Chalito bordado

Joseph Mansfield

 

Early this year I wrote a short story called “Quod erat demonstrandum”.  It is posted on my web site.  It is based on factual events only slightly embellished, and includes the true names of the characters involved.

 

One of the characters is Ed Parsch, whom I met when we were both soldiers, and who came to Dunlap to live with me for a few months some time after we finished our tours.  Another is Roman Tatchyn, a friend of Ed’s, who came to visit us in Dunlap while Ed was with me.

 

After I finished the first draft of the story I got the idea of sending copies to Ed and Roman, to see if it squared with their memories of the events.  And, I thought, there might be adventure in communicating with these men whom I knew more than 30 years ago and had not heard from since.

 

A trip to switchboard.com found several entries for Ed Parsch, and a google on the web found, as I recall, a single entry several years old.  Not too useful.

 

A search for Roman was more fruitful.  He was not in switchboard.com, but a google found a lot of entries for a Roman Tatchyn who worked on a linear accelerator, or some such contraption, at Stanford University.  There were also lots of entries for a Roman Tatchyn who translated Ukrainian poetry into English.  Among the former entries I found an email address and wrote to it.

 

Shortly a reply came.  Roman of the accelerator was indeed the Roman I had known, and also the Roman who translated poetry.  He had been studying at Stanford when we met in the 70s.  Upon finishing his studies he had got a job there, and never left.  He also said he still maintained contact with Ed Parsch.

 

I then told Roman about “Quod erat demonstrandum” and sent him a copy, which he forwarded to Ed Parsch, along with the intelligence that I was interested in getting in touch.  I never heard from Ed and did not make any further attempt to communicate with him.  Roman responded with a minor correction to the story (he is of Ukrainian ancestry; I had had him down as Greek).

 

Roman also responded with a proposal.  He had in hand a Ukrainian song that talked about cowboys and mothers and sons leaving home.  He felt that it had so much cultural affinity with northern Mexican cowboys, and their culture and music, that it ought to be translated into Spanish.  He had made a first draft translation and asked if I would be willing to collaborate in completing it.  I said I could not promise good results but I would be glad to give my best efforts.  We then went to work on the translation.

 

There was no question about the music.  Roman sent me a .wav file and the music did sound like that of the northern Mexico vaqueros.  At least to my untrained ear.  We left the music unaltered.

 

 As for the text, we went through three rounds of editing between 24 March and 9 April of this year.  Then, without explanation or warning, the line went dead.  I did not hear again from Roman after sending him the third round of edits.  I wrote again on 12 June, 2 August, and 29 October stating that I was waiting for the next round, asking was he busy, asking what happened.  Silence.  Nothing.

 

And as of today, 23 November, still no response.

 

Well, that leaves me with some interesting correspondence and an unfinished translation, and I do not know what to do with them.  For want of a better idea, I have gathered up the letters that Roman and I exchanged, edited out material not pertinent to work on the poem, and attached them to this introduction.  I think our work on the poem makes a pretty good story.  I have used the Spanish title of the poem, “Chalito bordado”, as the title for this account also.

 

© 2005 Joseph Mansfield.  Written 2005.11.23.

 

Attachment 1:  Roman to Joseph, 15 March 2005

Attachment 2:  Joseph to Roman, 15 March 2005

Attachment 3:  Roman to Joseph, 16 March 2005

Attachment 4:  Roman to Joseph, 19 March 2005

Attachment 5:  Joseph to Roman, date lost but in sequence

Attachment 6:  Roman to Joseph, 27 March 2005

Attachment 7:  Joseph to Roman, 9 April 2005, interlined with Attachment 6

 

 

 

Attachment 1:  Roman to Joseph, 15 March 2005

 

I now have a second direct question to you: are you fluent in (Mexican) Spanish? My reason for asking is as follows.

As you noted in your memoir one of my interests is translating Ukrainian literature into English. I am in fact currently involved in a few projects in this area. However, about three years ago I was moved to attempt a translation of perhaps one of the most beautiful modern Ukrainian songs into - of all things - Spanish. Now mind you I am not even close to being fluent in Spanish, or even "good" for that matter. Nevertheless the beauty and theme of the song seemed to me so perfectly fitted to the Mexican campesino that I had a "vision" of it (if properly translated and performed) elevating their spirits and lives before the whole world. So I diligently embarked on "sculpting" a first draft.

Now although I think it transmits the semantics of the original I'm almost certain that the syntax might still have awful errors in it, not to mention unsuitable or stilted lexical choices and idiomatic phrasings. I also sense the stress pattern is still either wrong or too rough in a number of places. I have consequently been praying to run into someone who might have the qualifications, but above all, the interest in helping me polish it up to an acceptably mellifluous form. Given that it sounds like you have worked along similar lines in this area, plus your experience in musical arrangement, I am venturing to ask if you would be willing to look at it and try to help me out with it. Mind you, the music for it exists and is also beautiful (in Ukrainian the words and the music mesh extraordinarily symbiotically), and my "vision" presumes the same music for the Spanish version as well. The good news is there are only a handful of quatrains. The "genre" might be characterized as ballad.

So - in the hope that your Spanish might be up to the challenge, I will await your response.


Attachment 2:  Joseph to Roman, 15 March 2005

Now as to your Ukrainian song in Spanish.

