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Ozymandias, An Analysis on Different Portuguese Translations

This work is my final paper for the course of English Literature II at UFRGS(Univesidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul); it is an attempt to analyze/discuss seven selected translations of Percy Shelley's poem Ozymandias to Brazilian Portuguese. The discussion is based on Hagège and Meschonnic’s concept of language and translation.
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  Ozymandias: An Analysis on Portuguese Translations Gabriel Severo Curuja 1   Introduction The very first time that I came across the poem Ozymandias was in a quite unpredictable way; I was watching an interview with Bryan Cranston and the title of a video next to it called my attention  –    Shelley‟s Ozymandias read by Bryan Cranston –  , since I had just taken an English Literature class about Shelley and Wordsworth. It struck me like a bolt. All of a sudden it was decided that I would have to research and explore this masterpiece. Upon further discussion concerning the translation of Ozymandias to Portuguese, I found out that scarce and lean translations were the most prevailing and  popular ones. Based on Hagège and Meschonnic‟s concepts of language and translation, I will attempt to reason among choices made by the translators in the given translations. The present work is, therefore, an outcome of this urge  –   love at first sight, if you please  –    for Shelley‟ s poem and an endeavor to analyze, discuss and compare seven different translations of Ozymandias to Portuguese. Linguistics and Translation Approach When translation crosses paths with poetics, we usually have several different  points of view  –   we also have those who avoid the subject due to its difficulty  –   that vary greatly. Quoting Jakobson: In poetry, verbal equations become a constructive principle of the text. Syntactic and morphological categories, roots, and affixes, phonemes and their components (…) Phonemic similarity is sensed as semantic relationship. 1    Estudante de Graduação em Letras Bacharelado na UFRGS     The pull, or to use a more erudite, and perhaps more precise term -  paronomasia, reigns over poetic art, and whether its rule is absolute or limited,  poetry by definition is untranslatable. (Jakobson 1959) Jakobson almost made the perfect statement in his essay “On linguistic aspects of translation. However, his last sentence is exceedingly general. It is a fact that prose translation can be troublesome and poetry translation even more due to its rhyme, rhythm and meter, but it seems a little audacious to assert that poetry is untranslatable. We have  poetry translations from English to Portuguese, from French to English, from Russian to Spanish, etc. It looks like Jakobson‟s perspective contemplates the sole theory behind translation putting aside the effort and creativity of translators. A poor translation still is a translation, it has to be acknowledged. When we are dealing with translation, we will always give up some features of the text; after all, languages are not symmetrical systems. According to Hagège, despite all of the difficulties imposed by the poetic translations, its  practice has been recurrent since ancient times, even though sometimes considered intransmissible. Being clear now that poetic translation exists and that it is possible, how does it work? In order to define the method of translation more suited for the purpose of the present study, I will work under that established by Henri Meschonnic in  Ethics    Politics Translating  . There are two distinct types of translation, writing and unwriting; the first one  –   defined as the most fit and correct one  –    consists in reproducing “ with the means available in the target language, what the text has done to its source language” (Meschonnic 2011, p. 85). The second one happens when you translate the meaning of the poem, its sign. Thus, when we manage to make a solid and written translation, we have a sort of metaphor of the srcinal text, causing in the target language the same feeling as in the source language; we have to translate the poem, and not its meaning. Thereafter, what is required from the translator in order to achieve the ideal  poem translation  –   other than at least sticking to the same rhyme and theme, obviously  –    is the fact that “[he should] always [be] transparent, aiming at having forgotten the linguistic, historical, cultural difference with the srcinal. As if it were written in and for the target language” (Meschonnic 2011, p. 85). It might sound quite simple; however, this point tends to separate the good translations from the ordinary and common ones.  Style and Structure Ozymandias is a quite exotic poem in terms of structure as attempts to specifically classify it fail. It is a fourteen-line poem structured as an octave and a sestet  –   similar to a Petrarch sonnet. At the beginning of the poem we have a classical Shakespeare rhyme (ABAB),  but Shelley‟s poem does not follow it in the next quatrain as its rhyme changes to ACDC; followed by another odd rhyme quatrain (EDEF) and  being concluded as EF rather than the classical EFEF. It is by no means easier to define metrical pattern of the sonnet. It is often described as a poem written in an iambic pentameter  –   five groups of syllables in each line, each group containing an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one  –   even despite the fact that in some lines it begins by a stressed syllable (called a trochee, the reverse of an iamb): “Nothing beside remains. Round the decay.”  (Shelley 1818) The previous line of the poem begins with a stressed syllable (  No- ) followed by an unstressed syllable (- thing  ). After the initial trochee, we have two iambs, and then it goes back to a trochee with round the , finally ending with an iamb. There is no exact definition for this sort of metric. Ozymandias‟ refusal to follow a pattern of s tructure, metric and rhyme might be a hint or a reference to the boldness and grandeur of the character of the poem, pharaoh Ramesses II. Ozymandias, king of kings  The inspiration to the poem Ozymandias was verbal  –   through the reading of the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus about the largest statue in Egypt  –   rather than visual. Hence that is the reason why “a traveller from an antique” informs the narrator of the  poem about the colossal wreck. The narrator mentioned above is nothing but a species of tool to distance the reader from the images being described. We can suppose that it is, perhaps, nothing but a rumor, a legend about an old land, an old and forgotten kingdom nor the ruins of a giant statue in the desert:   I met a traveller from an antique land Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert.  Near them, on the sand (…)  On the next moment we are introduced to the gigantic image of a ruthless-like sovereign  –   much more like to the lip rather than the whole face: Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command (…)  In the next instance of the poem, another element is inserted in the text, the sculptor. The sculptor plays an important role of art in the poem; it gives the sense that art and language will long outlast the legacies of power and remain for eternity. We can also, to a certain degree, presume the adoration and loyalty of Ozymandias‟ followers through the sculptor‟s acknowledgement of the “passions”  in the poem; a bond between servant and sovereign, both of them together cemented in art: Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, The hand that moc ked them and the heart that fed (…)  On the final sestet we are moved to the bottom, to the pedestal of the colossal figure; and we are challenged by him, at this moment we have Shelley telling us a story about a traveller telling what Ozyman dias “says”. It is a very complex layered narrative . When we should behold his work, there is an ironic pause  –   nearly comic  –   as if the traveller all of a sudden breaks our gaze, “Nothing beside remains”. The ending of the  poem is silent and mysterious; what happened to the kingdom? Was it engulfed by the sand? Even the greatest, the king of kings, has fallen. Every empire will end up crumbling: And on the pedestal these words appear: 'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:


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