Apr
18
2014

Tears of the Virgin Mary

Pianto della Madonna (Tears of the Virgin Mary) is a dramatic poem written by the Umbrian poet Jacopone da Todi (1236-1306). The poem narrates Jesus’ Passion using the dramatic form of a dialogue between four characters: il nunzio (the herald), la Madonna (the Virgin Mary), il popolo ebraico (the Jewish people), and Gesù (Jesus). Pianto della Madonna, also known as “Donna de Paradiso” from the first line of the poem, was written in volgare umbro (the Umbrian popular language) of the 13th century, six centuries before the standardization of the Italian language.

giotto128
Giotto’s powerful ‘Lamentation’

The poem is 135 lines long, and I’ve chosen the central part, from line 40 to line 75, which have always been my favourite part due to its powerful imagery: the moving sorrowful words of the Virgin Mary alternate with the crude graphic narration of the herald. Here below is the original text (in bold) followed by the contemporary Italian interpretation and my translation into English. For clarity, the name of the character who speaks each verse is included at the beginning of the contemporary Italian and English translations:

O figlio, figlio, figlio,                                 
figlio, amoroso giglio!
Figlio, chi dà consiglio
al cor me’ angustïato?

Maria: O figlio, figlio, figlio,
figlio, amoroso giglio!
Figlio, chi dà conforto
al mio cuore angosciato?

Mary: Oh son, son, son,
son, loving lily!
Son, who will give comfort
to my anguished heart?

- – – – – – – – – –

Figlio occhi iocundi,
figlio, co’ non respundi?                         
Figlio, perché t’ascundi
al petto o’ sì lattato?

Figlio dagli occhi che danno gioia,
figlio, perché non mi rispondi?
Figlio, perché ti nascondi
dal petto dove sei stato allattato?

Son whose eyes bring joy,
son, why don’t you answer me?
Son, why are you hiding
from the breast that fed you?

- – – – – – – – – –

Madonna, ecco la croce,
che la gente l’aduce,
ove la vera luce      
déi essere levato.

Nunzio: Madonna, ecco la croce
che è portata dalla folla,
ove Cristo (la vera luce)
dovrà essere sollevato.

Herald: Mary, here’s the cross
brought by crowd,
onto which Christ (the true light)
will have to be lifted.

- – – – – – – – – –

O croce, e que farai?
El figlio meo torrai?
E que ci aponerai,
che no n’à en sé peccato?

Maria: Croce, cosa farai?
Prenderai mio figlio?
E di cosa lo accuserai,
visto che non ha commesso alcun peccato?

Mary: Oh cross, what will you do?
Will you take my son?
And what will you accuse him of,
since he hasn’t committed any sins?

- – – – – – – – – –

Pietro_lorenzetti,_compianto_(dettaglio)_basilica_inferiore_di_assisi_(1310-1329)
Pietro Lorenzetti: ‘Compianto’

Soccurri, plena de doglia,
cà ’l tuo figliol se spoglia;
la gente par che voglia
che sia martirizzato

Nunzio: Soccorrilo, o tu che sei piena di dolore,
poiché il tuo figliolo è spogliato;
sembra che la folla voglia
che sia martirizzato.

Herald: Help him, oh you who are full of sorrow,
because your son is undressed;
it seems that the crowd wants
for him to be martyrized.

- – – – – – – – – –

Se i tollit’el vestire,  
lassatelme vedere,
com’en crudel firire
tutto l’ò ensanguenato.

Maria: Se gli togliete i vestiti,
lasciatemi vedere
come lo hanno tutto insanguinato
infliggendogli crudeli ferite.

Mary: If you take his clothes away,
let me see how
they bathed him in blood
by inflicting cruel wounds on him.

- – – – – – – – – –

Donna, la man li è presa,
ennella croc’è stesa;
con un bollon l’ò fesa,
tanto lo ’n cci ò ficcato.

Nunzio: Donna, gli hanno preso una mano
e l’hanno stesa sulla croce;
l’hanno spaccata con un chiodo,
tanto gliel’hanno conficcato.

Herald: My Lady, they’ve taken one of his hands
and laid it on the cross;
they’ve broken it with a nail,
so deeply they’ve planted it in.

- – – – – – – – – –

L’altra mano se prende,
ennella croce se stende
e lo dolor s’accende,
ch’è plu multiplicato.

Gli prendono l’altra mano
e la stendono sulla croce,
e il dolore brucia,
ancora più accresciuto.

They’re taking his other hand
and they’re laying it on the cross,
and the pain burns,
more and more intensely.

- – – – – – – – – –

Donna, li pè se prènno
e clavellanse al lenno;
onne iontur’ aprenno,
tutto l’ò sdenodato.

Donna, gli prendono i piedi
e li inchiodano al legno;
aprendogli ogni giuntura,
lo hanno tutto slogato.

