land of the wandering
Touch the daughter
who walks between
shadow and light
courage and fear.
that give shape
to the world
where she belongs.
that emit a fragrance
and carry the soul
through time and through space.
The literal translation of this poem was made by Andre Naffis-Sahely
The final translated version of the poem is by The Poetry Translation Workshop
This touching poem, written for Ribka's young daughter, works like a charm that initiates her into the magical world of language.
Italian is a gendered language - 'word', 'parola' is feminine - and Ribka uses this to its full extent; a quality that, of course, is lost in English. In the first stanza, Andre's literal translation captures this by referring to the 'she-stranger'. We changed this to 'wandering / woman', which sounds more natural in English.
We realised that the verbs beginning the second to fourth stanzas - 'Touch', 'Play' and 'Speak' - are imperatives (commands) rather than the third-person singular (even though they look identical in Italian) and this helped us with the perspective of the poem: Ribka is commanding words what they must do on her daughter's behalf.
© Poetry Translation Centre 2004-2015