Poetic Tradition and
Transformation in the Chinese
Translations of Alfred Tennyson’s
“The Lady of Shalott”
Presenter: Leo Liang
Authors: Leo Liang and Prof. Sharon Tzu-Yun Lai
Organizations: Mackay Medicine, Nursing, and
Management College, and National Taiwan Normal
University, Taiwan
Outline
1. Introduction
2. Characteristics of Lord Tennyson’s poems
3. Analysis of the poem “The Lady of Shallot”
4. Analysis of different Chinese translations of the
poem
5. Conclusion
2007/12/13
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Introduction
 Poetry and translation
 The main argument

The loss and compensation in the translation are
actually a culturally different representation of the
poetic traditions and transformation.
 The method of analysis

2007/12/13
Examination of Chinese translations of Lord
Tennyson’s poem, “The Lady of Shallot”
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Characteristics of Lord Tennyson’s poems
 His superb ability to


present images and sounds
weave them together
 Critics’ comments



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Arthur Hallam
T. S. Elliot
John Hollander
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Critics comments: Arthur Hallam
 “Thirdly, his vivid, picturesque delineation of
objections, and the peculiar skill with which he holds
all of them fused, to borrow a metaphor from science,
in a medium of strong emotion.”
 “Fourthly, the variety of his lyrical measures, and
exquisite modulation of harmonious words and
cadences to the swell and fall of the feelings
expressed.”
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Critics comments: T. S. Elliot
 “The finest ear of any English poet since Milton”
 “[Extending] very widely the range of active metrical
forms in English”
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Critics comments: John Hollander
 “His poetic act is the association of the sound and
sight, the rendering of the former not so much by
direct pseudo-onomatopoeia in the sounds of words,
but in the pattern we have been discerning, or a
sound-rich description of a visual phenomenon
which itself stands for an auditory one.”
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“The Lady of Shallot”
 Introduction
 Its structure
 The idea of “weaving” in the poem
 Meters and rhymes
 Other rhythmic devices


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Alliteration
Onomatopoeia
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“The Lady of Shallot”: the structure
1. The setting of Camelot and the island of Shalott.
2. The Lady of Shalott’s daily activity, weaving, and
the curse on her.
3. The climax of the poem: the description of Lancelot,
and Shalott’s breaking of curse.
4. The death of the Lady of Shalott.
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“The Lady of Shallot”: “weaving”
 Weaving as the Lady’s only activity
 Weaving as the process of Tennyson’s composition
(Elaine Jordan)
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“The Lady of Shallot”: meters and rhymes
 The 1st part: 4 stanzas
 The 2nd part: 4 stanzas
 The 3rd part: 5 stanzas
 The 4th part: 6 stanzas
 Each stanza has 9 lines.
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“The Lady of Shallot”: meters and rhymes
On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro' the field the road runs by
To many-tower'd Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott.
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a
a
a
a
b
c
c
c
b
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“The Lady of Shallot”: Other rhythmic
devices
 Alliteration
 Onomatopoeia
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Discussions on translation of poetry
 John Dryden
 Vladimir Nabokov
 Andre Lefevere
 James Holmes
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Chinese translations of this poem
 1 complete translation published in a book and 13
practices of translation assignment
 The loss caused by difficulties and problems:


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The title of the poem: The Lady of Shallot
The format and rhyme scheme of the overall poem
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The title of the poem: The Lady of Shallot
 The translation of “The Lady”
 The translation of “Shallot”
 The word order
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The format and rhyme scheme
Among the 14 translations, the Chinese poetic traditions
reflected in them include:
 Modern poetry/free verse: 11
 Regulated verse form in 7 characters in a line: 2
 “Fu” (written in 4-6 or 6-4 characters in a line): 1
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The format and rhyme scheme
 Modern poetry/free verse: an example from Liu
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The format and rhyme scheme
 Regulated verse form in 7 characters in a line: an
example from Jiang
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The format and rhyme scheme
“Fu” (written in 4-6 or 6-4 characters in a line): an
example from Leo
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The format and rhyme scheme
Some other efforts to follow
the rhyme scheme:
 End rhymes in Liu’s
translation
 Eight-character lines as
the original tetrameters in
Shannon, Amy, and
Yvette’s translations
an
tian
bian
guo
luo
suo
yo
dao
dao
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Conclusion
 Various translations demonstrate the wealthy and
various Chinese poetic traditions, the loss of the
important elements in the original poem is actually
compensated by the culturally transformed
characteristics in these translations.
 Robert Frost’s famous comment: “Poetry is what
gets lost in translation.”
 But the real loss is not able to see that the translators
have strived to shorten the distances between two
cultures and that in their translations they offer the
compensations rooted in their culture.
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