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A difficult poem to translate
Thread poster: Jack Doughty

Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:06
Member (2000)
Russian to English
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Nov 13, 2004

I would have thought that Lewis Carroll’s poem Jabberwocky from Alice Through the Looking Glass, many words in which were invented by the author, would be virtually impossible to translate. But after reading this poem at a poetry reading meeting recently, I looked for translations of it and found a surprising number of them. I suppose people feel challenged by it and want to try.

Of the following, I think the German and Russian versions are very good, but my knowledge of the other languages is not good enough for me to judge. I would be interested in other opinions.

English:
JABBERWOCKY
Lewis Carroll
(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought -
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

French:

Le Jaseroque

Il brilgue: les tôves lubricilleux
Se gyrent en vrillant dans le guave.
Enmîmés sont les gougebosqueux
Et le mômerade horsgrave.

"Garde-toi du Jaseroque, mon fils!
La gueule qui mord; la griffe qui prend!
Garde-toi de l'oiseau Jube, évite
Le frumieux Band-à-prend!"

Son glaive vorpal en main, il va-
T-à la recherche du fauve manscant;
Puis arrivé a l'arbre Té-Té,
Il y reste, réfléchissant.

Pendant qu'il pense, tout uffusé,
Le Jaseroque, a l'oeil flambant,
Vient siblant par le bois tullegeais,
Et burbule en venant.

Un deux, un deux, par le milieu,
Le glaive vorpal fait pat-à-pan!
La bête défaite, avec sa tête,
Il rentre gallomphant.

"As-tu tué le Jaseroque?
Viens à mon coeur, fils rayonnais!
O jour frabbejais! Calleau! Callai!"
Il cortule dans sa joie.

Il brilgue: les tôves lubricilleux
Se gyrent en vrillant dans le guave.
Enmîmés sont les gougebosqueux
Et le mômerade horsgrave.


German:

DER JAMMERWOCH

Es brillig war. Die schlichte Toven
Wirrten und wimmelten in Waben:
Und aller-mümsige Burggoven
Die mohmen Räth' ausgraben.

"Bewahre doch vor Jammerwoch!
Die Zähne knirschen, Krallen kratzen!
Bewahr' vor Jubjub-Vogel, vor
Frumiösen Banderschnätzchen!"

Er griff sein vorpals Schwertchen zu,
Er suchte lang das manchsam' Ding;
Dann, stehend unten Tumtum Baum,
Er anzudenken fing.

Als stand er tief in Andacht auf,
Des Jammerwochen's Augen-feuer
Durch tulgen Wald mit Wiffel kam
Ein burbelnd Ungeheuer!

Eins, Zwei! Eins, Zwei! Und durch und durch
Sein vorpals Schwert zerschnifer-schnück,
Da blieb es todt! Er, Kopf in Hand,
Geläumfig zog zurück.

"Und schlugst Du ja den Jammerwoch?
Umarme mich, mein Böhm'sches Kind!
O Freuden-Tag! O Halloo-Schlag!"
Er chortelt froh-gesinnt.

Es brillig war. Die schlichte Toven
Wirrten und wimmelten in Waben:
Und aller-mümsige Burggoven
Die mohmen Räth' ausgraben.

Russian (View:Encoding:Cyrillic Windows 1251):

БАРМАГЛОТ

Перевела на русский Д.Г.Орловская

Варкалось. Хливкие шорьки
Пырялись по наве,
И хрюкотали зелюки,
Как мюмзики в мове.

О бойся Бармаглота, сын!
Он так свирлен и дик,
А в глуше рымит исполин -
Злопастный Брандашмыг!

Но взял он меч, и взял он щит,
Высоких полон дум.
В глущобу путь его лежит
Под дерево Тумтум.

Он стал под дерево и ждет,
И вдруг граахнул гром -
Летит ужасный Бармаглот
И пылкает огнем!

Раз-два, раз-два! Горит трава,
Взы-взы - стрижает меч,
Ува! Ува! И голова
Барабардает с плеч!

О светозарный мальчик мой!
Ты победил в бою!
О храброславленный герой,
Хвалу тебе пою!

Варкалось. Хливкие шорьки
Пырялись по наве,
И хрюкотали зелюки,
Как мюмзики в мове.

Spanish (Cuban):

El Bemboguaba

Jamasardecía y las inquiejosas tojías
girascaban y garrateaban en las guaguanturas.
Tan misefuácatas estaban las cototías
y las jicotumbas con sus chilladuras.

