Poetry in translation

 

Catullus 43

 

Salve, nec minimo puella naso

nec bello pede nec nigris ocellis

nec longis digitis nec ore sicco

nec sane nimis elegante lingua,

decoctoris amica Formiani.

ten provincia narrat esse bellam?

tecum Lesbia nostra comparatur?

o saeclum insapiens et infacetum!

Catullus 

 

my translation

 

oh, girl without the smallest button nose

nor dainty feet nor little black eyes

nor slender fingers nor a dry mouth

nor a truly refined tongue,

wench of that Formian spindrift.

Does the province describe you, as beautiful?

Our Lesbia is being matched with you?

O ill-advised and ill-bred generation!

 

commentary

I had strong desires to translate a poem by Catullus but, with him having written over 100 poems, it was almost an impossible choice. This poem was tucked away in the first part of Catullus’ anthology – the polymetrics, where the poems are categorised by their hendecasyllabic metre. However, the sheer cruel, but comedic atmosphere that encompasses this poem, along with its defamatory language, would inevitably present me a challenge but I also think it’s what drew me to perusing it. The first half of the poem is heavily based on the features of a woman that were believed to be desirable in a Graeco-roman society; therefore, I wanted to modernise these slightly to reflect that of what is believed today. For example, ‘the smallest nose’ alone perhaps would sound slightly strange so, I added ‘button’ for the purpose of being in accordance with this. In contrast, I decided to keep some of the latter in a more direct translation, to not completely loose the ancient culture of the poem. Moreover, I consciously decided to disregard the metre in my translation because I really wanted to emphasize his brazen ranting in the poem and I felt this could be done quite effectively in free form. Overall, I really like how this poem forms as an interesting example to how far the boundaries of poetry were pushed a couple thousand years ago yet, Catullus’ intentions can be seen as just as malicious today; perhaps even more due to our society being more aware of gender inequality.

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TOK Song

‘Just Around The Riverbend’ – Pocahontas 

 

  “To be safe, we lose our chance of ever knowing

What’s around the river bend”

 

Firstly, I have to admit that I haven’t actually seen Pocahontas but, came across it because one of my friends pointed out that one of my favourite artists made a cover of the song. Despite this, the song has grown a lot on me over the past two years; I think under analysis it can have a much deeper meaning than perhaps its trivialized one.

Here are the lyrics of the first verse and chorus:

What I love most about rivers is
You can’t step in the same river twice
The water’s always changing, always flowing

But people, I guess, can’t live like that
We all must pay a price
To be safe, we lose our chance of ever knowing

What’s around the river bend
Waiting just around the river bend
I look once more just around the river bend
Beyond the shore where the gulls fly free
Don’t know what for what I dream the day might send
Just around the river bend for me, coming for me

This song had been labeled the ‘I want’ song (popular in most Disney franchise films) in the sense that the song is allowing Pocahontas to express her doubts over whether the path her father laid out for her is actually that of which she should follow, instead of her own where she may be open to a world of new opportunities and adventures. This is alluded in the metaphor with the two parts of the river: the calm and straight one (i.e with no risks to be taken) and the unclear one twisting ‘just around the river bend’. (i.e an exciting prospect just within reach!)

Relating to what we’ve thought about in TOK, I believe that this song is almost another example of the ‘blue or red pill’ Matrix analogy of knowing whether something is true. I think this is an eternal debate we all have; there is no way truly to know if the pathway we lead ourselves down necessarily posses the truth we want or we need.

In the video, Pocahontas always has an incredible expression on her face, this makes it really clear that she is definitely searching for something ‘more’ and not to be bound by the wishes of her father. However, the viewer almost gets the feeling that, in her going ‘beyond the riverbend’ a magical paradise would be met. But, again, going back to the Matrix problem, this raises the question: is the thrill gained from taking a risk is able to outweigh the possibility of unfortunate events happening? Moreover, linking this to the ’emotion or reason’ topic, I don’t think this situation is something that is properly thought over all the time when many are making life defining choices. I do believe in theses types of situations it is really easy to become overwhelmed with emotion so much so that it clouds our logic.

Despite this, I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing. Obviously, this would vary massively depending the extremity of an individuals situation but, I think you can argue that logic was not behind some of the most important decisions you have made throughout your life that may have actually worked out better than you can imagine. After all we do have to remember that this is a movie and in my opinion, this lack of logic or ‘pursuit of happiness’ presents a ‘carefree’ and ‘exhilarating’ moment for Pocahontas which, is what Disney is trying to present here. Whether this is how life milestones should actually turn out in ‘real life’ is another question…

 

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

 

440px-Red_and_blue_pill
Red or Blue?

“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more.”

As a very indecisive but person, this question would take me a lot of thought and time to answer but, ultimately if I was in the position of Neo, I know that my ultimate decision would 90% depend on the mood I was in on the day and not due to some morals or ‘philosophy’ I uphold.

If I was feeling relatively secure in my life and knew that I had a lot more to offer the world, I would take the blue bill. I would work off the basis that, although, I am living in a possibly ‘simulated’ reality, I still have a duty to many people in this world. Also despite, not knowing if the emotions I felt were real, I still would have to take into account all of the memories and the emotions derived from them thought my life. I would more importantly need to question the basis of all the information that has been shown to me and from whom it came (a complete stranger!). Even if there is a possibility that the world that I live in isn’t real, it has been all I’ve known my whole life and I think most of us would always choose comfort over risk. Moreover, I don’t think that I would regret the decision as I go on with my life because I know I would be content with living the way that I would, If I hadn’t encountered ‘Morpheus’.

If I was feeling quite despondent and discouraged by the social and political disasters that befall upon our society everyday the, I think it would only be natural that I take the red pill. Upon presentation, this pill would look more like an escape mechanism, which usually I am against but, in this desperate mental state I would more understanding of. I would be interested to see what new things said ‘wonderland’ could make me feel and gain knowledge of. However, I would be very weary of going ‘deeper’ since I’m not entirely sure how or even If I would come out the other end. I could be still be the same person, completely sure of themselves having been exposed to a new reality OR I could be completely destroyed and unsure of who I am? Therefore, the trade-off in this situation would be: would I sacrifice my current being for someone who is even more lost than I am currently? This is something that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to answer.

Let’s suppose I was given the pill today. I feel 70% like taking the blue pill because, although I do sometime feel too complacent in my life, I’ve just always been the person to say in my comfort zone.

 

 

My first TOK Impressions

Scepticism is the first word that comes to mind when I discovered last year that Theory of Knowledge (TOK) was a requirement for the IB diploma. I have never enjoyed thinking existentially or beyond what’s required; I suppose the security I have in ‘textbook information’ and not having to question what’s in front of me is one which is comforting. Therefore, knowing that TOK would take me out of this fundamental comfort triggered an automatic unease inside of me.

However, having had the first initial lessons I can at least begin to understand why this course of TOK would most likely be critical for anyone to advance their own thinking and how they know what they know. I believe that TOK is more than just a way of thinking, it’s a mechanism that is very useful with application to all different aspect of life.

What I have enjoyed most so far is discussing how the internet is arguably rapidly decreasing the value we as a generation place on knowledge and how, as a consequence, our ability to recall information has suffered. I believe this definitely something to be weary of going into the future, particularly with the increasing development of Artificial intelligence, which I have to admit scares me.

Looking forward, I hope TOK will expose me the a broader more side of academics; beyond a syllabus. I also hope that I will come out of the IB with a greater sense of what’s going on around me and how to think more diligently and critically, which i believe to be fundamental skills within any environment, whether it’s at home or in the work place.