Page 46 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 14

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
36
antithetical meaning. Where the King uses “we,” Goldberg uses
“ I .” Twisted, inverted sentences and phrases, which Halkin used
to maintain the pentameter, are entirely pointless here, because
Goldberg does not retain the rhythm at all, except in the “ Play
within the Play” and in the couplets. All this not only renders
the Yiddish text inferior, but reveals the translator’s lack of control
of his own medium, and what is worse, his poetic callousness.
Goldberg can be painstaking, as is evidenced by the prose
passages. The conversation between the two grave-diggers in
Act 5 is a perfect Yiddish parallel of the English text. Here
Goldberg utilized to a maximum degree the lustiness and folk-wit
of Yiddish. He is a skillful rhymester, transposing with a facile
pen the “Play within the Play,” and Ophelia’s charming songs
whose structure is so closely akin to the Yiddish folk-song. He
even made an attempt at acoustical duplication by consonant
repetition in the King’s drinking-song.
The rapid rate at which Goldberg produced his translations may
have precipitated undue haste, marring the calibre of his work.
His natural affinity for direct, plain talk, which stands him in
good stead in the rhetorical and folk-genre passages, fails him in
the more demanding poetical portions. As a result, there is a
coarsening or marked blotting out of their lyrical quality. A little
more polishing and painstaking care would have rendered his
translation of
Hamlet
not only more faithful Shakespeare, but also
much better Yiddish.
Only two Yiddish writers have ventured to translate the sonnets.
Dr. Abraham Asen, in addition to his Shakespearean transla-
tions, has contributed to Yiddish literature translations of Byron,
Shelley, Tennyson and the
Rubaiyat
. In dealing with the sonnets,
he set for himself the modest aim of popularizing them. There is
minimal effort to reproduce their vivid imagery. Each sonnet
emerges as a synopsis in rhyme, followed by a prose explanation
of the “plot.” For the Yiddish reader who is unable to read the
sonnets in the original, such treatment offers at best a surface
acquaintanceship with Shakespeare and his ideas.
On the other hand, the late B. Lapin, a well-known Yiddish
poet, made an earnest effort to transpoetize the sonnets. He
scrupulously followed the poetic imagery, the rhyme and rhythm
pattern, and for this he is to be commended. But he does not
always vindicate the high standard he set for himself.
Lapin’s attempt to duplicate the compressed architecture of the
English text produces at times an uncomfortable constriction, at
others a stretching out and contortion of phrase. His choice of
words is not always felicitous. Poetry woos the reader through
his mind and ear. When words are woven together in a poetic