Very big words

yes-no

Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say infinitely when you mean very; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite. – C. S. Lewis

yes

Choisissez des petits mots, ils sont courts et précis, mais ne dit ‘oui’ quand tu veux dire ‘non’.

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The importance of being human

“Ha, ha, ha” is how we write laughter, but it is no substitute for the real thing.

An American English major visiting the chateaux along the Loire, needing mightily take a leak, spots a French pissoir.

Going in he is Russian. Inside he is European. Leaving he’s Finnish.

When done, is he Danish?

Without humans, there would be no humor in the world, no laughter nor guffaws, and not even the hint of a smirk. A bird flying from pole to pole would find, on returning home to his nest for a well earned rest, sadly not even a smile.

smile

There once was a movie called Truman
That asked, “Is it important to be human?”
Said the fly as he visits the freshly laid turd,
If man was gone from the face of the earth,
Would one cockroach care?

Une fois un film a été appelé Truman
Qui demandé, « Est-il important d’être humain? »
Dit la mouche comme il visite l’étron fraîchement pondus,
Si l’homme avait disparu de la face de la terre,
Voudrais les cafards cesseraient-ils?

Einmal war ein Film Truman genannt
Das fragte: „Ist es wichtig, ein Mensch zu sein?“
Sagte die Fliege, als er die frisch gelegte Kackwurst besucht,
Wenn der Mensch aus der Erde verschwunden,
Würde Kakerlaken unglücklich sein?

loreno (7)

To be or not the bee

To be or not the bee

bee

Let it be Rosemarie

Don’t read this, it’s meant
Just for me and not for you
Who stumbled on this poem
Just by accident.

Like Rosemarie
Who smelled a pretty red, red rose
Dreaming of her handsome sweet, sweet love
And so, was stung by a bee

Was it on her lip or on her nose?
I’ll let you guess
What became
Of Rosemarie, her love and the bee

Comme ce soit c’est fois

Ne lisez pas cela
C’est seul pour moi
Pas pour toi
Qui a arrive a ce poème
Juste par accidentellement
Comme Rosemarie
Qui sentait une rose rouge rouge
Rêver de son amour doux doux
Et a été piqué par une abeille
Était-ce sur sa lèvre ou nez?
Je vous laisse deviner

bee-in-the-approach

Nothing Gold Can Stay – Robert Frost

dandelion-seed

Just a word before I go. It seems we are forever saying farewell. Often we say it casually, in which case, “goodbye” is appropriate. Now, if one wants to interject a little feeling into the goodbye, one says “farewell”. “Fare thee well” if one likes pomposity and English verse.

Farewell also suggests a more permanent departure. In the military, staff and friends put on a “hale and farewell” for departing members of a unit. Hail and Farewell being a translation of “ave atque vale”, Gaius Valerius Catullus’ last words of the poem Carmen 101.

All this leads me to the thought that nothing is permanent. Goodbyes and farewells are in order. And as I will be away for a few days, I will just say “goodbye” or maybe “so long”.

Personally I have always like the French way, saying “À bientôt!”

Robert Frost’s Nothing Gold Can Stay was first published in 1923 and is I believe still under copyright. For that reason, I will quote only the first two lines and the last two in English and give the full translation into French. Therefore, it is an academic study and exempt from copyright laws.

If not, I will hear a “hello” from someone.

Premier vert de la nature est l’or,
Difficile sa teinte à tenir.
Au début sa feuille une fleur;
Seulement si une heure.
Puis la feuille affaisse à la feuille.
Alors Eden a sombré à la douleur,
Comme l’aube va à jour.
Rien de l’or ne restera.

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.

So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

butterflies-wide

Lost

Lost in Buenos Aires

pulperia

Perdido…

Toma un descanso,

Respirar.

Abre tus ojos

Ahora cuente hacia atrás de tres …

Dos, uno.

Tienes quince años, niño inmaculado y

En absoluto lo que tu madre piensa

Solo ir a caminar

En una calle oscura

Se ve la pulperia

Estaba abierto, estaba cerrado

¿Qué secretos estaba dentro,

Mama mia

Te preguntas…

Que te costará

Lost…

Take a moment,

Breathe.

