Sunday, August 27, 2017

Thoughts on translation, Part 6: What is an appiryon?

Song of Solomon: timeless love poetry in contemporary calligraphy. 

Song of Songs is a translator’s nightmare—or a paradise, if you enjoy a challenge. Nearly one word out of ten is what scholars call a hapax legemenon, a word that isn’t found anywhere else in the Bible, so there is nothing to compare it to.  You have to just wing it.  Many of these words also don’t occur in other texts from the period, leaving even the most scholarly translators to take a stab at what the poet meant.  

For example, in the lyrical passage about Solomon’s betrothal, III: 6 - 11, he sits on an appiryon, which the Orthodox Jewish Bible translates as a mobile throne carried on a litter on the shoulders of men.  But other translators preferred to call it a palace, a bed, a palanquin, a curtained couch, a chariot, a litter, a carriage, or a car of state. NetBible says “it has no Semitic cognates and is of dubious meaning.”  So, no single word in English translates this exactly.  (Furthermore, this vehicle may have been made by him or for him; Hebrew is short on articles and prepositions, not to mention vowels.)  

After a lot of reading, I decided to just create the illusion of looking upwards--to the "pillars of smoke", to Solomon raised at least to shoulder height, and to the crown "wherewith his mother crowned him."  

No comments:

Post a Comment