Why Study Language? For Poetry.

This was an interesting post about why studying the original languages is important. My Hebrew students who are reading some Psalms with me this semester know this to be true! There is so much playing with language in poetry; no English translation can possibly deliver to its readers what the Hebrew readers devour with delight! [By the way, the site from which this comes is interesting, but they also post on things from the classical world that are bawdy. So reader beware, if you decide to poke around some more.]

SENTENTIAE ANTIQUAE

From Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson:

We talked of translation. I said, I could not define it, nor could I think of a similitude to illustrate it; but that it appeared to me the translation of poetry could be only imitation. JOHNSON. ‘You may translate books of science exactly. You may also translate history, in so far as it is not embellished with oratory, which is poetical. Poetry, indeed, cannot be translated; and, therefore, it is the poets that preserve languages; for we would not be at the trouble to learn a language, if we could have all that is written in it just as well in a translation. But as the beauties of poetry cannot be preserved in any language except that in which it was originally written, we learn the language.’

This is best in the original!

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