Open your eyes

Now count backwards from three…

You’re fifteen, spotless child and

Not at all what your mother thinks

She sent you to the mini-mart

And along the way you saw the pulperia

Was it open, was it closed

What secrets lay inside, mama mia

You wonder…

What will it cost

Mistakes

The unripened grape, the ripe bunch, the raisin, all are changes, not into nothing, but into something which does not exist yet. Marcus Aurelius
Le raisin non mûr, le grappe de raisins, le raisin sec, tous sont des changements, pas dans rien, mais dans quelque chose qui n’existe pas encore. Marcus Aurelius

Which leads me to wonder, ‘If I were I younger and knew what I know now would I not make the same mistakes?’

Si j’étais plus jeune et je savais ce que je sais, n’effectuerais-je pas les mêmes fautes?

Mistakes happened and books were written, knowledge exists and lessons are taught, and history will still repeat itself.

boy-2

The Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, 167 A.C.E.

Book Two

Begin each morning saying to thyself, ‘The busy-body, ingrate, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial, all these beings happen by reason of ignorance of what is good. But I who have seen the beauty of good and the ugliness of bad, and the nature of him who does wrong; they exist as do I, but I can not be injured by any of them, for no one can fix on me what is ugly, nor can I be angry with my kinsman, nor hate him, for we are made to act jointly, like feet, hands, and eyelids, like the chatter of the teeth. To act against one another is contrary to nature, to be vexed and turned away.’

Tous sont fous, sauf moi, mais, avec toi, je dois ensemble toujours coexister.

April’s sweet showers

butterflies-wide

Prologue to the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer: Modern English, French, and original Middle English,

 

Modern English

English did not become modern until William Shakespeare and the King James translation of the Bible, a fact that will surprise many “modern” high school English students.

When April with its sweet showers
Hath pierced the drought of March to its root,
And bathed every vein in such liquor
By which virtue engenders the flower;

When the West Wind also with his sweet breath,
Has inspired In every woodland and field
The tender crops, and the young sun
Has half its course within the sign of Aries run,

And small fowls make melody,
That sleep all the night with open eye
(So Nature pricks them in their hearts),
Then folk long to go on pilgrimages,

And pilgrims to seek strange shores,
To distant shrines, known in sundry lands;
And specially from every shire’s end
Of England to Canterbury wind their way,
The holy blessed martyr to seek
Who helped them when they were sick.

Language Barriers

When I was a little boy the joke was told,
Q: Why did Peter throw the butter out the window?
A: To see the butterfly.

It is a joke that works in English but not in French, since butterfly in French is papillon.

Language barriers are large but none so great as that observed by the Welsh and English cleric Matthew Henry, There are none so deaf and none so blind, as they who refuse to see and will not listen.

French

Quand avril avec ses douces douches
La sécheresse de mars à sa racine a percé ,
Et a baigné toutes les veines dans une telle liqueur
Par quoi la vertu engendre la fleur;

Quand le Vent de l’Ouest aussi avec son doux souffle,
A inspiré dans tous les bois et champs
Les plantes tendres et le jeune soleil
A couru la moitié du cours en Bélier,

Et les petites volailles chante la mélodie,
Qui dormir toute la nuit avec l’œil ouvert
(Donc la nature les pique dans leurs coeurs),
Ensuite, les gens souhaitaient faire des pèlerinages,

Et les pèlerins cherchent des rivages étranges,
Aux sanctuaires lointains, connus dans les terres diverses;
Et surtout depuis la fin de chaque cours
De l’Angleterre à Canterbury se promène,
Le saint béni martyr à chercher
Qui les a aidés quand ils étaient malades.

Middle English

Geoffrey Chaucer (1343 – 25 October 1400) is the grand daddy of English literature. Thank God he wrote in the vernacular and not in Latin as had been the custom. English is the most polyglot of languages and one may observe in Chaucer’s English bits of French, German, and Latin sprinkled throughout.

If one looks at the words of Chaucer and then listens to the sound, much of the meaning will become clear.

Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour,

Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halve cours yronne,

And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye
(so priketh hem Nature in hir corages),
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,

And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially from every shires ende
Of Engelond to Caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.

Lost in Translation

Even the most literal of translations can be deceiving. That is a good thing for it means that Google Translate will forever require human intervention to determine the meaning of the words.

Listen is an active verb and if you don’t know what that means you haven’t been listening.

