Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I don't write papers

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king was a violent episode. Archaeology has also revealed Publius Valerius as a historical character at about the right date, `the companions of Poplios Valesios made a dedication to Mars at Satricum, a Latin town some forty miles south of Rome.(7) But that local warlord seems to have little in common with the democratic constitutionalist of the Roman story.

The trouble with archaeological discoveries is that they encourage the Schliemann fallacy find the site of Troy, and youve proved the Iliad is true. Even the best modern historians sometimes succumb to this temptation.

The study of early Rome has been put on a wholly new footing by Tim Cornells brilliant synthesis The Beginnings of Rome (15). Cornell has no illusions about the tradition on the birth of the Republic `it has the appearance of a historical romance, and forms a self-contained saga of connected stories! But, he goes on, `there is no reason in principle why the tradition should not be a romanticised version of events that really happened. It is arbitrary to dismiss the rape of Lucretia (for instance) as fiction, when we have no way of knowing whether it is fiction or not.(8) That is, it purports to be true; it could be true; why should it not be true?

Further, `we might be tempted to argue that the overthrow of Tarquin was followed by a confused period of turmoil in which various members of his family and other leading figures struggled for power, replacing each other in rapid succession ... -- and the note makes it explicit that `they would include his relatives Brutus and Collatinus, but perhaps also Valerius Poblicola [`The Peoples Friend], who held the consulship three years in succession, and in the traditional story was suspected of aiming at kingship.() So perhaps there really were five `consuls in Year One.

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How do we know Valerius held the consulship three years running? Cornell takes it as a fact because he believes that `the practice of recording the names of the men who held the chief magistracy must go back to the very early years of the Republic, and it is certain that continuous lists were kept in written form.(10) If that were so, then documentary evidence would guarantee the five names as authentic. But it is, to put it mildly, an adventurous hypothesis.(11) Its also inconsistent with Cornells own suggested model for Year One why should the victor in that putative power snuggle carefully record his rivals names as equal to his own?

So forget any idea of archival evidence. What we have is the tradition, and what matters is how we handle it. `In each case, says Cornell, `one must ask, first, whether there are grounds for regarding a story as ancient, or as a relatively late invention; and second, whether there are reasons for thinking that it might be based on fact. Well, and good, as far as it goes. But then `The burden of proof lies as heavily on those who wish to deny as on those who wish to affirm.(1) And that, with the greatest respect, just will not do.

The burden of proof is on whoever challenges the prima facie presumption. And what is the prima facie presumption here? Not, I think., that authors writing five hundred years later, in a tradition of written history no more than two hundred years old, are likely to have reported the events accurately, or even recognisably. In such circumstances, to treat `Why shouldnt it be true? as a no less valid question than `Why should it? comes pretty dose to abdicating the historians responsibility.(1)

Better, in any case, to ask a different type of question. What sort of stories are they, and how may they have come about?

NOTES

(1.) A fragment of a bucchero bowl from the Regia, illustrated in Cambridge Ancient History VII.. (ed. , Cambridge, 18), 76, fig. 5; and the `Lapis Niger stele at the Volcanal (CIL [I.sup.] 1 = ILLRP ).

(.) L. Cincius, quoted in Livy 7..5-7.

(.) See Ovid, Fasti .685, 851; Festus (Paulin) 47L; Plutarch, Quaestiones Romanae 6 Moralia 7D); Ausonius 7.4.1; Polemius Silvius in CIL [I.sup.] p. 5 = Inscr. Ital. XIII. p. 65.

(4.) The main narrative sources for the first year of the Republic are Livy .1.7-., Dionysius of Halicarnassus 5.1.-1.5, and Plutarch, Publicola 1.4-14.5. Up-to-date modern discussion in T. J. Cornell The Beginnings of Rome Italy and Rome from du Bronze Age to the Punic Wars (c.1000-64 B.C.) (London, 15), ch. `The Beginnings of the Roman Republic; cf. also A. Drummond in CAH VII. (n. 1 above), 17-0. For a fascinating exploration of all the aspects of the Brutus legend, assuming (wrongly, in my view) its essential historicity, see A. Mastrocinque, Lucio Giunio Bruto ricerche di storia, religione e diritto sulk origini della repubblica romana (Trento, 188).

