t gehat from haben?

  64. Trond Engen says:

    Isn’t gehat from haben?
    But apparently misplaced. I don’t know if it’s a feature of Yiddish, but it seems like an easy error to make for a speaker of a related language that merged the preterite and the past participle of the cognate verb.

  65. read, it’s admirable to stick up for people with the nerve to publish (including e-publication) creative work, but isn’t it also fair to say that Sterl’s critical acumen (“vanity project rather than one really concerned about the language”) is her or his “creative” contribution to the conversation?
    Of course, not all Critickism is remarkably “creative” or contributes much to other conversation partners- but then, not all poetry does either, either.
    And you’ve done, with Sterl’s post, what she or he’d attempted to do with the poem: say something specific about its ‘flavor’.
    Maybe we could ask of Sterl a reasonable question, in order to sharpen her/his point:
    what poem, of all that you know (doesn’t have to be yours), would be a good one to translate into scores of languages, with a particular view both to sowing that poem’s virtues and to illuminating problems (and opportunities!) in the translation of poetry generally??
    Let me nominate two pretty obvious choices:
    Shakespeare (or someone also calling her/himself “Shakespeare”): Sonnet 73
    Wallace Stevens: The Snow Man

  66. marie-lucie says:

    deadgod: what poem, … would be a good one to translate into scores of languages, with a particular view both to showing that poem’s virtues and to illuminating problems (and opportunities!) in the translation of poetry generally??
    I don’t see how just publishing all those translations together with the original does either. Hardly anybody is likely to be able to read and evaluate all the translations, and in order to contribute to the literature on the translation of poetry one would probably have to write a number of essays.
    I haven’t written any comments on it, because I would need to print the poem and at least the French translation in order to scrutinize them both, and right now I am without a printer. Read says that the poem reads just as smoothly in Mongolian as in English, but I don’t find the English original very smooth or fluid, or easy to understand at first reading.

  67. Red Chinese Bathrobe says:

    Marie-Lucie, take my word for it, the Chinese has problems. The mistranslation of ‘paraffin lamps in the bows’ as ‘paraffin lamps tied up in bows’ (literally a ‘butterfly knot’) is a bobby-dazzler.

  68. Many of the Yiddish-derived words that we enjoy in English—klutz, schmuck, putz—are pronounced with an ʌ in English that derives from its rounded (but English-absent) partner, ɔ.
    Are you sure about the latter two? Because they have /ʊ/ in all kinds of German I know of.”
    Yes, that is exactly what I was getting at when I made reference to confusing etymologies. In Yiddish the words which became English ‘schmuck’ and ‘putz’ are romanized ‘shmok’ and ‘pots’, and spelled with with komets-alef—which has the sound ɔ. They were unrounded into English and their spelling was influenced also by knowledge of German spelling. Thus, for instance, ‘schmuck’ ended up being spelled exactly like the German ‘Schmuck’ even though the vowels are not the same. Indeed, Yiddish words with the vowel ʊ tend to make it into English totally unscathed, like ‘shtup’.
    It’s an unfortunate coincidence that the Anglicized version of the word שמאָק is spelled, most often, just like the German word for ‘decoration’. The two words, Yiddish שמאָק and German Schmuck, are absolutely unrelated.
    In fact, there is already a Yiddish word שמוק, pronounced just the same as Schmuck, which means ‘jewelry’. It’s only when the slang for ‘penis’ was absorbed into English that the false friendship arose.
    I actually recently entered into correspondence with the authors of _Origins Of The Specious_ because they had made just that mistake, and identified ‘shmok’ and ‘pots’ with ‘Schmuck’ and ‘Putz’. The fact that the two German words have related meanings, I’m sure, contributed to the general confusion on this matter. But really it’s only the fact that Yiddish ɔ ended up as English ʌ, thus making people think of the letter /u/—a letter which of course behaves totally differently in German—that brought these two pairs of words together in any association.

