Translating poetry: based on textual and extra textual analysis
It is generally accepted that translating poetry is more difficult than other genres in literature because it is tied severely to its original language. Thus differences in source and target language make its translation a difficult task. Problems lie not only on the words and their meaning but also on figurative language, culture, diction, rhyme, sound, beat, feel and even length of words. To solve the problem related to the translating poetry a workable model is needed. This article is going to examine if the proposed model for translating poetry by Dr. Hossein Vahid Dastjerdi will serve our purpose. To this end, the present authors choose one of the Rumi’s Ghazal and its translation by Shahriar Shahriari (1998) as a case for applying the proposed model. The aim is to identify if textual and extra-textual analysis of a poem and its translation helps the translators in rendering both natural and faithful translation.
Keywords: translating poetry, textual analysis, extra-textual analysis.
1.1. Translation Definition
Translation is an important phenomenon that has a huge effect on everyday life, as Goethe, the great German writer quoted that translation is "impossible, necessary, and important" (Hanne 2006: 209). For years, translation is used only as a tool for teaching second language or foreign language. Later on through more profound studies, scholars believed that translation could be used as a means of transferring one nation's culture and science and ideologies to other countries with different languages. Since that time many definitions have rendered for translation and many strategies are organized for the act of translation. Etymologically, the word translation is derived from the Latin verb "transferred," meaning "to carry across." So translation is to pick up meaning from one country and culture, transported unaltered on the other side. This "carrying across" involves a transfer of not only from one linguistic system to a different linguistic system, but at least as importantly from one cultural system to another" (Hanne 2006: 208-209), this is what makes the process of translation problematic. As Larson stated in the transferring source language into receptor language the meaning must be held constant, which is done by "going from the form of the first language to the form of a second language by way of semantic structure" (Larson 1984: 3). In a more technical way, Roman Jakobson (1959) defined translation as a substitution of messages from one language into another, "not for separate code-units but for the entire message in some other languages." According to him translator "recodes" source language message and "transmits" it to the target language (Jakobson in Venuti 2001: 114). Catford (1965) looked at translation only at the text level and stated that "translation is the replacement of textual material in one language by equivalent textual material in another language" (Catford 1965: 20). Newmark mentioned SL message as an entity which should be transferred: "Translation is a craft consisting in the attempt to replace a written message and/or statement in one language by the same message and/or statement in another language" (Newmark, 1988b:7). Each of the above definition emphasizes on a certain aspect of translation, for example transmitting SL message, textual equivalence, transferring meaning, transferring thoughts and ideas, but as it is generally believed translation is a matter of approximation and it is not possible to touch all these subjects simultaneously, something always will be lost.
2. Translation theories and types
The act of translation strongly based on the theories which are used in rendering it, thus theories play important roles in producing a perfect translation. Translation theory's task, in Newmark's view, was to determine the "appropriate translation methods for the widest possible range of texts or text-categories" (Newmark, 1988b; 19). He also believed that theories provide "a framework of principle" for the translation and concerned with the decision to be made in the process of translating. The tension between faithful and beautiful translation, literal and free translation or the importance of form and content is always existed in the process of translation, but scholars widely agree that the main aim of translation is to create the same effect of the original as much as possible. Some scholars attempt to present their ideas through a translation theory. Nida (1964) was one of them who asserted that "there can be no fully exact translations, the total impact of a translation may be reasonably close to the original, but there can be no identity in details" (Nida in Venuti 2001: 126), and translators can only create equivalence very close to the original. However, he defined two types of equivalence: Formal equivalence that "focuses attention on the message itself, in both form and content." In this type of equivalence "the message in the receptor language should match as closely as possible the different elements in the source language." Dynamic equivalence that is based on "the principle of equivalent effect," it means that, "the relationship between receptor and message should be substantially the same as that which existed between the original receptor and the message." The goal of dynamic equivalence is seeking "the closest natural equivalent to the source-language message" and "the success of translation depends above all on achieving equivalent response" (Munday 2001: 41-42).
The other translation scholars are Vinay and Darbelnet who proposed that translators can choose between two methods of translating, direct or literal translation and oblique translation. They categorized borrowing, claque, and literal translation as instances of direct translation method and subsumed transposition, modulation, equivalence and adaptation under the oblique translation method (Vinay and Darbelnet in Venuti 2001:84-93). They, also, mentioned that these seven methods can be applied to different degrees at the three planes of expression, namely lexis, syntactic structure, and message and several of these methods can be used within the same sentence.
