Monday, January 18, 2016

Samples of Shakespeare in modern English Verse-Translation

--compared with original texts.

The translation is by Mark O’Connor, who can be contacted on tel. + 61 2 6247 3341 or   email .    He has translated Troilus and Cressida, Henry IV Part 1, and Twelfth Night.     

For enthused responses from Shakespeare experts, see the next posting   

Original   (Troilus and Cressida Act 2, scene 2, line 44 ff.)

The wound of peace is surety,
Surety secure; but modest doubt is called
The beacon of the wise, the tent that searches
To th’bottom of the worst. Let Helen go.

Peace wounds us with false certainty,
For sure. And that’s why modest doubt is called
The torchlight of the wise, the probe that finds
The point deep in the wound, the worst we risk.
 --Let Helen go.

Original (Troilus and Cressida Act 3, scene 3, line 75):

'Tis certain, greatness, once fall'n out with fortune,
Must fall out with men too: what the declined is
He shall as soon read in the eyes of others
As feel in his own fall; for men, like butterflies,
Show not their mealy wings but to the summer.


No doubt a great man who falls out with Fortune
Falls out with men. Before he feels his fall,
He’ll read what he now is in others’ eyes
–Since men, like butterflies, need summer days 
To spread their powdery wings.

The Kissing Scene (Troilus Act 4, Sc. 5, line 54)



That was for Menelaus; this one's mine:
Patroclus kisses you.
That's an ill-bred whim!
Oh Paris and I kiss all the time for him.
I'll have my kiss, sir! Lady, by your leave.
When kissing, do you give or just receive?
I take and give.

ULYSSES   (original - same scene)
Fie, fie upon her!
There's language in her eye, her cheek, her lip,
Nay, her foot speaks; her wanton spirits look out
At every joint and motive of her body.
O, these encounterers, so glib of tongue,
That give accosting welcome ere it comes,
And wide unclasp the tables of their thoughts
To every ticklish reader! set them down
For sluttish spoils of opportunity
And daughters of the game.

 ULYSSES    (translation)
Shame on her, yes, shame!
There's language in her eye, her cheek, her lip;
Her tapping foot speaks; and lust’s spirit peeps
From each pert bend and flexure of her limbs.
Oh, these hail-fellow girls, so glib of tongue,
That flag the boarding party in before it hails, 
And flip the diaries of their thoughts full frontal
To the itch-loined reader.  Set such sluts down     
For booty that a man may take by chance,
And daughters of the game.

5.   from Twelfth Night

Original  (Act 1, Sc 5)
 Feste "Now mercury endue thee with leasing, for thou speak'st well of  fools.

Feste.   Yea! Mercury, god of fast talkers, give this lady a franchise; she speaks well of fools.


Twelfth Night Act 3, Sc 1
 Under your hard construction must I sit,
To force that on you in a shameful cunning
Which you knew none of yours. What might you think?
Have you not set mine honour at the stake,
And baited it with all th'unmuzzled thoughts
That tyrannous heart can think? To one of your receiving
Enough is shown; a cypress, not a bosom,
Hideth my heart: so, let me hear you speak.


 Your harshest judgement's what I must accept:
--To force that ring upon you by deceit, 
Which you well know's not yours. What might you think?
Have you not tied my honour to the stake
Like some poor shambling bear, and baited it
With all the un-muzzled hounds of blabbing thought
A tyrant could invent? Enough's been shown
For one of your quick uptake to perceive.  
A lace veil, not a breast-bone, hides my heart. So, Now, sir, may I hear you speak?

Twelfth Night Act 1, Scene 3

  Sir Toby  What’s your level of excellence in a free fandango, knight?
Sir And.  God’s truth, I can cut a caper. I can cut the mustard.
  Sir Toby  And I can cut the mutton for it.

Sir And.  And I think I have the back-move about as perfect as any man in Illyria.
  Sir Toby  But why are these things hid? How come these gifts are curtained off—as if they mustn’t get dust on them, like Miss Mary’s portrait? Why don’t you go to church in a samba, and come home at a rumba? If I were you, every walk I did would be a jig. I would not so much as piss in a chamberpot but with rhythm, at a sink-a-pace. What has held you back so long? is this a world to hide virtues in? I knew it, by the exquisite shape of your leg, I knew it had been shaped under the star of a jitterbug.
  Sir And.  Yes, it’s a strong leg, and it looks not too bad in half a pair of flame-red tights. Shall we flash into a dance?


ULYSSES (Troilus and Cressida Act 3, Scene 3)
Time has, my lord, a knapsack on his back,
Where he flings food-scraps for oblivion.
This Time’s a great monster of ingratitudes.
His scraps are good deeds past, which are devoured
As fast as made, and then forgotten soon
As done. Only persistence, my dear lord,
Keeps honour bright. To pull back is to rust
Out-moded, like old armour on a wall
In monumental mockery. I recommend,
Keep up to date and at the front with Honour.
She canters on a bridle-path so narrow,
Just one can ride abreast. Let him persist;
For competition breeds a thousand sons
Who each in turn pursue. If you give way,
Or veer an inch from the true upward path,
Swift as a tide breaks in, they all rush past
And leave you floundering; no better than
A gallant horse that falls in the first rank
To be a pavement for the vile rearguard
—Smashed down and scrambled over.  


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