  69. not all poetry does either, either
    contribution?
    what contribution one would want from poetry? i don’t understand people saying they don’t understand poetry, or a particular poem and if they don’t understand they feel free to critisize whatever comes into their head, vanity or grammar that shows only their cynicism
    i think no need for a poem to be understandable to all, one writes for self, self-expression and if it’d found similar reflection in others that’s more than enough
    no need for a poem to be always a well-recognized masterpiece, one writes just to capture one’s fleeting memory, perception, feeling
    maybe i told it here once, i’ve read once a haiku by 5 yo girl watching the Olympics, where she’s saying that the Olympics is being translated on TV and she can’t recognize who is Japanese athlete, i think that’s poetry too, captures her thought at that moment in the haiku form
    the poem of the anthology reminded me this poem, one of my favourites, which i’ve tried to translate once, but sure, i wouldn’t dare to present the translation here
    and the Mongolian translation of Volta doesn’t have any mistakes, grammatical or any other mechanical linguistic, though it’s not a word for word translation too

  70. an athlete, darn the articles

  71. Oh, and David:
    “ken me zen” are all Germanic in origin too.
    ‘Can’-3rd-Sg-Pres-Ind (auxiliary null inflect);
    Impersonal Pron;
    ‘See’-Inf
    ‘me’ is a little misleading because the full form is of course ‘men’, but the ending is often clipped, and that pronunciation is often reflected in spelling.

  72. Marie-Lucie, take my word for it, the Chinese has problems. The mistranslation of ‘paraffin lamps in the bows’ as ‘paraffin lamps tied up in bows’ (literally a ‘butterfly knot’) is a bobby-dazzler.
    To be fair, shouldn’t the original be spelled ‘boughs’?

  73. Isn’t gehat from haben?
    But apparently misplaced. I don’t know if it’s a feature of Yiddish, but it seems like an easy error to make for a speaker of a related language that merged the preterite and the past participle of the cognate verb.”
    I can’t make heads or tails of this comment.

  74. I apologize for my many comments in a row, but:
    MMcM: פּוץ is a totally separate word from that which became English putz. פּוץ, romanized ‘puts’, is just like the German “putz”, and it means ‘to clean, to shine’. It is the core of the great Yiddish idiom, ‘oysgeputst vi Khavele tsum get’.
    In general the u/o barrier is actually quite hard to cross, as long as you’re really talking about the ɔ/ʊ barrier.

  75. and pots means weenus.

  76. marie-lucie says:

    shouldn’t the original be spelled ‘boughs’?
    I understand that the paraffin lamps are in the bows of the fishing boats that fill the harbour, not in the boughs of trees.

  77. Trond Engen says:

    [...] Take, hob ikh ersht gehat gegebn a verter-mabl vegn punkt vi shlekht ikh halt fun dem aleyn. [...]
    Isn’t gehat from haben?
    But apparently misplaced. I don’t know if it’s a feature of Yiddish, but it seems like an easy error to make for a speaker of a related language that merged the preterite and the past participle of the cognate verb.
    I can’t make heads or tails of this comment.
    No wonder. I’ll try to unwind it.
    1. I agree that it looks like it might be from ‘haben’, but I’d expect a present or preterite rather than a participle as auxiliary in a composed form.
    2. I don’t know Yiddish, though, except what I can infer from my infinitesimal German.
    3. If it is the wrong form, it could be a banal mistake, since in English both the preterite and the past participle of ‘have’ are ‘had’.

  78. Trond Engen says:

    I agree that it looks like it might be from ‘haben’, but
    I can’t think of a grammatical construct that would stack two participles like that. E.g.
    I’d expect a present or preterite rather than a participle as auxiliary in a composed form.

  79. Ah, yes. Well. The pluperfect in Yiddish is very rare but that’s what it looks like. There is no preterite in Yiddish; all past forms are formed with ‘hobn’ (or ‘iz’ in a small fixed set) and the participle. ‘To have’ is ‘hobn’ infinitive, ‘gehat’ participle.
    So ‘I had’ is ‘Ikh hob gehat’, literally ‘I have had’—and the very rare pluperfect is ‘Ikh hob gehat gegebn’ I had given/lit. ‘I have had given’.
    The pluperfect is so rare because the Yiddish sequence of tenses is such that (not uniquely) the tense of a verb in indirect discourse is determined by its relation to the superordinate clause, not the tense of the speaker. Thus ‘He said that he had eaten’ Would simply be ‘Er hot gezogt az er hot gegesn’.
    To sum up: the strange profusion of forms that you think you’re seeing there is a result of the fact that, yes, the verb ‘to have’ is hobn/gehat; that past forms are formed with ‘hobn’+participle; and pluperfect forms are formed with ‘gehat’+particple. So there’s a lot of having going on.

