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  1. Standard member ChronicLeaky
    Don't Fear Me
    26 Jun '08 04:12 / 3 edits
    Thanks for the suggestion, Noodles. The following is cribbed, with minor changes, from my blog over on Facebook, and its invitation applies to RHP forumites also.

    -------------------------------------------------------

    I'm reading Douglas Hofstadter's book, "Le Ton Beau de Marot", which is largely about translation, and whose central presentational conceit involves English versions, done by many different people, of a poem by Clement Marot, directed at a bedridden eight-year-old girl. The idea is that poetry is difficult to translate and also illustrates the issues involved in translation in general very well, because of the balance to be struck between preserving the formal aspects of the poem (metre, rhyme, etc. in verse and, more generally, properties of what he later terms "linguistic media", i.e. sets of formal constraints imposed on a language without reducing the expressive potentialities) and the poem's semantic content. Some of Hofstadter's friends got very clever in their translations, observing innumerable little features of the poem (overall syllable count, the fact that the poem has rhymed couplets and semantic couplets out of phase with each other, etc.), deciding on a particular feature as being most important, and preserving it in the English version. Others sort of double-translated (for example, there is a "Shakespearean" version of this old French poem, written by an American)*.

    A lot of you speak French (and those that do all do better than I), and I thought it would be cool to have some of you give this a go. Below, I've put the original text, my attempt at an English version, a couple of comments about what I thought was important and sought to preserve, and Hofstadter's "literal translation" of the poem.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------
    A une Damoyselle malade (ou "Ma Mignonne" )
    Clement Marot (the lack of accents is due to my keyboard and laziness, so perhaps I can take credit for authorship of this version )

    Ma mignonne
    Je vous donne
    Le bon jour;
    Le sejour
    C'est prison.
    Guerison
    Recouvrez,
    Puis ouvrez
    Votre porte
    Et qu'on sorte
    Vitement,
    Car Clement
    Le vous mande.
    Va, friande
    De ta bouche,
    Qui se couche
    En danger
    Pour manger
    Confitures;
    Si tu dures
    Trop malade,
    Couleur fade
    Tu prendras,
    Et perdras
    L'embonpoint.
    Dieu te doint
    Sante bonne,
    Ma mignonne.


    (That's the original. Some of the French seems kind of weird to me, but Marot predates Shakespeare, who sounds kind of weird to me in English, so I suspect that's all there is to that.)

    ------------------------------------------------------------

    Before I give Hofstadter's "literal translation", I'll also list the features he claims anything which aspires to be "Ma Mignonne" in another language would have, namely:

    "1. The poem is 28 lines long.
    2. Each line consists of three syllables.
    3. Each line's main stress falls on its final syllable.
    4. The poem is a string of rhyming couplets: AA, BB, CC,...
    5. Midway, the tone changes from formal ("vous" ) to informal ("tu" ).
    6. The poem's opening line is echoed precisely at the very bottom.
    7. The poet puts his own name directly into his poem."

    -------------------------------------------------------------

    Here's a modified version of Hofstadter's "literal translation", whose status as verse is arguable (his actual translations are beautiful, though) and whose purpose is to summarise the semantic properties of the poem -- his version had many synonyms for each line, but I've truncated things a little. To choose which formal properties of the poem one wishes to use in translation, it's primarily the French poem itself, or some list like the one above, to which one must refer.

    My [Diminutive feminine cute person]
    adapted from Douglas Hofstadter


    My cute one
    I give you
    The good day
    The stay [confinement? convalescence?]
    It’s prison
    Healing [recovery, etc.]
    Recover
    Then open
    Your door
    And let’s exit
    Quickly:
    For Clément
    Commands you to
    Come on, [thou, or some other INFORMAL way of saying "you" who art so] fond
    Of thy mouth
    Who crouches

    In danger
    To eat
    Jam [sweets, confections]
    If you remain
    For too long ill
    A wan colour
    Thou wilt take on
    And thou wilt lose
    Thy plumpness.
    May God give to thee
    Good health
    My cute one.


    --------------------------------------------------------

    Here's my attempt. To the list of seven attributes above, I added another formal feature of the poem which I feel takes precedence over literal meaning, namely:

    8. The middle 26 lines of the poem consist of 13 semantic couplets, e.g. "To eat/ jam", "A wan colour/ thou wilt take on", which are phase-shifted by one line from the rhyming-couplet structure. Hofstadter alludes, when first mentioning the poem, to a beautiful eighth property whose discovery is an exercise for the reader, and then mentions the above property later. I hadn't noticed it until it was mentioned, but I couldn't think of anything else about the poem as clever as this, so I suspect this is what he was talking about.