Newmark (1988) also presented his own method for translation as Word for word translation, Literal translation, Faithful translation, Semantic translation, Adaptation, Free translation , Idiomatic translation, and Communicative translation (Newmark 1988a: 45-47). However, he mentioned only two of these methods are appropriate to any text: communicative translation, where "the translator attempts to produce the same effect on the TL readers as was produced by the original on the SL readers," and semantic translation where "the translator attempts within the bare syntactic and semantic constraints of the TL to reproduce the precise contextual meaning of the author" (Newmark 1988b: 22). According to Newmark, the communicative translation produces the same effect as close as possible to that obtained on the readers of the original. It may be better than its original, since it may gain in force and clarity what it losses in semantic content. It makes the thought and cultural content of the original more accessible to the reader. Make the text smoother, lighter, more idiomatic, and easier to read. The message is important, and essential thing is to make the target readers think, feel and act as the original readers do. On the other hand, he mentioned that the semantic translation attempts to render as closely as possible the semantic and syntactic of the original. It remains within the original culture. It tends to be more complex, more awkward, more detailed, more concentrated, and pursue the thought-process. It tends to over translate, to be more specific than the original. The translation is always closer to the original. It is always inferior to its original, since it involves loss of meaning. It attempts to recreate the precise flavor and tone of the original (Newmark 1988a: 47-48).
3. Translating poetry
Literary translation is so problematic in comparison with other field of translation. Part of these difficulties is related to the nature of literary work and the function it has in its own language. Newmark (1988) distinguished between literary and non-literary works in a way that the first one is "symbolical or allegorical" while translating a literary piece of work the most attention is paid to connotation and emotion in imaginative literature. The same is true for poetry, as a principal type in literary genres. The second one is "representational in its intention" that literary work belongs to the expressive set of language functions, with aesthetic value, which put an obstacle in the way of its translation. He believed that in amount of personal components, collocations, neologism, metaphors, strange word, and in general, untranslatable words. Due to these characteristics poetry translation seems to be so controversial that Jakobson (1959) states: "poetry by definition is untranslatable" (Venuti 2001: 118). As Nida (1964) states, "in poetry there is obviously a greater focus of attention upon formal elements than one normally finds in prose. Not that content is necessarily sacrificed in translation of poem, but the content is necessarily constricted into certain formal molds. Only rarely can one reproduce both content and form in a translation, and hence in general the form is usually sacrificed for the sake of the content" (Venuti 2001: 127).
Although there are so many various views about translating poetry but what is clear is that it is not impossible because of the existence of large amount of translated poetries to many different languages, but this possibility does not mean that all aspect of a poem is preserved, something is lost for sure. However the final goal of poetry translation is to be close to the original one in terms of "sense" and "letter".
4. Material: in order to accomplish this study the present researchers choose one of the Rumi's poem from Divan-e-Shams. The translation of this poem is rendered by Shahriar Shahriari.
5. The model of analysis: the model we use in the present study is the proposed model for translating poetry by Dr.Vahid Dastjerdi (2000). In his model he analyzes poetry translation according to textual and extra-textual factors. At the textual level he examines forms, sound, words, images, tone and content of a piece of poetry. At the extra-textual level, coherence and implicature are the elements to be discussed, here the main focus is the knowledge presented in the source text as well as the TT reader’s knowledge of the world; that is to say the cultural aspects of the text.
6. Procedure: this study is done under the descriptive framework. First the original poem is read carefully and the definitions and implications of each word are examined. Secondly, the translation of the poem is studied and compared with the original one. Then each factor of the model that is proposed by Dr.Vahid is extracted from the original poem and compared with their correspondents in the translated one. At the end results were analyzed and in conclusion part, we see if the model is practicable.
7. Analysis and Discussion of Data
7.1. Textual analysis
Textual analysis of poetry is to examine first the general form of a poem, which itself is divided into several parts: rhyme which is two words that sound alike. The vowel sound of two words is the same, but the initial consonant sound is different. Stanza, a stanza is a grouping of thee verse-lines in a poem, set off by a space. Structural patterns, punctuations, and kind of a poem are the other items. Second is to examine the sound of a poem: alliteration that occurs when the initial sounds of a word, beginning either with a consonant or a vowel, are repeated in close succession, stress patterns, the speed of the poem. Third is to examine the words used in the poem: if they are simple or complex, given or new, concrete or abstract and the meaning suggested by them. Forth examine the images existed in a poem by which we mean figures of the text such as implicatures, similes, metaphors, and other tropes. Fifth examine the tone of the poem. I.A. Richards defined tone as the expression of literary speaker’s “attitudes to his listeners”. It could be light or serious, elegiac or panegyric, lyrical or admonitory, ironic or straightforward angry or loving, and so on. The last item that should be examined is the content which is the message of the text, which is realistic, mythical, or descriptive.