  80. [ɔ] is only used for economic reasons (so that diacritics can be avoided).
    There is a discussion of the tradeoffs in RP IPA transcription schemes on John Wells’ site.
    In America, I think it’s [ɒ] or [ɑ] everywhere depending on which mergers have happened.
    For dialects without cot-caught merger, it is, I believe, on average, rounded, back and lower than ʌ and but higher than ɑ. So, either seems defensible without diacritics, as you say. Like here, though the recorded speaker’s pronunciation isn’t quite conservative Midwestern broadcaster English. (Don’t hold me to it, but I think she’s overcompensating for the glide that her native dialect would have.) Of course, it varies in a single speaker on the surrounding phonetic environment, so saying that there are both as allophones is defensible.
    Does anyone know about Scots?
    Pullum and Ladusaw say, of ɔ:

    Illustrated by the vowel sound of the Scottish English pronunciation of hot, German Sonne, and (to a fair approximation) represented by o before r in French and most varieties of English (French porte, fort; English corn); cf. also British “RP” caught.

    See also Wikipedia.

  81. marie-lucie says:

    It seems to me that “British RP caught” is a much closer vowel that that in hot or porte.

  82. To be fair it was irrelevant of me to even mention whether or not ɔ was in English. ɔ words like ‘shmok’ and ‘pots’ in Yiddish have become ʌ in English, regardless which factors gave rise to that transition.
    It works in the other way too: ‘fuck’ is transcribed in Yiddish as ‘fok’.

  83. The two words, Yiddish שמאָק and German Schmuck, are absolutely unrelated.
    The former being related to Polish smok ‘dragon’, right?
    פּוץ is a totally separate word from that which became English putz. פּוץ, romanized ‘puts’, is just like the German “putz”, and it means ‘to clean, to shine’.
    Hmm. A number of dictionaries list פּוץ and פּוצן. Is this a Yiddish dialect difference?

  84. ‘Putsn’ פּוצן is just the infinitive form of ‘puts’. Ikh puts, du putst, mir putsn, ikh hob lib putsn, et cetera. They’re the same word.
    As for your first link, I have never, in any dialect, seen a fluent speaker use the word ‘puts’ to mean what we say in English as ‘putz’. I honestly think yiddishdictionaryonline is mistaken here; it’s not particularly reputable.
    Now, it is true that in some dialects the letter komets alef is pronounced /u/; the variation on that account is so wide and contingent that I wouldn’t begin to speculate on where and how often the word ‘pots’ is a member of this class. In any case, however, the spelling of the word remains the same: פּאָץ, not פּוץ.
    The three dictionaries I have access to: Harkavy, Weinreich, and Raphael Finkel’s, are all in agreement here.

  85. (the o sounding like /u/ thing is something of a red herring, because the dialectical vowel variations are complementary; even in all the dialects where ‘pots’ פּאָץ would be pronounced either like ‘book’ or ‘poop’, assuming they exist, the word ‘puts’ פּוץ would still also exist, and would be pronounced with a ɪ.

  86. I see; I was obviously looking at unreliable sources. The (no longer online) AHD is consistent in using o in its etymologies for all those.

  87. 1902 N.Y. Times Mag. 14 Dec. 15/2 Only the chosen few can afford to have a really impressive ‘putz’ which fills half a room, and represents a landscape in miniature… This more elaborate ‘putz’ requires not only money for its erection, but artistic handiwork.

    —The Oxford English Dictionary

  88. I don’t see how just publishing all those translations together with the original does either.
    Well, marie-lucie, such a compilation, even without any comparison or analysis, would act as a catalyst for comparison and discussion, perhaps leading to questions of poetry and translation which would be the deepest ‘language’ questions and puzzlement that leap on us.
    Look, for example, at this thread- a modest e-chat in which a few of the translations (and the original) have been exposed to a variety of minds and tastes, including some finely-grained analysis indeed, right?
    In other words, the ‘pile’ of translations, together as they are, are a resource, to become useful at our discretion and to the extent of our various levels of interest and ability. No bad thing . . .?
    -
    smooth, fluid, and easy to understand at a first reading
    I couldn’t be more skeptical than I am of this criteria-bundle, marie-lucie. Think of your own first readings of Un Coup de des jamais n’abolira le hazard, or Valery’s Interieur, or Francis Ponge’s poetry. Great- at least, ‘good’- poems, and not much not challenging to, even defiant of, intelligibility in this literature.

