Thursday, March 02, 2006

Sayers or Mandelbaum?

Sayers or Mandelbaum? Their styles are so different that their translations read like different poems.

Here are their two versions of vv. 1-9 of Canto IV of PURGATORIO.

Sayers’s translation:

When some one faculty, by its apprehension
Of pain or pleasure, grows so clamorous
That it commands the soul’s entire attention,

Of all powers else the soul’s oblivious--
Which goes to show how false is the surmise
That soul is kindled above soul in us.

Thus, when such things engage our ears or eyes
As bend the soul towards them totally,
Time passes, and we mark not how it flies;

Mandelbaum’s version of the same lines:

When any of our faculties retains
a strong impression of delight or pain,
the soul will wholly concentrate on that,
neglecting any other power it has
(and this refutes the error that maintains
that--one above the other--several souls
can flame in us); and thus, when something seen
or heard secures the soul in stringent grip,
time moves and yet we do not notice it.

My old Bantam paperback of the INFERNO had the Italian text side-by-side with the translation. My newer editions of PURGATORIO and PARADISO have only the English. I suppose the publishers are saving money.

I’ll return to Mandelbaum for PARADISO, as Sayers died before she finished her translation. A friend of Sayers finished the PARADISO and I don’t know her work.

It’s very, very wearisome having to depend on translations of poetry. Maybe I could teach myself Italian.

Yeah. But will I?


N.B. The line indentations of Sayers's and Mandelbaum's translations don't come out right on Blogger. Apologies. I can't fix it.

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