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Unread 09-22-2021, 02:50 AM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Default Charles d'Orléans, Rondeau 53

Susan's recent villanelle about lying reminded me a bit of this poem, though it's about a different flavor of dishonesty.


RONDEAU LIII
Charles d’Orléans (1394-1465)

Draft Four:

Only an alchemist, no less,
should try transforming Falsity,
recasting it as Constancy—
so set is its deceptiveness!

Why put your head through pointless stress
and spend your time so foolishly?
Only an alchemist, no less,
should try transforming Falsity.

I've studied it without success.
Who knows a surefire recipe?
Who might make good from villainy,
since one’s the other’s enemy?
Only an alchemist, no less.

S1L4 was:
so hardened is its guilefulness!

(Earlier drafts are at the end of this post.)


Medieval French original       |      Literal English prose crib

Il fauldroit faire l’arquemie,            |       He would have to do/use alchemy (modern French alchimie),
Qui vouldroit forgier Faulceté       |       [the one] who would wish to melt/forge/reform Falsity
Tant qu’elle devint Loyaulté,            |       so much that it became Loyalty,
Quant en malice est endurcie !       |       so hardened in spitefulness/deceptiveness/mischief it is!

C’est rompre sa teste en folie,       |       It is to break one's head (modern French tête) in foolishness/madness,
Et temps perdre en oysiveté.       |       and lose time in futility.
Il fauldroit faire l’arquemie,       |       He would have to do alchemy,
Qui vouldroit forgier Faulceté.       |       [the one] who would wish to melt/forge Falsity.

Plus avant qu’on y estudie,            |       The more that one studies [how to do it] beforehand,
Et moins y congnoist on seurté,       |       even less one knows certainty (sûreté) [of doing it].
Car de faire de mal, bonté,            |       for to make from evil, goodness,
L’un à l’autre est trop contrarié,       |       the one is to the other too opposed/opposite,
Il fauldroit faire l’arquemie.            |       it would require doing alchemy.


Draft Three:

Only an alchemist, no less,
should try transforming Falsity,
recasting it as Constancy—
it’s hardened so by wickedness!

That folly wounds your head with stress
and wastes your time, frustratingly.
Only an alchemist, no less,
should try transforming Falsity.

I've studied it without success.
Who knows a surefire recipe?
Who might make good from devilry,
since one’s the other’s enemy?
Only an alchemist, no less.


S1L2 and S2L4 had "reforming" for "transforming".
S2LL1-2 were:
To try’s to wound your head with stress
and waste your time, frustratingly.
S2L1 was:
To try’s to crush your head with stress
S3LL1-2 were:
Despite my research, I confess
I still don’t know that recipe.
Earlier, S3LL1-2 were:
The more I’ve studied, I confess,
the less I know that recipe.
S3L1 was:
I've done my homework, but confess
S3L3 was:
Who’s fashioned good from devilry,


Draft Two (with tweaks):

An alchemist, and nothing less,
might try reforging Falsity
to turn it into Constancy—
it's hardened so by wickedness!

That folly cracks our heads with stress
and wastes our time, frustratingly.
An alchemist, and nothing less,
might try reforging Falsity.

The more we've studied for success,
the more unsure we know to be.
Who fashions good from roguery,
since one’s the other’s enemy?
An alchemist, and nothing less.

S2LL1-2 were:
Such follies crack your skull with stress
and waste your time, frustratingly.
Earlier, S2LL1-2 were:
It's mad to crack your head with stress
and pour your time out, pointlessly.

S1L4 was:
it's so hard-quenched in wickedness!
Earlier, S1L4 was:
so steeled it is with wickedness!

S3LL1-2 were:
The more you study for success,
the less you know a strategy.


Draft One:

An alchemist, and nothing less,
might hope to melt Hypocrisy,
recasting it as Loyalty,
since it’s been steeled with wickedness.

To try just breaks one’s head with stress
and wastes one’s time, frustratingly.
An alchemist, and nothing less,
might hope to melt Hypocrisy.

The more one studies for success,
the less one knows it: Q.E.D.
Who’d make good faith from roguery—
two things with such antipathy?
An alchemist, and nothing less.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 09-24-2021 at 11:27 PM. Reason: Draft Four
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  #2  
Unread 09-22-2021, 09:10 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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Nice job, Julie. My suggestions would be to consider something for S1L4 like "so hardened is its wickedness." "Breaks one's head" sounds unidiomatic in English. May something like "cracks one's skull" or "wrecks one's brain"? For S3L2 I might suggest something like "the less one knows a strategy."