(5.) ILLRP 0; R. Wachter, Altleteinischer Inschriften sprachliche und epigraphische Untersuchungen zu den Documenten bis etwa 150 v. Chr. (Bern, 187). 01-4.

(6.) Augustine, City of God .16 (Penguin translation).

(7.) Illustrated in CAH VII. (n. 1 above), 7, fig. ; see C. M. Stibbe et al., Lapis Satricanus Archaeological, Epigraphical, Linguistic and Historical Aspects of the New Inscription from Satrucum (The Hague, 180).

(8.) Op. cit. (n. 4 above), 17.

(.) Ibid. 17-18, 4.

(10.) Ibid. 1 (my emphasis).

(11.) See Journal of Roman Archaeololy (16), 1-15 for arguments against. Stephen Oakley, in the introduction to his magnificent new commentary on Livy 6-10 (Oxford. 17), defends a position close to Cornells `it is very hard to see whence Pictor and later annalists drew the basic framework of their narrative, if there were no state records which were in some sense official (4); the Romans belief that the annales maximi went back to the beginning of the Republic `does not amount to proof that the chronicle was already in existence in the fifth century or before, but it would be surprising in a partly hellenized and partly literate society if the state did not keep records of some kind (5). I think that begs a big question about the nature of `the state; and Oakleys general treatment of archival evidence seems to me more relevant to the fourth century (the period covered by Books 6-10) than the fifth or late sixth.

(1.) Op. cit. (n. 4 above), 11.

(1.) Cf. Oakley, op. cit., 10 `accepting annalistic information unless it is proved to be wrong [is] an absurd procedure given the inadequacies of our sources.

NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS

J. A. RICHMOND Emeritus Professor of Greek, University College Dublin.

T. P. WISEMAN Professor of Classics and Ancient History, University of Exeter.

RHIANNON ASH Lecturer in Classics, University College London.

TOM STEVENSON Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History, University of Auckland, New Zealand.

DAVID WOODS Temporary Lecturer, Department of Ancient Classics, St Patricks College, Maynooth, Ireland.











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SHakespeare translations

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TRADUCTORES, TRAIDORES Y ESTAFADORES

¿A qui�n traiciona el traductor? ¿A quien escribió la obra que está traduciendo, o a quien lee esa obra una vez consumado el hecho? Probablemente la traición sea doble, pero la existencia de ese traductor es un mal necesario e inevitable. Aprender ruso para leer a Dostoviesky o a Tolstoi, Japon�s para leer a Akutagawa o a O�, Ingl�s para conocer a Poe, Shakespeare, y la lista podría seguir, es virtualmente imposible. Puede ser que la traducción que más circula de En Busca del Tiempo Perdido no sea la mejor, pero la obra perdura y se sobrepone a la traducción. Puede ser que Borges se haya tomado ciertas libertades al traducir a Faulkner, pero Faulkner sigue siendo Faulkner, y la fuerza y genialidad de su obra se percibe más allá de que en algún cuento haya algún final cambiado. ¿Cuál sería el problema, entonces, si se puede aceptar esa doble traición del traductor? El problema surge cuando quien lee la traducción conoce (Y entiende) el texto original. El problema se agudiza cuando quien entiende algo del idioma original, está ante una edición bilingüe. El problema empeora cuando el libro que se tiene en las manos es de poesía.

Antes de graficar con ejemplos lo que estoy sosteniendo, creo necesario dejar en claro una postura personal La importancia de las palabras no decae si estamos ante una narración, y el principio de literalidad debe cumplirse (Dentro de las limitaciones que cada idioma otorga) de la manera más fiel posible. Pero estimo que ante un poema ese principio de traducir lo más fielmente posible debe ser algo así como un Mandamiento. Quien traduce un poema está ante una dificultad insalvable que es la que, paradójicamente, da más libertad al traductor La m�trica y la rima. Traducir cualquier poema o soneto con la misma m�trica y la misma rima, y ser literal, resulta imposible. Lo mismo ocurriría si solamente nos preocupara la m�trica. Esa imposibilidad otorga, entonces, la mayor de las libertades Traducir en la forma más literal posible, sin pensar en m�trica y rima, casi como si fuera un relato o una novela. Sin embargo, contrariamente a lo que aquí sostengo, parecería ser que quienes traducen versos se sienten más inclinados a sacrificar cierta textualidad a favor de que los versos rimen, o tengan la misma m�trica. Ejemplos de lo que digo serán expuestos en este artículo. Eso es aún más forzado y violento que el acto de traducir.

