Tuesday, May 03, 2005
cum puer audaci coepit gaudere volatu
When the boy began to rejoice in daring flight
deseruitque ducem caelique cupidine tractus
and abandoned (his) leader and having been drawn by desire
altius edit inter. rapidi vicinia solis
of the sky took up a higher journey. The nearness of the swift sun
softened the fragrant wax, the bonds of (his) wings;
the wax melted: he shook his bare arms,
and lacking oarage, he gained not any breeze,
and his mouth, shouting the name of his father,
was received by the cerulean water, which derived its name from him.
But the unlucky father, no longer a father, said, “Icarus.”
“Icare,” dixit “ubi es? Qua te regione requiram?”
“Icarus,” he said, “where are you? In what region shall I seek you?”
“Icare” dicebat: pennas aspecit in undis
“Icarus,” he was saying: he caught sight of the wings in the waves
And he cursed his own skill and buried the body in a grave,
condidit, et tellus a nomine dicta sepulti.
And the land was called by the name of the grave.
Though it is not exact, I have set up the translation so that its Latin is fairly close to it. When I translate, I like to be as literal as possible, whereas someone like Humphries changes the grammatical constructions or verb moods to make the English flow more smoothly. Especially for this project, I want to be able to show exactly what Ovid wrote; this way, you will be able to very clearly see all of the adaptations made by the other discussed translators.
There are a few words highlighted above, both the Latin and corresponding English. These particular words are those with numerous meanings—some of which signify different things. Oftentimes a translator needs to just pick a word from the assortment, which ends up sending the translation in a certain way, as we have seen throughout this blog. Below is a list of some alternate meanings of the highlighted words.
Audaci: bold, daring, courageous, reckless, rash, audacious, presumptuous, desperate
Deseruit: leave, abandon, desert, forsake, give up, fail
Cupidine: desire/love/wish/longing (passionate), lust, greed, appetite, desire for gain
Excipiuntur (passive): take out, remove, follow, receive, ward off, relieve
Infelix: unfortunate, unhappy, wretched, unlucky, inauspicious
Requiram: require, seek, ask for, need, miss, pine for
The differences in some of the meanings are very minor, and it does not matter which a translator uses. For example, there is hardly an difference between using “unlucky” or using “unfortunate” for infelix. However, the word audaci, describing the flight Icarus takes, has some dissimilar definitions. The story takes on an entirely different tone if the flight is described as “reckless” as opposed to “courageous” or even “desperate.” Or, what if Daedalus’ action was not to, requiram, “seek” his son, but instead to immediately “miss” him? In choosing what definition of a word to use, a translator sets the tone for his/her interpretation of Ovid’s Latin.
Another adaptation of translators is their use of punctuation. Though in the Latin text there are commas and semi-colons and whatnot, those were not actually in Ovid’s writing, but are additions of the textbook editor; punctuation often assists students, as opposed to looking at one, big, unending chunk of foreign words. However, in my translation, I have put commas not just in accordance with the text I used, but rather where they simply fit to produce good English. As you have seen with some other translators we studied, they often choose to add things like exclamation points or interjections. These can alter the meaning of the passage by quite literally putting feeling into the characters; after all, that is their purpose. The mark, “!” or the word “Oh!” is perhaps the most insight a reader can gain into the feelings of a character on a two-dimensional page. I personally feel that such things are liberties taken by translators—that is not to say they do not enhance the translation, but I have not included them in mine because my goal was to be as literal as possible.
There are just a few other details I want to point out. If you look at the Latin words, you will see a form of the verb dico, dicere, dixi, dictu, meaning “to say, to call.” In the section of the passage where Daedalus is searching for his son, it is used three times. This repetition is a poetic device called anaphora. Its purpose in Latin is to emphasize the action in the verb, or in other instances perhaps an important quality with an adjective. Anaphora in English poetry has the same effect, but is usually used at the beginning of a line, or the beginning of a paragraph in rhetoric. In smooth English, pleasing to the ear, one might only write that Daedalus “said” these things one time—a change some of our studied translators chose to make. However, if Daedalus only “calls” one time, something is lost in the translation. It is less clear how frantic and frenzied he may be, as is emphasized with the anaphora in Latin.
Also, in the second line of the passage, I have translated that Icarus “abandoned his leader.” The translation of “leader” literally comes from the Latin word ducem. Other similar definitions include "guide," "commander," and "general." In the notes of my textbook, the editor has written to take ducem as pater, which would mean father. It is true that Icarus’ father is, in fact, his leader. However, I think that Ovid intentionally chose to make a contrast in this passage: Icarus abandons his “leader,” but later on shouts the name of his “father.” This vividly exhibits two sides of Daedalus—he is not just the guide for a journey, but also the boy’s loving father. This distinction would be lost if the same word were used twice. The only translator we looked at who did this was Rolfe Humphries.
When dealing with something like a translation, it is important to look at exactly where it originated. Luckily, as I am able to translate, I was able to try my hand at the task and see what I came up with. Of course my translation was not as polished as someone like Sandys or Humphries; I felt that it was more important to be as literal as possible, in order to make the specific points that Ovid himself made.