Translations of poems : LUSENET : The Work of Edgar Allan Poe : One Thread

I'm doing a biographical report on Edgar Allan Poe and in it I have to translat three of his poems: "Alone", "Fairyland", and "The Sleeper". Could anyone give me some advice on how I should go about translating these poems? Your opinion on the matter would be greatly appreciated.

-- Anonymous, October 16, 2003


Difficult because the word music, symbolism, structures are both intimately related and orchestrated and at the same time vague and suggestive. The purpose of this methodology is to have all elements united organically in creating a mood or impression very difficult to put into rational words.

First do a literal translation to get the story line if any(many poems resemble his stories), the point of view, etc. Then check out the structure(rhyme, meter, number of stanzas and lines, extra lines or rhymes for emphasis, repetition, parallel structures, midpoints, rhetoric(argument, questions and answers, rebuttals).

Then(the hard part) Having a feel both for the effect and structure of the poem try to express it in your own language keeping at least to a skeletal framework of lines and rhymes.

Edit ruthlessly to get to Poe rather than your interpreataion and new language version.

By then the poem is usually dead in regards to the original but perhaps enough of the style, meaning and emotion comes through to entice people to the original. Excluding Poe's poetics or shifting the mood or updating(not so much of a problem since Poe is sparse in imagery and suggestive). Understanding English poetry and its roots in older tongues, the classical revival of Greco-Roman forms, Poe's Celtic music and Romantic tendencies would help.

Compare to other translations of Poe in other languages you might know, such as Charles Baudelaire's. The more popular the poem(The Raven) the more translations. The more onomatopaeia, the more difficult to render- possibly.

The poems you have chosen seem more susceptible to translation because the word music is not so dominant. Reading a book such as Mabbott's Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Poems will help with historic background, sources and allusions. Fairyland is part satirical of the fantasy poems of another contemporary poet. Alone is a youthful effort relying a lot on imagery and line and rhetoric structure. The word "demon" is not so much devil as spirit(daemon) though it is disturbing.

If you have particular problems e-mail me. I found one allusion I think others have missed in "The Sleeper" in Byzantine legends of St. Irene(of the Destinies).

-- Anonymous, October 16, 2003

Moderation questions? read the FAQ