Problems of translation by M Abdul Fazl

Iqbal was of the opinion that poetry should be translated into another language only in prose. This, I suppose, is the most sensible suggestion. In reading poetry, one feels before one understands. For example:
It is so deeply moving in Urdu. But when I translated it for an Arab and, later, for a Frenchman, it left them cold.

There is just no way of carrying the feeling from one language to another. Iqbal is right. Only the literal meaning can be transited and so the best vehicle would be prose.
It is said that Edward FitzGerald is an exception to this general belief; that he has actually transposed Omar Khayyam into English, e.g.
has been rendered into English as:
“Think, in this batter’d
 Whose Portals are alternate Night and Day,
How Sultan after Sultan
with his Pomp,
Abode his destin’d Hour
and went his way.”
It is an approximate rendering. And the lines are alien to English and yet not authentically Persian. In English, the form is exotic, like the lines written by Pushkin and Lermontov in the style of Saadi.
The Iranian Scholar, Dr Mohammad Ali Faroghi, says about quatrains attributed to Khayyam, that he was a man of mathematics, specially Algebra, and that was a matter of pride for him. There is no proof that the quatrains circulating in his name are his work. Even if they are, these must be products of light moments not at all meant to be published. Actually, they were not published in his lifetime.
Faroghi says, the truth is that Khayyam’s reputation as a poet arose not in Iran, but with the Europeans and Americans, who ignored his serious works in science.
Authentic Persian poetry is deep and moving, like:
This is not frivolity. The world before the nineteenth century was marked by extreme material penury in general and outright deprivation for the overwhelming majority of mankind. Here Hafiz asks the fellow-humans to enjoy the blessings available to him - love of a woman, companionship of a good friend etc. And yes, wine!
Take a bottle and go to a pleasant place in the countryside, where the nightingale sings for you.
“Mais la nature est là qui t’invite et qui t’aime;
        Plonge-toi dans son sein qu’elle t’ouvre toujours.”
(Alphonse de Lamartine)
(But the nature is there which invites you and loves you; plunge into her bosom which she always opens for you.)
The writer is a retired ambassador.



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