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许渊冲:创新性翻译的真、善、美原则(中)

2018-02-12 14:05     国内     来自:21世纪英语传媒

本文通过《论语》、《诗经》及部分唐诗的翻译实例证明,在翻译中应坚持创新性翻译原则,即在翻译文学作品时,“真”是必要条件,而“美”是充分条件。翻译中的“真”虽然重要,但翻译文学作品时应在保证“真”的基础上,让译作与原作同样“美”,因为文学作品本身应当是一件“美”的事物。


(接上期)


Here is another base for our translation theory. Mao Zedong’s theories On Practice and On Contradiction may also owe their origin to the Confucian and Taoist classics, so we may say that creative translation theory conforms to Mao Zedong’s thoughts, and we may illustrate that by examples.


It was said that the Book of Poetry was edited by Confucius 2500 years ago. The first poem 关雎 (phonetic transcription: guan ju) has five stanzas and the first stanza 关关雎鸠,在河之洲。窈窕淑女,君子好逑 translated by Waley reads as follows:


“Fair, fair,” cry the ospreys


On the island in the river,


Lovely is this noble lady,


Fit bride for our lord.


The title guan ju is taken from the first and the third word of the first line (phonetic transcription: guan guan ju jiu), “guan guan” is supposed to be the cry of the bird. What is the crying bird? There are five answers: water bird, osprey, egret, heron, turtledove. None of these five birds will cry: guan guan, only the turtledove will coo, which is not sonorous, so the poet adds one suffix -an, and the sound becomes cooan, which sounds like guan. 


So we may conclude the crying bird was cooing turtledove. Then who are the lovers in lines 3 and 4? Waley says they are a lord and a lady. But in the following stanzas the lovers gathering water plants to eat look unlike noble lords and ladies, so it would be better to replace them by a young man and a fair maiden. So one creative translation reads as follows:


By riverside are cooing


A pair of turtledoves.


A good young man is wooing


A maiden fair he loves.


The new version is more faithful and more beautiful in three aspects: in sense, in sound and in form: in sense for it is true not only in the past but also in the present, in sound for the verse is rhythmical and rhymed, and in form for it is more regular. So we see the creative translation better than an equivalent version.



In the Book of Poetry there are four beautiful verses: 昔我往矣 (xi wo wang yi),杨柳依依 (yang liu yi yi),今我来思 (jin wo lai si),雨雪霏霏 (yu xue fei fei). These four verses describe how a peasant conscript to fight for the lords was unwilling to leave home and even the willow would not let him go; when he came home bent down by the war, the sympathetic tree was also bent down by snow.


Was there communion between man and nature? In these verses yi yi and fei fei have no English equivalents. How can we translate these verses into English? Let us read the version of Professor Watson of Columbia University:


Long ago we set out


When willows were rich and green.


Now we come back


Through thickly falling snow.


The second line is an objective description without showing the sympathy of the personified willow with the soldier unwilling to leave home to fight for the lords. The last line is a description of snow without showing communion between man and nature. Now let us read the Chinese translator’s version:


When I left here,


Willows shed tear.


I come back now,


Snow bends the bough.


In the second line yi yi means “unwilling to part with the soldier, and willows in English may be said to be “weeping”, so here “shed tear” is used to show the communion between soldier and willow. In the last line the tree with boughs bent down by snow shows its sympathy with the home-coming soldier bent down by the war. 


Here we see how a Chinese translator has done better than an American professor. In other words, the principle of creative translation can do what the principle of equivalence cannot.


But opinions may differ. For instance, Professor Graham (University of London) says in his Poems of the Late Tang (p.37), “we can hardly leave the translation to the Chinese, since there are few exceptions to the rule that translation is best done into, not out of, one’s own language.” Is his idea right? We may read for example his translation of Li Shangyin’s Untitled Poem on p.146 of his Poems of the Late Tang. 


The poet wrote this poem for an unnamed lover with whom he had a date. He recalled the night when he entered her golden door with a lock in the form of a toad while she was burning incense, and the morning when he left her while people were drawing water with silken ropes from a well with a windlass ornated with a tiger of jade. 


The incense (xiang in Chinese) and silken (si in Chinese) put together means lovesickness (xiangsi in Chinese). This hints that the poet passed one night together with his unnamed lover. The original couplet reads as follows:


金(gold)蟾(toad)啮(gnaw)锁(lock)烧(burn)香(incense)入(enter),


玉(jade)虎(tiger)牵(pull)丝(silk)汲(draw)井(well)回( return)。


But Graham’s translation reads as follows :


A gold toad gnaws the lock. Lock it, burn the incense.


A tiger of jade pulls the rope. Draw from the well and escape.


Comparing Graham’s version with the original, we may find 11 words equivalent with the 14-word original: gold, toad, gnaw, lock, burn, incense, jade, tiger, pull, draw, well, so we may say Graham follows the principle of equivalence. 


There are only 3 words which he has mistranslated or left untranslated, that is, enter, silk and return, but these 3 are key words which, when untranslated, would make Graham’s version a complete failure.


Graham does not know that the golden toad is an ornament on the door, nor that the toad gnawing the lock means the door locked. He does not know who is the subject of the verb to lock and to burn, and uses the imperative mood instead of the indicative in the past, so the meaning is entirely wrong. It should read that the poet entered his lover’s door ornated with a golden toad before it was locked and when she was burning incense. 



The same mistake is made in the second verse. The tiger of jade is an ornament on the windlass of the well and stands for the windlass. The key word “silken” (lovesick) is untranslated and “escape” is a mistranslation which should read to go home or to return. 


Graham does not know what is the subject of verbs to draw and to escape. So the meaning is again entirely wrong. It should read: after the tryst the poet left his unnamed mistress in the morning when people began to draw water from the well with a windlass ornated with a jade tiger. Therefore these two verses should be retranslated as follows:


With incense burned at night I entered golden gate;


When water’s drawn at dawn, I left my jade-like mate.


The door with a lock in the form of a golden toad is simplified into “golden gate” to show his mistress’ house is a mansion, but the word “toad” is negligible because the ornament might be made in the form of a dragon or other animals. 


The word “jade” is transplanted to the poet’s mate, this is important for a jade tiger is only an ornament to show the family is rich and noble, while the jade-like mate shows the heroine of the tryst is beautiful as ivory or white jade, and that may be the reason why the poet comes to the tryst and writes this poem for an unnamed beauty.


This poem shows the difference between the word and the sense. When the poet says the golden toad, he means the golden gate, and by the tiger of jade he means the windlass. What is more important, by “incense” and “silk” he hints at the tryst. Without understanding this, Graham fails to make the reader understand the poem, which is the minimum requirement for a translator. 


If a translator only understands 50% of the original, he could not translate more than 50% of the original, no matter how good he may be at expressing the idea in his mother tongue. How can Graham be so ignorant and so arrogant as to say they cannot “leave translation to the Chinese”!


(未完待续)

内容来源:《21世纪英语教育》287期。

图片来源:网络。

 

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