Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Spirit of the Human Verb, Darked and Stupyfied

My previous post on Chinglish brought to mind a favorite poem from Robert Graves, who clearly appreciated a good bit of mistranslation:


“They are hollowed out in the see coast at the municipal terminal of Capdepera, at nine kilometer from the town of Artá in the Island of Mallorca, with a suporizing infinity of graceful colums of 21 meter and by downward, wich prives the spectator of all animacion and plunges in dumbness. The way going is very picturesque, serpentine between style mountains, til the arrival at the esplanade of the vallee called “The Spider”. There are good enlacements of the railroad with autobuses of excursion, many days of the week, today actually Wednesday and Satturday. Since many centuries renown foreing visitors have explored them and wrote their eulogy about, including Nort-American geoglogues.” From a Tourist leaflet.

Such subtle filigranity and nobless of construccion
   Here fraternize in harmony, that respiracion stops.
While all admit their impotence (though autors most formidable)
   To sing in words the excellence of Nature’s underprops,
Yet stalactite and stalagmite together with dumb language
   Make hymes to God wich celebrate the strength of water drops.

¿You, also, are you capable to make precise in idiom
   Consideracions magic of ilusions very wide?
Alraedy in the Vestibule of these Grand Caves of Artá
   The spirit of the human verb is darked and stupyfied;
So humildy you trespass trough the forest of the colums
   And listen to the grandess explicated by the guide.

From darkness into darkness, but at measure, now descending
   You remark with what esxactitude he designates each bent;
‘The Saloon of Thousand Banners’, or ‘The Tomba of Napoleon’,
   ‘The Grotto of the Rosary,’ ‘The Club’, ‘The Camping Tent’.
And at Cavern of the Organ there are knocking streange formacions
   Wich give a nois particular pervoking wonderment.

¡Too far do not adventure, sir! For, further as you wander,
   The every of the stalactites will make you stop and stay.
Grand peril amenaces now, your nostrils apprehending
   An odour least delicious of lamentable decay.
It is some poor touristers, in the depth of obscure cristal,
   Wich deceased of thier emocion on a past excursion day.


  1. I bet he wrote a polished draft before murdering his own lines. Haha.

  2. I'm sure he did - Ars Gratia Arta.