C & L Posts 01: “A funny thing happened on the way to a translation”

[August 18, 2020]
    Someone on Q asked. “Is it possible to write a good short poem in several languages without being fluent in any?” Someone responded with “No.” That was about it. No one got the joke of not being fluent in one’s own language. So…

    As they say, it’ll be possible when pigs fly. But I bought a first-class ticket on a plane for a theatrical therapy pig. I don’t know if he’ll make it because if I can get my money back on the ticket, I think I’d rather eat bacon than fly. So here’s a short poem to start with:

Friends, poets, rabble, lend me your brains,
I have arrived to bury Caesar in Shakespeare’s tomb
and to borrow your ears for your discernments;
Come listen; the whispers are of me, the thunder is of you.
Let us reign over the rain we face together
walking in the ruddy muddy dawn
to sing with the mockingbird
who echoes our sorrows

Then there were three phases: translating this one into others, and then translating from the results back into English. Something was lost in translation it looks like. But then something funny happened (the thirdly thing). I was reading about the troubles in Belarus and I was wondering if this poem might apply. I had already translated it into Russian. Belarusian is a related language, so I tried Russian into Belarusian… and then the poem didn’t seem exactly right… so havoc:
=====
Russian

Друзья, поэты, деревенские люди, одолжите мне свои мозги,
Я приехал похоронить Цезаря в могиле Шекспира
и заимствовать уши ваши для различения;
Подойди послушай; шепот от меня, гром от тебя.
Давайте править дождем, с которым мы сталкиваемся вместе
Прогулка по румяной мутной заре
петь с пересмешником
кто вторит нашим печали
============
Indonesian

Teman, penyair, rakyat jelata, pinjami aku otakmu,
Saya telah tiba untuk menguburkan Kaisar di makam Shakespeare
dan meminjam telinga Anda untuk pemahaman Anda;
Ayo dengarkan; bisikan itu dari saya, guntur adalah dari Anda.
Marilah kita menguasai hujan yang kita hadapi bersama
berjalan di fajar berlumpur yang kemerahan
bernyanyi dengan mockingbird
yang menggemakan kesedihan kita
========
Khmer

មិត្តភ័ក្ដិកវីកំណាព្យខ្ចីខួរក្បាលខ្ញុំ
ខ្ញុំបានមកដល់ដើម្បីបញ្ចុះសពសេសារនៅក្នុងផ្នូររបស់ស្ពា
និងខ្ចីត្រចៀករបស់អ្នកសម្រាប់ការវែកញែករបស់អ្នក។
សូមស្តាប់ សំឡេងខ្សឹបប្រាប់ពីខ្ញុំផ្គរលាន់គឺជារបស់អ្នក។
ចូរយើងគ្រប់គ្រងលើទឹកភ្លៀងដែលយើងប្រឈមមុខជាមួយគ្នា
ដើរនៅព្រឹកព្រលឹមដែលមានភក់
ច្រៀងជាមួយលេងសើច
ដែលបន្ទរសេចក្តីទុក្ខព្រួយរបស់យើង

mittaphkde kvi kamnapy khchei khuorokbal khnhom
khnhom ban mokadl daembi banhchouhsap se sar nowknong phnaur robsa spa
ning khchei trachiek robsa anak samreab kar veknhek robsa anak .
saum stab saamleng khsaoeb brab pi khnhom phkarlan kuchea robsa anak .
chaur yeung krobkrong leu tukaphlieng del yeung brachhommoukh cheamuoyoknea
daer now prukaprolum del mean phk
chrieng cheamuoy lengsaech
del bantor sechaktei toukkh pruoy robsa yeung

So that went mostly Ok. Some translations became odd in English, but not too bad.
English from Russian

Friends, poets, country people, lend me your brains
I came to bury Caesar in Shakespeare’s grave
and borrow your ears for discernment;
Come listen; whisper from me, thunder from you.
Let’s rule the rain we face together
Walk on a ruddy murky dawn
sing with a mockingbird
who echoes our sorrows
========
English from Indonesian

Friends, poets, commoners, lend me your brains,
I have arrived to bury the Emperor in Shakespeare’s tomb
and borrow your ears for your understanding;
Come on listen up; the whisper is from me, the thunder is from you.
Let us master the rain that we face together
walking in the reddish muddy dawn
singing with a mockingbird
that echoes our sorrows
=========
English from Khmer

Poetry friends borrow my brain
I arrived to bury Caesar in Shakespeare’s tomb.
And lend your ears to your reasoning.
Listen to me whisper, the thunder is yours.
Let us control the rain we face together
Walking in the muddy morning
Sing with humor
That echoes our sorrows

So then thirdly, I did many versions of Belarusian and came up with this extended version:

Сябры, паэты, шэльма, пазычце мне мазгі,
Я прыбыў, каб пахаваць Пуцін ў магіле Шэкспіра
бо імператар не цэзар Беларусі.

Кажуць, Брут не быў бы пачэсным чалавекам.
Усё наадварот. Але паглядзіце
лялечны спектакль.

Будзь мне вушамі, каб слухаць мудрасць і стратэгію
Прыходзьце паслухаць; шэпт ад мяне, гром ад цябе.
Будзем валадарыць над дажджом, які мы сутыкаемся разам
шпацыр па румянай мутнай зары
спевы з здзекліва птушка
хто пераклікаецца з нашымі смуткамі
————*
Friends, poets, pranksters, lend me brains,
I arrived to bury Putin in Shakespeare’s grave
for the emperor is not the Caesar of Belarus.

They say Brutus would not be an honorable man.
Quite the opposite. But look
puppet show.

Be my ears to listen to wisdom and strategy
Come listen; a whisper from me, thunder from you.
Let us reign over the rain we face together
a walk through the ruddy muddy dawn
singing with a mocking bird
who echoes our sorrows

So then Belarusian to Russian to English becomes:

Friends, poets, pranksters, lend me brains
I came to bury Putin in Shakespeare’s grave
for the emperor is not Caesar of Belarus.

They say Brutus would not have been a worthy man.
On the contrary. But look
puppet show.

Be my ears to listen to wisdom and strategy
Come listen; whisper from me, thunder from you.
Let’s rule the rain we face together
a walk on a ruddy cloudy dawn
singing with a mockingbird
who echoes our sorrows

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