Lust In Translation
You've heard of English being translated into other languages, and other languages being translated into English, but how about English into English? I found one example of this in a Sydney bookstore. It was a modern translation of Shakespeare's plays. It took ordinary Shakespearean phrases, like:
Methought I had been pierced with Cupid's bow
And translated them:
I fell in love.
The Ovid translation I'm reading at the moment isn't quite as bad, but it's getting there. In Erotic Poems, translated by Peter Green, insipid words are weakly arranged in limp, rhymeless verse by a simpering, pedantic Profesor of Latin. The force and fire of Ovid's original words are almost completely extinguished. Phrases are translated faithfully; the only things missing are sound, rhyme, metre, interest, joy, and meaning:
Like a fabulous Eastern queen, en route to her bridal
Or a top-line city call girl ...
Why not the phrase 'Like a fucking classy hooker'? This is a poem about rooting, you can't afford to hold back.
Good puns are badly translated and become bad ones:
... poor virgin Europa whisked off overseas clutchingAnybody from outside university could have told him that 'horn' actually is a well-known phallic symbol; there's no need for that hyphen.
That so-called bull by the - horn.
You wonder why he bothers with the verse part at all. My translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses is in prose and, while it isn't brilliant, it's far better than this. This is not free verse (if it was, the lines would vary a great deal more); and it's not metrical. It kind of hovers in between, like an amorphomous entity of words that are arbitrarily grouped together. It's as if Green put them together in between bouts of brandy and scrabble with his fellow professors.
He resorts far too often to italics to provide a kind of 'fake' stress to words. Good poets - or good writers of any sort - would never do this. These are just from the first four pages:
Though he was drawn
Caesar - this conquest's
What have I got
Just to look at my darling, while he
Not one imaginative phrase amongst that lot. It's almost as if Green wasn't hired to translate Ovid, but to kill the English language. He should go back to reading his lexicons.