22 ene. 2008

Preciosa throws away her tambourine
and runs off without stopping.
The stud-wind pursues her
with a hot sword.
The sea scowls up its roar
The olive trees grow pale.
Flutes of forest shade sing,
and the smooth gong of the snow.

That's Langston Hughes. His translation of the Gypsy Ballads is the best one out of all. Not only that, but I'm prepared to argue that this is some of the best poetry Hughes himself wrote. (Just as Cathay and the Seafarer belong to Pound's best work.)

It took me a while to be a connossieur of Lorca translations. It takes a special kind of bracketing off, of forgetfulness. I have to forget that I would use the word "chase" instead of "pursue" in this case, that "y el liso gong de la nieve" HAS to be "and the smooth gong of the snow." That's a gift from Lorca so why credit the translator? The translation dissolves in the analysis. You have to sit back and enjoy it as the particular performance that it is, not judge it against the one true performance that it will never be. You have to know you are reading a poem by Langston Hughes, not a poem by Lorca.

Hughes has a defined voice as a translator. What I like, though, is that it isn't intrusive. It's vernacular in tone, but there is no attempt to reproduce any particular American vernacular.

2 comentarios:

Don Share dijo...

Thanks for speaking up for the Hughes! I've been touting it for ages, but keep getting funny looks. It's superb.

Years ago, I was editing a Lorca in English for Penguin Classics - but they killed it on the grounds that sales would be low. Go figure.

Mark Statman dijo...

I've always liked the Hughes translations--I think there was something in Hughes that connected with the early Lorca (deep song, gypsy ballads). I think Jonathan's point, that he is not intrusive is a very good one, and in part, it's because of that connection--he doesn't have to be (I think here of Belitt deliberately doing this).

The idea of Lorca sales as low is a strange one. I don't think they'll ever be high, but they'll always be there. It's why FSG has kept those books in print for so many years, why Oxford has done it, and I hope, why Grove has done it. Steady and over time.