Thursday, August 30, 2012
The Venerable Bede included his translation, from Old English into Latin, of a hymn by Caedmon, a cowherd visited by God in a dream and commanded to sing verses inspired by scripture. Bede noted a common translator’s lament: “…for it is impossible to make a literal translation, no matter how well-written, of poetry into another language without losing some of the beauty and dignity.”
With the help of a literal, interlinear translation of the Old English included in the Norton Anthology of English Literature, I took a moment to translate Caedmon’s hymn to the Creation—the hymn he wrote, according to Bede, immediately after Caedmon’s first dream. I attempted to maintain alliteration where I could, which lead to some (maybe) unusual choices. For example, “weard” means guard; God is described in the hymn as “heofonrices Weard” or “heaven-kingdom’s Guardian.” I like guardian for weard, but I prefer ward or even warrior—a word used in "The Dream of the Rood" to describe Christ’s disciples. I’m not entirely happy with the result:
Now shall we herald heaven’s warrior
the Measurer’s might and his mind,
Wonder-Father’s work— everyone’s wonder—
endless Divine, established All.
He first shaped, for earth-born,
heaven to roof. Holy sculptor,
endless Divine— after, told
for us Earth’s form— Master almighty.
My "after, told" is a leap. The Old English reads "aefter teode" which literally means "afterwards made"; I thought of John's "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God," thus, told = make—as God spoke the world into existence.
Saturday will see another new edition of Open Letters Monthly. My review of DeathTV (1 - 6) included. DeathTV is a chapbook by Colby Somerville from Lightful Press, their third publication. Here are two poems by Somerville; I like "#2." I mention in my review that DeathTV reminded me in places of Jessica Smith's poetry. I was also reminded of Matthew Klane's work, especially Hell [TV] 1 - 11, published in 2004.