– Alan Ago Koerv – Vaba Eesti Sõna – Thursday 30th May 2013
I read this article on the back page of ‘Vaba Eesti Sõna’ with great interest as I am both a linguist and a lover of poetry. I agree wholeheartedly with Alan Ago Koerv when he states that translating poetry demands and excellent knowledge of both the source and target languages. As he states, people may have lived in an English speaking country for decades and still not have acquired enough in depth knowledge of the nuances of English to be able to convey the original intentions of the poet. I suspect that Alan, like myself, is a second generation Estonian who was born in the USA (in my case the UK) but brought up bilingually.
Alan concludes his article by asking readers to see if they can improve on his translation or that of Hillary Clinton of 4 lines from Kristjan Jaak Peterson’s 1818 poem ‘Kuu’ (The Moon). I think that Alan makes a pretty good stab at a decent translation but I am afraid that Ms Clinton’s effort is pretty appalling and sounds as if she has gone to ‘Google translate’ for inspiraton! As I could not resist the challenge, here is my own attempt:
Yet could not the language of this land Kas siis selle maa keel
like a song on fire laulutules ei või
rise up to the skies taevani üles tõustes
to seek its own eternity? Igavikku omale otsida?
I look forward to receiving Alan’s and also other readers’ comments on my translation.
Editor of ‘Eesti Hääl’ Estonian newspaper in the UK