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Volviendo a la pregunta original de este texto, ¿A qui�n traiciona el traductor?, encontramos una respuesta casi inmediata y que ya ha sido dada al autor de la obra y al lector. Además de los problemas que puede encontrar quien conoce la obra en su idioma original, existe otro problema aún peor Cuando además de un Traidor, estamos ante un Estafador.

A continuación voy a graficar con ejemplos lo que quiero exponer. La obra elegida es el soneto número XVIII de Shakespeare, y dado que voy a citar tres autores con sus nombres y apellidos, creo justo y hasta �tico presentar mi propia traducción de dicho soneto. No quiero imponer mi traducción como ejemplo, si bien la realic� siguiendo mis propias convicciones en el campo de la traducción.

El soneto de Shakespeare, en ingl�s

Shall I compare thee to a summers day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summers lease hath all too short a date

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimmd;

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance or natures changing course untrimmd;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade

Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;

Nor shall Death brag thou wanderst in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou growest

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

Traducción de Agustín García Calvo (Español), editorial Anagrama, “Sonetos de Amor”

A un día de verano habr� de compararte?

Tú eres más dulce y temperado un ramalazo

De viento los capullos de Mayo desparte,

Y el pr�stamo de estío vence a corto plazo;

Tal vez de sobra el ojo de los cielos arde,

Tal vez su tez de oro borrones empañan,

Y toda gracia gracia pierde pronto o tarde,

Que ya accidente o cambio natural la dañan.

Más tu verano eterno ni jamás se agota

O pierde prenda de esa gracia en que floreas,

Ni Muerte ha de ufanarse que a su negra costa

Vagues, que cara al tiempo en línea eterna creces.

En tanto aliente un hombre o ver el ojo pida,

Vivo estará este verso, y te dará a ti vida.

Traducción de Alfredo Gómez Gil. (Español), Biblioteca EDAF, “ Los sonetos de Shakespeare

Debería compararte a un día de verano?

Eres lo más hermoso y apacible.

Rudos vientos de mayo sacuden los capullos,

Y el plazo del verano arriendo pronto vencerá.

De vez en cuando el ojo del cielo resplandece

Y a menudo su dorada consplexión se desvanece;

Y en ocasiones pierde su belleza,

Por accidente o por cambio del curso de la naturaleza.

Más nada apagará tu eterna primavera,

Ni perderás la posesión de la belleza que adeudas,

Ni la muerte se jactará de que por su sombra erres,

Cuando crezcas y perdures en inmortales versos.



Mientras los humanos respiren o los ojos vean,

Mis vivos versos continuarán tu vida.

Traducción de Miguel Montezanti (Argentina), Longseller, “ Sonetos Completos”

Si a un día de verano te comparo

Tú eres más templado y placentero

Deja el viento al capullo sin amparo

Y el plazo del verano es pasajero;

El sol del cielo alguna vez calcina

Y otras veces opácase su oro,

Toda belleza alguna vez declina

O natura o azar causan desdoro.

Más tu eterno verano no ha de ajarse

Ni perderás dominio en tu hermosura;

De sombras no podrá muerte jactarse

Cuando en líneas te guarde edad futura.

Mientras que el ojo vea, y hombre aliente

Esto pervivirá y te hará viviente.

Traducción de Juan Jos� Burzi.

Te comparar� a un día de verano?