  89. read, I agree that “cynicism” that easily discards difficult poetry in the falsely-taken name of “understanding” is destructive and, often enough, stupid.
    As I suggest, I wouldn’t mind a bit more discussion from Sterl: what’s wrong enough with the poem to provoke the energy to post a sneer at it? But I don’t think Sterl is (necessarily) being “cynical”- just . . . well, brief.
    -
    I’m guessing from its e-address that the poem you link us to is Tsvetaeva’s. Would you tell me the English title?

  90. That sounds sort of smutty, Deadgod.

  91. Only the chosen few can afford to have a really impressive ‘putz’ which fills half a room, and represents a landscape in miniature… This more elaborate ‘putz’ requires not only money for its erection, but artistic handiwork.
    Hah! What a great find.
    read: You seem to be saying that there’s no such thing as good poems and bad poems, that as long as something is called “poetry” by its creator it is exactly as valuable as any other such entity. You also seem to be saying that there’s no such thing as criticism in an esthetic sense, that anything anyone writes or says other than “That’s wonderful!” is simply the product of spite. Both those views strike me as ridiculous, but of course it’s your prerogative to hold them. Please try not to insult other commenters simply because they don’t hold your peculiar views, however.

  92. marie-lucie says:

    smooth, fluid, easy to understand … [or not]
    deadgod, I was not criticizing the poem, or setting criteria for good poetry, but commenting on what seemed to me a quick reaction to a particular translation.
    And you are right that the compilation is meant as a “resource”, but why this particular poem? it is in English, but set in Greece, and it describes a Northern Mediterranean geographical and cultural landscape, so it is not surprising that the Chinese translator misunderstood some of the phrases. I supect that there are misunderstandings in many of the other languages too. To give an example: I read the French and Spanish versions, for which those references should be fairly clear, and the English word “singer” (which doesn’t apply to a person there) is translated as a masculine in the French version, as a feminine in the Spanish version. Romance languages have to make a choice there, but it seems to me that one of the translators must have made the wrong choice.
    As I said earlier, I have not tried to make more detailed comparisons or comments since the poem is not “easy to understand at first reading” and I have not been able to print the versions in order to study them more carefully.

  93. I’m guessing from its e-address that the poem you link us to is Tsvetaeva’s. Would you tell me the English title?
    It doesn’t have a title; the Russian first line, “Над Феодосией угас,” translates to “Over Theodosia was extinguished.” Peter Norman (in Tsvetaeva) translates it thus (very accurately as to meaning):
    This spring-like day has faded
    Forever over Theodosia,
    And everywhere shadows lengthen
    In this magnificent twilight hour.
    Choking with sadness,
    I walk alone with not a thought,
    Both my slim arms I’ve dropped
    And let them hang.
    I walk along the Genoan walls,
    Meeting the kisses of the wind,
    And the silken streams of my dress
    Flutter about my knees.
    And the edge of the ring is modest
    And a bouquet of several violets
    Right by my face itself
    Is touchingly small and frail.
    I walk along the ramparts,
    In the sadness of evening and spring,
    And the evening lengthens the shadows,
    And hopelessness seeks for words.

  94. Theodosia, or Feodosiya, is an ancient Crimean port that was ruled by Genoa from 1266 to 1475, hence the Genoese (or “Genoan”) walls.

  95. so one can badmouth out of his own vanity however likes the whole translation project and you have sympathy for him
    i don’t know that poetry can be bad, yes
    and criticism of poetry is always something sounding snobbish, unneccessary, poetico-literary critics, what a job, if one writes him/herself maybe there could be given some credit for their criticism, just to read another’s work and criticize badly it, one needs a lot of bile and jealousy i guess
    how one can understand what the other said in a poetical form, maybe the other meant something entirely different from what you thought you understood
    if you don’t have praise, people just should leave poets in peace is my feeling
    and people say something then about food and gourmet and voting with their dollars, that’s the problem, everything can be sold and bought, even poetry, fine, if you don’t like the anthology don’t buy it, it’s fair, why do you need this urge of badmouthing others’ work, on the blogs!
    if it’s not even your direct job earning money criticizing others
    just one’s basic meanness and cynicism is showing there

  96. Feodosia was ruled at one time or another by almost everyone, notably Greeks, Scythians, Huns, Goths, Genoese, Venetians, Mongols, and Tatars (besides Russins and Ukrainians). It was a last refuge of Karaite Jews. So the feeling of transience must be pretty pervasive.

