Tag Archives: translation

‘Cantique de Jean Racine’: French choral work -cum- English refurbished Christian rock/worship song? An exercise in stylistic translation, with critical analysis.

Translation of the poetry into English lyrics that might suit a contemporary Christian rock/worship song:

Word at one with the Most High, our only hope;
Eternal dayspring of heaven and earth,
We pierce through the dead of night with our cries:
“Holy Saviour, cast down on us your eyes!”

Pour out on us the fire of your mighty grace,
Let all hell flee at the sound of your voice;
Wipe away the sleep from our weary souls:
Don’t let it lead us to forget your ways!

O Jesus, smile on us your faithful ones,
Now gathered in this place to bless your name!
Receive our praise of your eternal glory:
And send us out filled with your gifts we pray!

Original French:

Verbe égal au Très-Haut, notre unique espérance,
Jour éternel de la terre et des cieux,
De la paisible nuit nous rompons le silence:
Divin sauveur, jette sur nous les yeux.

Répands sur nous le feu de ta grâce puissante;
Que tout l’enfer fuie au son de ta voix;
Dissipe le sommeil d’une âme languissante
Qui la conduit à l’oubli de tes lois!

Ô Christ ! sois favorable à ce peuple fidèle,
Pour te bénir maintenant rassemblé;
Reçois les chants qu’il offre à ta gloire immortelle,
Et de tes dons qu’il retourne comblé.

Hyper-literal ‘semi-English’ gloss of the French mimicking the grammar/syntax and word order of the original, with semantic/morphological amplifications and alternatives in brackets. This is not strictly a translation:

Word equal to the Most High, our only (+singular) hope,
Day eternal of the earth and of the heavens,
Of the quiet night, we break [or, ‘we are breaking’] the silence:
Divine Saviour, cast on(to) us your eyes.

Pour [+spread] out on(to) us your the fire of your grace powerful [i.e. forceful/potent, rather than ‘having power’].
May all the hell flee at the sound of your voice!
Dissipate the slumber of a wilting (+listless +torpid +perishing/decaying) soul
That drives it to the forgetfulness of your laws!

O Christ, be favourable [i.e. ‘show favour’] to this people faithful,
To bless you, now (+’once more’) assembled.
Receive the hymns it offers to your immortal glory,
And by your gifts, may it return filled (up).

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Translation of a Prayer by St Bernard of Clairvaux: To love as much as possible.

My God, my Sustainer,
I know I will not love you as much as you deserve,
But only insofar as you enable me to love.
This will surely not amount to all the love I should show,
But it will amount to all the love I can show

Because it is impossible to love you
Beyond the power to love that I possess.

I will love you more
If you will make me able
Howbeit that this never will amount
To as much as you are worthy to be loved.

~ St Bernard of Clairvaux, my translation from French.

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