Tú eres más bella y templada

Rudos vientos sacuden los adorables capullos de Mayo,

Y el arriendo del verano vence a corto plazo

A veces demasiado candente el ojo del cielo brilla,

Y a menudo es su dorada tez opacada;

Y toda belleza alguna vez decae,

Por casualidad o por el curso desordenado y cambiante de la naturaleza;

Pero tu eterno verano no se marchitará

Ni perderá posesión de esa belleza que adeudas;

Ni la Muerte presumirá de que por su sombra erres,

Cuando en eternas líneas tu crezcas

En tanto los hombres puedan respirar o los ojos ver,

Esto vivirá y te dará vida.

En la primer línea encontramos tres versiones muy diferentes, dos de ellas muy erradas

“ Si a un día de verano te comparo” escribe Montezanti, agregándole un condicional inexistente en la obra original. Omite, por otro lado, el tiempo futuro y, además, parece no ver el signo de pregunta en la primer línea.

“¿Debería compararte a un día de verano?” Gil traduce una pregunta en futuro (el auxiliar Shall lo indica) en un “ debería” (Should en ingl�s). Tal vez el sentido de la oración no cambie tanto, pero tampoco parece acertado sacrificar la literalidad de la pregunta por lo que parece ser un capricho del traductor.

“ ¿A un día de verano habr� de compararte?” escribe Calvo, cambiando tambi�n el modo en Futuro Simple en que está escrita la pregunta de Shakespeare.

La segunda línea tambi�n presenta diferencias

“ tú eres más templado y placentero” En esta línea, el traductor debe decidir, teniendo en cuenta que en todo el soneto no hay una sola referencia, el g�nero de la persona a la cual está dirigido el mismo. Shakespeare era un hombre, y si bien hay versiones de que era homosexual y/o de que muchos de sus sonetos estaban dedicados a un hombre, no creo que la mejor traducción sea un “ templado” en vez de “templada”. No es ser pacato, simplemente usar el sentido común. De todos modos, es válida la traducción de Montezanti. Otra vez es el traductor quien decide.

Gil, por su parte, se toma la libertad de cambiar, una vez más, las palabras de Shakespeare. “Eres lo más hermoso y apacible.” Escribe, cuando es claro que Shakespeare traza una comparación entre un día de Verano y la persona a la que está dirigido el soneto.

“ Tu eres más dulce y temperado un ramalazo” Calvo elige, al igual que Montezanti, un “tú” masculino. Por otro lado, escribe en la segunda línea una parte de la tercera, supongo que para que luego rime “ramalazo” con “plazo” , lo cual no sería tan grave, a no ser que “ ramalazo” (“gust” en ingl�s), no está escrito en el soneto. Lo veremos en la tercer línea.

“deja el viento al capullo sin amparo” escribe Montezanti, pero Shakespeare no habla ni de “ amparo”(shelter, assistance, protection, aid) ni de “capullo” (Bud en singular, Buds en plural, tal como está en el soneto). Tambi�n olvida escribir que los vientos (winds) son “ rudos” (Rough). Parece que la forma en que adjetivaba Shakespeare no le convencía.

“Rudos vientos de Mayo sacuden los capullos” traduce Gil, y parecería, a simple vista, muy bien traducido, pero hay un error de Mayo son los capullos (buds of May), no el “ rudo viento”. Se puede deducir que si el viento está sacudiendo los capullos que son Mayo, el viento tambi�n es de Mayo, pero Shakespeare no escribió eso.

“ de viento los capullos de Mayo desparte” escribe Calvo, olvidando tambi�n que los vientos eran “ rudos” , y prefiriendo escribir “desparte” en vez de “ sacude” (do shake).

Una acotación que vale en las tres traducciones, Shakespeare escribió “ darling buds of May”, ninguno de los tres tradujo el “darling”. Al parece a ninguno de nosotros, lectores de lengua española, nos debe interesar saber que los capullos además de ser de Mayo eran “queridos” , o “ amados” , o “ adorables” o como quiera traducírseles.

“ y el plazo del verano es pasajero” (Montezanti), “ Y el plazo del verano arriendo pronto vencerá” (Gil), “y el pr�stamo del estío vence a corto plazo” (Calvo) son traducciones que pueden ser aceptadas como literales o no, dado que la expresión que utiliza Shakespeare (Hath all too short a date) traducida literalmente perdería el sentido que sí es rescatado en las tres versiones ya dadas.

