Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Thoughts on translation, Part 9.3: He and she

Song of Solomon: timeless love poetry in contemporary calligraphy.  

Topic three:  Once I had dealt with thee and thou, I also had to confront he and she.  

Song of Songs already presents the reader and translator with a curious problem; who is speaking?  The voice often shifts abruptly from talking to the beloved to talking about the beloved.  Recent scholarship has found 4 separate voices (none of them Solomon's!): most of the talk is by a young woman and a young man, who each speak an equal amount (we occasionally hear from a chorus of young women and what must be the girl's brothers). This alone would make it unique in the Bible, where most scripture is written about men's activities, seen from a man's perspective, and spoken with a man's voice.   

In spite of the equal weight for both sexes, I wanted to look into translations that arranged the original text to tneutralize some of the gendered pronouns.  For instance, it does not hurt the meaning if I change "My beloved is mine and I am his" to "My beloved is mine and I am my beloved's."  This is not trivial; it lets couples of all genders read this scripture as a blessing on them.    

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