    I made myself one other constraint:

    9. I only translate "one step", to make some of Hofstadter's discussion more obvious to myself and to make the little decisions I made in translation as transparent as possible to readers on Facebook who know me personally. By "one step", I mean that I translated from Clement Marot French into ChronicLeaky English, i.e. not only not writing Shakespearean haiku rap, but also sticking to words and even concepts which are very much part of my own mental landscape. I didn't grasp at formal straws to accommodate interesting new ways of preserving the poem's meaning conceptually; my translation is as conceptually close to Marot's as possible in my own narrow head, modulo the eight formal constraints above. In fact, it is even self-consciously me-esque, to clarify that there is a single instance of translation. I don't consider this an important constraint for other tranlat(or/ion)s, though.

    My biggest violation is in the inclusion of my own name. My first name (Mark) doesn't have enough syllables, my middle name is accented in the wrong place and this poem is far too informal for using my surname, so I've enlisted the aid of a funky bunch -- interestingly, the current text originally had my full name where "ChronicLeaky" now appears, so this violation can be retroactively claimed to be in the name of internet anonymity! Also, my translation is probably thematically informed by all the ones I've read in the book, although I've followed the formal rules pretty closely, so syntactic similarities to other translations are hopefully derived from syntactical similarity to the original. However, the vous/tu switch has an awkward equivalent in English; it requires a change from "you" to "thou", and I rarely say "thou", which would seem to necessitate a violation of rule 10. However, I do say "thou" if I'm quoting a phrase with "thou" in it, and so I've avoided addressing "Little Miss" directly in the second half of the poem unless I'm using a stock phrase, in this case "thou shalt not". It's the totality of the formal constraints that make my translation deviate as much as it does from the "literal" one, and it's this sort of forced problem-solving that makes verse fun to write, too.

    Little Miss
    ChronicLeaky's First Attempt

    Little miss,
    please hear this:
    Love and peace.
    Swift release
    from your cell.
    Do get well:
    ditch disease!
    Then, with ease,
    quit your berth.
    Walk the Earth!
    Stroll the park!
    Marky Mark
    will suggest:
    No more rest;
    have a feast!
    (Or at least
    do not starve.)
    Go and carve
    up the host.
    Nibble toast,
    have a scone--
    jam alone,
    if it's fresh!
    Keep thy flesh;
    thou shalt not
    lie (and rot):
    health and bliss,
    Little Miss.

    (This is self-consciously "mine" in the sense that, for example, "Peace" is a greeting I often use, "walk the Earth" is a reference to "Pulp Fiction" and has become something of an inside joke of mine, "jam alone" is a pun -- to jam is to play music with others, and is difficult to do alone. "Up the host" was originally "up a roast", but I'm a vegetarian and unlikely to suggest that, while the replacement either advocates cannibalism or turns the Holy Communion into some sort of park-strolling, jam-spattered feast, both of which are images I find funny.)

    -----------------------------------------------------------

    There you go. Note that, given the information above, you don't really need to speak any French to give it a try (although that's debatable in, I think, an interesting way). In particular, I'd like to see gangsta rap and l33tsp34k versions of this poem, and perhaps your ideas about in what sense they are translations. I'd also be interested to see this poem in any other language besides English and French that anyone can manage, although I won't be able to understand it on much higher a level than is provided by the information above (but it would still sound nice. C'est dazlious!**).

    *I've read quite a bit more now than when I originally wrote this, and have encountered some translations which deviate strongly from the formal properties of the French poem but which are themselves quite beautiful.

    **Noodles already pointed out that this should be "dazlieux".

    EDIT I might try to put this in Hrothgarian, for those of you who remember it. The interesting thing about Hrothgarian is that, at least in one sense, orthography is tied to connotation -- words beginning with "p" are understood to be said in extreme anger, and words containing "p" in at least mild anger. Given the intended tone of the poem (certainly not angry), such a translation would have to be a (not easy in Hrothgarian) lipogram.
  2. Standard member Bosse de Nage
    Zellulärer Automat
    26 Jun '08 08:28
    I like your translation.