  97. thank you, Deadgod, for asking about the poem
    here how i tried to translate it
    In Pheodosia has faded away
    This spring day for forever.
    And all the shadows are lengthened
    By the adorable before-evening hour.
    Choking from dejection
    I walk alone, without a thought.
    And are lowered and hanging along
    My two thin arms.
    I walk along the Genovese walls
    Meeting the kisses of the wind.
    The silk waves of the dress
    Undulate around the knees.
    The thin rim of the ring is modest,
    And is touchingly small and pitiful
    The bouquet of a few violas
    Almost at the very face.
    I walk along the castle shafts
    In the evening and spring melancholy.
    The evening lengthens the shadows
    And hopelessness looks for words.
    can’t detect any mistakes for now, maybe there are some, hope i’ll see more after some time when my English will get improved

  98. marie-lucie says:

    read, I know very little Russian, so I can’t comment on the two translations to the poem. But what do you mean by “castle shafts”? the other translator says “ramparts”, which are high walls built to defend a city or castle, but a “shaft” is dug deeply into the ground, for instance to go into a mine.

  99. Looking to improve an unreliable bookmark, I see that Raphael Finkel has put individual scans of an edition of Harkavy on his website, which are somewhat easier for random access than the versions in the Internet Archive.
    (Some here will remember that Finkel was the author of the original Jargon file at SAIL.)

  100. thanks, m-l, for pointing out my mistake, i’ve mistaken rvu (shafts, i imagined a shaft filled with water around the castle, but it should be the walls) for the valu, it seems
    i’ve translated first dve tonen’kikh moi ruki as hands and changed that to the arms reading the other translator’s version, so i’ll change the shafts to the walls i guess
    did you find any other mistakes? please, feel free to take apart my translation however you like, coz it’s helpful, i’m not sure at all about the definite and indefinte articles, for example
    i really find this division of ruk to arms and hands pretty confusing :) though

  101. It seems to me that “British RP caught” is a much closer vowel that that in hot or porte.
    Interesting. To my ear, RP caught is higher (more close) than American caught (in dialects like mine that have not merged cot) and perhaps more rounded (though that may just be schoolboy mocking of the masters, who were mostly Oxford men). However, I would put Scottish hot higher and Sonne and porte higher still, on toward o.
    Where would you put Sonne, or for that matter “standard” [ɔ] or a rounded /ʌ/?
    (I have in mind the conservative urban Midwestern speech of 1960-70s TV network anchors; RP of conservative 1960-70s BBC presenters, who might even still distinguish /ɔː/ and /ɔə/; Hochdeutsch of 1970s DW news broadcasts; and the mid-century Parisian French that they still taught in schools in the late 60s / early 70s. I don’t know of a standard for Scottish English, so I’m probably going off people like David Tennant on chat shows. And, of course, I may just be mistaken.)

  102. marie-lucie says:

    read: i imagined a shaft filled with water around the castle
    If it is filled with water and surrounding the castle, it is called a moat. The moat is at the bottom of the ramparts.
    A shaft is usually straight and vertical. For instance, when you take an elevator, the space in which the elevator moves up and down is called a shaft, whether you are going to the top of a tall building or down into an underground parking lot or into a coal mine.

  103. marie-lucie says:

    MMcM: caught, hot, porte
    I think that we agree on the pronunciation of these words.
    the mid-century Parisian French that they still taught in schools in the late 60s / early 70s.
    Here I am not sure what you are referring to. Could it be the sound written â? but that sound should be close to the a of father, although earlier generations (eg my Parisian grandparents) had it slightly more rounded than mine (and young Parisians don’t seem to have it any more, although it does survive in some other regions of France, and of course also in Canada).

  104. marie-lucie says:

    vanya: And of course “volta” is a common word in modern Italian where it means “time” or “occasion”, e.g. “C’era una volta…” . Is this a fairly recent Greek borrowing?
    vanya, perhaps you have figured out by now that the original word is Italian not Greek, which has borrowed the word in just one of its meanings. “Una volta” here corresponds exactly to the French “une fois”, in meaning and use though not in origin. “Il était une fois … (= Once upon a time there was …) is the traditional beginning for fairy tales.

