Poems

from The Shepherd

Notes

We translated the first five sections of this seven-part poem.

This fascinating, powerful and ambiguous poem was a challenge (and a pleasure!) to translate. As Stefan mentions in his literal version, throughout the poem the phrase 'There was' can be heard which gives it the quality of a tale as it's very close to 'once upon a time' and the poem is clearly a fable about a fallen (in both senses) political leader.

In part II, we changed 'needle' to 'point of the astrolabe' because astrolabe's don't have needles but they do have points.

We really struggled with section III. Firstly, whether to go with 'party' or 'festival' (we settled on the latter for its sense of a public occasion). And then with the line. 'The cravat of dementia around the Equator'. We chose 'cravat' because it's unambiguously a necktie (as opposed to just using 'tie') and then we decided it needed to go around the Equator, almost like a form of suffocation, which leads into the final line.

We were puzzled why palaces were waltzing in Kampala and Alexandria: why those two particular places?

Another set of problems emerged in the final lines of section V. On reflection, I wonder whether the lines, 'no rage / drums smoke news' should be in parenthesis between the first-person singular of 'The shepherd sows death...' and 'purges the bustle of the harvest.' What do you think?

We translated the first five sections of this seven-part poem.

We translated the first five sections of this seven-part poem.

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