Friday, August 24, 2007

The Etch A Sketch of Bad Weather

I've been continuing to work on the translation of Psalm 23 that I posted a couple days ago. Of course such a powerfully iconic poem that is read at many very meaningful events is difficult to work with, and especially without a new text turning towards parody. I wanted to write a new text that is shadowed by the original. Here is a new version one now including an Etch A Sketch and some apes. It also used the word "hoggett", a yearling sheep, as well as the word "wether" which means a castrated sheep.

PSALM 23 (The Sorrows of Young Wether)

I don’t want to admit it
but I’ve been a bad sheep

for they let me lie down on the sweet lawn
helped me to speechless waters
restored my painful feet

they led me down garden paths that were not ironic
or filled with worrisome garden gnomes
but lit upon the shed of happiness

I’ve walked in death-shade, in night valleys
in paddocks where invariably I was dark
yay! as my niece says sarcastically
and because they followed me I didn’t fear evil

and wasn’t overwhelmed by death
When my thoughts were my enemies
they made reservations in a nice restaurant
and the entire staff obligingly filled my wine trough

picked up my napkin and called me a nice salmon
so when I next catch sight of Marsha and Fred
the two hyperintelligent apes who have shadowed me
with their Etch A Sketch drawings all the days of my life

I shall shake, shake with colossal vigour
disquieting their continuous knob twisting with my furious hooves
There shall be no neverending ape-directed silver lining
for my hillock cleaving will be fearsome to both hoggetts and apes

my fleece shall be as a wolf upon my howling spine
and I will dwell in the my parents’ basement of my own self for ever
one wooly shoulder pushed against the mutinous wheel of these my mutton-fated days


Anonymous said...

Continuing to enjoy your work on the psalms, Gary. I thought you might appreciate the following old-school (Oulipo) translation.

The Lord is my sherbet; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green patches: he leadeth me beside the still water beetles.

He restoreth my sound: he leadeth me in the pathologies of right-of-way for his nana's salad.

Yea, though I walk through the valse of the shadow play of death duty, I will fear no evolution: for thou art with me; thy roe and thy stag they comfort me.

Thou preparest a tablemate before me in the presentiment of mine enfoeffments: thou anointest my header with oiler; my cup fungus runneth over.

Surely goof and meridian shall follow me all the daydreamers of my life force: and I will dwell in the housecoat of the Lord for ever.

gary barwin said...

You know, I've been dwelling in the housecoat of the Lord for ever too, it seems. It's quite big and the sleeves are ever so philosophical. The bunny slippers of the Lord are also very comfortable, though my personal belief is in more orthodox ears.

Great translation. I like how, with these kind of translations, you can hear the structure in a way you don't in the original -- because in the original the "content" and "structure" are both familiar and work together. When you vary one but not the other, it has the effect of calling attention to what is unchanged.