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This review is taken from PN Review 2, Volume 4 Number 2, January - March 1978.

SOLOMON'S LITTER Song of Songs, translated by Goldstein and Peter Jay, Anvil, £2.50.

Peter Jay has re-written a number of pieces from the Song of Songs in a style he would appear to intend to echo Pound's Egyptian translations. It doesn't. As imitation Pound translations these versions are as off-beam as poems in their own right or as, per impossible, translations from the Hebrew.

The delicacy and intensity of feeling that should inform the ineaments of the text is too often lacking. What we are treated to are the shrivelled and scattered remains of a corpse. At least that is the impression given when one compares it with the vibrancy and symphonic proportions evident in the King James version, or the predominantly pastoral and dramatic simplicity and the overall cohesiveness of the New English Bible text. Neither is the Jay text necessarily to be preferred on the rounds of accuracy.

Time after time the diction is unfortunate and creates entirely the wrong impression. In terms of sensuality, if this were lot sacrilegious it would be more amusing. For instance: 'Tell the, love of my soul, where you graze your sheep', sounds much too stilted, distant and indifferent compared with the other two versions. Further on in the same poem, 'If you don't know where, my beauty . . .' sounds more like a Devon yokel talking to a cow. Phrases such as 'to mother's house' sound affected when compared. Is 'the frankincense hill' like Primrose Hill? Expressions such as 'the cut of your mouth' (silk cut?); 'Solomon's litter, ...


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