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« Magritte's "Attempting the Impossible" (1928) | Main | Arthur Symons on Charles Baudelaire »

September 20, 2013

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Whew! Lotta work here, many jewels. Thanks.

These posts have been especially timely, where I'm concerned, because I have been spending a good amount of time recently translating some of Baudelaire's "Petits Poemes en prose" (aka "Spleen de Paris"), which to my mind has never been translated adequately. (The best translations we have are by Arthur Symons whose renderings, in a lovely if outworn idiom, came into print exactly one hundred years ago. Last spring my translation of Apollinaire's "Zone" appeared in the "Virginia Quarterly Review." I had discovered it as a graduate student in Paris and had worked on it off-and-on ever since. But then, translation is the art of diffidence, isn't it?

I've always liked Dryden's translation of The Aeneid better than the original. He makes even the boring parts (and there are plenty of them) sound interesting. Of course, you have to factor in that he was translating for an audience who would have known the original. Interesting too that Dryden, like Vergil, was quite aware he was writing an imperial epic, though Dryden seems to me somehow both more sophisticated and less ambivalent in his view of empire than Vergil. I suspect, too (note to scholars: of course I can't prove it) that Dryden was consciously modelling his Dido on Elizabeth I, the parallel founder of the empire he himself was in: note his free use of Dido's alternate name Elissa, which he very significantly alters to "Eliza," even at points where the name doesn't occur in the orginal, e.g. Vergil 4.103 = Dryden 4.146.

Some memorable lines, I think: Iarbas complaining that Aeneas has stolen Dido from him:

"He takes the spoil, enjoys the princely dame,
And I, rejected I, adore an empty name!"

Can't you just hear an upper class twit saying that in a drawing room over a tulip-shaped glass of brandy?

Jim, I appreciate it!

David, I'm glad if that's the case. I look forward to seeing your Petites Poèmes and also "Zone," which got past me. . . . The art of diffidence! Yes, I like that. Or it ought to be that, anyway. I'm feeling diffident enough about it that I'll probably stick to compiling the wisdom of translators from now on.

That's interesting, Jon, and it wouldn't surprise me at all. (But then I'm not a scholar.) I wonder if you know Surrey's version of Books II and IV of the Aeneid? . . .

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