Thursday, July 11, 2013


The Difficulty of Translation

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), quoted in Christoph Irmscher, Public Poet, Private Man: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow at 200 = Harvard Library Bulletin 17.3-4 (Fall/Winter 2006), pp. 165-166 (footnote omitted):
The difficulty of translation lies chiefly in the color of words. Is the Italian "Ruscelletto gorgoglioso" fully rendered by "Gurgling brooklet"? Or the Spanish "Pájaros vocingleros" by "Garrulous birds"? Something seems wanting. Perhaps it is only the fascination of foreign and unfamiliar sounds; and to the Italian or Spanish ear the English words would seem equally beautiful.

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