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A comparative analysis of Persian and English translation of "The Sea": A piece of poetry by Fereydun Moshiri

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Literary works due to their specific values, aesthetic and expressive features are more difficult to translate than other types of text. Poetry, as the savior of so many civilizations is something used to express emotions and touch the feelings of its readers and listeners; as a literary genre, it is more difficult to translate due to the use of so many literary devices such as rhyme, rhythm, meter, metaphor and specific expressions. So, it is a hard job on the part of the translator to convey all the meaning and the devices used in a piece of poetry into a target language. Here, raises the issue of translatability and untranslatability of poetry. Leaving poetry untranslated deprives people from so many poetic masterpieces. Translating the poetry, of course, has its steps and methods.

There are two main stages in translating a poem: reading and writing. In reading stage the translator reads the original poem to get the message as well as the feel of the text. In this stage the translator has to understand the basic elements of a poem such as rhyme, meter, metaphor, choice of words, figurative language, etc. in order to get the poet's style. In the next important stage, (re)writing the gotten message in the TL whose quality is subject to that of the reading, the translator should always remember the very broad but important hint, "be faithful to the original!” The above mentioned hints are the basic consideration to translate a poem. And the actual procedure can be different from one translator to the others.


In general, there are a lot of methods in translating a text, but all of them are not appropriate to use in translating a poem. Andre Lafevere noted seven methods adopted by translators in translating poems: phonemic translation, literal translation, metrical translation, verse-to-prose translation, rhymed translation, free verse translation, and interpretation.

Phonemic translation: recreation of the SL sounds in the TL and transferring the meaning at the same time by the translator. According to Lafevere, in general the result sounds awkward and sometimes leaves some parts of the original meaning behind.

Literal translation: word-for-word translation. This method will not be able to transfer the original meaning; while the phrase and sentence structures tend to fall by the wayside in the TL.

The metrical translation: emphasizing on the reproduction of the original meter into the TL. And because each language has its own specific stressing and pronunciation system, this method will result in the inappropriate translation in terms of meaning and structure.

Verse-to-prose translation has also some weaknesses. The outstanding weakness is the loss of the beauty of the original poem.

Rhymed translation: emphasizing on the transference of the rhyme of the original poem into the translation in TL. The result will be appropriate physically but tend to be semantically inappropriate.

Free verse translation: With this method the translator may be able to get the accurate equivalents in the TL with a sound literary value of the result. On the other hand, the rhyme and meter tend to be ignored. So, physically the result is different from the original, but semantically it seems the same.

And the last method noted by Lafevere is Interpretation which is of two types: version and imitation. A version of a poem in the TL will semantically be exactly the same with the original, but physically totally different. Further, an imitation is exactly a different poem, but the title, topic, and starting point are the same with the original poem.

Data analysis

Line No.




Translation Strategy




آهی کشید غمزده پیری سپید موی


The sad old man sighed as he, at dawn,


Literal translation + Under translation




افکند صبحگاه،در آئینه چون نگاه


Caught in the mirror his camphoric hair’s sight



Literal translation




در لابلای موی چو کافور خویش دید



For he searched and saw







یک تار مو سیاه



A black string amid the white



Literal translation

As native speakers of Persian language, we can see that the grammatical structures of the first and second lines are not formal Persian. This informality might be used to emphasize the old man’s emotional condition but the English version does not convey this sense of sadness as the Persian one. The two Persian sentences start with verbs that show the desperate feelings of the old man, but this form was not kept in the translation.

The noun phrase “سپید موی” was not translated. In the following lines of the poem, as can be seen, the hair color of the old man was mentioned four times which makes his hair color of great importance. The translator should have provided an equivalent for this word in his translation.

The word “searched” in the third line is a little problematic. There is no Persian equivalent for this word in the poem and leaves the reader confused.

Line No.




Translation Strategy




در دیدگان مضطربش اشک حلقه زد



Tears rolled round his anxious eyes



Literal translation




در خاطرات تیره و تاریک خود دوید


To his gloomy memories he went back.



