OETG #7 – 10 March

Today we finished the poem! After something of a little break in February, and it being a very busy month for OETG members, we whizzed through the final lines, ll. 67 – 90.

We had much discussion about the ending of the poem:

… … bleda gedreosaþ,

wynna gewitaþ,    wera geswicaþ.

Translated by Carl as:

prosperity wanes,

joys depart,    bonds are broken.  

It’s such a solemn end to the poem, which rollercoasters between melancholic reflection, and joys within or a sense of awe at the natural world. This shifting tone made us consider once again the purposes of the poem. How might it have been received? On what sort of occasion might the poem have been read (aloud)? Perhaps the poem should be thought of as a collection of verses, each rune being delivered separately as a moment calls for it.

But, more interesting for the purposes of this blog, is to consider, is lines 77-79, and more specifically, Emma’s discussion of her translation choices.

George Hickes' transcription of ll. 77-79.
George Hickes’ transcription of ll. 77-79.

ll. 77-79 (ash) – translated by Emma

Æsc biþ oferheah, eldum dyre

Ash is overhead, dear to all and

stiþ on staþule, stede rihte hylt,

deeply rooted. Even when many

ðeah him feohtan on firas monige

fight among him, it holds steadfast.

Emma’s notes, which hover just to the side of her translation on our google doc, show the broad range of questions, influences, and creative choices that each member of the Old English Translation Group might consider or employ during our work.

l. 77: “Technically ‘heah’ means ‘high’ not ‘head’, but I like how this compound word looks a lot like ‘oferheah’ and means in effect the same thing – especially as the rest of the line brings the description into relation with humans (as ‘overhead’ does also).”

ll. 77 and 79: “I’ve attempted to give a neutral gender to both ‘eldum’ and ‘firas monige’ with substantive adjectives – arguably not that accurately – but I wonder what you guys think?”

ll. 78-79 “I have inverted the order here, to make the subordinate clause come first ‘Even when…’ because I think it flows better. Of course then you don’t have the two half lines about the Ash’s solidity together, which was lovely in the original.”

Emma’s comments beautifully reveal how even over four lines we have so many choices to puzzle over and justify! Breaking the poem into such small chunks to work on has certainly encouraged each of us to think more deeply about our choices, to spend a long time playing with the lexis and syntax, delving into the Boswoth Toller online and allowing our minds to wander across the various hyperlinks and suggestions found there. No wonder we often find so many ‘problems’ with published translations – – in order to give each line the time that we give during our translation sessions, one single person working alone would never finish! Can translation work with tight publishing deadlines, we wonder!

The OETG 2015-6


There will be no more meetings of the OETG this year… but we will be reconvening on Thursday 2 June, taking over the Medieval Reading Group to discuss how we might progress with the poems we translate! How should we publish them? Should we publish at all? Physically or digitally? Come along, 1-2pm, to share your ideas.

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