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英文翻譯練習:My Papa’s Waltz – Theodore Roethke
撰文者: Wayne 發表日期: September 12, 2010 – 2:58 pm

這首由芮德格 (Theodore Roethke) 創作的短詩常被人從截然不同的角度解讀:一派人認為這首詩是回憶與酒醉父親起舞嘻鬧的往事,另一派人則認為這是用戲謔的比喻來描述嗜酒父親的家暴過程。

版主比較喜歡第一種解釋,也覺得較為合理。在這首詩中,嘻鬧的父子把廚房弄得一踏糊塗,母親在一旁蹙眉生悶氣。雖然父子倆舞步跌跌撞撞且偶有失誤,彼此卻享受著一段難得的親密時刻。

My Papa’s Waltz
by Theodore Roethke

The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.

你呼出的威士忌,
能令小男孩暈眩;
但我仍死抓不放,
這舞真不容易跳。

We romped until the pans
Slid from the kitchen shelf;
My mother’s countenance
Could not unfrown itself.

我們嘻鬧撞到鍋盤,
並且從廚架上滑落;
媽媽緊繃著臉,
面容難以舒緩。

The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one knuckle;
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.

那隻握我手腕的手,
有一根指節被撞傷;
你每踏錯一個舞步,
我右耳就刮到扣環。

You beat time on my head
With a palm caked hard by dirt,
Then waltzed me off to bed
Still clinging to your shirt.

你敲我腦袋打節拍,
手掌的泥土已結塊,
隨後將我舞到床邊,
我依舊緊抓你襯衫。

 

translation

(說明)

romp = (of children or animals) play about together in a lively way, jumping and running, etc.
countenance = face, especially the face as an indication of mood or emotion
frown = bring eyebrows together to express anger and worry.
buckle = (c) a metal fastener used for joining the two ends of a belt or strap, for fastening a shoe or bag for decoration (皮帶等) 金屬扣環
beat time = 打節拍 (time = rhythm)
caked hard = encrusted
 
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(外國網友對本詩的體會)

translation 

I love this poem because it can be taken very literally, and at the same time figuratively or symbolically. You can really picture the kid holding on to his father for dear life, being slung around the room. And if that’s the only thing you got out of the poem it would be enough. Almost everyone has had the experience of being danced around by a parent, grandparent, or older sibling. It’s a nice bit of nostalgia. On the other hand, life is a dance, it’s what and who you are in relation to other people. Your father (or whoever) takes a step, you make a counter move. He misses a step, you didn’t predcit it and you get stepped on or “scraped.” And there are people in the background watching and judging. Your life , your waltz, your relationships will certainly not be all smooth – there will be bumps and rough spots, but in the end, you wouldn’t want to miss it. So the scariness and the scrapes are tolerable because the dance itself is so darn fun! I think it’s about taking the good with the bad. Or maybe even showing how much we will tolerate because of love.

 

translation 

While discussing the experiences of childhood, somebody recently pointed out to me that this poem was about an abused, physically and emotionally terrified little boy. His mother stood to one side, powerless and anxious, while the father was a bullying drunk that the boy obeyed through fear. Then another person suggested that for him, a daddy who drank too much, caroused around the kitchen and displeased his mother, was just a normal aspect of childhood. Significantly, he also added that nobody in his family was ever left hungry, without warmth, shelter and love, all provided by that imperfect father.

These opposing views made me believe that the poem requires a deeper analysis, because it is so full of memories and contains the elements and experiences that speak to many. It recalls childhood events with both tenderness and trepidation, igniting memories and connecting the reader to the scene and emotions, as all good poetry should. It has all the elements of universal truth and connectivity.

Written in 1948, the speaker may be assumed to be the poet as a little boy, remembering his hard working, sometimes drunken father. Roethke’s father, uncle and grandfather worked with greenhouses, nature and growing things, and this life has figured largely in his work, evidenced here in this musical, deceptively simple poem. There are several tones throughout the work, love, tenderness and awe, with an undercurrent of fear. With its rhythmic verse form, sounding almost like the treble-time flow of a waltz,end rhyming couplets, and iambic trimeter, as is used in waltz-time for dancing, the rhythm flows seamlessly, like a child’s song.