7.2. Extra textual analysis
Extra textual analysis of poetry is to examine the pragmatics of the source and target texts, with especial focus on the cultural aspects of the text. According to Newmark (1988) transference in translation, preserves the local color of the SL. Since we can not separate translation and culture from each other, procedures to preserve the locality of the SL, should be involved through the process of translation. But transference is not applicable in all cases, because just by transferring, the TT reader will not understand parts of the intended meaning and cultural concepts of the ST writer. Another method introduced by Newmark is Componential Analysis as “the most accurate translation procedure” (Newmark, 1988). This procedure excludes the culture and highlights the message. Again by applying this method, while the TT is comprehensible to the TT reader, part of the aesthetics of the text will be impaired. So, none of these procedures alone, can not meet all of the needs, so it is desirable that the translator benefit from a synthesis of the two methods.
هر نفس آواز عشق میرسد از چپ و راست ما به فلک میرویم عزم تماشا کراست
Each breath is a song if love
From left and right, pass us by
We'll return to the world above
Such fate no-one can defy.
For the music of the Persian line we see Assonance of (آ) in آواز / راست / کراست/ ما/ تماشاand consonance of (ر) in the words هر /میرسد/کراست/ میرویم/ راست, in addition کراست/ راست are rhymed. In English version although there is no assonance or consonance, the translator tries to revive it through rhymes in the words love/above and by/ defy.
Tropes used in the original line could be هر نفس as a metonymy for every single moment and چپ و راست as metonymy for all around or everywhere. آواز عشق is a kind of personification, because the poet give a man's attribute to an abstract concept.
As it is shown, general factors are preserved at the surface level but the implied meaning and content seems not preserved well.
Considering extra textual elements of the text, firstly, one should know a little about Molana’s philosophy of love, and divinity. Nearly all the SL readers know that what Molana names Love is a spiritual and Devine love. In fact he regards all the world and its appearances as a manifestation of this spiritual love, as it is exemplified in the first stanza: what is implied here is that what ever we see, what ever exists in the materialistic world, every thing manifests the great love that is God’s love and in fact it can be regarded as an allusion to the verseیسبح الله ما فی السماوات وما فی الارض" ", he sees every creature transcending to that spiritual world. So what is implied in the original at the first stanza is not clearly conveyed in the TT. The translator here, has limited this manifestation of love to the breath, though نفس here refers to the time, and means a moment, so in Molana’s verse it is not just the breath that realizes this love, and also for the TL reader, it is not as clear as it is to the SL reader, that what kind of love is this song of love. So, just literal semantic translation and transference is not sufficient in conveying the message, and we can add the word Devine for example to this phrase. In fact in my opinion what is realized from the TT is that the sound of breath has been likened to a song and this sound that is the sound and song of life, is likened to the song of love, so nothing is realized about spirituality and Divinity of this verse. So it may be better if نفس is translated as the very moment and also the word of Devine be added to the song of love to become song of the Devine love.
ما به فلک بودهایم یار ملک بودهایم باز همانجا رویم جمله که آن شهر ماست
We have come from the skies
Befriended angels in heaven
To the same place we will rise
To that city past skies seven.
Music of the original line lies within the assonance of (آ) in the words باز/ ما/ یار/ همانجا/ آن /ماست. Instead of assonance the translator creates consonant of /s/ in the words skies/ same/ place/ city/ past/ skies/ seven. Although repeating /s/ sound may not have the same effect as /آ / sound has but at least the beauty of the line is preserved in this way. Rhymes is noticeable in words skies/rise and heaven /seven.
In the original poem we see the word شهر as a metonymy for the after world in which people live after death, the world “city” in the translated poem used for this meaning.