I am by no means fluent in Spanish.  It is my everyday language for business, talking with neighbors and the men in the plaza, etc.  For the first year in Mexico I avoided English and so I use Spanish without reticence.  But also without excellence.

On the other hand, I am quite sensitive to music, melody, rhythm, and would be pleased to look over your quatrains and see if I can make any remarks on them.

I would suggest that you send me as much of the following as you have:

1) Recording of the original.

2) Recording of the music for the Spanish version, if it exists and is different from the Ukrainian music.  Or send in ms if it exists that way.

3) The Ukrainian, English, and Spanish texts.  Perhaps a spoken reading of the Ukrainian.  Of course I can't understand it but the sound will have its effect.

4) Any notes or anything else you think relevant.

Is the metre of the Spanish the same as the Ukrainian?

 

 

 

Attachment 3:  Roman to Joseph, 16 March 2005

 

I will send you my translation of the song as it stands with the attendant parsing and recording you requested. I think that at some point the opinion of an honest speaker of Mexican (preferably a native one) will be essential to assess its actual potential (either as it is now or after we finish iterating on it), and here again the odds are you might know such a person.

 

 

Attachment 4:  Roman to Joseph, 19 March 2005


I would like to start by responding to a recent question you asked. ALL my work in the area of poetry translation has been and remains predicated on maintaining a 1:1 correspondence between the original and translated version¹s metrical and rhyme structures. In this particular case there is the added dimension of music and it is my intent to maintain a 1:1 correspondence with regard to the melody as well. Of course, if the first congruence is met, the second one is automatically facilitated. Obviously, within these constraints there are a denumerably infinite number of ways to arrange any presentation, and I have no difficulty with stylistic shadings or choric structurings that might, for instance, reflect the musical idioms of Mexico. At the same time I would NOT like to see any Spanish presentations of  "Chalito Bordado" evincing what I consider to be the CLICHES of Mexican music, which seem to be rife nowadays in most popular mariachi-style renderings (and which I oftentimes find intrusive or even mildly annoying).

At the same time I sense that this work would be ideal for a top-flight mariachi ensemble that had the vocal talent and depth and the flexibility and self-discipline to mute clichéd riffs or refrains and cede precedence to the words and melody to carry the song.

Why do I feel strongly about this? It is because I believe what makes this song unique is that it deals with what is embedded in the deepest part of every human being¹s soul ­ a mother¹s love. It is what makes it, I feel, so appropriate to carry the message that campesinos and other migrant workers are the same as any other human being in the world. In performances of this song (in Ukrainian) it is the words that draw the listener into this realm and I instinctively feel that that this should remain the case in the Spanish version as well.

An additional point ­ I would propose to treat this endeavor as a two phase process, the first and much more important one being the perfection of the translation into Spanish. In that phase no Spanish interlocutor need know that this is a song, which I believe will focus his or her attention on the intrinsic correctness of the language. Then, once any Mexican speaker can read it and find it sufficiently correct and mellifluous, we can set our sights on a musical arrangement and performance. A corresponding advantage of this approach is that if this idealized outcome is not quickly attained then it will be possible to drop the project without it beginning to turn into a tar baby.

Finally, there are copyright issues regarding both the original Ukrainian words and music, as well as my translation to date of the original words. In this regard I have listed both the poet and the composer under the song¹s header and every effort should be made to keep their names associated with whatever we do. If anything we do ever acquires a financial dimension a more quantitative and precise knowledge of copyright issues and obligations/agreements will of course have to be established.

To start I will write down my latest translated version of the song into Spanish (some diacritical marks might be missing or inaccurate).

Chalito Bordado
(“Embroidered (Little) Shawl”)

(por los Campesinos)

(Translated from the Ukrainian verses of Andriy Malyshko by © Roman Tatchyn 2002-2005)

­ Original music composed by Hryhoryi Maiboroda ­

Madrecita, mama', tu per diste el sueño,
Y llevabas tu me en los campos del Fe,
Y en viaje distante, tu con angeles me escoltabas,
Y un chalito bordado para suerte y fortuna diste.

 

En dejado crecer una senda rociosa,
Y los prados del sol, campos ruiseñor,
Y su no mintienda tierna sonrisa,
Y sus ojos colmadosŠtristeza y dolor.

 

Tomare' eso chal, pondre¹ lo como vida,
Bajo susurro yerbas, bosquecillos cancion,
Y en eso chalito subire totos mezclar con pena:
Y niñez, y partida, y firme amor.

 

Y en eso chalito subire totos mezclar con pena:
Y niñez, y partida, y su maternal el amor.

 

On the tape (or file) that I¹m sending you, along with two Ukrainian renditions of the song I have recorded myself enunciating the above lines in accordance with the stress and rhyme patterns of the original Ukrainian version. If what I have could be polished so as to be also grammatically correct (or at least acceptably correct under the legitimate accent shifts and elisions that can be utilized in a song) then the job of phase one is done ­ i.e., it would be ready for the preparation of a vocal plus instrumental rendition in Spanish.

I will now write down a glossary of the words of the song in a phonetic approximation to the Ukrainian original, marking stressed syllables with a ¹. I am also splitting each word into syllables. The order of the words in the left column follows their order of appearance in the song and you should be able to track each word from the tape (I suppose after listening to it a number of times). There will be a few gaps between the left column and what you hear  because I don¹t repeat words in the list as they get repeated in the song. But this is only a small fraction of them and you should soon be able to identify each word on the tape.  The places where I don¹t have an entry in a column signify that I translated that original word into words with different meanings.

