13 dic. 2007

Is a "romance" a "ballad"? Imagine the following debate:

PEPE: It is a functional equivalent. Both are rhymed, anonymous, narrative poems. Metrically, the English ballad stanza features lines of about the same length as the Spanish octosílabo or 8-syllable line, so there is some functional equivalency there too. So yet, a romance is a ballad.

MARICARMEN: Pues no lo creo. The "romance" is a culturally, historically, and linguistically specific form. "Romance" meant the vernacular language, in disinction to Latin. Hence the "romance languages." The French derived their word for novel ("roman") from this word, the Spanish took their word for a certain kind of narrative poem from the same root. Later we had "romanticism." By translating it as "ballad" you are wrenching it out of that context.

The ballad is something different. Also a cultural distinct form that took shape on the border between England and Scotland. To call a romance a "ballad" is grotesque.

PEPE: The "romance" is also a border form, which took shape during the reconquista on the border between Christian and Muslim Spain. Another functional equivalency. How else would you translate it?

MA-CA: I wouldn't translate the title at all. That is too much of a concession to the reader, who will think she knows what a "ballad" is from her knowledge of the folk traditions of the British Isles.

PP: Next you be telling me that gitano cannot be translated as "gypsy"! You're exasperating. Translation is always a search for cultural anaogies. Some work better than others, but "ballad" is the best we've got.

MC: You're right, gypsy is a horrible word. I prefer Roma, the term that the actual gypsies call themselves so my English-language version of Lorca's Romancero gitano will bear the title "Romancero / Roma.

1 comentario:

Joseph Duemer dijo...

I just pulled down my Collected Poems (Maurer) & read a couple of the Gypsy Ballads, substituting "Roma" for "Gypsy." I like the Roma / Romance parallel, too. But ultimately, for me, "Gypsy" -- for all its problems in English -- is the better cultural analogue.

As for "ballad," I think your Maricarmen has a better case. I know the Anglo-American ballad tradition pretty well & Lorca's poems have quite a different feel -- much less dispassionate than the typical Childe ballad. It's true that line length is roughly the same, but stanza structures a different, the English form being much more uniform within a given poem.

By the way, I first discovered the Ballads in my youth, in those Humphries translations you were talking about the other day. Even before I had dictionaried my way through Rilke, I had done the same with these poems. I think Kirkland's translations are pretty good.