Terminamos así con la primer estrofa del soneto, y podría seguir así hasta el final, pero no es mi intención escribir un tratado sobre traducción ni parecer tener algo personal contra los tres ilustres traductores que estoy citando como ejemplos de lo que no se debe hacer. Har�, si, algunas acotaciones más que por groseras no puedo dejar pasar por alto, y luego expondr� mi breve conclusión.

En la línea trece Monzanti traduce “ que el ojo vea, y el hombre aliente”, omitiendo el modal verb “ can” (poder) que utiliza Shakespeare. “que los ojos puedan ver o los hombres respirar” , sería la traducción, respetando el orden de las palabras que Montizanti elige. Como se notará, tambi�n omitió el plural (“eyes” ojos, “men” hombres).

En la línea once traduce “ de sombras no podrá muerte jactarse”, y no traduce “thou wander�st” (“ tu erres”, o “ tu vagues”)

Gil parece no querer dejar algunas cosas libradas al azar. Shakespeare solía referirse a sus propios sonetos. Para nombrarlos, al menos en el soneto XVIII, utiliza el pronombre demostrativo “this”- “esto” - (So long lives THIS and THIS gives life to thee). Gil no quiere entender de sutilezas ni ambigüedades, y reemplaza el pronombre demostrativo por su referente. Donde debería traducir “esto”, traduce “ versos” (Aún en eso está errado, porque si el referente tendría que ser versos, Shakespeare hubiera utilizado “ these” en vez de “ this”, es decir, que en todo caso Gil tendría que haber traducido “ verso” o, más correctamente, “soneto” )

Calvo tampoco quiere saber de sutilezas ni de ambigüedades, aclara, al igual que Gil, el significado de “ this”, pero al menos lo hace en singular. Una línea antes, línea trece, comete el mismo error que Monzanti, con algunas variantes.

En la línea ocho los tres omitieron traducir la palabra “ untrimm�d” (Desordenado).

Dejo a quien sepa Ingl�s el resto, así como tambi�n mi propia versión del soneto. Algo a favor de los traductores Hay quien entiende que mantener la rima o la m�trica es parte de la traducción, idea con la cual disiento. Hay quienes prefieren una traducción “ po�tica” a una más “ literal”, y tal vez tendríamos que detenernos a discutir largo y tendido el tema, pero no es mi intención hacerlo. No soy tan necio como para negar que el vuelo po�tico de cualquiera de las tres traducciones citadas por mí es muy alto, como no podría ser de otra manera siendo un soneto de Shakespeare la base o el leiv motiv que los impulsó a escribirlos. Por que estimo que ninguno de los tres sonetos, tal como están traducidos, podría decirse que le pertenece a Shakespeare. Hay vientos rudos que fueron olvidados, ojos y hombres reducidos a un ojo y a un hombre, capullos de Mayo olvidados y muchas omisiones groseras que me hacen temer, al releer alguna de estas traducciones, el estar ante un Estafador. Por que el traductor debe actuar como un puente entre la obra en su idioma original y la obra en el idioma en que es traducida, debe ser un vaso comunicante de una obra ajena, que si bien hace suya por un tiempo, el que dura la traducción, debe devolverla al otro idioma de la forma más fiel y acertada posible.

Se puede ser un buen traductor o un mal traductor, se puede ser un traidor extremo o un amable traidor, pero no un Estafador. Un Estafador es quien reescribe una obra que no es suya, y por lo general la empeora. Un estafador convierte a todos lo que leen la obra traducida en Estafados, felices, inocentes, avispados, pero estafados al fin.

Los traductores deberían tener presente que no todos son Baudelaire o Borges, y que la omisión o el cambio que en ellos fue motivo de elogio, en la mayoría de los mortales es motivo de sospecha. ¿Traidores, Estafadores, o simplemente Ineptos? Quien lea que decida.



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Sunday, April 21, 2013

In `To Kill A Mockingbird’ What View Does Harper Lee Give Us Of The Lives And Difficulties Of The Black Community In Maycomb, And What Hope If Any, Does She Give For The Future?

