From Tom Ložar: "It totters when she licks it with her tongue" / Trema se lei con la lingua lo lambisce

It totters when she licks it with her tongue

Trema se lei con la lingua lo lambisce
By Tom Ložar

Sometimes on a tour that includes Venice—Venessia, as the locals castillianishly lisp—they put you up at a Four-Star in Mestre, across from Venice, and tell you it's just as good, better really, they'll bus you in every day early, air-conditioned, aria condizionata, to Piazzale Roma.

And drag you away sobbing every night.

That Mestre is a lie. But, if you live in Venice, Mestre is a pleasure, a piacere, and historic, storico. In Mestre, at Feltrinelli, in the summer of 2000, we bought Giovanni Giudici's enchanted translations of Robert Frost's poems. A plaque on a wall—the mayor, il sindaco, himself affixed it—attests to our investment.

It had an American poem on the left-hand page and its traduzione on the right. It was lovely. There was "The Pasture" on page 38. Frost said that reading a great poem you receive "an immortal wound … [you] will never get over." We read "The Pasture" and agreed: Yep. Esatto!



I'm going out to clean the pasture spring;
I'll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):
I sha'n't be gone long. You come too.

I'm going out to fetch the little calf
That's standing by its mother. It's so young
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
I sha'n't be gone long.—You come too.

Facing it on pagina 39, the day we bought the book, was "Il Pascolo." The translation was not beautiful. It was bellissima. Pronounce both l's and both s's, perpiacere! Soon the magic happened because we were studying Italian.

On Thursday, July 12th, 2001,the original on p. 38 disappeared. I mean the whole one, the intact, did, and this was in its place:



I'm going out to clean the pastures pring;
Mifermerò appena per toglier via le foglie
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):
Nonstarò molto. Vieni anche tu.

I'm going out to fetch the little calf
Chesta accanto alla madre. E così giovane,
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
Nonstarò molto.—Vieni anche tu.

Then silently it backslid.

On Wednesday, July 18th,while J was making her famosissima clam stew, the translation on pagina 39 disappeared, I mean the whole one, the intatta, did, and this was in its place:

Escoa pulire la fonte nel pascolo;
I'll only stop to rake the leaves away
(Eforse aspetterò che l'acqua ritorni chiara):
I sha'n't be gone long. You come too.

Escoper ricondurre indietro il vitellino
That's standing by its mother. It's so young,
Tremase lei con la lingua lo lambisce.
I sha'n't be gone long.—You come too.

How do books do that? Then it reverted. To tutta la belissima versione italiana, intatta: the total beautifullest Italian version, intact. You catch how English is really Italian, but not girlish? Watch.

Escoa pulire la fonte nel pascolo;
Mifermerò apenna per toglier via le foglie
(Eforse aspetterò che l'acqua ritorni chiara):
Nonstarò molto. Vieni anche tu.

Escoper ricondurre indietro il vitellino
Chesta accanto alla madre. E così giovane,
Tremase lei con la lingua lo lambisce.
Nonstarò molto.—Vieni anche tu.

Robert Frost, great poet,was also a stupid Merkun. He infamously said, "Poetry is what is lost intranslation." No, poetry is what is found in translation. Translation is not something we do for the lazy who cannot be bothered to learn the language of the original.

Translation is so that you can read a poem you've already read … for the first time again.

You know what the test of it is? See if the lines of the translation and the original can cohabitate, coabitare, as per above. Sopra!

I'll read this for you this one time. For next week, learn Italian.

Reading by Tom Ložar

duration: 2:21

[Robert Frost, Conoscenza dellanotte e altre poesie, translated by Giovanni Giudici (Milano: Mondadori2000), seems to be out of print. Search for it till you find it. Then never let it go.]

Tom Ložar is a columnist for Ve?er in Maribor, Slovenia.

Photo of Tom Ložar by Judith Stonehewer
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