Translating She King, towards a holistic approach

Through the translations of William Jones and Ezra Pound et al, She King or Poems, has become a supermeme in English and American literatures. However, their translations only make an imperfect reflex of the Chinese art due to their neglect of proper form and content. This paper, based on the analysis of their translations, argues what makes a poem a poem is not semantic content alone. Form and content make an inseparable dyad, and form itself is a sign, signifying the entity of poetry. Sir John Denham’s dictum: “Not Language into Language but Poesie into Poesie” is a basic requirement for verse translation. However, an analysis of their rhymed versions shows that translation of “poesie into poesie” is not yet enough. A translation should be faithful in style as well, so “style into style” is another criterion. Still, we have to consider the real value of a classic, hence the criterion of “classic into classic”. So besides the consideration of semantic content, poesie into poesie, style into style, and classic into classic are necessary, if not sufficient, conditions for a holistic translation. In verse translation, there are no fixed principles but a very flexible maxim, that is, rendering the original as it is into a foreign language text, that is, a translation should be as close as is possible to the original with the consideration of the above criteria, a guarantee of the proposed holistic approach.


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