Ukrainian              Meaning or paraphrase             Spanish
roosh-ny-chok¹   little embroidered cloth,scarf      chalito  
                                                                              bordado
rid¹-na                        dearest                                       -
ma¹-ty                         mother                                 mama¹
mo-ya¹                          mine                                     mi
ty                                  you (familiar form)               tu
no-chey¹                       nights (adverbial case)         -
neh                                  not                                      no        
do-spa¹-la                    finish sleeping                        -
neh do-spa¹la         didn¹t finish sleeping   per diste el sueno
ee                                   and                                       y
vo-dy¹-la                    led (by the hand)                llevabas
meh-ne¹                             me                                    me
oo                                       in                                     en
poh-lya¹                         fields                               campos
kray                                by                                        -
se-la¹                                  village                            -
ee v                                    and for                              y en
doh-ro¹-hu                        journey                             viaje
da-le¹-ku                         distant (far, far)            distante
na                                   on, with                               con
zo-ri¹                              the evening star                      -
pro-vo-dza¹-la            escorted, accompanied     escoltabas
roosh-nyk¹          see above (regular form)               chal
vy-shy-va¹-nyi          embroidered                          bordado
na                                         for                                para
shchas¹-tia                         luck                             suerte
do¹-lyu                          fortune                            fortuna
da-la¹                               gave                                  diste

khay                                     may                        dejado
na                                         on                              an
nyo¹-moo                              it                                 -
chvi-te¹                   blossom, arise                       crecer
roh-sia-nys¹-ta              a dew-spangled                  rociosa
doh-reezh¹-ka         little footpath                        senda
ze-len¹-yi                     green                                     -
loo-hy¹                         meadows                        prados
po-lya¹                           meadows, fields            prados
so-loh-vyi¹-nyi          nightingale                       ruisenor
ha-yi¹                       forest glades                         campos
tvo-ya¹                          your (familiar)                    su
neh-zrad-ly¹-va        non-betraying           no mintienda
mah-te-ryn¹-ska        maternal                               maternal¹
las-ka¹-va                    tender                             tierna
ush-meesh¹-kah            smile                            sonrisa
zah-smoo¹-tche-nyi    filled with sorrow  colmados..tristeza  
                                                                                y dolor
o¹-chee                       eyes                                         ojos
tvo-yee¹                      yours(familiar, plural)         sus

ya                                        I                                           -
vozh-moo¹                    will take                              tomare¹
toy                                   that                                      eso
pro-ste-lyu¹                   furl (spread) it out          pondre lo                                            
na¹-che                         like, as though                       como
ty¹-khim                             soft                                       -
she¹-les-tyi                        whisper                           sussuro
trav                        of the grasses                              yerbas
shche-beh-tan¹-yi      birdsongs                                 cancion
dee-brov¹                     woodlands                     bosquecillios
teem                                   that                                   eso
roosh-nych-ko¹-vi     little embroidered shawl         chalito
o-zhy-ve¹              shal appear, come to life           subire¹
vse                             all, everything                              totos
zna-yo¹-meh      known to, associated with             mezclar          
doh                              to                                           con
boh¹-lyu                    pain                                            pena  
dy-tyn¹-stvo                childhood                          ninez
roz-loo¹-kah                 parting                               partida
vir¹-nah                        true,undying                      firme
lyu-bov¹                        love                                     amor

As a semantic referent, I will now write out a periphrastic translation of the Ukrainian song into English, without attention to meter or accent.

My own dearest mother, you spent sleepless nights (over me),
And by the hand you led me through the fields of our village,
And out on a far and distant journey, under the morning star you escorted me,
And in parting, an embroidered little scarf (shawl) ­ for luck and fortune ­ you gave me.

May there blossom on it a dew-spangled little path,
And fields of green, and nightingale meadows,
And your own, non-betraying, tender, mother¹s smile.
And your sorrowful eyes, filled with tears.

I will take that small shawl, and furl it out like my lifetime,
Amidst the whispering of grasses, songs of birds in the trees,
And on that little shawl will appear all that is familiar to pain:
Childhood, and parting, and true, undying love.

And on that little shawl will appear all that is familiar to pain:
Childhood, and parting, and your undying, mother¹s love.

 

Attachment 5:  Joseph to Roman, date lost but in sequence

My knowledge of music is limited to a practical knowledge of liturgical music.  You appear to be a good bit more familiar with Mexican music than I am.  It may be that commenting on the translation is the most I can do.  In any case it is where I am going to start.

 

On typography—if you are using Microsoft Word or a workalike then you should be able to flip your keyboard into Spanish.  On mine (Windows XP) I go through language options to specify English and Spanish as my input languages, then toggle between them using leftAlt-Shift.  Also you can go through accessibility options to make it display a keyboard on screen until you learn the Spanish layout.  Start >All programs >Accessories >Accessibility >On-screen keyboard.

 

Here is your Spanish as received:


Chalito Bordado
(³Embroidered (Little) Shawl²)

 

 (por los Campesinos)

Madrecita, mama', tu per diste el sueño,
Y llevabas tu me en los campos del Fe,
Y en viaje distante, tu con angeles me escoltabas,
Y un chalito bordado para suerte y fortuna diste.

