PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
News and Notes
The PN Review Prize 2017 - Now Open!
ENGLISH PEN: time to join!
English PEN relies on the support of its members and subscribers. read more
Most Read... Kei MillerIn the Shadow of Derek Walcott
1930–2017

(PN Review 235)
Alejandro Fernandez-OsorioPomace (trans. James Womack)
(PN Review 236)
Drew MilneTom Raworth’s Writing
‘present past improved’: Tom Raworth’s Writing

(PN Review 236)
Kate BinghamPuddle
(PN Review 236)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Daniel Kaneon Ted Berrigan
(PN Review 169)
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Gratis Ad 1
Gratis Ad 2
Next Issue Meet Michael Edwards at the Brasserie Lipp David Herman reads Milosz's life Sumita Chakraborty's five poems Judith Wilson's encounter with Giovanni Pascoli Simon Armitage revives Branwell Bronte

This article is taken from Poetry Nation 1 Number 1, 1973.

On Translation James Atlas

I

ONCE, IN A Paris bookstore, I turned to the shelves that house literature in translation, and took down some volumes of Wordsworth and Yeats in French. Reading The Prelude's measured lines, with their Racinian metre and the rhetorical temper so congenial to the French language, I could discover nothing of Wordsworth's own poetic manner; the laconic, even tedious voice had been imbued with a resonance absent in the original. More than the opinions of critics and writers (Doctor Johnson once stated that poetry 'cannot be translated', though his own 'London' and 'The Vanity of Human Wishes' refute the claim), the experience of reading in translation a work composed in one's own language, especially a work that has contributed to our conception of that language, illustrates the distance between a translation and the original text.

And yet, so much of what we receive outside our own immediate literature involves translation that it could be considered the poem's essential act: either to resist translation or collaborate in its possibilities. Eliot pointed out that Laforgue (whom Pound also translated) had provided him with a useful example not only because he had explored certain modalities of colloquial speech that instructed Eliot in his own work, but also because he could appropriate influence in a more general manner through a foreign language than if he had chosen a model writing in English. The result, in this case, has been that the shaping voice of Modernism comes to us through ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image