    Have a go at this one:
    http://www.ubu.com/ubu/moore_spleen.html
  3. Standard member black beetle
    Black Beastie
    10 Jul '08 10:35
    Hi ChronicLeaky, I enjoyed your fine translation! Mine is not that good: my native language is Greek and it's always easier to translate from English to Greek, however I post my translation because it must be funny for a native Englishman:

    My lil’ belle
    Wish you well
    A fine day
    Go your way
    Internee
    Stuffy in here
    Do recover
    Get it over
    At your ease
    Swan off please
    And once out
    Work it out
    Your Black Beetle
    Slack’ns your bridle
    Try a bite
    With delight
    Be unwind
    Keep in mind
    A stodgy snack
    makes one slack
    And feeling funny
    Is nasty honey
    You ‘ll go livid
    And not vivid
    Oh God bless you
    To health nurse you
    Wish you well
    My lil’ belle
  4. Standard member ChronicLeaky
    Don't Fear Me
    10 Jul '08 13:36
    Originally posted by black beetle
    Hi ChronicLeaky, I enjoyed your fine translation! Mine is not that good: my native language is Greek and it's always easier to translate from English to Greek, however I post my translation because it must be funny for a native Englishman:

    My lil’ belle
    Wish you well
    A fine day
    Go your way
    Internee
    Stuffy in here
    Do recover
    Get it over
    At you ...[text shortened]... ll go livid
    And not vivid
    Oh God bless you
    To health nurse you
    Wish you well
    My lil’ belle
    Excellent! Did you go from French to Greek to English, or straight from French to English (or I suppose, through any other middle languages)? If the former, can you post the Greek here?

    Thanks for bringing this thread back to life. I think my favourite part of your translation is "swan off please".
  5. Standard member black beetle
    Black Beastie
    10 Jul '08 14:02
    I worked it from French to English and I was amazed -too difficult; my French are now quite rusted cause I left the language unpracticed since 1981, shame on me! I tried not to translate the poem in Greek for two reasons: it 's impossible to pass in here Greek characters, and on the other hand the French-to-English task nearly exhausted me although I work as group text narrator; Your work is fine, keep up!!
  6. 10 Jul '08 14:21
    Originally posted by black beetle
    it 's impossible to pass in here Greek characters
    It's true that they don't show up properly when posted, but they are readable again if you click "Reply & Quote".

    Μῆνιν ἄειδε, θεά, Πηληιάδεω Ἀχιλῆος
    οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί’ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε’ ἔθηκε,
    πολλὰς δ’ ἰφθίμους ψυχὰς Ἄϊδι προῒαψεν
    ἡρώων, αὐτοὺς δὲ ἑλώρια τεῦχε κύνεσσιν
    οἰωνοῖσί τε πᾶσι· Διὸς δ’ ἐτελείετο βουλή·
    ἐξ οὗ δὴ τὰ πρῶτα διαστήτην ἐρίσαντε
    Ἀτρεΐδης τε ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν καὶ δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς.

    Hm, or maybe it doesn't work for Greek after all... I just copied and pasted the beginning of the Iliad and got lots of squares instead of letters with accents.
  7. Standard member black beetle
    Black Beastie
    10 Jul '08 14:39
    Definately doesn't work
  8. Standard member black beetle
    Black Beastie
    10 Jul '08 14:46
    Hi Aurora Borealis; maybe it works with capitals:
    ΝΙΨΟΝ ΑΝΟΜΗΜΑΤΑ ΜΗ ΜΟΝΑΝ ΟΨΙΝ
  9. 10 Jul '08 14:48
    Originally posted by black beetle
    Hi Aurora Borealis; maybe it works with capitals:
    ΝΙΨΟΝ ΑΝΟΜΗΜΑΤΑ ΜΗ ΜΟΝΑΝ ΟΨΙΝ
    Yes, that works.
  10. Standard member black beetle
    Black Beastie
    10 Jul '08 14:49
    Oh yes it works!!!! By the way, this is one of the most famous worldwide palindrome Greek phrases (~Don't just clean your face, clean your sins as well)
  11. Standard member black beetle
    Black Beastie
    10 Jul '08 14:52
    Oh yes it works!!!! By the way, this is one of the most famous worldwide palindrome Greek phrases (~Don't just clean your face, clean your sins as well). But I think you already know it;
  12. Standard member ChronicLeaky
    Don't Fear Me
    11 Jul '08 14:11
    Can anyone else see black beetle/Noodles' posts with Firefox 3? It's not Greek to me .
  13. 11 Jul '08 15:27
    Originally posted by ChronicLeaky
    Can anyone else see black beetle/Noodles' posts with Firefox 3? It's not Greek to me .
    Did you use Reply & Quote?
  14. Standard member ChronicLeaky
    Don't Fear Me
    11 Jul '08 19:47
    Originally posted by Nordlys
    Did you use Reply & Quote?
    I did; it works at work, but not at home, and both places are FF3ed. This is somewhat strange.
  15. Standard member black beetle
    Black Beastie
    11 Jul '08 20:35
    Ok, I 'll try a good ole spell then:

    "Weaving spiders, come not here;
    Hence, you long-legg'd spinners, hence!
    Beetles black, approach not near;
    Worm nor snail, do no offence"

    There! Works now, doesn't it?