28 may. 2006

So about that wandering caesura. . .

The alexandrine is a structured around a break in the line at syllable six. It's two symmetrical six-syllable lines.

"La fille de Minos / et de Pasiphaë."

Classically, rhymes must alernate between masculine and feminine. A feminine rhyme is one that ends in a mute "e." "Vu" and "Vue" are pronounced exactly the same, yet one would be masculine the other feminine. You can't rhyme "sue" with "vu." Very strange. Rhymes must be both phonetic AND, to a certain extent, visual (or grammatical).

Victor Hugo breaks up the Alexandrine line in his theater by placing the caesura at other places, so that we can have combinations of 4+8. That's considered scandalous. Baudelaire is much more classical, the caesua tends to fall smack in the middle again.

Roussel seems very classical; his rhymes are alternated in the classical fashion, and fairly inventive. But he enjambs quite a bit, and the caesura is all over the place, so phrasal length is also all over the place. (The wandering caesura is also a form of inner enjambement). The rhymes then become more prominent because they mark the 12-syllable period that is otherwise fairly difficult to "hear." Added to this is the flat, prosaic nature of the descriptions. It's a "content" that we don't expect to find in this particular verse-form. There's a complex play of prose/verse and prose/poetry. The "poetic" effect comes from the multiple shifts and tensions among multiple factors.

A translation would not just destroy the alexandrines, and the subtle metrical effects of the alexandrines, but also the play among all these particular factors. The meter is implicitly intertextual: it evokes Hugo and Racine. This is a large part of what I read poetry *for*, so I have a hard time with translations generally. Not with translations, which I might love for their own qualities, but with the idea that I am somehow reading the poet whose work has been translated. Even with a good translation, I am not reading poetry written by Li Po if I am reading it in English That is a vile lie.


Reading translation is a different language game. For example, I might have at my disposal anywhere between 4 and 12 versions of any given haiku by Basho. The monolingual Japanese reader only has one. I might feel sorrow for this reader, with that one original version. I have *more.* He or she cannot enjoy this particular kind of comparative reading.

3 comentarios:

tianyi dijo...

"Even with a good translation, I am not reading poetry written by Li Po if I am reading it in English. That is a vile lie. "

Perhaps the immediacy of an English translation renders the original spirit less compromised than when read by modern Chinese as the archaisms of a cultural monolith.

Can reading a heavily annotated original version be called 'reading poetry by Li Po' or is that a vile lie denying the twisting hand of the annotator?

Perhaps translations are just part of this interpretive continum, and 'Poetry by Li Po' died with the first annotated copy.

Obviously these leaps away from the contemporary interpretive environment are of different orders:- needing annotations is like looking back on it from afar with a guide pointing his finger.
A translation- the guide has painted you a picture, and hands to to you in your living room.

Sometimes the painting can give you a better idea of the view.

Jonathan dijo...

Maybe nobody can read Li Po anymore.

JWG dijo...

i can read him like an open book