 

En dejado crecer una senda rociosa,
Y los prados del sol, campos ruiseñor,
Y su no mintienda tierna sonrisa,
Y sus ojos colmadosŠtristeza y dolor.

 

Tomare' eso chal, pondre¹ lo como vida,
Bajo susurro yerbas, bosquecillos cancion,
Y en eso chalito subire totos mezclar con pena:
Y niñez, y partida, y firme amor.

 

Y en eso chalito subire totos mezclar con pena:
Y niñez, y partida, y su maternal el amor.

 

Now we’ll retype to get the markings and spellings, as underlined, and a few other things:


Chalito Bordado
(“Embroidered (Little) Shawl”)

 

 (Para los Campesinos)

Madrecita, mamá, tú perdiste el sueño,
Y llevabas tú me en los campos de la fe,
Y en viaje distante, tú con ángeles me escoltabas,
Y un chalito bordado para suerte y fortuna diste.

 

I presume you meant “perdiste”, you “lost sleep”. 

Faith is feminine. 

I would prefer “por los campos

 

Your English says “fields of our village”.  Why do you use “faith” here?  You might say “campos del pueblo”, which would add an unstressed syllable.

 

“Me” ought to precede “llevabas”.

 

Could we say something like “Me llevabas por mano en los campos del pueblo”?

 

The last line is difficult.  Diste” normally needs the dative “me” in front of it.  “Para” needs a “darme” after it.  (We say “for to give me luck”; “para” to express purpose needs an infinitive after it.  If we cram all this in we have way too many syllables.  Also we have “to give” in there twice, “darme … me diste”.  How close are “luck” and “fortune”?  Do we require both of them?  If we say “Y un chalito bordado me diste para darme suerte” we have two syllables left over after the fourth foot—which you had anyway—but we still have “give” in there twice.  I’m gonna try “como encanto” in there—“as a charm”.

 

First line scans better with “tu sueño” because “el” gets sucked into the previous word.

 

We need preterite verbs throughout.

 

Third line.  Distante” doesn’t seem quite right, it means “far away” and I think we want “long [voyage]” here.  Why “angels”, does that mean something besides “angels”?  In any case “morning star” is “lucero del alba” which is not going to fit.  Leaving your angels in place, I am thinking about “Al camino tan largo …”, “To the road so long …” you escort me, because she does not actually go on the journey, she just escorts the traveler to the beginning of the road and maybe a little further.

 

En dejado crecer una senda rociada,
Y los prados del sol, campos ruiseñor,
I don’t understand the first line, especially “en dejado”.  Can we just go literally and  say “Que florezca en él una senda rociada”?  It might pronounce more easily with “… un sendero rociado”.

 

Why “del sol” instead of the literal “verdes”?

 

I don’t know how to handle “nightengale meadows”.  In English a noun is often used as an adjective.  It happens in Spanish too but I have only seen it where phrases are literally lifted from English (“key word”=”palabra clave”) and I don’t think it is a legitimate Spanish usage.  Can we omit one of our two “field”s, feminize the other to gain a syllable, and use a possessive: “Y las praderas verdes, del ruiseñor”?  Or “praderas tan verdes”, to gain another syllable?

 

Nightengale meadows” will have to mean meadows with nightingales (plural).  The shawl has green meadows already, now I’m going to add the birds, and count on the hearer placing them in the meadow.

 

Y tu no mintiendo tierna sonrisa,
Y tus ojos colmados [?] tristeza y dolor.

 

I switched su/sus to tu/tus because you used second person in the first verse.  I presume this was deliberate.  Sometimes Spanish speakers address their parents in the third person, but in a poem like this I think we want the tenderness of second person.

 

 “Tu sonrisa tierna que no puede entregarme”

That scans right and it relieves us of three lines in a row starting with “y”.   For that matter we can drop the first “y” too.

 Entregar” is “hand someone over”; “mentir” is “lie” which is not the same thing.  Note that a present active participle always ends in “-ndo”; it does not decline in number and gender.

 

“Y tus ojos colmados de pena y tristeza.”

Don’t know what you had after “colmados”.  But it needs a “de”.  I substituted “dolor” with “pena”, thinking—may be wrong, but thinking—that “dolor” is more physical pain and “pena” emotional.

 

Tomaré eso chal, pondré lo como vida,
Bajo susurro yerbas, bosquecillos canción,

Desplegar” is “unfurl” but probably “poner” is better, in the sense of “making” the shawl …  But the word order should be “lo pondre” .

 

Second line has various problems, the main being that it has a preposition and four nouns.   I would try a full rework, such as:

Entre pastos gimiendo, canción de los aves”. 

Pastos” is more like grass of a pasture or field, whereas “yerbas” is more yard grasses.  Susurrando and gimiendo are pretty close and the latter scans better.

 

Y en eso chalito subirán todos mezclar con pena:
Y niñez, y partida, y firme amor.

 

If we mean “all shall ascend on that shawl to mix with pain” then we will need a “para” before “mezclar”. And it looks too long to cram into four feet.  Why not just say “… subirán todas penas”?