Cuidado, mi hijo, con el Bemboguaba
que te cocogarra y te quijadura.
Cuidado, mi cacho, con el Jubojaba
y despójate el frumioso Bocasura.

Con la mocha labiosa en alto
tanto tiempo buscó al enemigo.
Y recostado al tuntún, al árbol,
quedó un tanto pensativo.

Y mientras seguía en su coco haciendo,
sofosoplando por la manigua,
el Bemboguaba llegó, ojos ardiendo,
que no lo brubuapagaba ni agua.

¡Uno, dos! ¡Uno, dos! La espada
más chévere, dale que dale,
quiquiribú, con la cabeza cortada
del muerto galotriunfante ya sale.

¿Y se la arrancaste al Bemboguaba?
Ven a mis brazos, ¡bellorioso muchachón!
¡Cheverón! ¡Chamacón! ¡Oh frabuactuoso día!
Soltó un risigruño de alegría.

Jamasardecía y las inquiejosas tojías
girascaban y garrateaban en las guaguanturas.
Tan misefuácatas estaban las cototías
y las jicotumbas con sus chilladuras.

Italian:

Ciarlestrone

Era brillosto, e i tospi agìluti
Facean girelli nella civa;
Tutti i paprussi erano mélacri,
Ed il trugòn striniva.

«Ma bada al Ciarlestrone, o figlio!
Con fauci e denti ti rinserra.
Del Giuggio uccèl bada all'artiglio,
E al frumio Bandafferra!»

Il figlio impugna il brando vòrpido
In cerca dei Tontoni all'albero
Fermo e perplesso sta.

Qui mentre sostra in pensier bellici
L'occhidibragia Ciarlestrone
Si sonfla nella selva tulgida,
Sbollando nell'azione!

Un, dué! Un, dué! E poi daccapo,
Il brando vòrpido schidiatta!
Morto il nemico, col suo capo
Galonfa alla ritratta.

«Il Ciarlestrone hai schiantate?
Qua che t'abbracci, o taggioso!
Callò! Callài! Giorno fregiato!»
Quei stripetò, gioioso.

Era brillosto, e i tospi agìluti
Facean girelli nella civa;
Tutti i paprussi erano mélacri,
Ed il trugòn striniva.

Portuguese (Brazilian):

Jaguadarte

Era briluz. As lesmolisas touvas
Roldavam e relviam nos gramilvos.
Estavam mimsicais as pintalouvas,
E os momirratos davam grilvos.

``Foge do Jaguadarte, o que não morre!
Garra que agarra, bocarra que urra!
Foge da ave Felfel, meu filho, e corre
Do frumioso Babassurra!''

Êle arrancou sua espada vorpal
E foi atrás do inimigo do Homundo.
Na árvora Tamtam êle afinal
Parou, um dia, sonilundo.

E enquanto estava em sussustada sesta,
Chegou o Jaguadarte, ôlho de fogo,
Sorrelfiflando através da floresta,
E borbulia um riso louco!

Um, dois! Um, dois! Sua espada mavorta
Vai-vem, vem-vai, para trás, para diante!
Cabeça fere, corta, e, fera morta,
Ei-lo que volta galunfante.

"Pois então tu mataste o Jaguadarte!
Vem aos meus braços, homenino meu!
Oh dia fremular! Bravooh! Bravarte!''
Êle se ria jubileu.

Era briluz. As lesmolisas touvas
Roldavam e relviam nos gramilvos.
Estavam mimsicais as pintalouvas,
E os momirratos davam grilvos.

Danish:

"Kloppervok"
Translated by Arne Herløv Petersen from "Jabberwocky",
by Lewis Carroll,
Copyright 1986 Arne Herløv Petersen


I glummert lys den slyge spæg
stod gomrende og glim.
I børkens dyb stod mamren fjæg
og bungrede i skim.

"Vogt dig for Kloppervok, min søn,
pas på dens tand og klo!
Hold dig fra fuglen Djubberløn
og fra den spuge flog!"

Han tog sit vorpne sværd i hånd
og søgte fjenden trum,
Ved tomtetræets smækre vånd
han ventede så stum.

Som uffig han i tanker stod,
den kurpe Kloppervok
med flammeøjne ret imod
ham kom og guste spok.

Men hug på hug! Og sværdfet slog
så vorpent mod dens hals!
Dér lå den død; dens hoved tog
han med sig i gefals.

"Og, har du fældet Kloppervok?
Min søs, du est en knog!
Det er en glamrig dag, og nok
en spurkel værd, mintro!"