  105. marie-lucie says:

    The noun βόλτα is a noun meaning ‘turn’ and also ‘walk’, ‘stroll’. The Greek expression πάμε βόλτα [pame volta] means literally *let’s go a turn, i.e. ‘let’s take a turn,’ ‘let’s go for a walk/ stroll,’ ‘let’s stretch our legs.’
    I was forgetting that it is the same in French: Allons faire un tour means “Let’s go for a walk/stroll”, where un tour is literally “a turn” (because you go and then “return” to where you started from). The English word “tour” and its derivative “tourist” come from the the same French word; at first it referred to the “Grand Tour” of Europe that upper class young Englishmen were encouraged to undertake in order to widen their cultural perspectives and come back to England hopefully enriched by the experience.

  106. Looking to improve an unreliable bookmark, I see that Raphael Finkel has put individual scans of an edition of Harkavy on his website, which are somewhat easier for random access than the versions in the Internet Archive.
    (Some here will remember that Finkel was the author of the original Jargon file at SAIL.)

    And of course he’s got his own, very lovely dictionary, of quality comparable if not superior to yiddishdictionaryonline.com. It’s quite tough to google, but you can find it at http://www.cs.uky.edu/cgi-bin/cgiwrap/~raphael/dictionary.cgi

  107. Thanks, I’ve added it to my sidebar!

  108. vanya, perhaps you have figured out by now that the original word is Italian not Greek
    Marie-Lucie, perhaps you have figured out by now that I never thought volta was orginally Greek. My question, which LH graciously answered, was when the Greeks borrowed it from us Italians. I was wondering if it was a medieval or modern borrowing. I’m not sure why you would make such an insulting supposition, but so be it.

  109. Perhaps we have another question for debate. To me “Is this a recent Greek borrowing?” means fairly unambiguously “a borrowing by the Greeks”. M-L seems to have read that as “a borrowing from the Greeks”. Does this phrase strike others as having multiple meanings?

  110. I read it the way you intended it, but I can see how someone might read it the other way, and I’m pretty sure m-l intended no insult.

  111. No, I’m sure M-L did not intend to be insulting.

  112. Bademantel says:

    when the Greeks borrowed it from us Italians
    Wow! All the time I thought Uncle Vanya was Russian. Internet personas can be very interesting….

  113. Nope, 50% Italian, 50% New England Yankee. Just lived in Russia for many years. No implied Chekhovian reference either – just the Russian version of my given name.

  114. I go by Stiva in a Russian context, having been told when I was first learning the language that the usual nickname for Stepan, Styopa, sounds uncomfortably like zhopa ‘ass/arse.’

  115. marie-lucie says:

    vanya, I am very sorry if I seemed to be insulting, and I apologize for using perhaps ambiguous language.
    I read your “Greek borrowing” as meaning “borrowing from Greek”, since the start of this thread was a poem on Greece and the origin of a Greek word. By the time I replied to you there had been quite a number of questions and comments about “volta” and “volte”, and I just wanted to clarify the points just in case, even if it might not be necessary to do so. I mentioned your name because my comment was quite far from yours and it might not be clear what it referred to. And like the others, I was misled by “vanya” which does not suggest a particularly close acquaintance with Italian. (Yes, names can be misleading, but not always).
    Apparently this is not the first time that some people felt insulted by something I said which appeared to point the finger at a person, but was meant in general. I try to watch what I am writing and use the preview to reread and often to rewrite my comments. Perhaps I slipped up this time, but I assure you that I had no intention to insult you or anyone else.

  116. Marie-Lucie, don’t worry, I understand you had no way of knowing I speak Italian. My offense lasted about the 3 seconds it took to write the post then I realized I was overreacting. Joys of the internet.

  117. marie-lucie says:

    Mille grazie, Giovanni.

