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Thread: Racine in English translation

  1. #1
    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    Racine in English translation

    I don’t know if this is the right board, but here goes.

    I have the complete plays of Racine in French on my ipad. My French is not good enough to read him in the original tout court.

    But I can read it out line by line in French and check it with the old Penguin translation by Cairncross into clunky blank verse. I enjoy doing this, and I am sure I appreciate Racine better than I would in a single language.

    Cairncross translated Phedre, Athallie, Iphegenie, Andromaque, Berenice and Britannicus. (Excuse my lack of accents.) Are there English translations of the others, more or less line by line? (I don’t really want “poetic” English versions. I need a crib to appreciate the French.)
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

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    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    I'm disappointed nobody has replied to this and made comments on my interest in Racine, who I understand is regarded as on a level with Shakespeare, although utterly different (Racine's vocabualary - 3000. Shakespeare's 30,000)

    I've ordered on Amazon the translation by Robert Boswell, c1890, into English blank verse, which I've seen and will do as a crib. Boswell distinguishes the use of "vous" (for the principal characters) and "tu" (for the principals when they address their confidant/es) as far as I can tell.

    I like C18 English poetry in couplets, but there is something parodic about Dryden and Pope's use of the formula. By contrast Racine's rhyming couplets are deadly serious. There is the extraordinary contrast between the extreme formality of Racine's verse and plays and the murderous passion expressed. The combination of passion and logic/formality strikes me as ineffably French, as opposed to English pragmatism, irony and understatement.
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

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    mazHur mazHur's Avatar
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    Hey, could you please post some couplets in English by Racine for my review??
    Thanks
    ===============-
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    mazHur mazHur's Avatar
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    i just googled and found this,,,,
    http://www.textetc.com/workshop/wt-racine-1.html
    there is more about Racine on the net,,,'
    will see if i can make any head and tail of this Alexendrine poesy
    ===============-
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    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    That's a very interesting link, mazHur. I wish someone had told me about it before I bought the Boswell translation.

    For the benefit of anyone reading this who doesn't know C18 poetry, the standard English form was in two rhyming lines of ten syllables, called the heroic couplet. Heroic because it was used by John Dryden in his translation of the Aeniad. It was perfected by Alexander Pope who translated the Iliad. Here is the opening of Pope's Iliad:

    Achillles' wrath, to Greece the direful spring
    Of woes unnumbered, Heav'nly Goddess sing.

    But both Dryden and Pope used it in satirical poems, where it has an elegant irony. Here's Pope on faded society ladies:

    Thus round and round the ghosts of beauty glide
    And haunt the places where their honour died.
    A fop their passion and their prize a sot.
    Alive ridiculous and dead forgot.

    (The style is elegant, but the content is savage.)

    The French alexandrine, which you can see in the mazHur's link, is in twelve syllables. It continued being used in the C19 by definitelly radical poets, whereas in England the last poet to use the heroic couplet regularly was George Crabbe, a minor figure dying 1832. It sounds awkward in English. Maya Slater translated Moliere into rhyming aleandrines for Penguin. Here's a random example from The Misanthrope.

    Nonsense! I say, the time has come to make a stand
    Against these hypocrites. I want them to be banned.
    I want us to be proper men, and when we meet,
    To show our secret inner thoughts without deceit.
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

  6. #6
    mazHur mazHur's Avatar
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    Am glad that the link proved useful to you.,In fact much more info is available on the net for free and you don't need to go to Amazon and unnecessarily lighten your pocket!!

    Are you a professor of English Literature?? you appear to be a learned man,,,,having brilliant understanding and appreciation of literature.

    Unfortunately, I do not have much energy to delve into classical poesy now.....but I love it.


    I liked the last stanza and felt it befits posting on the Ahmadi thread


    tc
    cheers!
    ===============-
    When asked how World War III would be fought, Einstein replied that he didn't know. But he knew how World War IV would be fought: With sticks and stones.
    -(:===============

  7. #7
    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    I did a degree in English Language and Literature a long time ago, before some French menace came up with the idea of structuralism, so I'm old fashioned in my critical ideas. I've spent half of my working life in as a housing manager for social housing in inner London and I am now a freelance tourist guide in London. I have kept up my interest in "classical" literature, with the result I can compare and contrast a good deal. (Although my heart isn't in C20 literature or romantic poetry.)

