Gabriel Preil: Lesson in Translation (From Hebrew)

I cannot shake the feeling that this poem, about the experience of having one's work translated, was written specifically so as to be untranslatable. Or, at least, to demonstrate untranslatability. Either that or Preil was unaware what irony a translator would find in the fact that the word used for "translation" in the title, targúm can signify either a work of translation, or the exegetical rendering of Hebrew scripture into Aramaic, and in this latter sense has something of the interpretative and the hermeneutical to it. By contrast, the poem's last words are Šiˁúr Betirgúm "Lesson in Translation" identical to the title except for one vowel. Here, the word used for translation, tirgúm, refers to the act of rendering text or speech into another language (and has no technical scriptural meaning.) There are several instances of wordplay of various kinds throughout the poem. Which mock the translator most rudely.  

Lesson in Translation
By Gabriel Preil
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

My interpreter tried to bring to light
The states that went unstated,
The methods of design and indirection,
The compulsion to explore, reach and arrive,
(Once even reading something in my face.)

Above all else she thought to plow
the specific subsoil, to identify
the bristle of roots, the burning morn of making.
There were moments when an image drew her
in, like trees in the morning singing their birds,
or the incidental orchestrating itself,
a delicate length of irony, a longing. 

The original, one may assume, is still the original,
She did not transmute it into her own possession
Or something else and other of mine.
She seems to have held the lines with honor as usual,
Their fidelity flowing from autumn to fall. 

That said, I question how even so careful, cool a text
Can be turned mournful, defeating all peace of mine.
Had I learned a lesson in translation?

The Original:

שִׁעוּר בְּתַרְגוּם

הַמְתַרְגֶּמֶת נִסְּתָה לַחֳשֹׂף
דְּבָרִים שֶׁלֹּא נֶאֶמְרוּ
אֶת אָפְנוֹת הַמְכֻוָּן וְהַהַסְוָאָה
אֶת כֹּרַח הַגִּשּׁוּשׁ וְהַהַגָּעָה
(פַּעַם קָרְאָה מָה בְּפָנַי)

יוֹתֵר מִכֹּל חָשְׁבָה לַחֲרֹשׁ
בַּתַּשְׁתִּית הַמְיַחֶדֶת, לְזַהוֹת
זִיפֵי שָׁרָשִׁים, כְּוִיַּת הָעִצּוּב.
הָיוּ רְגָעִים שֶנִּמְשְׁכָה לִדמּוּי כְּמוֹ
עֲצֵי בֹּקֶר שָׁרִים צִפֳּרִים
לַמִּקְרִי הַמְתַזְמֵר כְּמֵאֵלָיו 
אִירוֹנְיָה דַקָּה, כִּסּוּפים. 

הַמָּקוֹר, אֶפְשָׁר לְהַנּיחַ, עוֹדֶנּוּ מָקוֹר
חִיא לֹא הָפְכָה אוֹתוֹ לַאֲחֻזָּתָהּ
אוֹ לִכְלִי שֶׁנִי, אַחֵר, שֶׁלִּי.
כָּל בַּיִת שֶׁבַּשִּׁיר, נִדְמֶה, מוּגָן — כָּרָגִיל
בֵּין סְתָו לִסְתָו מְפַכָּה אֲמִנוּתוֹ. 

עִם זֹאת אֲנִי שׁוֹאֵל אֵיךְ טֶקְסְט קָרִיר–זָהִיר
גַּם הוּא נַעֲשָׂה עָצוּב, מֵבִיס אֶת הַשַּׁלְוָה. 
לָמַדְתִּי שִׁעוּר בְּתִרְגּוּם? 


Romanization:

Šiˁur Betargum


Hamtargémet nista laḥasof
Dvarim šelo ne'emru,
Et ofnot hamxuvan vehahasva'a
Et koraḥ hagišuš vehahagaˁa
(páˁam kar'a ma befanay)

Yoter mikol ḥašva laḥaroš
Bataštit hamyaḥédet, lezahot
Zifey šorašim, keviyat haˁitsuv.
Hayu regaˁim šenimšexa ledimuy kmo
ˁatsey bóker šarim tsiporim
Lamikri hamtazmer keme'elav.
Irónya daka, kisufim.

Hamakor, efšar lahaníaḥ ˁodénu makor
Hi lo hafxa oto la'aḥuzata
o lixli šeni, aḥer, šeli.
Kol báyit šebašir, nidme, mugan – karagil
beyn stav listav mefaka aminuto

ˁim zot ani šo'el eyx tekst karir-zahir
gam hu naˁasa ˁatsuv mevis et hašalva.
Lamádeti šiˁur betirgum?

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