The Linguist

The Linguist 53,3

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26 The Linguist JUNE/JULY FEATURES Sonja Kudei takes a detailed look at 'Sonnet 130' in Croatian, German, Swedish and the English original S hakespeare's Sonnet 130 is a parody of the conventional love sonnet, popularised by the Italian poet Petrarch in the 14th century. The most prominent feature of the Petrarchan love sonnet is an excessive idealisation of the poet's love interest, often to the point of absurdity. Sonnet 130 subverts the clichés through a sophisticated use of the English language (see below). But what happens when the poem is translated into a foreign language? Is the intended effect of the poem conveyed in the same way? According to cognitive linguistics, language is situated in its cultural environment. The grammatical structures, words and metaphors of a language are influenced by its culture of origin. On this basis, it is reasonable to expect that translations of a poem will vary according to the traits of each language. I looked for evidence of this in the Croatian, German and Swedish translations of Sonnet 130. Croatian The Croatian version 1 is distinguished mainly by its syntax, which is strikingly different from the original. We can see an example of this in the opening lines: Gospi mi sunce iz oka ne rudi Crveniji od usni koralj njoj je. Unlike the original, which has an effortless, conversational flow ('My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun/ Coral is far more red, than her lips red'), the Croatian has an inverted word order that feels contrived (back translation: 'From my lady's eye the sun doesn't shine/ Redder than her lips is a coral'). The fusional nature of Croatian permits this kind of syntactic flexibility, but the side effect is a more formal tone. In the next two lines, the meaning differs from the original in several ways: ako bijel snijeg je, njoj su sive grudi, Ako je kosa žica, crna toj je In English, Shakespeare describes his mistress's breasts as 'dun' – a kind of brown ('If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun; If hair be wires, black wires grow on her head'). Whereas, in the Croatian, due to a lexical gap, the word sive ('grey') is used. Unlike the earthy 'dun', sive evokes associations of pallor and possibly disease, which wasn't intended in the original. Another difference can be seen in the word 'wires', which in Elizabethan times had the additional meaning of fine gold thread, used as decoration on extravagant hats. This meaning doesn't exist in the Croatian, with žica referring to ordinary wire. In the following section, there is an omission of the word 'damasked', probably because the corresponding Croatian word means only 'from Damascus' and has not evolved to mean 'pink' as well. The translation continues: slušati volim glas njen, al znam, jača Slast je u glazbi koja skladom mazi; Ne vidjeh kako božica korača Kad moja gospa ide, zemljom gazi. The most remarkable detail here is that the lines 'I love to hear her speak, yet well I know/ That music hath a far more pleasing sound' have been radically changed, both in terms of structure and subtext (back translation: 'I like to hear her voice, but I know, stronger/ Delight is in music that caresses with harmony'). The translator's choice to make a dramatic break after the adjective jača ('stronger'), and place the noun it modifies (slast = 'delight') in the next line, puts an emphasis on these words and creates the impression that music has greater significance than the mistress. The concluding couplet asserts that the poet still cherishes his mistress despite her shortcomings: 'And yet by heaven, I think my love as rare,/ As any she belied with false compare'. The meaning is fundamentally different in the Croatian version: Neba mi, ipak ljepša je od sviju što s njom se lažno usporedit smiju The word 'love' has been omitted and the equivocal word 'rare' replaced with 'pretty' (back translation: 'By heaven, she is prettier than all others/ That falsely compare to her'). As a result, the focus is on the physical appearance of the mistress, and the deeper meaning of the original is lost. German The German translation 2 shows a clear influence of German Romanticism, which makes the poem sound more earnest but less sophisticated than the Elizabethan original. The first line contains an inversion that places 'the sun' at the beginning of the line, thus creating a more dramatic effect than the original: Von Sonn' ist nichts in Liebchens Aug' zu schaun The second line eliminates the parallel structure of the original, which juxtaposes two clauses ending with 'red' ('coral is far more red, than her lips red'), and simply states that corals do not resemble the mistress's mouth: korallen nicht gleicht ihres Mundes Schwelle The structure of the following section is faithful to the original, but the next two lines Four shades of Shakespeare 'SONNET 130' AT A GLANCE My Mistre S eye S are nothing like the Sunne; Currall iS farre more red, than her lip S red; If Snow be white, why then her breast S are dun; If haire S be wier S, black wier S grow on her head. I haue seene rose S damaskt, red and white, But no such rose S seeI in her cheeke S, And in some perfume S iS there more delight, Than in the breath that from my mistre S reeke S. I loue to heare her speake, yet well I know, That Musicke hath a farre more pleasing sound; I graunt I neuer saw a goddesse goe, My Mistre S when shee walkeS tread S on the ground. And yet by heauenI thinke my loue aS rare, AS any she beli'dwith false compare.

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