There’s a story, perhaps apocryphal, that Brahms, having written a piano transcription of Bach’s D minor Chaconne for violin, decided to play it over to an acquaintance, an eminent Viennese musical authority of the day. The pundit, having listened and feeling obliged to offer some learned and expert opinion, hinted among other things that the transcription didn’t sound much like the violin, did it? To which Brahms muttered some retort, more gruff than polite, which was perhaps safely lost in his beard. True or not, to my mind the story sums up the objection of the purist to the whole idea of translating poetry: how can a translation be identical with the original, preserving ail its intonations, allusions, and sonorities? This simply begs the question of the whole process, which must be to transform—to put the poem into the crucible of another language and...


A Message from the Editors

Receive ten digital and print issues plus a bonus issue when you subscribe to The New Criterion by August 31.

Popular Right Now