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The novel `To Kill A Mockingbird‘, written by Harper Lee, is set in the mid-10’s in Maycomb, a small, isolated, inward looking town in Alabama, USA. The book is mostly dominated by racial prejudice against Negroes. This prejudice, which the southern states conformed, resulted in an American Civil War. The South’s economy prospered through selling good like sugar, cotton and tobacco, which were produced by black slaves. The Southern states believed that black were inferior to white. The Northern states, however, did not want this slavery and prejudice to continue. The Northern states won the war and the Southern states had to abolish slavery.

In `To Kill A Mockingbird’ was set 70 years after the Civil War and we can see that the Southern states did not change their attitudes and held onto old values and traditions. The Southern resisted the idea that black people could share social and political equality and continued to support white authority.

In Maycomb there is no equality between the black and white communities. The town’s people are so racially prejudice that they have narrow, intolerant, rigid codes of behaviour that they choose to impose on each other. The Negroes live very different and difficult lives. They are regarded as inadequate, just because of the colour of their skin rather that who they are as people. This bigotry is made even more minacious by being depicted as `normal’ behaviour by the citizens. The town’s people do not realise their own hypocrisy because prejudice is so entrenched in their every day life.

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The black community is segregated from the white society. They are recognised as having their own land and church. The citizens consider Dolphus Raymond as an oddity, because he chooses to live amongst the Negroes, when he is white.

The Negroes are very religious, God fearing, law abiding, good natured, dignified people. After the Civil War the black community were earning money for their work and the all saved up all their money and built themselves a church, to worship and praise their God. A proportion of the white citizens takes advantage of the church and gamble in it when it is not in use for worship. They have no respect for the Negroes or God by gambling in their church. Although the Negroes are treated very badly they never consider rebelling. The only individual from the community who inflicted prejudice against the whites was Lula. When Calpurnia took Jem and Scout to the black church, the men steeped back and took off their hats; the women crossed their arms and made respectful gestures.

The Negroes are not educated. The whites believe that the Negroes do not deserve to be educated. They do not want black children associating with their children because the Negroes are thought to be a bad influence. Out of the whole church only four of the parish are able to read and write. It is ironic that Bob Ewell and family have the opportunity to be educated but do not use it and the Negroes would do anything for the opportunity to be educated.

Without education the Negroes cannot get decent, well paid jobs because they do not have the qualifications compared with the white society. So the whites have priority over the jobs. The type of jobs that the Negroes are offered are the low paid, maybe dangerous jobs which the white community does not wish to undertake. These jobs are domestic servants like Calpurnia, Jesse and Sophie, garbage collectors like Zeebo or cotton pickers like Tom Robinson was when he was younger, until he tore his left arm muscles during the job and is now unable to use his arm. These jobs are all actually considered very respectable for a Negro. By doing these jobs the Negroes are paid a very small amount of money. This is presumably why they live where they do and obey the white citizen’s because they do not have the money or power to stand up and do something about the way they are being treated.

The court of law is also swayed and conditioned by prejudice. In the court house the Negroes are, once again, segregated from the whites for the Negroes sat upstairs and the whites sat downstairs. The jury would submit no equality during a trail against a Negro because it consists of prejudice Maycomb town people. The trail of Tom Robinson reveals the depth of prejudice in Maycomb and believes that the black society is essentially inferior. Tom Robinson is clearly innocent of the crime of raping Mayella Ewell. It is also suspected that his accusers are lying but by Tom’s own admission, is guilty of daring to feel `sorry’ for a white girl. The white citizens cannot accept such a presumption and therefore produce an unjust decision and verdict. `When it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins.’

There is a considerable amount of hypocrisy and prejudice occurring in Maycomb and is seems too idealistic for the racial problems to be solved, but there is still some hope for the future. Citizens such as Boo Radley, Heck Tate, Dolphus Raymond and to some extent Miss Maudie Atkinson do not conform and are against racial prejudice, although they are prosecuted for their decisions. Judge Taylors also unprejudiced and honourable to see that Tom Robinson has a fair trail by appointing Atticus, a very well experienced lawyer, to defend him rather than usually a black man would have a bad, inexperienced lawyer defending him. During the novel Mr Cunningham, a member of the lynch mob, realises to think about others views and that Tom Robinson is a human being to. The children Jem and Scout are not prejudice, therefore they will pass the sense of equality down to their future generations. The children learnt this mainly from their honourable father Atticus, but also from the trail. Atticus is a very unprejudiced man, he was willing to defend tom, even though he knew it would be very difficult for him but he knew he had to do it because it was the correct thing to do. This teaches the children that you must always do what’s right no matter what, and that everyone is equal and deserves to be treated equal



