Senecae, Tragediae, Bazylea Antoniego w Padwie, wydrukowane bez oznaczenia autora, [w:] Bernardyn Scardeoni, De antiquitate urbis Patavii et claris civibus Patavinis libri tres, Bazylea w dodatku: De sepulchris insignibus exterorum Patavii iacentium. Ioannis Cochanovii Elegiarum libri duo. Iudicium de responsione Gorscii centra Herbestum in controversia de periodis, Philippo Padnievio, Episcopo Cracoviensi decernente, [w:] S. Drugie wydanie w , zob. XXXI, For.
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Edited and annotated by Piotr Wilczek. Bibliography and bibliographical notes. Oxford: Legenda, Studies in Comparative Literature 6. The Treny are arguably the most well-known work of poetry from the Polish Renaissance and already appear in multiple previous translations. So the question arises, why was it now time for a new translation into English?
Challenge might be the answer. For Adam Czerniawski, the translator of this volume, the process of translating the Treny has been going on for forty years as he faced "a great poem executed with considerable technical virtuosity and brilliance, a real challenge to a translator" xv.
For the most part, it retains older endings and spellings, and could be deemed suitable for scholarly study and reference. He has "aimed at rendering meanings faithfully in an uncluttered modern idiom without padding," in the process loosening "somewhat the strict metrical patterns of the originals" xvi. Subsequently, contemporary translators of poetry tend only to translate the work of modern poets. However, Davie asserts that "translation becomes an art, and a work of imagination and learning, only when the translator undertakes to bridge the gap, not just between linguistic cultures but also over centuries, between historical periods" xii.
This is precisely the goal of Czerniawski. In searching for a twentieth-century poetic voice for Kochanowski, Davie encourages the translator to avoid the now false language of an Edmund Spenser on the one hand and on the other, a completely modern rendering.
Rather, "at every point, with every word, the translator has to negotiate between English that is current and English that is delicately resourcefully archaic. In what Davie calls a "momentous" translation, we see Czerniawski "continually negotiating between what is strange in Kochanowski and what is familiar" xiv , revealing to us "translation as an imaginative act" xiv.
An adequate translation of Kochanowski will retain his "challenging strangeness", which is "not exotic at all, thanks to our common humanity and his Horatian commonsense" xiv. In order to gauge his success let us first identify some criteria by which to judge his poetic translation. Among the things a reader might hope for in a translation are consistency, accuracy, and faithfulness in translating the general structure, style, syntax, flow, meter, rhyme, and meaning of the poems.
However, no poetic translation will succeed perfectly in all of these areas and translators will focus on a few of these categories depending on their own poetic sense and the needs of the particular poem. The translator who decides to imitate the meter and rhyme schemes of the original Polish in a more literal translation has from the beginning an excuse for a less than excellent translation.
The structural constraints of the poem and the semantic and syntactic constraints of the original text place limits on the translator and restrict his freedom and creativity in carrying out his task. The reader will give the translator and the poet the benefit of the doubt, assuming that the poems truly are great in the original language and suffer only from inadequate translations or the inadequacy of translation in general. This is not to say that some excellent translations cannot be produced within these constraints and limitations.
Czerniawski is certainly to be commended for engaging in this task and in general may also be congratulated for succeeding quite often. The beginning of Tren V paints a bucolic picture of the shoot of a young olive tree, thriving amidst the other plants, which is cut down by a careless gardener.
Upon Sipylus enduring marble stands Nursing concealed a living wound. Her heartfelt tears soak through rock And fall in lucid streams, A source for beasts and birds; And she bound forever broods In the rock exposed to raging storms. This tomb holds not the dead; this body, Not entombed, is itself a tomb.
The Polish original features short eight-syllable lines, for which Czerniawski has produced a rolling, relentless pace in the translation. Tren XIX is remarkable for the lengthy passage in prose, emphasizing the breakdown in the poetic structure as the Treny come to an end and marking a sharp break from the voice of the poet as the vision of his mother speaks to him in what appears to be a dream.
The prose passages here contain some of the most poetic phrases in the entire volume: "The sun always shines, the day never ends, the dark night never comes.
We behold the Creator of all in majesty, which you, in the flesh, vainly seek to see" or "She could not escape death, even were she to live longer than the ancient Sibyl. Many passages are rendered awkwardly in English or inaccurately when compared to the Polish. Other lines fail to convey vital meanings of certain words or phrases and occasionally the translations could profit from more faithful structural reproduction. As regards semantic accuracy, there are instances where Czerniawski seems not to have chosen the best word possible and other instances where the same word is repeated in Polish, yet rendered differently in English.
Also in this Tren, one misses the interplay of the longer, propositional thirteen-syllable lines with the shorter, responsorial eight-syllable lines. Czerniawski translates this as in vain three times, but the relentlessness of this word is broken off early by a final rendering as futile. Sometimes the choice of word is simply awkward or unfortunate in English and Czerniawski appears not to have walked his fine line between archaism and modernity.
With regard to names, Czerniawski prefers to retain the Polish forms. The Polish versions of Greek and Roman names are restored to their English counterparts with one interesting exception. In this particular instance, the meaning of the diminutive forms is lost altogether. The translation is too abbreviated and comes off as syntactically and tonally awkward. The first line implies the motion of following and seeking, but the second implies a location, which in actuality may never be reached.
The use of must appears decisive and matter-of-fact in "I must make ready," whereas the sense in Polish is that there is no other alternative available to the poet.
Another passage where the absence of some creative rendering of the Polish diminutive is felt occurs in Tren VIII, in which the poet remembers how Orszula would play throughout the house.
One misses the diminutives and some acknowledgement of this huge semantic correlation. The missing diminutive in Tren X refers to the zmazeczka, the possible "little stain" of sin that Orszula may be being cleansed of in Purgatory. All of these absences of diminutives in the translation make the appearance of Orszuleczka in Tren XIX all the more surprising. To a large degree, he has been successful in this risky and innovative translation.
Treny - Jan Kochanowski: opracowanie, streszczenie, interpretacja, PODCAST
Film o Janie Kochanowskim
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