Literal translation




سی سال پیش نیز، در آئینه دیده بود


Thirty years before, he recalled, had eyed



Literal translation




یک تار مو سپید



A white string amid the black



Literal translation

In the fifth line there is a use of synecdoche in the word “دیدگان”, which refers to the old man’s face but this image was not kept in the translation. Instead a literal translation of this word was chosen as the equivalent.

There is a use of collocation in the sixth line, in words “تیره و تاریک”, but in the translation the substitution of the adjective “gloomy” lessens the beauty in this line.

The word “آئینه” was translated to “recalled”. It is obvious that these words don not convey similar conotational meanings. The word recall, of course, mentions the past but does not give the reader the same sense as the original version.

Line No.




Translation Strategy




در هم شکست چهره محنت کشیده اش


Now, he seemed infirm in his forlorn face



Literal translation




دستی به موی خویش فرو برد و گفت: وای


He touched his hair, groaning; “alas!”


Literal translation




اشکی به روی آئینه افتاد و ناگهان


A drop of tear fell on the on the mirror



Literal translation




بگریست های های


And a sudden rainstorm came to pass




In the ninth line, we see the use of “مراعات نظیر” this literary device was not kept in the translated version. In the phrases “در هم شکست” and “چهره محنت کشیده” there is the connotation of pain and suffering. The equivalents for these two phrases seem to lack such a connotation.

In the twelfth line, use of onomatopoeic expression along with a verb is seen. Here, the translator has chosen a free style of translation. In his translation the translator has rendered this structure into a clause.

Line No.




Translation Strategy




دریای خاطرات زمان گذشته بود



Each drop reflect on the glass



Literal translation




هر قطره ای که بر رخ آئینه می چکید



As a sea of memories… gone



Literal translation



در کام موج، ضجه مرگ غریق را



And in the waves’ mouth, he heard from afar



Literal translation




از دور می شنید


The death-cry of youth, sinking down


Literal translation + Over translation

In the thirteenth and fourteenth line of the translated version, there is a reverse in the lines in comparison to the original version which seems to make the understanding of this part easier for the reader.

The words “کام موج” “ضجه مرگ” and “غریق” are all images that refer to old man’s dark memories in the past. The literal of these words not only has destroyed the images but also leaves the reader confused. In the previous lines we see words such as: memories, dark, sad, etc. but in this line the literal translation is problematic. The reader does not understand the use of wave’s mouth, death and etc.

There is an over translation in line sixteenth in the phrase “cry of youth”. There is no persian word for this term in the original version.

Line No.




Translation Strategy




طوفان فرو نشست، ولی دیدگان پیر


The tempest died, but the old man’s eyes



Literal translation




می رفت باز دل دریا به جستجو



Still sunk in the oceans mires






در آبهای تیره اعماق خفته بود



Saw in the heart of the deep







یک مشت آرزو...



The unfulfilled vanquished desires



Literal translation

The word “طوفان”is used, as an image, in the twentieth line. This word refers to the weeping of the old man that shows the intensity of the action. The literal translation, again, is confusing because there is no sign of climate conditions in the previous lines.

The eighteenth line refers to old man’s memories from those past years and desires that he could not achieve at that time. The literal translation of this part, again, makes the understanding a bit difficult for the readers.


The use of so many literary devices in this piece of poetry makes it difficult for the translator to convey the whole meaning. The English translation that was analyzed here was a good one. Most of the translation was acceptable in terms of choice of words, style and meaning. Literal translation of images, especially in the last few lines, made the understanding of the English poem a little difficult. Use of footnotes could be effective, in that it could make the flow of lines easier.


Bassnett-McGuire, (1980). Translation Studies. NY: Mathuen & Co. Ltd.

Finlay, F. Ian. (1971). Teach Yourself Books: Translating. Edinburgh: The English Universities Press Ltd.

Frawley, William., ed. 1953. Translation: Literary and Philosophical Perspectives. Associated University Press.

Reaske, Cristopher C. (1980). How to Analyze Poetry. Monarch Press.

Wills, Wolfram. (1982). The Science of Translation. Gunter Narr Verlag Tubingen

وحید دستجردی، حسین(1385) مشرق معرفت،قم،انتشارات انصاریان

Published - February 2010

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