Friday, 16 January 2009

To all the Frenchmen that I've loved before

Like all other PhD's, mine is obscure. It has something to do with a poet, long dead, who wrote in a dead language, about the glory days of the Roman republic, dead before he even started writing. You get the point.

So my brilliant plan was to look at the nachleben of this poet and his poem (Lucan and The Pharsalia) in seventeenth and eighteenth century France. The 18th century translation is in prose and is really quite lovely - very civilised. The 17th century translation is a pain in the ass, to put it mildly. Even the translator's contemporaries thought he was smoking crack - one calls his verse translation "obscure gobledygook".

So I put it to you, native French speakers and Francophiles, what in the world is he on about in the following passage? I've tried to translate it literally - it makes no sense. I've tried to translate it with a little poetic license - it still makes no sense. And just to make things difficult, I can't even consult the Latin for a hint because our lovable French translator has gone off on a poetic tangent and there ain't nothing in the Latin which roughly corresponds. Typical...

And before you tell me my French is all wrong and strange and completely bizzare, I say to you that's the 17th century!

Sur tous ceux que le Ciel abandonne aux Tyrans, / Sa disgrace est cuisante, et sa travaux sont grands: / Rome que tant de Rois voyoiens comme leur Reinne. / Ne peut qu’avec horreur se former a la chairne, / La honte de ses fers en augmente le poids / et cette Reine enfin ne peut souffrir les Rois. / A qui Dieux tout-puissants, qui gouvernex le terre.

1 comment:

J. Harker said...

Whoa! I'm impressed that you wrote your dis on Lucan! Brava!

Alas, I cannot read French and can offer no advice here. But! It is good to see you posting so frequently!

I retire now, having used my allotted exclamation points for the year.