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TSE  January 2006

TSE January 2006

Subject:

Re: Parker's Lune de Miel translation

From:

Peter Montgomery <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Fri, 27 Jan 2006 01:14:11 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (108 lines)

A very knowledgeable piece of work. Very informative.
Thank you.

Another alternative for the pun, given that
Terra Haute is french, would be to leave the low countires
Pay Bas" in French, perhaps in quotes. Then the pun would
not be so obvious, but might force a person to look it up.
A less acceptable alternative would be to change the french.
I thnk low countries goes far enough to keep the pun.

Cheers,
Peter

Quoting Debra San <[log in to unmask]>:

> >I wrote "Resting between two sheets" although the French is more 
> >like "at ease" or "comfortable".  I avoided that because I couldn't 
> >imagine that the bug-bitten honeymooners would be at ease. Later I 
> >considered that Eliot may have used his phrasing to indicate that 
> >the couple was used to bedbugs.  That would make them appear a bit 
> >lower in the social scale.  Should I go with something like "at 
> >ease" then?
> 
> Bedbugs are a torment, whether you're used to them or not.  No one 
> getting bitten by them can feel comfortable or contented or at ease, 
> regardless of social status or class.  Anyone scratching away at 
> swollen or inflamed bug bites is feeling miserable, and the second 
> stanza makes this explicit: the continuation of the honeymooners' 
> journey prolongs or extends "leurs misères," their miseries.
> 
> So what could "A l'aise" mean if it doesn't mean "comfortable"? 
> Let's consider "A l'aise" in context.  The line is: "A l'aise entre 
> deux draps, chez deux centaines de punaises."  You've translated 
> "chez" as "amidst" (why the archaism? why not "amid" or "among"?), 
> and that's probably the best anyone could do with "chez," given that 
> the word doesn't exist in English, just as "home" doesn't exist in 
> French.  As it happens, however, "chez" and "home" imply the same 
> thing: "I'm going home" would be "Je rentre chez moi" - and indeed 
> the second half of the opening line ("ils rentrent à Terre Haute") 
> implies that their return to Terre Haute is a going home to Terre 
> Haute.  But here in Ravenna, here between the sheets, is "chez" the 
> bedbugs: the home of the bedbugs, not the home of the honeymooners. 
> So here "chez" the bugs they're "à l'aise" only to the extent that 
> one is ever at ease or comfortable in someone else's home.  A 
> gracious host (which the bedbugs biting them are not) says "Make 
> yourself comfortable" or "Make yourself at home" to a guest, but the 
> very fact of being a guest virtually ensures that you can't really 
> feel "at home."  In what sense, then, are the honeymooners "à 
> l'aise"?  Not in the positive sense of feeling comfortable or 
> contented, but in the negative sense of not being constrained, as 
> when a soldier is released from the constraint of a formal posture by 
> the command "at ease."  For the honeymooners as for a soldier, the 
> lack of constraint is physical rather than emotional: they are "à 
> l'aise" between two sheets.  That is, they have not tucked the top 
> sheet around them; it does not swaddle or constrain their bodies in a 
> snug, comfy way, but drapes loosely over them.  Unconstrained by the 
> top sheet, they are "à l'aise" between it and the bottom sheet: they 
> can spread their knees open in a sprawl and "raise the sheet to 
> scratch better."
> 
> Putting the physical posture of the honeymooners into the larger 
> context of the whole poem places them in direct contrast with the 
> Saint Apollinaire basilica.  They are "à l'aise"; St. A. is "raide," 
> rigid or unyielding.  They are made of living flesh and blood; St. A. 
> is made of crumbing or worn stones.  They are on a honeymoon (and 
> therefore presumably engaging in sexual activities); St. A. is 
> "ascétique," ascetic.  They are concerned with matters of the moment 
> (such as the time a train leaves or what size tip to leave); St. A., 
> despite its deterioration, retains its form through the ages.  The 
> contrast between the honeymooners and St. A. is similar to the 
> contrast in the poem's thirteenth line between a meal eaten at a 
> cheap restaurant and the meal that was The Last Supper.  The contrast 
> is, in essence, that between the human and the divine, or the worldly 
> and the otherworldly, or the profane and the sacred.
> 
> Is Eliot using this contrast to present a simple dichotomy: human 
> bad, divine good; profane bad, sacred good?  I don't think so. 
> "Rigid" or "unyielding" is hardly a term of approbation, and to call 
> a church a factory is to cast some doubt on its sanctity.  Indeed, 
> St. A. is "désaffectée" of or by God; you've translated this as 
> "unused," but it is closer to "made secular" or "de-sanctified" or 
> "deconsecrated."  As for the honeymooners - the pun that people have 
> noticed from "low" in "Pays Bas" to "high" in "Terre Haute" is not, I 
> think, just a pun (one that I agree must be sacrificed in 
> translation).  Characters who journey to see an early Christian 
> basilica and a painting of The Last Supper, both of which are 
> religious artifacts - and who continue their journey despite their 
> miseries - resemble pilgrims as much as they do tourists.  That their 
> earthly travels are taking them home to a city named for being a high 
> place suggests that their spiritual pilgrimage will or may eventually 
> take them "home" to that ultimate high place, heaven.  (In 
> Augustinian terms, from the City of Man to the City of God.)  For an 
> earlier poet's image of heaven as home, see Chaucer's poem "Truth" 
> (aka "Balade de Bon Conseyl"), in which he declares of "this world" 
> that "Her is non hoom, her nis but wildernesse": Here is not home; 
> here is only wilderness (or, using Eliot's language, waste land). 
> Chaucer calls his reader (a friend of his) "pilgrim," urges him to 
> look up, thank God, and "Hold the heye wey, and lat thy gost thee 
> lede": Hold the high way, and let your ghost [soul] lead you.  Lead 
> where?  Out of what Chaucer calls "wrecchednesse" and "Lune de Miel" 
> calls "misères."  I don't mean to suggest that Eliot had Chaucer's 
> poem specifically in mind when he wrote "Lune de Miel," only that 
> there is a long literary and religious tradition in which "Lune de 
> Miel" seems to participate, and a consideration of this tradition may 
> help when translating the poem.
> 
> Debra
> 

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