Homophonic translation really awful

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Now the NaPoWriMo prompt calls for homophonic translation. One has to find a poem in a language you don’t know, and translate it into English based on the look of the words and their sounds.  I should have given up on this one.  French looks like nothing on earth, in English, but I’m sure some deep esoteric meaning can be found in the result … NOT!

Charles Baudelaire

 Le Revenant

Comme les anges à l’oeil fauve,
Je reviendrai dans ton alcôve
Et vers toi glisserai sans bruit
Avec les ombres de la nuit;

Et je te donnerai, ma brune,
Des baisers froids comme la lune
Et des caresses de serpent
Autour d’une fosse rampant.

Quand viendra le matin livide,
Tu trouveras ma place vide,
Où jusqu’au soir il fera froid.

Comme d’autres par la tendresse,
Sur ta vie et sur ta jeunesse,
Moi, je veux régner par l’effroi.

— Charles Baudelaire

Lure Revving Ant

Come less angers a loyal fave,
Due rev and dry dance tonal cave
Adverse to english raisins brute
‘Ave clues sombre ‘s deal a newt; 

Eat jet at dinner, rhyme mob rune,
Does bases freed scum meal a loon,
Eat hair scares says the serpent
A tour dune fuss see ram pant. 

Queue and fiend rail in live heed,
Too true mar place feed,
Ordure squaw sore ill fear affray. 

Come me daughters pa late undress
Sort of heat sorta dewness,
Major vex reign upper left ray.

© Colonialist April 2014 (WordPress)


Of a stack of proper translations, I like this one by our Roy Campbell:

The Ghost

Like angels fierce and tawny-eyed,
Back to your chamber I will glide,
And noiselessly into your sight
Steal with the shadows of the night.

And I will bring you, brown delight,
Kisses as cold as lunar night
And the caresses of a snake
Revolving in a grave. At break

Of morning in its livid hue,
You’d find I had bequeathed to you
An empty place as cold as stone.

Others by tenderness and ruth
Would reign over your life and youth,
But I would rule by fear alone.

— Roy Campbell, Poems of Baudelaire (New York: Pantheon Books, 1952)

About colonialist

Active septic geranium who plays with words writing fantasy novels and professionally editing, with notes writing classical music, and with riding a mountain bike, horses and dinghies. Recently Indie Publishing has been added to this list.
This entry was posted in Challenge, Language, Nonsense verse, Really Awful Rhyme and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

52 Responses to Homophonic translation really awful

  1. gipsika says:

    Try this one: 😉

    (Schnaderhuepfl – alpine)

    Und’s hat einer g’sunga
    Und’s hat sich net g’reimt.
    Dem g’hoert wohl die Zunga
    Wo andershin g’leimt.

    (not going to do the whole “holarihiaho” thing)


  2. Sonel says:

    Whahahahah! Lure Revving Ant! No Col! You truly are the master at this. Not even Bing translator can beat you! 😆
    We just use the Bing Translator when we want to have fun. Here’s only the first verse:

    As the angels to the wild eyes,
    I will return in your alcove
    And to you creep silently
    With the shadows of the night;

    Nah, your translation is the best Col. Love it! 😀


  3. The Asian says:

    Even though I know absolutely no French, good job! And I think you should have done one in Chinese 😉


  4. Ruth2Day says:

    I’m clearly not in a poetic mood, I started reading the second verse as Easy Jet!


  5. calmgrove says:

    I could never get on with 19C French poets when a school student (gawd knows how I got B for French A-level) but I would totes get it now… This one’s quite erotic…

    Anyway, good try Col. There was a lovely homophonic set of nursery rhymes ‘translated’ into French (forgotten the author’s name) which had such wonders as a version about the egg that fell off a wall:
    Un petit d’un petit
    C’est en un ouailles…

    Methinks this exercise works better from English to Franglais than the reverse.


  6. Prefer your version


  7. I thought that was really clever, seriously. I think you did a great job with it, I wouldn’t have known where to start. Amazing managing to make it rhyme too, even if it didn’t make sense. But what does in life? No way would I do NaPoWriMo.NaNoWriMo was enough of a bore!

    I like the original too, not sure about the translation.


  8. This is painful to read, though I daresay if you read it aloud to me it wouldn’t sound too bad. I didn’t much like the official translation either! Tis true that rhyming, metrical poetry doesn’t seem to translate well and I haven’t found much free verse in French. This exercise cropped up in a previous Napowrimo, and I did it with a Romanian poem, a language of which I knew not a word. A weird exercise indeed. I think I’ll give it a miss.


  9. gipsika says:

    “Eat jet at dinner” – Col, brilliant! 😀

    Poor Baudelaire is going to come & haunt you….


  10. you speaking Jabberwocky or what 😉 has a touch of the Lewis Carroll about it


  11. misswhiplash says:

    Could not make head or tail of that one…


  12. Serena Malcolm says:

    Rhyme! Yes! It works and I like it!


  13. equinoxio21 says:

    As a Frenchman, and Baudelaire “follower” I cannot but remain lightning-struck! The poem in French is wonderful. And gloom, as much of Baudelaire. (He introduced and translated all of Edgar Poe in France). I’d never before heard of “Homophonic” translation. However… the result is… interesting. If poetry is the meeting of words who’d never met before, it (almost) works! Maybe a bit of reworking? “Come lesser angel, a Royal fave”? “Adverse to english reason brute”?
    I like it. 🙂


    • colonialist says:

      I like your thoughts on reworking, but the trouble is that now that I know the true meaning I would be striving for it rather than seeking homophones. I have made one change, though, based on a ‘d’ I should have dropped to keep the rhyme scheme constant.
      Something it has taught me is a respect for the work of Baudelaire, and it has given me a wish that I were a French linguist! I love the translation of Campbell (whom I admire) but can appreciate that the poem works (of course) much better as originally written. I can see the lilt and flow of it.


      • equinoxio21 says:

        Well Poetry is tied to the language. Think of “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day till the last syllable of recorded time…”
        I’ve read this particular part of Macbeth both in French and in English all the way to “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. Though good, the french version does not quite have the same roar and fury…
        Be good


  14. bulldog says:

    What? he asks in total confusion…


  15. nrhatch says:

    The translation by Campbell cast a glimmer of reason to the earlier shadows.


  16. Anthony says:

    This one is really confusing? What am i missing here?


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