[Adam Cuerden:] Lost in Translation

Arrgh. Why can’t anyone ever seem to do a half-decent translation of anything set to music? Some examples:

Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore, Heard in performance in Edinburgh:

“You must forgive and forget;
I love you forever more!”

(Inevitably turning into, thanks to unthinking repetition into part of the music with different phrasing: You must forgive – and forget I love you forever more)

Arthur Sullivan’s “Festival” Te Deum

“To Thee Seraphim and Cherumbim continually cry”

…To which I can only think “God must have a headache from all that continuous crying.”

“When thou tookest upon Thee to deliver Man,
Thou didst not abhor the Virgin womb”

….Because everyone knows that most abhor virgin wombs. Most men, except perverts, only want sex with skanky hos.

Lots of bad translations in here, but I’ll skip onwards for now.

“Oh come all ye faithful”, Verse 2:

“God of Gods
Lord of Lords
Lo, he abhors not the Virgin womb
Very God!
Born but not begotten
Oh come let us adore him…”

…First off, the meter’s all off. You have to slur almost every accented syllable over two or more notes. Secondly: “Very God”?!?!, “God of Gods”?! So there’s other gods now?!?! Not abhoring virgin wombs again? and that awkward “Born but not begotten”?

J.S.Bach, “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”:

“Thou shalt ever lead Thine own,
Soaring, dying round Thy throne”

What? So souls are Heavenly Moths, and God the Celestial Candle?

…Really, if you’re going to translate, DO A DECENT JOB OF IT.