Gentle Advice from the Reading Gods

This is kind of amusing. The reading gods, apparently, have been speaking to me. About a year ago, at a local used bookstore that offers one small shelf of $1 books, I came across  the Penguin Classics version of The Poem of The Cid. Excellent. I hadn’t read it, so I got it. But, of course, I already had numerous other books in my reading queue, so I put the volume on my bookshelf for the future. A few months later, same bookstore, same $1 shelf, I found The New American Library version of the same poem. For no particular reason, I bought it. At that point I was still working through my reading list, and hadn’t yet read the poem. And then yesterday, same bookstore, same $1 shelf. The University of California Press version of the poem.  I had to get it.

I’m pretty sure that the reading gods are giving me an exceedingly strong recommendation. Read The Poem of El Cid already!! I’ve acquiesced to their sage advice, and have started reading. All three versions, that is. That has been part of the fun, comparing the different translations.

I’ve included the first paragraph (stanzas) of each translation, offered in the order in which I acquired the volumes. The juxtaposition clearly demonstrates that the quality of translation makes all the difference. As you will see, one version is better than the others. (I won’t say which. Evaluate for yourself.) It is written in clear, flowing English, yet retains an essence of the original.

Penguin Classics:

“Tears streamed from his eyes as he turned his head and stood looking at them. He saw doors left open and gates unlocked, empty pegs without fur tunics or cloaks, perches without falcons or moulted hawks. The Cid sighed, for he was weighed down with heavy cares. Then he said, with dignity and restraint: ‘I give Thee thanks, O God, our Father in Heaven. My wicked enemies have contrived this plot against me.'”

New American Library:

“His eyes, grievously weeping, he turned his head and looked back upon them. He saw doors standing open and gates without fastenings, the porches empty without cloaks or coverings and without falcons and without molted hawks. He sighed, my Cid, for he felt great affliction. He spoke, my Cid, well, and with great moderation. ‘Thanks be to Thee, our Father Who art in Heaven! My evil enemies have wrought this upon me.'”

The University of California Press:

“My Cid turned his head and stopped and gazed with streaming eyes. He beheld the open doors, the postern gates unbolted, and vacant the perches where once his skins and mantles hung, and his molting hawks were wont to rest.

My Cid sighed, for his heart was heavy.

My Cid spoke, well and measuredly:

‘Blessed be the Lord Our God, Our Father who art on high! See now what my wicked enemies have wrought!'”

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