Translating the Fables of La Fontaine: A Creative Linguistic Challenge
Perched on a treetop, behold Master Crow
With his mouth crammed full of cheese.
Lured by the scent, Master Fox sits below
And sounds him with pleasantries.
“Greetings. M’lord” is his studied homage.
“Aren’t you the handsome fellow.
A voice to match such splendid plumage
Must be both sweet and mellow.
Cross my heart, you’ve got to be
The height of vocal glory
Deserving of celebrity
Throughout this territory.”
It works: the crow just has to show
How gorgeous he can sound.
He shapes his mouth into an O.
The cheese falls to the ground.
Fox seizes it and smirks “Dear sir,
Here’s valuable advice.
To learn to distrust a flatterer
A cheese is a trifling price.”
Wracked with confusion, shame and pain,
Crow views his sorry state
And vows he’ll not be tricked again
Just a bit too late.
Eventually the project was completed and I was emboldened to send a sample of my work to the distinguished poet/translator Richard Wilbur. I couldn’t have been more thrilled when he responded that I “stand up very well to the competition.” But now I face the most daunting challenge of all: how to find the right publisher.