 

Last line would be stronger with “fuerte amor”.  Could also begin with “de” as we are introducing a list of particular pains that depends from the general “pain”.  I can find where “partir” means “to set out” but no mention of “partida” as a setting out.  In any case I think parting ought to be expressed by “despedida”.

 

Still don’t like it.  I am going to take a long shot and try “ausencia”, “absence”.  Not knowing the source language I don’t know if it will support this or not.  “Parting” is the act of departure, “absence” the effect.  But “ausencia” scans.

 

I’m also throwing in definite articles.  The first one makes the first foot scan right and the other two slide into their nouns and don’t hurt anything.

 

Y en eso chalito subirán todos mezclar con pena:
Y niñez, y partida, y firme amor.

 

Well, we can also drop the first “y”, scans better.  And the second comma.  In Spanish a comma is not used before the last item in a series.

 

Well, let me try now to consolidate everything.

 

Chalito Bordado

 (Para los campesinos)

Madrecita, mamá, tú perdiste tu sueño,
Me llevaste por mano en los campos del pueblo,
Y al camino tan largo con ángeles me escoltaste,
Y un chalito bordado me diste como encanto.

 

Que florezca en él un sendero rociado,
Ruiseñores cantando en praderas herbosas,

Tu sonrisa materna que no me entrega,

Y tus ojos colmados de pena y tristeza.

Guardaré ese chal, lo pondré como vida,

Entre pastos gimiendo, canción de los aves,

Y en ese chalito subirán todas penas:
De la niñez, la ausencia y el fuerte amor.

 

Y en ese chalito subirán todas penas:
De la niñez, la ausencia y el fuerte amor.

 

Well, that’s an afternoon’s work and I have only worked on the diction and grammar, have not paid full attention to scansion.  Of course you know that in Spanish poetry and song ample liberty is taken with scansion, such as running together vowels belonging to adjacent words (“y en” becomes “yen”) and running over weak vowels (“subirán” may become “subrán”).  I don’t know how much liberty you mean to take with scansion.  Or, for that matter, with translation.  But I was thinking as I went through this that it is ultimately futile to try to get everything in the source language exactly translated into the target language.  It can’t be done because very few words of the one language are going to have exact equivalents in the other.

 

An hour later.  Several tinkerings made without further comment.  I have at least got everything to scan, and every line except the last has a weak syllable left over.

 

If we had an original composition here I would humbly say I have improved it.  But I am in on only half the process, teasing the English into Spanish that says something like what the English said.  Without access to the Ukrainian I have no way of knowing if I am close enough to it to be passable.

 

A couple of hours later.  The third line has an extra syllable in the third foot.

Y al camino tan largo con ángeles me escoltaste,

I’m stuck on it, don’t know what to do with it.

 

I’m going to bounce this back and see what you say about it.

 

 

 

Attachment 6:  Roman to Joseph, 27 March 2005

 

Before addressing some of your points let me interject some further clarifications regarding my methodology of translation as applied to poetry. You might well have wondered how on Earth could it be possible to do a good poetic translation in general if one adheres too rigorously to the criterion of reproducing the original’s metrical and rhyming structures.

 

This is a justifiable reservation, but only if predicated on a common (but in my view unnecessarily restrictive) assumption, viz., that a “proper” poetic translation should transmit the literal (or semantic) meanings of the poem at the lexical, or even phrastic, level.  This is quite natural, and in accordance with, I would guess, most people’s concept of translation.

 

But according to my perspective, while this may undoubtedly be true for ordinary language, the great majority of which transmits thoughts and meanings linearly (as it must, for it is tied to everyday life, everyday business, and societal discourse, each of which requires the transmission of the precise meanings of individual words and phrases), the same cannot be asserted for poetry.  In poetry, the net semantic value often stems not only from individual words and phrases, but on metaphorical constructions and associations based on these, and sometimes these can constitute the true essence of a poem. Moreover, different kinds of composition are in play, namely, phonetic, musical, and sometimes even visual, all of which contribute to the associative reinforcement and complexity of the composition.  In effect, poetry can be (and much great poetry is) one of the most nonlinear and complex creations of human language.  Thus, in approaching a translation of a poem, I consider my “palette”  to consist of not only the individual words of both languages, but also their (obligatorily idiomatic) phrasings, metaphors, and similes, the phonemic structures of all of these, and how standard poetic techniques such as, e.g., vowel harmony, assonance, onomatopoeia, etc. work within each language to produce the final work of art. Thus, for example, I believe it to be perfectly legitimate to substitute words with totally different meanings into a poetic translation, if, for example, the metaphor or simile they comprise conveys the same contextual meaning in the second language as in the original, and even more so if the substituted words also perform their corresponding poetic functions (I mean in the acoustic sense) in a superior way. In essence I consider a good translation to be almost as much an artistic endeavor as the original, and I have found that using the entire “palette” of the translator often gives one more than enough material to compensate for the absence of exact word or phrase correlations while staying within the constraints of the metrical and rhyming schemes of the original.

 

(To forestall a fast-approaching descent into total pomposity here let me, however, add that while I have found the foregoing to be applicable to those few languages I have translated poetry in I acknowledge it might not be so for many of those I have not.)

 

As a first case in point, the periphrastic translation of Chalito Bordado that I sent you is exactly that – its main point is to convey the poetic images associations of the original and not so much to provide “anchor points” for lexical translation (although in point of fact it is reasonably close to the original even on the lexical level).

