Friday 5th Jun 2020

Poetry Translation Competition




Lockdown notwithstanding, senior CH pupils were able to travel the world of languages, just before half term, when the senior poetry translation competition was (virtually) adjudicated in a seminar held on the Teams platform.

The field was very strong. Brilliant translations from school languages (Latin, French, Spanish and German) were complemented by equally brilliant renderings of poems from Latvian, Nepali and Esperanto.  Our adjudicator, Rahul Bery – translator in residence at the British Library – had his work cut out.

‘When I read these translations I immediately feared for my career!’ he said. ‘Luckily none of you are translating from Portuguese – yet. I particularly admired the range of the entries. Some were very much translations, some were versions. In many cases the commentaries were crucial in my understanding of what the translator was doing.’ This last comment particularly applied to Stuti (DG/Year 12), who was runner up with her rendering of a Nepali poem ‘Sanai Hurima’ by Bhupi Sherchan.

Rahul’s choice as winner, however, was Amber (DG/Year 12), for her fluid and experimental rendering of a section from Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’ called ‘The House of Rumour’. Rahul liked the way the theme of the poem ‘dictated the shape of the response – the idea of the rumours layering over each other with visual effect.’ Amber (whose entry is printed below) thus becomes this year’s winner of the Christopher Nicholson Award.


The House of Rumour (Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book 12, lines 39-63)


There is a place in the middle of the earth, between the bounds of land and sea and high air,

the treble confines of the universe,


Somewhere that notices everything,

however far away,

and every voice finds listening ears,


Rumour choses a kingdom,

a domain for herself on a peak,

her abode has innumerable approaches and a thousand more openings

And no thresholds are closed,


It is open, night and day, the whole place is made of chanting bronze,

It all growls and coaxes,

and relays what is heard reinvigorated,

No rest within and no silent haven,

Yet nor is there shouting,

but petty, murmuring of sound,


Like the waves of the deep which you might just catch from far away,

Like the moans when Jupiter rustled murky clouds and the furthest thunder peals,


The hall harbours a myriad, they come and go, a volatile mob.

A thousand rumours muddled with truth flit,

A thousand hums addled with chatter are mulled over,


From whoever sates famished ears with conversation

The tale is borne elsewhere,

and each teller adds something new,

the girth of fiction grows…


There is credulity,

there is thoughtless Error,

deceptive joy,

and perplexed dread


New strife,

and whispering

of dubious root,


She herself surveys the conduct of the sky

and the sea

and the earth

she probes the entire world.