My Lady, they’re taking his feet
and nailing them to the wood;
opening his every joint,
they’ve completely dislocated him.

- – – – – – – – – –

If you’re interested, you can read the whole poem (without the English translation) HERE

Apr
18
2014

The Spanish Holly Week and its frightening garments: the origins of the “capirote”.

Había una vez una bloguera que comenzó a escribir sobre cultura española y a compartir cosas que pensaba podían ser interesantes para gente aprendiendo su idioma. Así que escribió sobre su ciudad, sobre dichos y refranes, literatura, a veces sobre cocina, y por supuesto sobre las distintas festividades de su país. Uno de sus posts iba sobre la celebración de la Pascua en España, que como sabéis es una fiesta muy religiosa. Compartió algunas imágenes, una de ellas del típico penitente, y para su sorpresa y asombro recibió varios comentarios y mensajes preguntando sobre las vestimentas de los nazarenos, ¿podéis imaginar por qué? Porque algunos de sus lectores los habían tomado por miembros del Ku Klux Klan!

Este es el motivo por el que hoy quiero hablaros del origen de parte de esa extraña vestimenta: el capirote. Ese gorro puntiagudo es parte del uniforme de algunas hermandades que salen en procesión durante la Semana Santa. Es un sombrero cónico y largo que cubre el rostro y el cuello de los penitentes y deja dos agujeros para los ojos.

En tiempos de la terrible Inquisición, los condenados eran obligados a vestir un sambenito (un ropaje penitencial parecido a un escapulario) y similares gorros hechos de cartón en actos de fe públicos, como signo de penitencia y humillación. Curiosamente, se les permitía ocultar el rostro mientras imploraban perdón y se enfrentaban a su sentencia. Dependiendo del pecado y su gravedad, el sambenito y el capirote eran decorados con diferentes imágenes, desde cruces de distintos colores a demonios y llamas.

Por suerte hoy día ya no se quema a la gente en la hoguera, pero los penitentes aún mantienen esos ropajes como símbolo de aflicción y arrepentimiento. Así que recordad: a pesar de lo espeluznante que puede ser toparte con uno de estos penitentes en mitad de la noche, no os asustéis, son tan solo pecadores lamentándose.

¿Podréis…?

Image by Juan Carlos Guijarro Morenoimages by Juan Carlos Guijarro Moreno

Once upon a time there was a blogger who started writing about Spanish culture and sharing things she thought that could be interesting for people learning her language. So she wrote about her city, some typical expressions and sayings, literature, cooking sometimes and obviously about different holidays and festivities from her country. One of her posts was devoted to the celebration of Easter in Spain, which as you know is a very religious festivity. She shared some pictures, one of them of a traditional penitent, and to her shock and surprise she received several comments and messages asking about the penitents´ clothing, can you imagine why? Because some of her readers mistook them for Ku Klux Klan members!

That´s the reason why I want to talk about the origin of part of this strange garment: the capirote. This pointed hat is part of the uniform of some brotherhoods that go in processions during the Holy Week. It is a long conical hat that covers the face and the neck of the penitent and leaves two holes for the eyes.

In times of the terrible Inquisition, condemned people were forced to wear a sambenito (a penitential garment similar to a scapular) and  alike hats made of cardboard in public actos de fe (acts of faith), as a sign of penitence and humiliation. Curiously enough, they were allowed to hide their faces as they seek for forgiveness and confronted their sentence. Depending on the sin and its gravity, the sambenito and the capirote would be decorated with different paintings, from crosses of different colors to demons or flames.

Fortunately, people are not burnt at the stake nowadays, but penitents still keep this clothing as symbol of grief and repentance, and the shape of the capirote is considered to be their attempt to rise towards heavens.pe So remember: as chilling as it can be to face one of these penitents in the middle of the night, don´t be afraid, they are just sinners mourning.

Could you…?

Apr
18
2014

What Are Auxiliary Verbs?

Verbs that don’t stand alone, ones that need another verb to function, are known as auxiliary verbs. For example, the he in “he hablado” is an example of an auxiliary verb. Haber, a verb whose forms include the he in the sentence above, is the most common auxiliary verb in Spanish.

Apr
17
2014

“Herzschläge” – Übersetzgesungen Episode 4: Mickey covers José Gonzalez covering The Knife

ekg

Do you remember that sweet TV commercial with the bouncy balls in San Francisco? This one:

Click here to view the embedded video.

Well, for today’s episode of Übersetzgesungen, I decided to translated the song in that commercial! It’s performed by José Gonzalez, but it’s actually a cover of a song by The Knife. I prefer The Knife’s version of it, but Mr. Gonzalez’s acoustic interpretation is beautiful, too. His version is much quieter and instrumentally reduced, putting the focus on its haunting lyrics. Because both artists are actually from Sweden, I’m inclined to think that many of the lyrics were chosen for how the words sound specifically in English. It was especially challenging to convey that same lyrical smoothness in my German version of the song. What do you think?