 

My next point is a question. I notice you titled your last email “chalita bordada,” but one of the first things I ascertained when starting this translation was that “chal” is masculine and that – presumably - the diminutive form retains the gender?

 

My following comments relate to the changes I have entered in the following iteration of the poem, some of which are in fact exactly the ones you proposed and most of the rest are based on the intensive two day remedial cramming of Spanish grammar and vocabulary that I undertook, prompted by your invaluable corrections and commentary on the errors in the first version. Nonetheless be prepared for more errors in what is to follow..

 

1st quatrain:

 

Regarding preterite vs. imperfective, in the original the tense of “you led me through the fields of our village” is beyond a doubt past imperfect, i.e., the line implies that the mother led him, each day of his childhood, through the fields of their village. The deep association here can be paraphrased as “mama, you raised me.” It is in that sense that I felt it to be legitimate to substitute “de fe” for “fields of our village.” It is in effect a metaphorical rendering: “you led me , every day of my childhood, through the fields of faith.” But my main point here is that in this regard “llevabas” seems more appropriate than “llevaste.” However, your point that all the other verbs should be preterite I accept as correct.

 

Your “camino tan largo” I think could be just “camino largo.” It is actually quite beautiful, has the advantage of relieving an over-monotonous anapestic tetrameter, and interestingly, its idiomatic meaning appears to be the same in Ukrainina, English, and Spanish.

 

I substituted “angeles” for “morning star” because “angeles” seemed poetically more utile and some of its connotations and associations are similar to those of the original phrase, for example “constancy,” “guiding light,” etc.

 

I agree that the last line ending in “diste” is a problem because of the wrong stress – I’m still uncertain as to whether it could be retained in a sung rendition.  Regarding the idiomatic use of “suerte” you might have focused too literally on the words of my English translation. I have substituted “para la suerte” because I have actually seen this exact phrase before in Spanish text – if it is a legitimate idiomatic version of “for luck” it should perhaps be used.  I have introduced the participial adjective “durando” (and the infinitive form “durir” in the next optional line) because that too is connoted by the original.

 

2nd quatrain:

 

I have revised the first 2 lines to try to make them grammatically correct, but at the price of dropping the adjective “dewy.”

 

In the third line, my initial “no mintiendo” was not necessarily meant to be a participial phrase. I have replaced it with the phrase “no enganosa,” which I hope is grammatically acceptable. Unfortunately “mintiendo” probably sounds better.

 

I have also two new versions of the fourth line which I also hope are grammatically acceptable. If viable I would prefer the one with the hyphenated word.

 

3rd quatrain:

 

In the first line I accept your point that the construction should be lo pondre and it should be written that way if necessary. However in the version below I have retained “pondre lo” because it sounds better to me as read within the whole line (perhaps because it too relieves the rigidity of the meter).

 

I have revised the specific poetic images of the original in the second line in an attempt to correct the grammar.

 

I have entered two possible versions of the third line – hopefully at least one of them will prove grammatically acceptable.

 

In the fourth line I have corrected the gender and hopefully sufficiently improved the grammar vis-à-vis the first version.

 

Regarding “firme” vs. “fuerte” I researched the denotations and connotations of both words in the Oxford Spanish dictionary and “firme” appears to intersect much more with the Ukrainian word “vir’-na” than “fuerte” does. Specifically, the denotations of “firme” include  firm,  steadfast, and unwavering, while “fuerte” connotes passion, a potentially inappropriate association.

 

I will now write down the iterated version, interleaving selected alternative words or lines throughout. Hopefully something grammatically sound can be synthesized from it. And then, possibly, something pretty.

Chalito Bordado

(Embroidered (Little) Shawl)

 

(Para los Campesinos)

 

(Translated from the Ukrainian verses of Andriy Malyshko by © Roman Tatchyn 2002-2005 with assistance from

 © Joseph Mansfield 2005)

– Original music composed by Hryhoryi Maiboroda

 

Madrecita, mamá, tú perdiste el sueño,
Y llevabas me (me llevabas tú ?)  por (en?) los campos de fe,
Y al (en
?) camino largo, tú con ángeles me escoltaste,
Y un chalito bordado para l’ suerte durando diste.

(Y un chalito bordado para la suerte durar me diste. ?)

 

Puede en él crecer una senda de risa (herbosa ? ) (hermosa ?),

Y los prados del sol, de el ruiseñor,

Y tu no engañosa (mintiendo ?), tierna sonrisa,

Y tus ojos colmados de el hondo dolor.

(Y tus ojos colmados de el largo dolor. ?)

(Y tus ojos colmados de lagrimas-dolor. ?)

 

Tomaré eso chal, pondré lo (lo pondré ?)como vida,

Entre frescas olors, los cancións de verdor,

Y en eso chalito subirán todas partes de pena ­–

(Y en eso chalito subirán nuestras partes de pena ­– ? )

La niñez, la partida, y (el*) firme amor.

 

Y en eso chalito subirán todas partes de pena –

(Y en eso chalito subirán nuestras partes de pena ­– ?)

La niñez, y partida, y tu maternal el amor.