We do not know from a casual reading of The Prologue that the “ram” refers to Aries and the sign of the Zodiac that coincides with spring. Zephirius (Zepher) is the West Wind personified. The word priketh (prick) is a double entendre. Palmeres are those who carry the palm, a custom Roman Catholics continue to observe on Palm Sunday.

Otherwise, I try to stay true to the path Chaucer has taken. There are other translations. Mine is as literally as possible. Better to listen and learn.

flower-meadow-crop

Living color

 

photographer-poster-2

Nuance

Language is nuanced. Can you spot the differences and would you suggest others?

The valley is green, the hills are blue, the sun is a bright, bright yellow.
Here I stand, camera in hand saying to everyone and no one, hello.

La vallée est verte, les collines sont bleues, le soleil est un brillant, jaune vif.
Ici je me tiens, la caméra en main disant à tout le monde et personne, comment allez-vous?

Das Tal ist grün, die Hügel sind blau, die Sonne ist hell, hellgelb.
Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders, die Kamera in Hand, für jedem und niemandem, Wer sagt hallo?

Ves más allá?
El valle es verde, las colinas son azules, el sol es un amarillo brillante, brillante..

Aquí estoy, la cámara en la mano diciendo a nadie y todo el mundo, hola.

 

 

Facing Snow

Du Fu’s poem Facing Snow was written in the winter of 755 after the rebel capture of Chang’an, eastern capital of the Tang Dynasty. Du Fu took his family to safety and then was captured by the rebels and taken to Chang’an. He witnessed first-hand the horror of the An Lushan Rebellion before escaping south the following summer.

clouds-mountain-dark-vibr

Original Chinese

 对雪

战哭多新鬼
愁吟独老翁
乱云低薄暮
急雪舞回风
瓢弃尊无绿
炉存火似红
数州消息断
愁坐正书空

English Translation

Facing Snow

War cries and legions of ghosts.
An old man fretfully chants
A misty chaos and half twilight
Snow dances in a swirling wind
A languishing ladle with no wine or green tea
A cold furnace, once fiery red
Men whisper, what news.
While I brood on my empty book

French Translation

Face à la neige

Cris de guerre et plus fantômes.
Un vieillard chante avec inquiétude
Dans le chaos de la brume et le demi-crépuscule
Danse de neige dans le vent tourbillonnant
Une louche négligé sans vin ni thé
Un four vide, pas rouge vif
Les hommes chuchotent, quelles nouvelles.
Alors que je rêve sur mon livre vide

German Translation

Blick auf den Wind
Krieg schreit und Legionen von Geistern.
Ein alter Mann fragt sich gern
Ein Demi-Chaos und Halbdämmerung
Schnee tanzt in wirbelnden Wind
Eine unsichtbare Pfanne ohne Wein oder grüner Tee
Ein leerer Ofen, nicht feurigrot
Männer flüstern, was Neues
Während auf meinem leeren Buch ich starre und brühe

Notes on the Translations

Language is nuanced by time and culture. Its meaning subtle and mysterious. Thus translating can be a winding path through a dark forest. Even the title of Du Fu’s poem, Facing the Wind gives me pause. Why not a the stronger image of Facing the Snow?

Wind is the better choice. Du Fu conveys his thoughts on two levels. One is visual imagery, the other is metaphor. Captured by the enemy and held in Chang’an, Du Fu must answer for his actions once he escapes. While snow symbolizes the hardships of the winter, wind becomes a metaphor for the swirling accusations that inevitably would be made at court once Du Fu arrived to make his report.

Du Fu was forgiven for his temporary sojourn with the enemy. Others, like his friend Li Bai were not so fortunate.

Country Roads

Routes de campagne amène-moi chez-moi

Forgive me for a momentary diversion along a country road to a place I long to be.

Thinking about the good times, thinking about spring. And I am sorry things ain’t what they used to be. Now, close your eyes. Hey, it is good to be back home again.

Thanks to John Denver for all the great thoughts. Do you know how much we miss you?

Presque paradise, Virginie d’ouest

Bleu Crête de montagne

Rivière Shenandoah,

La vie y est vieux

Plus ancienne que les arbres

Plus jeune que les montagnes

Souffler dans la brise

Routes de campagne amène-moi chez-moi

Lieu j’ai envie d’être

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