I glummert lys den slyge spæg
stod gomrende og glim.
I børkens dyb stod mamren fjæg
og bungrede i skim.



[Edited at 2004-11-14 19:55]


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 06:06
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
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Najaa Nov 13, 2004

Die deutsche Version wirkt doch sehr englantisierend, verfremdend. Es gibt sicher bessere Beispiele, schließlich ist das Buch zigmal verdeutscht worden. Bin aber kein Experte.

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lien
Netherlands
Local time: 05:06
English to French
+ ...
I prefer this french translation Nov 13, 2004

By Henri Parisot

Il était grilheure; les slictueux toves
Gyraient sur l'alloinde et vriblaient:
Tout flivoreux allaient les borogoves;
Les verchons fourgus bourniflaient.


«Prends garde au Jabberwock, mon fils!
A sa gueule qui mord, à ses griffes qui happent!
Gare l'oiseau Jubjube, et laisse
En paix le frumieux Bandersnatch!»


Le jeune homme, ayant pris sa vorpaline épée,
Cherchait longtemps l'ennemi manziquais...
Puis, arrivé près de l'Arbre Tépé,
Pour réfléchir un instant s'arrêtait.


Or, comme il ruminait de suffêches pensées,
Le Jabberwock, l'oeil flamboyant,
Ruginiflant par le bois touffeté,
Arrivait en barigoulant.


Une, deux! Une, deux! D'outre en outre!
Le glaive vorpalin virevolte, flac-vlan!
Il terrasse le monstre, et, brandissant sa tête,
Il s'en retourne galomphant.


«Tu as donc tué le Jabberwock!
Dans mes bras, mon fils rayonnois!
O jour frabieux! Callouh! Callock!»
Le vieux glouffait de joie.


Il était grilheure; les slictueux toves
Gyraient sur l'alloinde et vriblaient:
Tout flivoreux allaient les borogoves;
Les verchons fourgus bourniflaient.


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:06
Member (2000)
Russian to English
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TOPIC STARTER
Alternative versions Nov 13, 2004

Thank you for the second French version. I don't know French well enough to judge which is best.

I have also come across another German version:

Der Zipferlak

(Christian Enzensberger)

Verdaustig war's, und glaße Wieben
rotterten gorkicht im Gemank.
Gar elump war der Pluckerwank,
und die gabben Schweisel frieben.

»Hab acht vorm Zipferlak, mein Kind!
Sein Maul ist beiß, sein Griff ist bohr.
Vorm Fliegelflagel sieh dich vor,
dem mampfen Schnatterrind.«

Er zückt' sein scharfgebifftes Schwert,
den Feind zu futzen ohne Saum,
und lehnt' sich an den Dudelbaum
und stand da lang in sich gekehrt.

In sich gekeimt, so stand er hier,
da kam verschnoff der Zipferlak
mit Flammenlefze angewackt
und gurgt' in seiner Gier.

Mit Eins! und Zwei! und bis auf's Bein!
Die biffe Klinge ritscheropf!
Trennt' er vom Hals den toten Kopf,
und wichernd sprengt' er heim.

»Vom Zipferlak hast uns befreit?
Komm an mein Herz, aromer Sohn!
Oh, blumer Tag! Oh, schlusse Fron!«
So kröpfte er vor Freud'.

Verdaustig war's, und glaße Wieben
rotterten gorkicht im Gemank.
Gar elump war der Pluckerwank,
und die gabben Schweisel frieben.


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:06
Member (2000)
Russian to English
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TOPIC STARTER
Polish version Nov 13, 2004

Someone has kindly sent me this translation into Polish:

Żabrołaki
Translated by Robert Stiller

Był czas mrusztławy, ślibkie skrątwy
Na wałzach wiercząc świrypły,
A mizgłe do cna boroglątwy
I zdomne świszczury zgrzypły.

"Mój synu, Żabrołaka się strzeż
Co szponem drze, w paszcz chapa!
I dziubdziuba się bój! Zgroźliwego też
Unikaj Bandrochłapa!"

Swój miecz żarłacki jąwszy w dłoń,
Na wrażych śmiardłków żarty
Szedł w noc, trwał w dzień o pampamu pień
W ychliwych myślach wsparty.

A w myślach onych trwiąc, czuj duch!
Żabrołak z płogniem w oku
Świszłap! I brnie przez tołszczy pnie
I grzbyka nań w pokroku.

Raz, dwa! Raz, dwa! Rąb klingo zła,
Żarłacka, opak zbrodom!
Na śmierć go w ziem! I zrąbł, i z łbem
Pogalopysznił do dom.