 

 

* preferable if this definite article was unnecessary

 

 

 

Attachment 7:  Joseph to Roman, 09 April 2005, interlined with Attachment 6

 

Dear Roman,

 

I am ridiculously out of my depth here!  But this is still a fascinating experience.   I only hope it is worth something to you, as it is to me, and not a waste of your time.  I may have said earlier that I am quite concretistic in my thinking, so much that I seldom attempt to read poetry.  If I were to dig into myself on this, it’s probably not so much being concretistic as it is something else that blocks my understanding of poetry.  In my own writing of prose I readily say one thing to mean another.  In any case, I think I understand what you say in your first two pages and concur with it, to what extent I am competent to do anything with it.

 

Dear Jose,                                                                                 3/27/05

 

Before addressing some of your points let me interject some further clarifications regarding my methodology of translation as applied to poetry. You might well have wondered how on Earth could it be possible to do a good poetic translation in general if one adheres too rigorously to the criterion of reproducing the original’s metrical and rhyming structures.

 

This is a justifiable reservation, but only if predicated on a common (but in my view unnecessarily restrictive) assumption, viz., that a “proper” poetic translation should transmit the literal (or semantic) meanings of the poem at the lexical, or even phrastic, level.  This is quite natural, and in accordance with, I would guess, most people’s concept of translation.

 

But according to my perspective, while this may undoubtedly be true for ordinary language, the great majority of which transmits thoughts and meanings linearly (as it must, for it is tied to everyday life, everyday business, and societal discourse, each of which requires the transmission of the precise meanings of individual words and phrases), the same cannot be asserted for poetry.  In poetry, the net semantic value often stems not only from individual words and phrases, but on metaphorical constructions and associations based on these, and sometimes  these can constitute the true essence of a poem. Moreover, different kinds of composition are in play, namely, phonetic, musical, and sometimes even visual,

 

I presume visual refers to the appearance on the page.  When I was writing programs I paid attention to giving each page of code a good, balanced appearance.  A point of polish that has absolutely nothing to do with the code’s performance.

 

all of which contribute to the associative reinforcement and complexity of the composition.  In effect, poetry can be (and much great poetry is) one of the most nonlinear and complex creations of human language.  Thus, in approaching a translation of a poem, I consider my “palette”  to consist of not only the individual words of both languages, but also their (obligatorily idiomatic) phrasings, metaphors, and similes, the phonemic structures of all of these, and how standard poetic techniques such as, e..g., vowel harmony, assonance, onomatopoeia, etc. work within each language to produce the final work of art. Thus, for example, I believe it to be perfectly legitimate to substitute words with totally different meanings into a poetic translation, if, for example, the metaphor or simile they comprise conveys the same contextual meaning in the second language as in the original, and even more so if the substituted words also perform their corresponding poetic functions (I mean in the acoustic sense) in a superior way. In essence I consider a good translation to be almost as much an artistic endeavor as the original, and I have found that using the entire “palette” of the translator often gives one more than enough material to compensate for the absence of exact word or phrase correlations while staying within the constraints of the metrical and rhyming schemes of the original.

 

(To forestall a fast-approaching descent into total pomposity here let me, however, add that while I have found the foregoing to be applicable to those few languages I have translated poetry in I acknowledge it might not be so for many of those I have not.)

 

As a first case in point, the periphrastic translation of Chalito Bordado that I sent you is exactly that – its main point is to convey the poetic images associations of the original and not so much to provide “anchor points” for lexical translation (although in point of fact it is reasonably close to the original even on the lexical level).

 

My next point is a question. I notice you titled your last email “chalita bordada,” but one of the first things I ascertained when starting this translation was that “chal” is masculine and that – presumably - the diminutive form retains the gender?

 

If I used the feminine, I erred.  So far as I can think of right off, a diminutive does keep the gender of the positive.  Interestingly enough, sometimes the augmentative does not; consider silla and sillón.

 

My following comments relate to the changes I have entered in the following iteration of the poem, some of which are in fact exactly the ones you proposed and most of the rest are based on the intensive two day remedial cramming of Spanish grammar and vocabulary that I undertook, prompted by your invaluable corrections and commentary on the errors in the first version. Nonetheless be prepared for more errors in what is to follow..

 

1st quatrain:

 

Regarding preterite vs. imperfective, in the original the tense of “you led me through the fields of our village” is beyond a doubt past imperfect, i.e., the line implies that the mother led him, each day of his childhood, through the fields of their village. The deep association here can be paraphrased as “mama, you raised me.” It is in that sense that I felt it to be legitimate to substitute “de fe” for “fields of our village.” It is in effect a metaphorical rendering: “you led me , every day of my childhood, through the fields of faith.” But my main point here is that in this regard “llevabas” seems more appropriate than “llevaste.” However, your point that all the other verbs should be preterite I accept as correct.

 

And here we encounter one of my errors in trying to comprehend poetry!  I visualized the mother leading the campesino out to the edge of town as he was ready to start the trip.  I entirely missed the sense of leading through life.  I was uncomfortable with the way I read it, yet failed to rassle with it enough to get a different meaning.  Given your clarification, yes, imperfect is right; both as something which in past was a regular, recurring activity and as something which is not necessarily complete even now.

 

In this changed understanding, I think fe will work.

 

Your “camino tan largo” I think could be just “camino largo.” It is actually quite beautiful, has the advantage of relieving an over-monotonous anapestic tetrameter, and interestingly, its idiomatic meaning appears to be the same in Ukrainina, English, and Spanish.