  118. Much thanks to Language Hat and read for those translations.

    read, look at the way you improve your translations.
    You don’t take it personally- though you could, especially if another person pointed out an outright error of yours in an insulting way.
    But, however level-headed you are or aren’t in some particular situation about ‘fixing’ that translation, you do work to incorporate a more accurate word/phrase/versification– you make your translation better, though of course there are at least a few adjectives that would be ‘better’ than “better” in any particular case: clearer, more direct, a more accurate synonym, and so on.
    Well, have another look at having criteria for preferring one translation to another. read, that’s a useful way to get at why one poem might, with integrity and even generosity on the part of the reader, be called ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than another- or, simply, ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

  119. translations of course could be bad or good depending on the translator’s skills, the degree of knowledge of languages etc
    but the original poems, can you compare Volta and MT’s poem, and say this is good and this is bad
    this is a masterpiece and this is just a vanity project
    one reminded me the other and what the poems invoked in me, a memory of another long shadowed day maybe, is much more valuable to me then all comparative linguistics, sorry to the linguists in the thread of course

  120. marie-lucie says:

    read, you are comparing two completely different things. Poetry is an art form, like music or painting, things to which we have an emotional response. Linguistics is a way of studying the structure and use of language and languages. The two are not the same at all, but a person can like both, with different aspects of their personality.
    The “vanity project” (in one person’s estimation) is not the poem itself, it is the translation project, choosing this particular poem to be translated into so many languages.

  121. choosing this particular poem to be translated into so many languages
    and what’s wrong with that, the result is many different translations some of which people liked
    if some of the translations were poor, people offered their opinions how it would sound correct, that was like constructive conversation
    just say it’s vain, bad poetry from the beginning, then everything is spoilt and for what?
    a very creative comment that was, sure
    and, please, stop lecturing me with your didactic comments, m-l, my reading comprehension is not that bad to not distinguish between two different topics

  122. marie-lucie says:

    Sorry to sound didactic, read, but I am an old teacher, and other people accuse me of this too sometimes.
    Poetry and linguistics are not just different topics, they are of completely different kinds and appeal to different people or to different aspects of people’s personalities. Nobody has to apologize for their own preferences.
    On the “vanity project”, I was quoting someone else’s words and opinion on the project and the poem itself, I was not giving my own.

  123. sorry, m-l, i was too quick to overreact
    i appreciate very much your corrections to my translation

  124. Sure, read, writing and translating poems are two different things. I wanted to indicate that judging the quality of the latter would be an effective parallel to getting at the idea of differences in quality of the former (rather than to suggest a form of identity).
    Those differences, between ‘better’ and ‘worse’ poems, would ultimately be subjective, but one’s understanding of what one approves or disapproves of in poetry is not opaquely subjective; taste has some, I think many, objectively determinable aspects, features (including those accessible to linguistically trained sensitivities) that can be compared in conversation or criticism.
    I agree that a swaggering, emptily destructive attack on, say, a poem contributes nothing except to the ego of the attacker and to the solidarity of like-ill-willed pseudo-Criticks– but this uncritical Critickism is just part of the playground of the Academy, the internet, the barroom- sometimes my living room and maybe your own, too.
    Surely, in a conversation where nobody is threatened by the imposition of silence, agreement can more or less calmly be reached on disagreeing about whether some poem is ‘good’ or not.
    Again, maybe better than criticizing Sperl for so briefly dismissing the poem (it looks like) out-of-hand would have been to challenge her or him to make a clearer case: ‘what, in the poem, indicates that it’s a vanity project?’

  125. nobody is threatened by the imposition of silence
    is it me imposing silence? so unfair
    i doubt he even read the thread after his remark, he’s not interested in the project from the beginning, just said his verdict and left
    and this type of people, cynics i mean are usually unceremonious and just stomp on everything they encounter with their huge ego, anything but silence can be imposed on them
    just a pity that they are considered cool then everywhere, what coolness is in seeing everything from only the ugly side i don’t get though

  126. is it me imposing silence?
    No, no, read, not the point at all! Of course, if you want to support the poem, and point out a “cynical” attack- quite right.
    I meant that the too-casual dismissal doesn’t have to- and didn’t- inhibit you, nor you language hat (nor me), and so on.
    You’re right; a herd of bah-humb[u]ggers in full stampede will unconsciously trample much that would have made each four-legs-gooder’s life better.
    But what to do with consensus-dimmed ruminators? I’m just suggesting the technique of asking each one “what do you mean, seriously?”, and maybe a real question can cut through the shell of belonging. (And maybe Sperl has a reason for not respecting the poem that you’d be interested in.)
    Probably I should take my own advice . . . Nah.

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