    The sentiment in the last lines I quoted could well apply to Ahmadi, but equally well to some Christians and Sunni Muslims. (And Moliere himself doesn't necessarily agree with what his character is saying.) I quoted them as an example of how the alexandrine doesn't really work in English. It is something to do with the stress in French and the far greater availability of rhyme words.

    I want a version in hard copy, because I've downloaded the French text of Racine onto my ipad and I want to have an English version to hand while I read off the screen. I don't want to flip between screens.
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

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    mazHur mazHur's Avatar
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    Nice to know about you, i sensed from a brief exchange with you on the other thread that you are indeed an erudite person. My regards

    You might be interested to read this ,,,
    http://www.theguardian.com/stage/201...acine-berenice
    ===============-
    When asked how World War III would be fought, Einstein replied that he didn't know. But he knew how World War IV would be fought: With sticks and stones.
    -(:===============

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    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    Gosh, mazHur, you sure have a magic touch with Google. You provide an article by Alan Hollinghurst on Racine’s Bérénice just as I was reading it. I’ve just reached Act 4, reading in French on my ipad and checking the English meaning in John Cairncross’ translation for Penguin.

    Thanks to you, I now know that although Cairncross was a boring translator, he was a Soviet spy.

    Hollinghurst puts it very well why rhyme in English has a different effect from its use in French and doesn’t give itself to totally serious use.

    His comments on Bérénice itself make me aware of many subtleties I didn’t notice.

    I’ve come across Alan Hollinghurst before as the author of highly literate novels (The Swimming Pool Library, etc,) about the steamy side of gay life, such as I never experienced. I’d rather stay at home with my partner and a good book than go clubbing. (The typical Hollinghurst novel has very well connected and literate men having it away with lots of rather less well connected men. Rather different from the characters in Bérénice. How different, how very different from the home life of our own dear queen, as the old lady said after watching Sarah Bernhardt in Antony and Cleopatra.)

    My Boswell translation has now arrived. My partner brought in the post and was sorry to see I was using the services of Amazon.
    Last edited by Jackson Richardson; 06-29-2015 at 10:13 AM. Reason: To add irresistible campy reference to Cleopatra
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

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    Let me know how you like Boswell, Jonathan. There are certain authors who murmur my name impatiently as I walk past the bookcase.

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    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    Are we talking about the same Boswell? This is Robert Bruce Boswell, not Robert Boswell the contemporary short story writer. I looked at a copy of RBB's Racine in a library before buying this computer re-print via Amazon and it was printed in the 1890s in America. (His Phaedra is on Project Gutenberg but not the other plays.) There is an assessment of the translation on the first link mazHur gave. As I'm concentrating on the French text, I don't really take in the literary quality of the translation. For those few lines where I think I understand the French, I don't even look at the English.

    For my purposes, Cairncross is more strictly line-by-line, which may be why it's a bit clunky on its own.
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

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    Oh sorry.

  13. #13
    mazHur mazHur's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonathanB View Post
    Are we talking about the same Boswell? This is Robert Bruce Boswell, not Robert Boswell the contemporary short story writer. I looked at a copy of RBB's Racine in a library before buying this computer re-print via Amazon and it was printed in the 1890s in America. (His Phaedra is on Project Gutenberg but not the other plays.) There is an assessment of the translation on the first link mazHur gave. As I'm concentrating on the French text, I don't really take in the literary quality of the translation. For those few lines where I think I understand the French, I don't even look at the English.

    For my purposes, Cairncross is more strictly line-by-line, which may be why it's a bit clunky on its own.


    Here is another link which may prove useful to you for reference in English
    Enjoy
    https://books.google.com.pk/books?id...nglish&f=false
    ===============-
    When asked how World War III would be fought, Einstein replied that he didn't know. But he knew how World War IV would be fought: With sticks and stones.
    -(:===============

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