 

Your programmer, known for highly structured code, put the “tan” in there to preserve the anapest.  There were several places where I altered something to force an anapest.  That kind of monotony works great in Pascal programming.

 

I  substituted “angeles” for “morning star” because “angeles” seemed poetically more utile and some of its connotations and associations are similar to those of the original phrase, for example “constancy,” “guiding light,” etc.

 

I agree that the last line ending in “diste” is a problem because of the wrong stress – I’m still uncertain as to whether it could be retained in a sung rendition.  Regarding the idiomatic use of “suerte” you might have focused too literally on the words of my Englidh translation. I have substituted “para la suerte” because I have actually seen this exact phrase before in Spanish text – if it is a legitimate idiomatic version of “for luck” it should perhaps be used. I have introduced the participial adjective “durando” (and the infinitive form “durir” in the next optional line) because that too is connoted by the original.

 

Spanish word order is flexible, but still the normal position for “me” would be in front of “llevabas”.  I support your “por [los campos]” and “al [camino]”, “through” the fields and “to” the road, rather than “en” (“on” or “in”).  I think we have to have the “durando” version of the last line.  The “durar” would have to follow “para” immediately and take the chalito as direct object, which won’t work because “durar” has no transitive use.  You have “para l’ suerte” which I presume is a typo for “la”.  Actually I don’t think it needs to be there.  I believe “para suerte”, for luck, fortune, good outcome, will do.  “La suerte” in Larousse seems to be used in constructions like “to have the luck to achieve” some outcome or result.

 

2nd quatrain:

 

I have revised the first 2 lines to try to make them grammatically correct, but at the price of dropping the adjective “dewy.”

 

In the third line, my initial “no mintiendo” was not necessarily meant to be a participial phrase. I have replaced it with the phrase “no enganosa,” which I hope is grammatically acceptable. Unfortunately “mintiendo” probably sounds better.

 

I have also two new versions of the fourth line which I also hope are grammatically acceptable. If viable I would prefer the one with the hyphenated word.

 

How about “Y tu tierna sonrisa, no mentirosa”?  (1) The participle form seems to me to suggest lying or dishonest action, which I dislike to associate with a mother’s smile even by way of saying it doesn’t happen.  The straight adjectival form lacks this thrust.  (2) It seems to me good to state the positive quality of tenderness first, and also get smile nearer the front end so the listener knows at once what we are talking about.  (3) One could soften the whole thing with “no decepcionando”, not “disappointing”, never failing.  But you may prefer a formation on “mentir”.

 

The first version of the last line seems best to me.  The last version would require a “de” to connect “dolor” to “lagrimas” and that gets too much clutter in there.  I don’t think the hyphenation will work (but someone who actually knows something about Spanish poetry might say different, I don’t know).

 

You have “de el”.  So far as I am aware, this never occurs in Spanish except with certain proper names (e.g., “de El Paso”).  Nor do I find even this exception in my grammar book; but “de El Paso” is the way the Spanish language newspapers say it.

                                                                                                                 

3rd quatrain:

 

In the first line I accept your point that the construction should be lo pondre and it should be written that way if necessary. However in the version below I have retained “pondre lo” because it sounds better to me as read within the whole line (perhaps because it too relieves the rigidity of the meter).

 

This is like the hyphenation in 2d quatrain and “me” in the first.  Normal position is before the verb.  Whether the needs of poetry license an exception is a question you need to ask and I can’t answer it.

 

I have revised the specific poetic images of the original in the second line in an attempt to correct the grammar.

 

But now you have two plurals that need “es” on the end!

 

I have entered two possible versions of the third line – hopefully at least one of them will prove grammatically acceptable.

 

How about “subirá toda clase”?  In the singular “parte” might mean share, portion, but in the plural it means, among other things, “genitals”, and Señor Murfi would no doubt see to it that somebody heard it that way.

 

In the fourth line I have corrected the gender and hopefully sufficiently improved the grammar vis-à-vis the first version.

 

I like it better with “el”, i.e., “…la partida, el firme …”  I am fond of listing a series without a conjunction before the last one, seems more forceful to me, appropriate here where we are talking about powerful motives.  If the “y” is used the comma before it has to come out.  It may have to come out anyway.  My grammar says it does not precede the last item of a series.  But the book seems to presume there will be a conjunction there.  So I’m not sure.  In any case as I hear the poem recited I hear a definite pause there.

 

Regarding “firme” vs. “fuerte” I researched the denotations and connotations of both words in the Oxford Spanish dictionary and “firme” appears to intersect much more with the Ukrainian word “vir’-na” than “fuerte” does. Specifically, the denotations of “firme” include  firm,  steadfast, and unwavering, while “fuerte” connotes passion, a potentially inappropriate association.

 

Concur.

 

In your repetition of the last two lines, remove the “el” before “amor”.  It would sound better to me with “amor maternal”.

 

I will now write down the iterated version, interleaving selected alternative words or lines throughout. Hopefully something grammatically sound can be synthesized from it. And then, possibly, something pretty.

 

Well, I hope what I have said is neither useless nor wrong, although it could be both.  I am ashamed of taking so much time to get to it and I apologize.  I’m going to go on and get it out without further comment.

 

Fraternally,

José

 

 

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