Click here to view the embedded video.

  • “One night to be confused” – “Eine Nacht, verwirrt sein

The opening line translates pretty smoothly! But it stops there.

  • “One night to speed up truth” – “Eine Nacht, die Wahrheit finden

I tried for the longest time to work the word beschleunigen (speed up/accelerate) into this line. There’s no real synonym for it in German, plus the word itself sounds hilarious to me. Beschleunigen. But unfortunately it’s just too many syllables, so I had to settle for finden, giving us “One night to find the truth”.

  • “We had a promise made” – “Wir hatten ein Versprechen”

In German you don’t really “make” promises. You just promise, and then you have a promise. So this line is literally “we had a promise”.

  • “Four hands and then away” - “Vier Hände auf einmal weg”

 My original translation was “Vier Hände und dann weg”, but it just doesn’t make sense to say it that way. So instead I went for the equivalent of “Four hands suddenly gone”. This is a step away from “just this once”, which is how I interpret the line in English.

  • “Both under influence” – “Beide angreifbar”

In English there’s a strong implication of alcohol here, but the expression “under influence” does not relate to alcohol at all in German. “Beide beeinflusst” wouldn’t make much sense, so instead my translation means “Both vulnerable”, achieving one of the two or more meanings in the original lyric.

  • “We had divine sense” – “Wir hatten den heiligen”

Here I had to split the line up to keep with the music. I like how this line ends with “heiligen”, because it could be taken to mean “saint” when unaccompanied by the subsequent line. “We had the saint”, or, “we had the holy/divine”.

  • “To know just what to say” – “Sinn zu wissen was zu sagen”

I pushed the word “sense” down to this line in order to keep rhythm. “Sense to know what to say”.

  • “Mind is a razorblade” - “Gedanken schneiden tief”

 Unable to find an equivalent metaphor for this line, I thought about what is being said by calling the mind a razorblade. I decided to reduce the symbolism a little and directly sing “Thoughts cut deep”.

  • “To call for hands of above to lean on” - “Zu verlangen nach der Kraft von oben”

Verlangen is a good word, meaning “to call for” or “to demand”. After trying to work in the word Hände, I decided to replace it simply with Kraft, or “power/energy”. “To call for energy from above.”

  • “Wouldn’t be good enough for me, no” - “Das würde mir nicht reichen”

 ”That wouldn’t be enough for me.” Unable to directly translate the chorus of the song, I needed to approach it from a more conceptual place, approximating what the narrator is trying to say but with different words. I realized that this song is coming from a person who simply wouldn’t be content asking for divine intervention. This is a fiercely independent person, and he refuses to admit weakness by resting even in God’s hands.

  • “One night of magic rush” - “Eine Nacht voll magischem Rausch”

“One night full of magic rush”

  • “The start: a simple touch” - “Der Beginn: eine Berührung”

Behührung (touch) was a difficult word to work in, but unfortunately there aren’t any shorter words for “touch”! I had to get rid of “simple” for it to work, but I’m okay with this. I think in the context of the song, “simple” is pretty well implied.

  • “One night to push and scream” - “Eine Nacht gemeinsam schreien”

Again, I needed to eliminate half the action in this line. No pushing, just screaming. Screaming together. “One night to scream together”.

  • “And then relief” - “Dann die Erleichterung”

 ”Then the relief”. I like that word, Erleichterung.

  • “Ten days of perfect tunes” – “Zehn Tage Perfektion”

No room for tunes here… “Ten days of perfection”.

  • “The colors red and blue” - “Die Farben blau und rot”

Hey look! I could even work in a rhyme, just by switching the color order. “The colors blue and red”.

  • “We had a promise made” - “Wir hatten ein Versprechen”

(See above)

  • “We were in love” - “Wir liebten uns”

Here the German translation takes away any skirting the issue of the song. “Wir liebten uns” can mean both “We were in love” and “we made love”.

  • “And you, you knew the hands of the devil” - “Und du kanntest des Teufels Hände”

Lots of hands in this song. Four hands, hands of above, the devil’s hands.

  • “And you kept us awake with wolves’ teeth” - “Und du hielst uns wach mit fletschenden Zähnen”

Instead of getting wolves involved, this translation literally means “And you kept us awake with snarling teeth”.

  • “Sharing different heartbeats in one night” - “Variierende Herzschläge in einer Nacht”

“Different heartbeats in one night”.

What do you guys think? Do you like this American’s German-language cover of an Argentine-Swedish acoustic interpretation of a Swedish electro duo’s English-language song?

Bis bald!

-M.M.

Apr
17
2014

French quiz: Important dates

Test yourself on important dates in French history with this little quiz.

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French quiz: Important dates originally appeared on About.com French Language on Wednesday, April 16th, 2014 at 18:00:09.

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