Adrienne Ho & Mani Rao: On translating into Latin
In their quest for the divine, via concepts based on vedanta, etc. some of my poems' themes seem to belong an earlier era, if in today's clothes. In that sense there was a symmetry between them and the renewal of the classical poetry Adrienne's translation work strives for. And Latin's formality and stiffness matched well with the ritual quality the dense sound of my poems means to evoke.
”Chorus” directly addresses the divine; “Ebri” is about mediation. Choosing these fitted well with the conceit that Latin was once the language of mediation - uttered by priests and heard by gods. I thought the poems could only be closer to their truth in Latin.
David Damrosch notes that Goethe “actually prefers a Latin translation of one of his own works to the original: 'there it seems to me nobler, and as if it had returned to its original form!'” (What is World Literature).
Meanwhile, in his Translation and Translations J.P. Postgate, an avid Latinist of the early 20th c., characterizes Latin-English translations as “retrospective” and English-Latin as “prospective.” When translating English to Latin, he writes, the translator should “put safety first and to aim not at the nearest idiomatic translation but at the most idiomatic that he can find. For his object is to write in Latin, not to render English, and to him the borderland of doubt and possible error is much larger in the use of Latin than in that of English expression.” This outlines a quite distinct trajectory for the translation out of one's native language into a so-call extinguished one.
On a more personal note: my translations ofthe late Roman poet Sulpicia into contemporary English poetry, and the translation I have done of Mani into Latin complement one another in an almost symbiotic way across time and languages.