The metaphors within the visual, auditory and tactile imagery hint at a potential for a violent outcome. For example, the drunkenness is made immediate in the first line “The whiskey on your breath” (l. 1), and the words “dizzy” (l. 2) and “romped” (l. 5)suggest a willing participation in the fun of it all. But “The hand that held my wrist/Was battered on one knuckle” (l.9-10) tell us that there is unease under the surface, and worry that the behavior might go out of control and end in violence. That unease was reflected in the mother’s face that “could not unfrown itself”. (l. 8). The father’s hand that “beat time on my head/with a palm caked hard by dirt” (l. 13-14) can be interpreted variously; as a metaphor for a hard working man who works with the soil, or a drunken person not totally aware that his actions could hurt, or just a part of the father-child ritual. All may be true, depending on one’s own experiences, and all speak in love, awe, unease and complicity.

The missed steps may be interpreted as symbols of how a man does his best, but can sometimes slip up, hence “…my right ear scraped a buckle” (l. 12), unintentionally hurting those he loved and who loved him. The poet leaves us in no doubt of that love, because at the end, the child was with his father, in body and mind, as in “Then waltzed me off to bed/Still clinging to your shirt.” (l. 15-16)

Anyone who has experienced such childhood moments, when awe, love and respect involved them in adult ‘misdeeds’, will recognize these scenes and remember those emotions. The man and boy causing havoc with the pans slipping and clattering, the disapproving, sensible mother, and the delicious thrill of complying with the misbehavior. Roethke has put all these together in a wonderful song of tenderness and acceptance, or so I would interpret it from my own life experience.

On the other hand, if these are alien concepts to many readers, then the father might be considered abusive and the child frightened into submission. That is what makes this such a powerful poem, asking for understanding and honest, personal appraisal, while relating to the human condition. From a personal viewpoint, ‘My Papa’s Waltz’ says to me clearly, “Look, here was my hard working dad who sometimes drank too much and got silly. He loved me and liked me to join in his games, and we both made my mother annoyed. At the end of the day, he provided for me, loved me and put me to bed, always with a kiss. He was never perfect, but he was my daddy and I loved him.” Thank you Theodore Roethke, for saying that for me, so perfectly.

 

 translation

In my first ‘speed’ read of the poem “My Papa’s Waltz’ I negatively percieved and interpreted this piece of poetry to have been written on the basis of child abuse. I thought to myself, now, this just can’t be right so, I reread the poem the way it must be read, at a ‘slower pace in feeling the literary works’ — then to interpret a positive ‘blissful’ time shared between father and son. The father and son had spent much time ‘daily’ together in the greenhouse in which reveals to me that the two had a close and bonded relationship. Also I have thoroughly researched Theodore Roethke’s Life, Career, Poetry and Timeline in which there are no words that reveal any form of domestic violence and/or child abuse in Roethke’s life. Plus, Theodore was extremely close to his father and terribly jarred by his father’s death. In addition, I percieve a tired papa coming into the home, after a hard days work out in his greenhouse, ‘with palm caked hard by dirt’ hands; after dark. I think ‘whiskey on his breath could make a small boy dizzy’ is merely the act of papa taking a shot of whiskey to relax after work in which does not mean the father is a drunken sot. The odor of whiskey would be strong to a non drinker and a small child. Also, In male rough-housed play the father and son danced ‘Papa’s Waltz’ around the room in papa giving his son maculine ‘quality time’ prior to getting him off to bed. The Mother frowned with disapproval by the rough play and noise, however, she said nothing to disturb the father and son’s joyful dance; for boys will be boys. Finally, the ‘beat time on my head’ is basically a pat of a strong man’s hand on a small boy’s head — telling his son playtime is over and it’s time for bed. Futhermore, the child would not be ‘clinging’ to his papa’s shirt if he were being abused. He would urgently be trying to ‘get away’ from his papa.

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