Considering the Extra textual ties in this stanza, we see that the meaning of the SL is well conveyed for the TT readers. This verse is an allusion to the residence of human in heaven before Adam and Eve’s sin. The knowledge about this is common between SL and TL readers, so there is no difficulty or ambiguity in realizing this allusion. The last two lines of this stanza refer to the verse "کل شی یرجع الی اصله". Although it is not known for the TT readers but it doesn’t impair communicating the message. Skies seven in the last line is not known for the TL readers as is for SL readers. And it seems translating the last line as the skies seven has made it difficult. It should have translated literally.
خود ز فلک برتریم وز ملک افزونتریم زین دو چرا بگذریم منزل ما کبریاست
We are above the skies
And angels we transcend
Why should we compromise?
The House of Song is our end.
As for the music of this line in the original form, there is consonance of /ز / sound in words ز/ وز/ افزونتریم/ زین/ بگذریم/ .منزل And again the translated version just show the rhymes that exist between words skies/compromise and transcend/end.
To find extra textual elements in this stanza, we see that کبریا is likened to the House of Songs. Regarding the last line of the same stanza, here the TL reader may find out that what he meant by song of love in the first stanza is a spiritual one. But it seems the house of songs for the کبریا has been completely wrong interpretation here. کبریاis the especial place for the majesty of God, the especial place of God’s manifestation. What readers understand of this phrase is that those songs are spiritual. In fact he has interpreted song as God, while we are the songs, God is the love itself. According to Molana the physical world is the house of songs, and these songs are realizations of God, love of God. Using house of love instead of house of songs is a more accurate interpretation. The religious ties should be easy to understand for TT readers. Other lines of this stanza are properly translated, with regard to fidelity to both accuracy of the message and the source text’s aesthetics. Although the line: “خود ز ملک برتریم وز ملک افزونتریم” is an allusion, but the loss of this knowledge for TT readers does not impair the convey of this meaning.
بخت جوان یار ما دادن جان کار ما قافله سالار ما فخر جهان مصطفاست
With good fortune we may live
Fate is contradictory,
Gladly our lives may we give
Worldly pride victory.
In the original form of this line we see assonance of /آ/ in words /جوان /یار /ما /دادن /جان/ کار/ ما قافله /سالار/ ما/ .جهان/ مصطفاست thus the translator use the assonance of /I/ instead in words with/ live/ lives/ give/ gladly/worldly/ victory. Additionally, here the words live/give and contradictory/victory as rhymed word.
Culture bound word مصطفی in the original poem is omitted in the translated one without any substitution in order to explain its meaning.
Again here, with regard to extra textual elements of this stanza, it seems that the deletion of مصطفی (ص) has impaired the meaning of the stanza and so the coherence of the verse especially in the following stanzas. It is obvious that the religious ties and especially those related to the profit Mohammad has been deleted continuously in the translation. And since this poem is mainly related to the profit Mohammad, deletion of the references to him is a great weak point for this translation.
بوی خوش این نسیم از شکن زلف اوست شعشعه این خیال زان رخ چون والضحاست
The sweet scent of this breeze
Is from the curl of that hair
Radiant fantasy on its knees
Upon that face gladly stare.
In Persian line, there is the consonance of /ش / sound between words خوش/ شکن/ شعشعه, which indicate درخشیدن. The translator tries to preserve this fact by repeating the sound /s/ in words sweet/scent/ this/ fantasy/ face. The English line takes breeze/ knees and hair/stare as rhymed words.
Since in the before the above line we face the omission of the word مصطفی in the translated version, all the pronouns seems meaningless and leaves the reader in a complex situation about the correct reference of them.
About extra textual elements here, as it was mentioned in the previous stanza, since the reference to the profit Mohammad was deleted, this stanza is completely incoherent, because the antecedents of the pronouns that/ this are not determined. Such deletion of the religious ties in this verse has been done to simplify the understanding of it for the TL readers, but doing it, not only haven't made it simple but also it has made it more vague and ambiguous. والضحا in this stanza is another allusion to the profit Mohammad that has been deleted. Almost all of the religious and cultural words here have been deleted, and it impaired the aesthetics of the original text. It is right that the TT readers do not have the religious knowledge shared by SL readers, but instead of deleting all of them, that would be better to transfer them in the translation and make them known by additional explanations. He should have preserved مصطفی by transferring it. Breeze and Fantasy both have spiritual meanings and implications. The sweet scent of breeze implies the blessings, affluences of life and fantasy implies the physical world that is radiant and beautiful and this radiance is because of the presence of the profit Mohammad. The first two lines have been literally translated while the other two are communicatively preserved, that is not a good rendering.
