Sunday, September 26, 2004

catullus as transformer/thundercat

i was just reading d.e.w. wormell's essay called 'catullus as translator' (found in 'the classical tradition: literary and historical studies in honor of harry caplan', ed. luitpold wallach) and came across a couple of points of interest:

Discussing Catullus' version of Sappho's poem Swinburne wrote "a more beautiful translation there never was and never will be; but compared with the Greek it is colourless and bloodless, puffed out by additions and enfeebled by alterations. Let anyone set against each other the first two stanzas, Latin and Greek, and pronounce."

I suspect he is unfairly harsh with Catullus, and I shall perhaps (though perhaps not) have more to say on that in the future.

the second point of interest regards latin vocabulary:

[F]rom Terence onwards exprimere, originally "to take the impression of a seal," comes increasingly to be used of literal translation, often with verbum de (or e) verbo added. The Greeks had, of course, translated documents from other languages on occasion; but Greek translation from the literature of foreign countries appears to be unknown. Latin literature, on the other hand, began with free adaptation of Greek models, and the word used from Plautus onwards to describe this kind of translation is vertere ("to turn," but also, significantly, "to change").

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