Monday, October 7, 2013

My Humanist Excercise

So, one of the ways John Milton used to learn about literature and language was that he would take poems and other pieces and translate them into another language, sit on them for a couple days, then translate them back. This would increase understanding not only of the foreign language, but would also give a new light to the content being translated. So, in the spirit of Renaissance Pedagogy, I took it upon myself to translate the first 6 lines of Paradise Lost into Chinese. Just for reference, here is the original:
Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,
Sing heavenly muse,
 (I know what you must be thinking "6 whole lines, careful there," but it's a lot more time-consuming than I expected!) Here is the Chinese:

會死的口味, 指導更好的
Anyway, here's what came out after I came back a few days later:
Heav'nly Muse, you need to sing about
First infidelity and of the tree.
Sing also of the fruit with deathly taste,
That 'til the better man save us and then
Return the bliss-filled seat, lets death
and sorrow fill the world with Eden lost.
Fun, right?

P.S. Here's a link to the traditional translation into Chinese. I'm not extremely partial to it because a lot of meaning is lost and it's not translated in poetic form. However, if you've got nothing better to do, I highly recommend hitting Google Translate. The English of the Chinese is probably the funniest thing I've seen in a long time.


  1. That's pretty awesome. Interesting to see the word differences when translated back directly, like how the muse "needs to sing about" and disobedience to infidelity. Sorrow filling the world is a good one too. Makes me want to give it a go and translate it into Spanish and back. It's a good way to break something down.

  2. Glad you tried this Renaissance exercise

  3. Translation is always harder and more time consuming than people initially think.