"Tyś żabrołaka zrąbł? Pójdź, pójdź,
Promieńcze, w me objęcia!
O, świękny dniu! Wycz hej! Wycz hu!"
Krztuchotał do dziecięcia.

Był czas mrusztławy, ślibkie skrątwy
Na wałzach wiercząc świrypły,
A mizgłe do cna boroglątwy
I zdomne świszczury zgrzypły.


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Dinny  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 06:06
Italian to Danish
+ ...
Long Live Kloppervok! :-) Nov 13, 2004

I am totally fascinated with the Danish version.
Incredible how so many non-existing words can so brilliantly paint the scene!

I wish I could be equally convincing when trying to "invent" words for a translation... being Danish such a tiny language we just don't have that many words to describe everything, and sometimes I feel the urge to invent new ones! If Lewis could...



[Edited at 2004-11-13 17:50]


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Piotr Rypalski  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 05:06
English to Polish
+ ...
And some more Polish translations of the amazing poem... Nov 13, 2004

Check this URL:

http://galaxy.uci.agh.edu.pl/~szymon/jabberwocky.html


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Russell Jones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:06
Member (2004)
Italian to English
Italian alternatives Nov 13, 2004

Hi Jack

Here are two other Italian versions; I would be interested in any native speaker opinions.
Russell

Brontodontica

Tiziano Mattei

Griglieggia, ed i tossili olierti
nel lontese rivellan trottolando;
son mesili i borgovoli, ed i raspi
vasano subigando.
"Attento al Brontodonte, figlio mio!
Mordon le fauci, ghermisce l'artiglio!
Attento all'uccel Giuggio, e schiva
il frumioso Bandarpiglio!"
Ei prese la vorpale spada,
il viresco nemico a lungo cerc
poi sostò, e presso l'albero Tutùm
riposando pensò.
E mentre uffosi avea pensieri,
il Brontodonte occhi di fuoco
venne pel bosco tulgido sifflando,
e berbellò in sul loco!
Un, due! un, due! e giù e giù
la vorpal lama ziczacò!
L'ebbe stecchito, e con la testa
galonfante tornò.
"Hai ammazzato il Brontodonte?
Vieni abbracciarmi fanciullo raggioso!
Frabioso dì! Urrà! Urrì!
lo cortellò gioioso.
Griglieggia, ed i tossili olierti
nel lontese rivellan trottolando;
son mesili i borgovoli, ed i raspi
vasano subigando.


Il Ciarlestrone

Adriana Crespi

Era brillosto, e gli alacridi tossi
succhiellavano scabbi nel pantúle:
Méstili eran tutti i paparossi,
e strombavan musando i tartarocchi.
«Attento al Ciarlestrone, figlio mio!
Fauci che azzannano, fauci che ti artigliano,
attento all'uccel Giuggio e attento ancora
Al fumibondo chiappabana!»
Afferò quello la sua vorpi da lama
a lungo il manson nemico cercò...
Cosí sostò presso l'albero Touton
e riflettendo alquanto dimorò.
E mentre il bellico pensier si trattenea,
il Ciarlestrone con occhiali brage
venne sifflando nella fulgida selva,
sbollentando nella sua avanzata.
Un, due! Un, due! E dentro e dentro
scattò saettante la vorpida lama!
Ei lo lasciò cadavere, e col capo
Se ne venne al ritorno galumpando.
«E hai tu ucciso il Ciarlestrone?
Fra le mie braccia, o raggioso fanciullo!
O giorno fragoroso, Callò, Callài!»
stripetò quello dala gioia.
Era brillosto, e gli alacridi tossi
succhiellavano scabbi nel pantúle:
Méstili eran tutti i paparossi,
e strombavan musando i tartarocchi.


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DGK T-I  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:06
Member (2003)
Georgian to English
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something for latin scholars Nov 13, 2004

I liked Jack's Russian version

some more
http://www.ruthannzaroff.com/wonderland/jabberwocky.htm
first translation into latin 1872

and versions in 29 languages of the world and beyond
http://www76.pair.com/keithlim/jabberwocky/translations/index.html

a surprizing number of versions...

[Edited at 2004-11-14 00:17]


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María Teresa Taylor Oliver  Identity Verified
Panama
Local time: 23:06
English to Spanish
+ ...
Thanks a million, Jack! Nov 16, 2004

I'm not Cuban, but the Spanish version is incredible!

