On The Literary Life podcast today we are pleased to bring you a special episode focusing on the importance of a good translation when reading works originally written in other languages. Angelina, Cindy and Thomas are joined for this conversation by Dr. Anne Phillips, who has a BA in Latin and Greek and a Doctorate in Classical Studies and teaches Latin at the House of Humane Letters. They start out with the question of basic principles for determining what makes a good translation. Angelina brings up C. S. Lewis’ review of Fitzgerald’s translation of The Odyssey and the principles he sets forth. Anne shares her experience with reading classic works in their original languages and how much richer and more enjoyable it is for her. Another topic they cover is the challenge of translating poetry.
Angelina, Thomas, and Anne both share some of their least liked translations of classical Greek and Latin works, as well as some recommendations for better translations. They also talk about finding good translations of Old English and Middle English works.
Thomas is also teaching a webinar along with Michael Williams on the modern poets W. H. Auden and T. S. Eliot on September 28th. You can now register at House of Humane Letters.
He had the successful portrait painters essential gift and saw men, with few exceptions, as they liked to see themselves.C. V. Wedgwood
In my opinion value-judgements in literature should not be hurried. It does a student little good to be told that A is better than B, especially if he prefers B at the time. He has to feel values for himself, and should follow his individual rhythm in doing so. In the meantime, he can read almost anything in any order, just as he can eat mixtures of food that would have his elders reaching for the baking soda. A sensible teaching or librarian can soon learn how to give guidance to a youth’s reading that allows for undeveloped taste and still doesn’t turn him into a gourmet or a dyspeptic before his time.Northrop Frye
A good translation is one that lets Homer sing.Thomas Banks
There is a sense in which everything is untranslatable. A man may write what is as good or even better than the original, but from the nature of the case it cannot be precisely the same thing. There are even moments when one feels it is something of a desecration to translate at all, but that is surely over-scrupulous, a weakness which, if all had yielded to it, would certainly have left the world poorer.Walter Headlam
Ode 5, Book 1: To Pyrrha
by Horace, trans. by John Milton
What slender youth, bedew’d with liquid odors, Courts thee on roses in some pleasant cave, Pyrrha? For whom bind’st thou In wreaths thy golden hair, Plain in thy neatness? O how oft shall he Of faith and changed gods complain, and seas Rough with black winds, and storms Unwonted shall admire! Who now enjoys thee credulous, all gold, Who, always vacant, always amiable Hopes thee, of flattering gales Unmindful. Hapless they To whom thou untried seem’st fair. Me, in my vow’d Picture, the sacred wall declares to have hung My dank and dropping weeds To the stern god of sea.
Velvet Studies by C. V. Wedgwood
The Educated Imagination by Northrop Frye
The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler
The Children’s Homer by Padraic Colum
The Odyssey trans. by Richmond Lattimore
The Iliad trans. by Richmond Lattimore
The Aeneid trans. by Sarah Ruden
Surprised by Joy by C. S. Lewis
Beowulf trans. by Burton Raffel
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight trans. by Burton Raffel
Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary by J. R. R. Tolkien
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, trans. by Burton Raffel
The Landmark Heroditus trans. by Andrea L. Purvis
The Landmark Thucydides trans. by Richard Crawley
The Landmark Xenophon trans. by John Marincola
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