Susan
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Unread 09-22-2021, 09:22 AM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
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I think this is very good, and it's a great example of what I was arguing in the other thread about how a translator must take "liberties" in order to remain true to the original. I only have a few comments.

In L2, maybe "might help to melt down Falsity" -- not only is "falsity" the more accurate word here (I think), but "melt" alone was a bit confusing to me until I realized we had a metal-working metaphor going on.

In L5, maybe get rid of "just" and find another word(s) for "breaks" with enough syllables to fill the gap. Breaks up? Exhausts? Undoes? Etc.

In L6, I think you can manage to end on "futility" as the original does (if the crib is right).

I can't think of an alternative, but somehow I feel that you can improve on "antipathy", which isn't quite the meaning of the original, though it would be close enough if "things . . . with antipathy" were a more natural way of saying things.

But these are just quibbles and food for thought. The translation is very solid as is.
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Unread 09-22-2021, 04:59 PM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Thanks, Susan and Rogerbob!

I'll wait to post another draft until I have a more substantive set of changes. [Edited to say: Now posted above!]

I probably went too literal with the head-breaking bit, Susan. The idiomatic expression "rompre la tête" means "annoy or worry" nowadays, and the reflexive "se rompre la tête" is used like "to wrack one's brain" in English. I'll probably move more in that direction. I like your suggestion for S3L2.

Roger, I was using "Hypocrisy" instead of "Falsity" to avoid identity rhyme, which is seen as a flaw in English, but not necessarily in French. Charles d'Orléans uses "-té" for 5 of the 6 "-é" rhymes, but I don't think I can get away with that. I might achieve the same variation by switching to "Falsity" and "Constancy," but "futility" is another "ty" either way.

Both of you: I'll wrack my brain some more to figure out how better to convey the metal forging/smelting/refining imagery. The English verb "forge" will have inevitable connotations of forgery in this context, which might not necessarily be a bad thing, but I suspect that it's not likely to be helpful.

Thanks so much for your thoughts on this.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 09-22-2021 at 06:42 PM.
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  #5  
Unread 09-22-2021, 07:20 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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How about something for S1L2-3 like

might try to melt down Falsity
to mold it into Constancy,

If you wanted to use Duplicity instead of Falsity (not that there is anything wrong with the latter), you could leave out the "down."

Susan
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Unread 09-22-2021, 08:05 PM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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I do like Duplicity better, but I want to stick with "reforging," which I think makes more sense when the repetend comes around again. Thanks, Susan.
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Unread 09-23-2021, 09:00 AM
Joe Crocker Joe Crocker is offline
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Hi Julie,

I wondered about the grammar of "An alchemist and nothing less". As the alchemist is a person, then it would be more correct to say "no-one less". But that doesn't sound quite right either. You could say "Alchemy and nothing less" but that loses a syllable. Or how about "It takes an alchemist no less, to try reforging Falsity"

I can see that you have changed S3L2 a couple of times already but "the more unsure we know to be" seems to be missing a "how". How about "the more it ends uncertainly".

I don't often wander into the translations section so these suggestions may be taking liberties with the original.

Cheers

Joe
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Unread 09-23-2021, 09:44 AM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
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I prefer "melt down" to "reforging." I think it conveys the same idea, but less abstractly. "Reforging" is the name of a process, not a specific description of what actually happens during the process. And it allows you to stay with "Falsity," which seems to be exactly the right word.
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Unread 09-23-2021, 11:52 AM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Thanks, Joe and Roger! Draft Three posted above, with the repetends changed quite a bit, and the study vs. knowledge bit at the beginning of S3 also rethought. One of the lovely things about the French impersonal pronoun "on" is that it can be translated just about any way you want--you, we, I....

I had been making more of the "Plus" (more) and "moins" (less) in S5LL1-2, but I wonder if trying to keep that rhetorical foil is really worth it.

I don't know why I'm so resistant to using "melt." Anyway, I'm going to try "reform," which has both literal and figurative meanings that work in the context, I think, even as the repetend gets abbreviated with each repetition. Rogerbob, I think you're right that "reforging" is too married to its literal, technical meaning.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 09-23-2021 at 12:22 PM.
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Unread 09-23-2021, 12:22 PM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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Yes, this is nicely done, Julie. I can't see how it could be rendered much better. Except ...

I wonder whether "Who’d fashion good" would work better than "Who’s fashioned good". Perhaps (or probably) not. (I see you had "Who'd" in your first draft.)

It seems very apt that a poem about something that's difficult and frustrating should be in the form of a villanelle.

Salut!

David
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