Tuesday, July 7, 2015

"At the hour when the swallow, close to dawn
begins to sing her melancholy lays
perhaps remembering her ancient woes,"

and when our mind, far straying from the flesh,
less tangled in the network of its thoughts,
becomes somehow prophetic in its dreams,

dreaming I seem to see hovering above,
a golden-feathered eagle in the sky,
with wings outspread, ready to swoop down:"

from Canto IX, Dante's Purgatory
translated by Mark Musa

One of the fun parts of reading Dante's Comedy is that you can
speculate, based on what ever criteria you like, which of the
countless translations are the best. So I am offering the same 
passage from two, one in poetry one in prose. The Barn Swallow was 
photographed from the living room window there are nest on either 
side of it. The branch is about 8 feet away. The window opens out and
when the window is open the swallow often perches on the top edge of
the window it's back to the room. This entertains the cat and we are just
happy we have a screen.

"At the hour, near dawn, when the swallow  begins her sad songs, 
in memory, perhaps, of her former pain, and when the mind is 
almost prophetic, more of a wanderer from the body, and less 
imprisoned by thought, I imagined I saw an eagle, in a dream
poised in the sky, on outspread wings, with golden plumage, 
and intent to swoop." 

from Canto IX, Dante's Purgatory
translated by Charle S. Singleton


Kathie Brown said...

Guy, what an interesting comparison. I am not sure which form I like best. I love the swallow though!

Guy said...

Hi Kathie

I am not sure which is best either. In some cases I compare two versions and can see which is the most beautiful or effective right way. For someone who wants to write it is a great exercise to see how two translators working with what one assumes is the same basic material can create two translations that are so different in emotional content or power.