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This article is taken from PN Review 39, Volume 11 Number 1, July - August 1984.

C.H. Sisson's Du Bellay Michael Cullup

The twenty sonnets from Du Bellay's Les Regrets, translated by Sisson in PNR 33, are a good clue to the work and attitudes of the translator. There is a difference between those who translate because they are professional translators or academics, and those who translate because they feel some affinity with the original writer and enjoy his company. C. H. Sisson belongs to the latter category. He is probably interested in Du Bellay because they shared some of the problems of the poet who is active in administration. There is, in Sisson's own work, a sense of being 'a servant to the devil', an awareness of the deceit and intrigue at the centre of that public world, a sense of self-deception and disillusion and of exile from one's origins. These preoccupations are shared by Du Bellay.

There is in addition, for Sisson, the problem of finding the style appropriate to the 'matter'. The opportunity to address, in poems, contemporaries who are conversant with the situational problems has been lost. Men of public affairs generally do not read and write poetry, and poets inhabit a world quite divorced from government and political affairs. The search for a style that is suitable has led Sisson outwards from English mentors to others belonging to a different linguistic, but not necessarily cultural, tradition - though not beyond the European tradition and its Classical foundations. But the tradition is seen as being of practical rather than theoretical importance. Certain poets demonstrate, in ...


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