Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Thoughts on translation, part 9.8: Keep a straight face

Song of Solomon: timeless love poetry in contemporary calligraphy. 
Topic eight:  Anyone who reads scripture has to watch out for how some formerly neutral words are now faintly comic.  This may make me an irreverent heretic, but I just couldn't read, "I will go down to the garden of nuts" [VI: 11] without imagining children at the end of a rainy day inside.  A second translation made it into "the nut garden," still no improvement.  Finally, I found it translated as an almond or walnut orchard.  

Of course, any serious reader or listener will not laugh out loud--it's so obvious that the image was unintended and that God doesn't tell jokes.  But it does take an effort to un-hear it.  Even when I was on my guard, I mis-read I: 8, where the young woman is told to "feed thy kids beside the shepherd’s tents."  Of course, that's baby goats, I realized on second reading.      

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