Friday, February 29, 2008

Every plant that stands in the light of the sun is a saint and an outlaw. Every tree that brings forth blossoms without the command of man is powerful in the sight of God. Every star that man has not counted is a world of sanity and perfection. Every blade of grass is an angel singing in a shower of glory.

-- Thomas Merton, from "Raids on the Unspeakable," via The Pocket Thomas Merton (New Seeds Books, p. 169)
Verse was a special illness of the ear

-- W. H. Auden, "Rimbaud"

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tapscott's liberties

Am reading through Pablo Neruda's 100 Love Sonnets for a second time. A lot of the Amazon customer reviews for this book mentioned that the translator, Stephen Tapscott, produced English versions laden with inaccuracies and liberties and errors. I must admit: I haven't studied Spanish since elementary school, but I think I can glean enough from the en face Spanish of Neruda's original language that I can safely agree with this assessment.

Tapscott routinely renders singulars as plurals, and plurals as singulars. The same Spanish word, rocío, is rendered "dew" in one place and "soft rain" in another. In sonnet IX alone, we have "restless" for indócil (are restlessness and indocility the same thing?), and "dazzling lurch of the sea" for deslumbrante movimiento marino.

Allowing for the fact that a translator must occasionally use synonyms and avoid cognates, is "lurch of the sea" really the best choice? The alliteration is lost, and the meaning is changed to something that, perhaps, Neruda would not want. "Marine movement" would be equally unacceptable; it is flat, and "movement" sounds a little odd. "Motion," perhaps? "Maritime motion." I'm not equipped to translate Spanish into an English that can be called poetry, but I'm fairly certain that "lurch" is a mistake, as it gives us more Tapscott than Neruda.

Having said all this, Tapscott is brave enough (was brave enough: this translation was first published over 20 years ago) to give us Neruda's original sonnets, so we can compare Tapscott's English to the Nobel laureate's Spanish. It is perhaps inevitable that Tapscott would suffer in the comparison. And these translations, however flawed, do open up the Sonnets to those of us who are Spanish-impaired.

Five stars out of five for Neruda's sonnets (memorable lines from which are quoted below), three stars for Tapscott's translations.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Well, breakfast at 10:02 am sounds good ...

... but I am usually up at seven.

Via Oblique House.

Addendum : I re-took the quiz, giving totally different (but equally feasible) answers to most of the questions, and still got 10:02 am. Odd.

Finally, there's something worth reading at the Poetry Foundation blog "harriet": A. E. Stallings on poetic diction, on poets who change diction within the same poem, etc. By way of illustration, Whitman's astronomer poem and a sonnet by Marilyn Nelson.
Ya no habrá sino todo el aire libre,
las manzanas llevadas por el viento,
el suculento libro en la enramada,

y allí donde respiran los claveles
fundaremos un traje que resista
la eternidad de un beso victorioso.

-- Neruda, the last six lines of sonnet 100

in Stephen Tapscott's "free" translation :

There won't be anything but all the fresh air,
apples carried on the wind,
the succulent book in the woods:

and there where the carnations breathe, we will begin
to make ourselves a clothing, something to last
through the eternity of a victorious kiss.
"Hope of the entire world"

I dunno. With supporters like these ...
"Anyone Else but You"

Speaking of songs from movies, it's a mystery to me why this quirky number wasn't nominated for something ... it's by the Moldy Peaches, from the film Juno :

Sunday, February 24, 2008

"Falling Slowly"

By Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová. From the 2007 film Once. Winner of this year's Academy Award for Best Song :

A deserved win, imho.
More confessional advice

from Fr Powell at Domine, da mihi hanc aquam!

A very fascinating section on resisting temptation :
When you resist temptation on your own you are rejecting God’s grace and denying the victory of the Cross. There is no reason to resist temptation. You are perfectly free not to sin. Rather than steel yourself against temptation and fight like mad to resist the sin, turn and face the temptation square on. Name it. Hand it over to God. And move on. Resistance is actually the first step we take toward the sin. Be honest: how many times have you resisted a temptation only to submit to it eventually? What you are doing is habituating yourself to surrendering to sin. Break the cycle here by taking control of the temptation itself. Let’s say you are being tempted to lie to your professor about cheating on a paper. Say to God, “Lord, I am being tempted to lie to Dr. Jones about my paper. I give this temptation to you to deal with. I’m going to the library. Amen.” This is both an act of the intellect and an act of the will. Habituate yourself to using Christ’s victory over sin and stop resisting temptation!
(Link spotted at Mark Shea's blog.)