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Poetry is supposed to be untranslatable. But many poems in English are also translations: Pope's Iliad, Pound's Cathay, and Dryden's Aeneis are only the most obvious examples. The Poetry of Translation explodes this paradox, launching a new theoretical approach to translation, and developing it through readings of English poem-translations, both major and neglected, from Chaucer and Petrarch to Homer and Logue.
The word 'translation' includes within itself a picture: of something being carried across. This image gives a misleading idea of goes on in any translation; and poets have been quick to dislodge it with other metaphors. Poetry translation can be a process of opening; of pursuing desire, or succumbing to passion; of taking a view, or zooming in; of dying, metamorphosing, or bringing to life. These are the dominant metaphors that have jostled the idea of 'carrying across' in the history of poetry translation into English; and they form the spine of Reynolds's discussion.
Where do these metaphors originate? Wide-ranging literary historical trends play their part; but a more important factor is what goes on in the poem that is being translated. Dryden thinks of himself as 'opening' Virgil's Aeneid because he thinks Virgil's Aeneid opens fate into world history; Pound tries to being Propertius to life because death and rebirth are central to Propertius's poems. In this way, translation can continue the creativity of its originals.
The Poetry of Translation puts the translation of poetry back at the heart of English literature, allowing the many great poem-translations to be read anew.
Matthew Reynolds is author of The Realms of Verse (2001) and of Designs for a Happy Home: A Novel in Ten Interiors (2009). He has co-edited a book of translations, Dante in English (2005), revised the translation of Manzoni's The Betrothed (1997), and for several years chaired the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize. He writes frequently for the London Review of Books.
Table of Contents
I. Translation and Metaphor 1. The Scope of Translation 2. Translating Within and Between Languages 3. Translation and Paraphrase 4. Translating the Language of Literature 5. Words for Translation 6. Metaphors for Translation 7. The Roots of Translatorly Metaphors II. Translation as 'Interpretation,' as 'Paraphrase,' and as 'Opening' 8. Are translations interpretations? Gadamer, Lowell and some contemporary poem-translations 9. Interpretation and 'Opening:' Dryden, Chapman, and early translations from the Bible 10. 'Paraphrase' from Erasmus to 'Venus T----d' 11. Dryden, Behn and what is 'secretly in the poet' 12. Dryden's Aeneis: 'a thousand secret beauties' 13. Dryden's Dido: 'somewhat I find within' III. Translation as 'Friendship,' as 'Desire,' and as 'Passion' 14. Translating an Author: Denham, Katherine Philips, Dryden, Cowper 15. The Author as Intimate: Roscommon, Philips, Pope, Francklin, Lucretius, Dryden, FitzGerald, Untermeyer 16. Erotic Translation: Theocritus, Dryden, Ovid, Richard Duke, Tasso, Fairfax, Petrarch, Charlotte Smith, Sappho, Swinburne 17. Love again: Sappho, Addison, Ambrose Philips, Dryden, Petrarch, Chaucer, Wyatt, Tasso, Fairfax, Ariosto, Harington, Byron 18. Byron's Adulterous Fidelity 19. Pope's Iliad: The Hurry of Passion IV. Translation and the Landscape of the Past 20. Pope's Iliad: a 'comprehensive View' 21. Some perspectives after Pope: Keats, Tennyson, Browning, Pound, Michael Longley 22. Epic Zoom: Christopher Logue's Homer (with Anne Carson's Stesichorus and Seamus Heaney's Beowulf) V. Translation as 'Loss,' as 'Death,' as 'Resurrection,' and as 'Metamorphosis' 23. Ezra Pound: 'My job was to bring a dead man to life' 24. FitzGerald's Rubaiyat: 'a Thing must live' 25. The Metamorphoses of Arthur Golding (which lead to some Conclusions)