Saturday, September 16, 2017

Thoughts on translation, Part 9.12: But how does it SOUND?

Song of Solomon: timeless love poetry in contemporary calligraphy.  
Topic twelve: To translate anything, but especially poetry, you must always keep your inner ear tuned to how it sounds out loud. I have spent many hours weighing the best word for a pleasant smell; I could choose from aroma, fragrance, incense, perfume, and my favorite, exquisite spices [to my ear, a better translation than powders of the merchant].  They all sounded equally good out loud.  

However, no matter how rich the English language may be in synonyms, they don't all please the ear; it only took one reading aloud for me to decide against any translation that called perfume ointment. Now that's a mood spoiler.  Read it aloud to someone you love, and decide if you, too, might want a different word. 
One more example, from I: 13.
"A bouquet of myrrh" just sounded a little more
romantic that "a bundle of myrrh." [KJV] or
"a bag of myrrh" [RSV].

And I haven't even mentioned VIII: 1, which starts "O that thou wert as my brother."  When was the last time you heard someone use wert in a conversation?!  

So read aloud, and listen to your ears. Even when Biblical poetry is meticulously rendered in calligraphy, it deserves extra attention to its sound, because it is so deeply rooted in our oldest oral culture.   

No comments:

Post a Comment