On Tue, 23 Dec 2014 15:47:49 +1100, Peter Dillane <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Now this might be a moment to bring up something which
> has grumbled with me for some time. Eliot refers to
> himself in the Dante essay as having once not been
> skilled (sic) in Italian. The implication that he was
> now skilled . This is a kind of usage which may have
> been conventional but these days I associate it with
> the vainglorious way some refer to themselves as having
> "mastered" a musical instrument. When I hear this I
> think do they mean they have mastered it like James
> Taylor or Martha Argerich. Anyway to the point the
> Cavlacanti "Perch'io no spero tornar mai giammai" has
> the verb "tornare" which means not " turn " which is
> "girare" but "to return". I have modest Italian -
> enough to get laid or fed but I struggled last week
> trying to explain what I thought of a piece of modern
> art to an Italian speaker - and I would be interested
> in what people think of the use of this by Eliot. Do
> you think he has full knowledge when he says "Because I
> do not hope to turn etc" and that he is implying that
> he is not talking about returning to a situation rather
> about deviating or turning from a prospective future?
> Or has he just lumped for what sounds like the Italian
> - which is a common problem for English speakers with
> Happy Christmas folks
I don't know much about turning ("To every season, turn, turn, turn" & "To turn, to turn will be our delight" exceptions) but Eliot did have a problem with translating Dante earlier (in TWL). I shore up some fragments below.
The Waste Land:
Dayadhvam: I have heard the key 411
Turn in the door once and turn once only
We think of the key, each in his prison
Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison
Only at nightfall, aetherial rumours
Revive for a moment a broken Coriolanus
411 Cf. Inferno, XXXIII, 46:
“ed io sentii chiavar l’uscio di sotto
edited by Harold Bloom
Infobase Publishing, Jan 1, 2009 - Alienation (Social psychology) in literature - 222 pages
"'Each in His Prison'; Damnation and Alienation in 'The Waste Land'"
Matthew J. Bolton
Ironically, Eliot's haunting and beautiful rendering of Ugolino's line, and the echoes that follow it (“We think of the key, each in his prison / Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison / only at nightfall. ...”) rests on a mistranslation of Dante's text. Eliot, who had a good reading knowledge of Italian, had studied the Commedia in its original language at Harvard. Here as elsewhere in his endnotes he includes the fragments of Dante's original text that he has reworked: “ed io sentii chiavar l'uscio di sotto / all'orribile torre.” Yet Eliot, as he later admitted in one of three essays he wrote on Dante, was no Italian scholar. In translating Ugolino's line, he renders chiavar as “to lock” or “to turn the key.” This makes sense if one is familiar with the modern italian word chiave, meaning “key.” Yet “key” is a newer meaning of the word; in Dante's time a chiave was a nail, and a better translation of chiavar would be “to nail up.” Translator Mark Musa renders Ugolino's line this way: “Then from below I heard them driving nails into the dreadful tower's door." Nailing a door shut suggests a finality that turning a key does not, and Ugolino, high above in his tower, might just as well be hearing the nails driven into his own coffin and those of his sons.
Yet The Waste Land profits from Eliot's misreading of Ugolino's line, for the poem closes with the suggestion that the key that turned in the door might turn again. ...
Già eran desti, e l'ora s'appressava
che il cibo ne soleva essere addotto,
e per suo sogno ciascun dubitava;
ed io sentii chiavar l'uscio di sotto
all'orribile torre: ond' io guardai
nel viso a' miei figliuoi senza far motto.
Mark Musa's translation (creepy):
And then they awoke. It was around the time
they usually brought our food to us, but now
each one of us was full of dread from dreaming;
then from below I heard them driving nails
into the dreadful tower's door; with that,
I stared in silence at my flesh and blood.
An undated Dent edition (probably 1903) with original Italian on the left and on the right an English translation by John Aitken Carlyle (this, I believe, is the one carried by Eliot):
They were now awake, and the hour approaching at which our food used to be brought us, and each was anxious from his dream,
and below I heard the outlet of the horrible tower locked up : whereat I looked into the faces of my sons, without uttering a word.
A Dent edition of 1911, translation by C. E. Wheeler (closest to The Waste Land):
Now were they wakened, now that hour drew nigh
when they were wont to bring our food before,
and on each heart fear from his dream did lie.
And then I heard the key turn in the door
of the horrible tower; then I gazed steadily
at my sons' faces, but spake no more.