Translating poetry (Part II)

Translation of the poems

“The Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna”

and “A Childish Prank” into Spanish

Translating poetry is not an easy task. A translator should be aware of the fact that every single term is essential, as well as other aspects of it like for instance rhythm or rhyme. Obviously, register is also important when translating a text.

It is of great importance that the receiver is able to understand what the poem expresses in a similar way a Source Language native speaker would do. In order to achieve this, I have tried to use the kind of structures found in poetry written in the Target Text (Spanish). Cultural terms have been transferred in order to get the Spanish version reader closer to the topic of the funeral; an example of this is found in the first stanza where funeral note has been translated by the term marcha fúnebre. In order to get the most suitable terms, I have used dictionaries in both languages as well as databases of translations made by human translators.

Focusing on Wolfe’s poem, I had to confront the consonant rhyme present in almost every stanza. As it deals with a mournful topic, tone should be respected in the target language, which results in an added difficulty when trying to preserve the rhyme.

The way in which Hughes’ poem is written saves the trouble of trying to maintain the rhyme. However, it exposes a sensitive topic that should be translated carefully in order to transmit poet’s original idea correctly.

Poetry is, in short, a complex genre when being translated, and a faithful translation is almost impossible to achieve.  However, I have tried to preserve as much as possible from the source text struggling with archaic language, rhyme and tone, among other aspects.

Poems:

 

“The Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna”

I

Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note,

As his corpse to the rampart we hurried;

Not a soldier discharged his farewell shot

O’er the grave where our hero we buried.

 

II

We buried him darkly at dead of night,

The sods with our bayonets turning;

By the struggling moonbeam’s misty light,

And the lantern dimly burning.

 

III

No useless coffin enclosed his breast,

Nor in sheet nor shroud we wound him;

But he lay like a warrior taking his rest

With his martial cloak around him.

 

IV

Few and short were the prayers we said,

And we spoke not a word of sorrow;

But we steadfastly gaz’d on the face that was dead,

And we bitterly thought of the morrow.

V

We thought, as we hollow’d his narrow bed,

And smooth’d down his lonely pillow,

That the foe and the stranger would tread o’er his head,

And we far away on the billow!

 

VI

Lightly they’ll talk of the spirit that’s gone,

And o’er his cold ashes upbraid him,-

But little he’ll reck, if they let him sleep on

In the grave where a Briton has laid him.

 

VII

But half of our heavy task was done

When the clock struck the hour for retiring;

And we heard the distant and random gun

That the foe was sullenly firing.

 

VIII

Slowly and sadly we laid him down,

From the field of his fame fresh and gory;

We carved not a line, and we raised not a stone-

But we left him alone with his glory!

 

Charles Wolfe, 1811

 

 

El entierro de Sir John Moore tras la batalla de La Coruña

 

I

Ningún tambor ni ninguna marcha fúnebre se escuchó,

Pues con presteza su cuerpo a la muralla elevamos;

Ningún soldado descargó el tiro de despedida

Sobre la tumba donde a nuestro héroe enterramos.

 

II

En la muerte de la noche su entierro fue arcano,

Con nuestras bayonetas la tierra se removía,

A la mística luz de un rayo de luna tenue

Y de la linterna que débilmente ardía.

 

III

En ningún flamante ataúd se hallaba su pecho,

Ni en sábanas o sudarios fue envuelto;

Sino que yace como un guerrero en su lecho;

En su capote militar le hemos cubierto.

 

IV

Escasos y breves fueron los rezos recitados,

Y no expresamos palabra de duelo alguna;

Sino que absortos observamos la cara del que yacía muerto

Y pensamos en el mañana con amargura.

 

 

 

V

Pensábamos, mientras le ahondábamos un lecho angosto

Y le allanábamos una almohada desolada,

Que sería pisoteado por enemigos y extraños,

Cuando nos hallásemos ya en la mar lejana

 

VI

Sin fervor hablarán sobre el espíritu que nos ha dejado,

Y le censurarán sobre sus ya fríos restos;

Mas poco habrá de importarle, si le dejan hallar descanso

En la tumba donde un británico le ha puesto.

 

VII

Pero estando aún incompleta nuestra ardua tarea

Anunció el reloj la hora de retirada,

Y escuchamos la distante y desconocida arma

Que el enemigo hoscamente disparaba.

 

VIII

Despacio y afligidos en el terreno lo posamos

Donde se fraguó su reciente y sangrienta fama;

No cincelamos ninguna oración, ni lápida alguna plantamos,

Sino que solo con su gloria lo abandonamos.

 

Charles Wolfe, 1811

 

 

“A Childish Prank”, from Crow

Man’s and woman’s bodies lay without souls
Dully gaping, foolishly staring, inert
On the flowers of Eden.
God pondered.

The problem was so great, it dragged him asleep.

Crow laughed.

He bit the Worm, God’s only son,
Into two writhing halves.

He stuffed into man the tail half
With the wounded end hanging out.

He stuffed the head half headfirst into woman
And it crept in deeper and up
To peer out through her eyes
Calling it’s tail-half to join up quickly, quickly
Because O it was painful.

Man awoke being dragged across the grass.
Woman awoke to see him coming.
Neither knew what had happened.

God went on sleeping.

Crow went on laughing.”

Ted Hughes, 1970

 

“Una broma infantil”, de Cuervo

Los cuerpos de la mujer y el hombre yacían sin almas,

torpemente bostezando, tontamente mirando, inertes

sobre las flores del Edén.

Dios ponderaba.

 

Grandioso era el problema, que lo arrastraba a dormir.

 

Cuervo reía.

De un mordisco partió al Gusano, hijo único de Dios,

en dos serpenteantes partes.

 

Introdujo en el hombre la parte de la cola

con la zona herida colgando hacia afuera.

 

La mitad delantera la introdujo de cabeza en la mujer

arrastrándose profundamente hacia arriba

para asomarse por los ojos de ella

llamando a su otra mitad a reunirse aprisa, pronto,

porque Oh qué doloroso era

 

El hombre despertó mientras se le arrastraba a través del prado.

La mujer despertó, viéndolo venir.

Ninguno comprendió lo que había sucedido.

Dios siguió durmiendo.

Cuervo siguió riendo.

 

Ted Hughes, 1970

 

Gema

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