Saturday, 1 May 2010
poems about translation 4
It's been a little while since we've had a poem about translation. Today I thought I'd pick a classic: John Denham's poem in praise of Sir Richard Fanshawe's 1647 translation of Guarini's Il Pastor Fido (1590). It's very well known but for good reason, being both a pithy expression of the binaries of translation and a strong statement in support of paraphrase:
That servile path thou nobly dost decline,
Of tracing word by word and line by line.
Those are the labour'd births of slavish brains,
Not the effect of poetry but pains;
Cheap vulgar arts, whose narrowness affords
No flight for thoughts, but poorly stick at words,
A new and nobler way thou dost pursue,
To make translations and translators too,
They but preserve the ashes; thou the flame,
True to his sense, but truer to his fame.