Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

On Putting Up New Posts. Or Not.

with 3 comments

I really do read the comments, most of the time.  I even follow the links to find out what everybody is doing.

And I have heard the plaintive cry that I should put up something new.

Unfortunately, we have reached one of those times of year when my time is not my own.

Somewhere back there in the house are two folders full of term papers that are virtually all a mess, and of which at least three are almost certainly plagarized. 

And, as usual, the plagarizing isn’t even intelligent. 

I’m beginning to wonder if we shouldn’t give an assignments that requires students to plagarize in a way that indicates an IQ number in more than double digits.  If they’re going to do it anyway, they might as well learn to think it through.

Last night was also our first snowstorm, more or less.  There is snow on the ground out there, but not much of it.  There’s been a sander by and a plow, but I’m not sure what the plow actually had to plow.  When I said “not much of it,” I was serious.    My lawn is still mostly green.

I’m also reading a very strange little book, called The Lusiads, an epic poem (I know, I know) written by a man named Camoes about the voyage of Vasco da Gama to India.

It was written in the sixteenth century by a man who desperately wanted to give Portugal a literary monument to match the Homeric epics and, of course–because all these people at the time read Latin, but very few of them read Greek–The Aeneiad.

I don’t read Portuguese, and this is a poem.  It’s hard for me to tell whether the sheer awfulness of the poetry is in the original or the result of the translation. 

I have learned that there are a lot of things that rhyme with “ocean.”

The work itself is–so far, I’m about halfway through–a conglomeration of things that kind of do and kind of don’t make sense.

There’s a lot that takes place on Mount Olympus and other venues of the Greek gods with Bacchus kind of/sort of identified with the devil.

Then every once in a while Camoes breaks in to explain that of course he doesn’t believe in any of that.  He’s a Christian. He knows that the Greek gods were fake and a matter of superstition.

The most interesting part so far, for me, has been the long scene in which da Gama narrates the history of Portugal to the first friendly king he’s encountered on the other side of the horn of Africa.

The king is Muslim–as have been all the other kings he’s encountered on that side of Africa–and I kept wondering if it made much sense for da Gama to spend that much time talking about how thoroughly the Christian Portuguese had vanquished the Moors.

Especially since he desperately needed the help of these people to complete his voyage to Indian.

I’m also willing to bet that the real da Gama did know such thing on his actual voyage.

You’ve got to assume the man had some sense.

The Lusiads is the national poem of Portugal.  It’s important to Portugal’s culture and to its national identity.

And Portugal is a place I’ve visited and a place I love.  It gave me Jose Saramago and Manoel de Oliveira.  It wouldn’t be right for me to make fun of this thing, so I won’t.

It is, however, either as a result of the translation or of the weaknesses of the original, well and truly awful.

It’s also in endless ottavia rima, which is mindboggling in its own way.  Although not in the way you might think.

The translator does not seem to have tried to put the lines entirely into the rhyme scheme, but he has insisted on ending each stanza with a couplet.

And the couplets are…

I’m about to go back to that mind boggling thing again.

My gut says you’ve got to work at making something this bad, but from the introduction the translator obvious adores the hell out of this poem. 

Since I’m not writing fiction this week, I’m at liberty to try to cut the problem with music, but so far I’ve tried Beethoven, Bach, Mendelssohn and Charlie Parker and none of it has worked.

One of my sons has suggested I move on to Wagner and Strauss, but I can never handle sturm und drang in the morning.

Right now I’m going to go launch myself into the real world and try to get this correcting done before the hordes descend on special office hours tomorrow. 

For that, I may bring tranquilizers.

Written by janeh

December 9th, 2013 at 9:57 am

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses to 'On Putting Up New Posts. Or Not.'

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  1. Welcome back Jane. I can’t comment on translations of poetry. I’ve read the Iliad and Dante’s Inferno in translation and remember enjoying them but I enjoyed them for the stories and not the poetry.

    I was going to post this link yesterday but decided that two hijacks in one post was enough.



    9 Dec 13 at 11:48 am

  2. “I’m beginning to wonder if we shouldn’t give an assignments that requires students to plagarize in a way that indicates an IQ number in more than double digits. If they’re going to do it anyway, they might as well learn to think it through.”

    Do the links we post amount to a form of Plagarizing?
    I can imagine a term paper consisting of a series of links!


    9 Dec 13 at 5:10 pm

  3. I checked. Your translator is adhering to the rhyme scheme of the original. Maybe not such a good idea, especially translating out of a romance language into English, but any attempt to translate a foreign-language poem into English as poetry means the translator is continually serving two masters.

    I have some sympathy with anyone consciously trying to create a national epic. Better, I think, to tell the best story you can and let later generations sort it out. Of course, it’s also tricky reading someone else’s national epic. If you had all the references in your bones and it resonated the same way, you’d be Portuguese.

    As for the plagiarism thing, I think the only hope of what you’re trying for is to assign topics so off the wall that they can’t download a purpose-written paper on the subject. They can still try to steal, but they have to steal in smaller chunks and make it fit together, which is almost honest. But you’d have to read and probably assign to much whining topics outside your normal range. As my father always said, “life is full of choices.”


    9 Dec 13 at 5:54 pm

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