Thank you for sharing this with us

Cheers!
María Teresa


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Reuben Proctor
Local time: 05:06
German to English
+ ...
My German translation Nov 17, 2004

I've given it a go, based on Carroll's own explanation of the expressions in the first verse, on my knowledge of the sound shifts that have taken place in English and German in the past centuries, common language roots, parallel development of the two languages and general associations that came to mind.

It may still need a liitle polishing, but here it is. I'd be interested to hear your opinions.

Es war sottig und die schlinken Dauben
Kafferten und bermten auf dem Sogen;
Ganz mürblich waren die Borogauben,
Und die schollen Raden aufklogen.

"Mein Sohn, hab‘ acht vorm Brabbelweid!
Mit beißendem Kiefer und greifender Kralle!
Hab’ acht vorm Vogel Dschabdschab, und meid‘
die frumiose Banderschnalle!"

Sein worpelig Schwert er alsdann nahm:
Den mänzlich‘ Feind er lange suchte -
So rastete er am Tamtam-Baum,
Dort verweilte und für sich dachte.

Und als er stand, sich ufflig besann
Der Brabbelweid mit feur‘gem Blick,
Kam pfiffelnd durch den tulgen Wald gerannt,
Und burbelte gar fürchterlich!

Eins, zwei! Eins, zwei! Und durch und durch
Die worpelige Klinge machte schnick-schnück!
Er ließ ihn leblos und mit dem Kopfe bloß
Gallumphierte er zurück.

"Und, hast Du erlegt den Brabbelweid?
Komm in meine Arme, mein bohliger Sproß!
O freudlieblicher Tag! Juchhu! Juchhe!'
Er glucksend Freudentränen vergoß.

Es war sottig und die schlinken Dauben
Kafferten und bermten auf dem Sogen;
Ganz mürblich waren die Borogauben,
Und die schollen Raden aufklogen.


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Alex Jones
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:06
Japanese to English
+ ...
Japanese version Nov 26, 2004

I located a Japanese version, but it's not very polished; more like a literal explanation of the contents with the words naturalized into Japanese phonetics (rather than creating new nonsense words).

Is it possible that the words themselves can only get a certain ring in languages similar to English, with many consonants together (German, Dutch, Polish)? The Italian and Spanish versions don't really give me that "-ckk" feeling when I hear it read.

It might be the "stress timed" thing too.


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Emérentienne
France
Local time: 05:06
English to French
Oh, many thanks, Jack ! Nov 26, 2004

If it wasn't for this thread you started, I would have probably gone on through the rest of my life thinking Jabberwocky was nothing but a movie by the Monty Python crowd

Cécile

PS : I realize this is not the most pc thing to write on a forum about literature but I adore Monty Python movies, especially those with French characters in them - great terminology they use, not to mention the exquisite accent that goes with it

PPS : my preference also goes to the French translation of Caroll's poem by Henri Parisot.

[Edited at 2004-11-26 20:54]


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Marta Argat  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:06
Chinese to Ukrainian
+ ...
Ukrainian (Cyrillic Windows-1251) Dec 5, 2004

КУРЗУ-ВЕРЗУ*

Був смажень, і швимкі яски
Сверли-спіралили в кружві,
Пичхали пиршаві псашки
І трулі долові.

"Мій сину, бійсь Курзу-Верзу,
То кусозуб і дряполап!
Не знайся з птицею Зу-Зу
І велезнем Хап-Хап!"

Меча-штрича він в руки взяв,
Підняв тропив ворожий слід
І в смужній думі спочивав
Під древом Діодід.

Та раптом чує глушний цвист,
Кругом немов могонь пашить,
В тримучім лісі никне лист -
Курзу-Верзу метить!

Він раз мечем! Він раз штричем!
Отак штричаєм ворогів!
Зняв гмію голову з плечей,
Додвому поспішив.

"Ти вбив грозу Курзу-Верзу?
Мій хлопчику, ти чудодець!
О сплавний день! Стрибай пісень,
Тодімо у ханець!

Був смажень, і швимкі яски
Сверли-спіралили в кружві,
Пичхали пиршаві псашки
І трулі долові.
_______
* Kurzu-Verzu - while "kuzu-verzu" means "nonsense, ravings"


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Richard Benham  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 05:06
German to English
+ ...
Old English? Feb 1, 2005

I once tried to translate this poem into Old English, and did about three quarters of it (not in a contiguous piece). I had the brilliant thought of claiming to have found it as a mirror-image impression on a piece of paper or parchment, of the sort you sometimes see if a printed or written-on page is up against a blank page and they both get *slightly* damp....

Anyway, this thread has inspired me to try to complete the translation.


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