خلق چو مرغابیان زاده ز دریای جان کی کند اینجا مقام مرغ کزان بحر خاست
People are like the loons
Are born from the sea of soul
Stay afloat many moons
The sea the loon control.
In this line again we see the assonance of the sound /آ/ in words / مرغابیان/ زاده /دریا جان/ اینجا/ مقام کزان/ خاست. And instead in the translated lines the music of line lies in consonance of /s/ sound in words sea/soul/ stay/ sea, and the rhymed words loons/moons and soul/ control.
Although the translator save all the images and literally translated them, he seems not successful in transferring the mythical content related to the word “دریای جان”.
In this stanza there is not any especial extra textual tie to preserve. The sea of the soul is a good rendering of دریای جان. Metaphors have been preserved well in this stanza and the whole stanza is communicatively translated. It seems the message is well conveyed here.
آمد موج الست کشتی غالب ببست باز چو کشتی شکست نوبت وصل و لقاست
On that sea came the wave
While the ship was taking from
From shipwreck no-one could save
Returned to sea by that storm.
In the original line, alliteration of consonance /س / in the words الست, ببست, شکست and لقاست . In addition the sound /ش/ is repeated in the words کشتی, کشتی, and شکست . In the translated version the sound/s/ repeated in the last two lines in order to preserve the effect.
Regarding the extra textual elements, it is known that روز الست"” is an allusion that all the SL readers are aware of it. In fact that is because of this allusion that the following metaphors of the stanza like کشتی و قالب ببست become meaningful. الست refers to the day when God make people commit him as their creator, and then God crates their physical body. So کشتی قالب ببست is a metaphor for the creation of the physical body. In the original Molana has used simile to refer to it. روز الست is likened to a wave, and physical body is likened to a ship. Then when this ship that is our body is broken down (we die), we return to the same place. But in the translation there is no reference to this religious allusion, so here wave and ship lose their intended meanings. The translation is very ambiguous, and the coherence of the original is not present in the translation too. By transferring these religious elements the meaning could have been preserved better, and local color would have a chance to present itself.
درج عطا شد پدید غرش دریا رسید صبح سعادت دمید صبح چه نور خداست
What seemed bad, was grace
Kindness was in the wave's wrath
Dawn of fulfillment is in place
Lighting up that divine path.
In the line above the original poet repeat the sound /س/ in the words رسید, صبح, سعادت, صبح, and خداست. To restore the original consonance, the translator use alliteration in the words grace, seemed, Kindness, wrath, place, and path.
There is no especial extra textual tie in this stanza. It seems the best rendering of the whole poem is in this stanza. The message and the aesthetics of it have been preserved proficiently. The translation is communicative, but skillfully all the words and meanings of them has been preserved. In all the emphasis here is communicating the meaning that is successful in it. Also all the metaphors that make the beauty of the stanza have been preserved.
از سوی تبریز تافت شمس حق و گفتمش نور تو هم متصل با همه و هم جداست
From Tabriz began to shine
The Light of Truth, to me call
Thy light is Light Divine
Distinct, yet connecting all.
In this stanza شمس حق is an extra textual tie. Since it is a particular noun, it should be transferred, but instead of transferring it the translator has rendered its meaning as the light of the truth. Because of this mistake in translation the antecedent of the pronoun thy is ambiguous and undetermined. The whole stanza is communicatively rendered, that is not sufficient for preserving both the meaning and the cultural ties.
5. Results and Conclusion:
In sum, from a textual dimension, the translator tends to preserve the general format of the poem. Based on the above data, the rhyme pattern and the music of the poem are preserved by using various alliterations. In most of lines the original words are not translated, instead he uses different words which do not contain the strength of the original words. In this way, he lost most of the mythical content of the original. Tone is another feature that he successfully preserved, tough not fully. In order to render the original images if we skip some small omission and addition he tries to preserve the original image even by using different images. Regarding the extra textual elements of the poem, the cultural words that are the base of the local color of the original text have not been preserved properly. Almost all the religious allusions have been deleted and this deletion impaired very much the meaning intended by the original. Also, such deletions of the cultural ties of the original text destroyed very much the coherence of the target text and so such a loss makes understanding of the message difficult for the TT readers. In all we can say that the translation was completely reader oriented, thus it did not regard very much the proper meaning of the original. The translation was mostly a communicative translation, and pragmatically it was not bad. Except of the parts that were deleted, the remaining parts were translated pragmatically and satisfying for the TT readers.
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Published - February 2010