----- Original Message -----From: [log in to unmask] href="mailto:[log in to unmask]">Jerome WalshSent: Thursday, January 21, 2010 9:44 PMSubject: Re: TS Eliot: "the heart of light" (by now, rather OT)Peter and Rick,
In re: "the Holy Ghost" in Sirach (or in Wisdom). "Secondary" in your commentary, Peter, probably does mean, more or less, "interpolation." Certainly I have found no source for Jerome's inclusion of the words in his translation of Sirach. And Wisdom 1:4-7 has to be stretched a very long way indeed to supply even the words. The concept, however, is clearly an example of erroneous translation. The "Holy Ghost" is a uniquely Christian theological concept, and there is nothing in Israelite or Jewish thought that could remotely support reading that concept into a Jewish text.
I don't want to open up the "translation theory" can of worms. I'm an amateur in that regard, though I think I have a pretty decent practical ability to translate ancient Hebrew. Let me simply raise a few questions as the sort of thing I think one must wrestle with in asking about (or making) translations. (1) How does one translate a flat, pedestrian, perchance even borderline ungrammatical text (like Mark's Gospel)? Does one render it in rich, euphonious, stylistically striking English because it is "Holy Writ"? Or does one respect the way the text would have been perceived by its original audience, and render it in flat, pedestrian, borderline ungrammatical English? (2) What impact should one's intended audience have on one's translation choices? Should one translate differently when the result is intended for liturgical proclamation versus when the result is intended for technical study by students innocent of the original languages? (3) How does one handle issues like ambiguity? (This in particular should interest people whose metier is the interpretation of difficult poetry!) Is it one's job to disambiguate, so that the translation's reader gets a clear understanding from the text (but is deprived of the experience of reading a text that is not so clear)? Or is it one's job to preserve, insofar as possible, the ambivalences of the original in translation, so that the reader of the translation, just like the reader of the original, is responsible for choosing among the ambiguities? (4) If one is translating poetry, which of its nature is as much an experience of verbal music as of lexemes, does one translate it "faithfully" if one's translation is prose? Or would that reduce the three dimensions of syntax, semantics and style to two, and thereby deprive the poetry of precisely what makes it be what it is? (Close to half of the Old Testament is poetry....)
As to the NRSV, I find it quite satisfactory for classroom use. It is, on the whole, an accurate rendering of the semantic meaning of the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. On the other hand, the NRSV's commitment to gender-inclusive translation, while politically correct (and, in general, not entailing any betrayal of the original languages), makes it slightly more difficult to work with as a substitute for the original. It is, I agree, not as mellifluous as the NJB (or, even more so, the earlier JB). But the NJB (and, even more so, the earlier JB) sometimes makes translation choices that are not always the most accurate renderings of the original (in the opinions of many). So how does one weigh the options? How many semantic flaws counterbalance a superbly turned English phrase? And vice versa.
As for Eliot's comment about feeding pearls to pigs, I agree heartily that that phrase clunks, whereas "casting pearls before swine" has glorious resonance. (Some [all?] of that resonance, of course, comes from our familiarity. I note, for instance, that "feeding pearls to pigs" has an alliterative quality lacking in the other, which those who prefer the traditional version either overlook or consider of no value. I think it would be very interesting to know precisely what those who consider the traditional rendering stylistically preferable would point to as its superior qualities.) My questions, however, would be what Eliot means by "the meaning is quite destroyed." I have no doubt at all that he was quite at home in Greek. But is that what he means here? Does he mean "the meaning [that the original author's word choices suggest he intended to communicate to his audience] is quite destroyed" or does he mean "the meaning [I am used to and love from the tradition] is quite destroyed"?
From: Peter Montgomery <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Thu, January 21, 2010 9:02:53 PM
Subject: Re: TS Eliot: "the heart of light"
Yes!! I have Eliot's article in the Times somewhere.
A very thorough review.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Rickard A. Parker" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Thursday, January 21, 2010 4:19 PM
Subject: Re: TS Eliot: "the heart of light"
> Peter Montgomery wrote:
> > As for the NRSV I would appreciate any general thoughts you have about
its language quality.
> > It has been adopted by the Catholic Church in Canada as THE official
translation for use in liturgies. As a proclaimer of the word and an english
teacher, I am astounded at the grammatical laxness especially in sentence
structure and paragraphing. In some cases
> > I have found it nigh on impossible to proclaim in such a way that it
makes real sense.
> > I fear accuracy of translation has triumphed over all other values
> > real meaning of the original.
> > Frankly I'm appalled. The New Jerusalem Bible is sweet poetry in
> An Eliot quote:
> After a few pleasantries, he asked me if I had read The New English
> Bible. When I said I hadn't he said, "I think you will be dismayed by
> it, as I am, William. Not just stylistic losses, nuances gone,
> forced, but, for example, instead of being admonished not to cast
> before swine, we are now instructed, 'Do not feed your pearls to pigs'
> -- and so the meaning is quite destroyed."
> William Turner Levy was an American Episcopal priest who, although much
> younger than Eliot became friends with him. Turner wrote of Eliot and
> their correspondence in the book:
> William Turner Levy and Victor Scherle,
> "Affectionately, T.S. Eliot"
> J.B. Lippincott, New York, 1968
> The quote above was from page 127
> Rick Parker