Tag Archives: translation

A Lack of Undiscovered Places

What happened today? Ate bacon, eggs and sausage, couldn’t park outside the shop, packed parcels, sorted coins and saw customers. Not a bad day but not exactly adventurous. It’s the sort of day that used to get explorers in the mood for travel. Thanks to generations of bored explorers there are now no things left to discover, so I needed something different to do.

I thought I’d try feeding poems into on-line translators and see what happened. I used Tall Nettles by Edward Thomas as it’s quite short and he’s been dead for a hundred years so it’s out of copywright.

TALL nettles cover up, as they have done 
These many springs, the rusty harrow, the plough 
Long worn out, and the roller made of stone: 
Only the elm butt tops the nettles now. 

This corner of the farmyard I like most: 
As well as any bloom upon a flower 
I like the dust on the nettles, never lost 
Except to prove the sweetness of a shower. 

I translated it into Welsh, because it’s quite a poetic language. Then I translated it back.

TALL BALLS pay for a length, as they have done

these in many wells, the rusty oblique,

the Long digestion curve, and the roller make of stone:

Only the lamb stomach is at the top of the breathe now.

The corner of the yard I like most:

As well as any flowering on a flower

I like the dust of the flame,

never losing exclusion to experience shower mimster.

No, I couldn’t find “mimster” in the dictionary either. Next I tried Italian.

TALL nettles cover, as they did
These many springs, the rusty harrow, the plow
Long worn and stone roll:
Only the bottom of the elm is on top of the nettles.

I like this corner of the farm:
As well as any flower on a flower
I like dust on nettles, I’ve never lost
Except to prove the sweetness of a shower.

It seems to have stayed closer to the original.

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Nettles in the Woods

 

Then, of course, I had to try Xhosa. For a language that includes a lot of clicks it stayed reasonably close to the original.

RULE is issuing sticks, as it does
These many sources, the riding horse, the farmer
Long term, and stone roller:
Only elm butt elevates fat now.

This farmhouse is my favorite:
Together with any bloom of flowers
I like dust in the ministry, never lost
Besides showing the enjoyment of a couple.

I know what some of you are thinking…

TALL is cut short, as it does
The many creams, the rusty crest, wing
Long-term value and stone:
Communication is too late.

This clogfe bag would like more:
Add any flower to the flower
I love the dust with fat, and I do not lose it
In addition to trying to eat food.

Yes, it’s Welsh, Italian and Xhosa, and no, I can’t find “clogfe” in the dictionary, which is a shame.

So, apart from teaching us to ignore exercises in poetry books, what does this tell us about the nature of poetry?

Let’s be honest – nothing.

It does, however, give a possible insight into the difficult nature of international politics and the role of translators.

And it’s a good argument for keeping computers out of the hands of men with time on their hands.

 

Learning Welsh

I’ve recently been toying with a vague idea of learning Welsh. To put this into perspective, it’s one of a long line of vague ideas to do things which I have had over the years. Do not be surprised to learn, in ten years time, that I still have the same vague idea.

Actually, after reading my list of medical adventures, you may be surprised to see that I am thinking that far into the future. I don’t blame you for that, as I did nearly write “five” and “next year” before deciding to use the power of positive thinking.

After reading a couple of translations of the Hedd Wynn poem I became interested in knowing which translation was more true to the original. There are two here and another one here. At that point I used Google, which produced a version that fitted in with the translations. As time has gone by I’ve started thinking I really out to do better than Google. There are internet language courses, so my only excuse is indolence.

I’ve made a start with some road signs.

 

I’m clearly going to have to expand my vocabulary if I’m going to make any inroads into translating poetry.

Apart from sloth my only other problem is that Welsh is the most foreign language I’ve ever seen written in the Roman alphabet. It’s even more foreign than languages written in the Greek or Cyrillic alphabets.

In fact, the more I read about Welsh, its dialects and its counting system, the more I feel that it may be beyond me.