Home > 3. My Poetry & Translations, 4. Gilgamesh, B. The Living Artifact > RT’s Check List for Translators

RT’s Check List for Translators

File:Domenico Ghirlandaio - St Jerome in his study.jpg


This painting of St. Jerome, Patron Saint of Translators, speaks to the translator in RT. The care and precision of the translator is written in Jerome’s face, and his surroundings, perhaps because of their order, suggest something of the ornate riot of a poem. The burden is all the greater when the translator is working with material as important as the Bible (St. Jerome translated the Bible into Latin–the Vulgate).

Controversy rages among translators on the principles and focus of translation. Without taking sides in the argument,  RT offers his reflections on the task:

1) A good translator produces work that is acceptable, if not excellent, prose or poetry.

2) If the original material is a fixed text by a single author (say a lyric piece by a modern poet), then the translator should attempt to reproduce the text faithfully, subject to the requirements of item 1.

3) If the original is a fixed text by several authors (e.g., any of the four branches of the Mabinogion), the translator may produce either a version that highlights the discrepancies or choose to smooth them over–as long as at some point he or she points out the attempt to create a more coherent whole.

4) If the original exists in several versions or is only partly recovered, the translator may note this and translate one of the versions or only the extant material–or he or she may attempt to create a version more faithful to the overall sense or history of the materials, noting the existence of the various sources or the fragmentary nature of the original.

5) The translator cannot disappear into a translation. The maker’s mark will be on the translated materials, and so the translator must have taste, good sense, and a flair for his or her native tongue.

6) By the same token, the public’s opinions and feelings for a particular work should be taken into account, but not dominate the translation. The historical facts surrounding the original material should always be respected, and the plain sense of a text should be reproduced, even if this can only be accomplished by euphemism.

7) A translation is finished when the translator enjoys reading it.

8) A translator should love the original materials.


Painting: St. Jerome in his Study; (1480—Church of Ognissanti, Florence); Domenico Ghirlandaio; WikiCmns; Public Domain; source: Source: http://www.artunframed.com/.

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