Translation translation translation

Consider the following.

Leader of chorus of old men

Come, Philurgus, man, let’s hurry there; let’s lay our faggots all about the citadel, and on the blazing pile burn with our hands these vile conspiratresses, one and all — and Lycon’s wife first and foremost!

Second semi-Chorus of old men [singing]

Nay, by Demeter, never will I let them laugh at me, whiles I have a breath left in my body. Cleomenes himself, the first who ever seized our citadel, had to quit it to his sore dishonour; spite his Lacedaemonian pride, he had to deliver me up his arms and slink off with a single garment to his back. My word! but he was filthy and ragged! and what an unkempt beard, to be sure! He had not had a bath for six long years!

And now this.

LEADER:
And shall these females hold the sacred spot
That might King Cleomenes could not?

CHORUS:
The grand old Spartan king,
He had six hundred men,
He marched them into the Acropolis
And he marched them out again.
And he entered breathing fire,
But when he left the place
He hadn’t wash for six whole years
And had hair all over his face.

Point 1: I have no idea which translation is closer to the Greek text, but I suspect it is the first because the second version seems to have made an attempt to include some cultural equivalents. There is a song I know as a camp song which goes, “The Grand Ole Duke of York, he had ten-thousand men, he marched them up the hill and then he marched them down again. And when you’re up you’re up, and when you’re down you’re down but when you’re only half way up, you’re neither up nor down.”

Point 2: I like the second translation better–which happily is the version the version I’m reading. I think it contains the same information and I assume it matches the feel of the play.

Point 3: I wish I was aware of these choices before I thought that Aristophanes wrote the phrase “Children are best seen and not heard.” I have a suspicion that was another cultural translation rather than literal translation choice.

9 thoughts on “Translation translation translation”

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