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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

grecian urn

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Analytical Essay

In the poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn” by John Keats, the speaker struggles with the trials and tribulations of life compared to immortality. He then speaks to the Grecian Urn in attempt to engage with the static immobility of the sculpture. He questions the urn, but gets no response from it. The speaker ultimately has to decide the answers to his own questions, leaving the poem with a higher level of understanding about life.

This was a poem from the Romantic Period and that made it easier to take a more “imaginative” standpoint, because during this period the authors focused on feelings, the imagination, and the value of what is supposed to be done to what can be done. It is important to look at the feelings of this particular poem, and it deals with the mysterious works of life in general, and reality versus a so-called “dream world.” The author creates this dream world through the speaker’s own imagination. The theme of this poem portrays Keats’s attempt to connect with the stand still time of sculpture, the Grecian urn. It has been passed down through countless centuries to the time of the speaker’s viewing, and this urn exists outside of time in the human sense�it does not age, or die, and it can grasp no such concepts. During the speaker’s meditation, this creates an

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intriguing paradox for the human figures carved into the side of the urn. They are free from time, but are simultaneously frozen in time. This is illustrated by the lines “Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave Thy song, nor ever can the trees be bare” (v. 15 &16). The people on the urn do not have to confront aging and death, but they cannot experience anything because they are frozen. Even though they will always have their youth, the lover’s will never know a different song, or know what winter feels like, or even how it would feel to grow old.

In the poem, the speaker tries to engage with the scenes on the urn at three different occasions. Each time he asks different questions to the urn, hoping that different approaches will somehow better answer his questions. In the first stanza, he examines the picture of the “mad pursuit” (Keats v. ) and wonders what story there is behind it, asking the questions “What men or gods are these? What maidens loath? What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?” (v. 8 & 10). Of course, the urn cannot tell him the who’s, what’s, where’s, and when’s of the stories it depicts, so after an endless number of unanswered questions, the speaker decides to analyze the pictures himself and abandon this kind of questioning. He uses his imagination to illuminate his mind of what the scenes actually depict. Through the speaker’s imagination and description of the scenes, the reader is also involved, making a triangle of imagination between the speaker, the urn, and the reader.

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In the first stanza, he sees the two lovers trying to catch each other, but cannot because they are frozen. He realizes that even though they will never actually touch, they will also never grow old. He explains this by saying, “Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss…She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss, Forever wilt thou love, and she be fair!” (v. 17, 1-0). The passion and love they have for one another will always remain, but the two young lovers will never know what it is like to touch each other’s lips or give into their passion. They will forever “want” and be “forever panting” (v. 7). The speaker sees both sides of the coin, he becomes aware of the negative side of their immortality, but he also realizes the soft pipes will play on, never to be forgotten. This makes the speaker question his own achievements and success in life. He does not want to leave the world a failure, having never felt like he lived, loved, or did something to be remembered by. In other words, he wants the soft pipes of “his” song to play on even after he is gone.

In another scene, the speaker sees how lonely and deserted the town will always be because everyone is frozen outside. This is significant because those people will never be able to experience anything else in life, they are permanently “frozen” at the “green altar” (v. ). The poem says,

And, little town, thy streets forevermore

Will silent be; and not a soul to tell

why thou art so desolate, can e’er return (v. 8-40).

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The townspeople will not be able to ever return to their homes, never knowing what it is like to understand the meaning of “home sweet home.”

The speaker leaves the poem questioning the pros and cons of his own mortality. He sees the good side of being frozen in time, but he does not envy those people. He says,

Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought

As doth eternity Cold Pastoral!

When old age shall this generation waste,

Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe (v. 44-47)

He feels that living life to the fullest is more attractive than immortality. Even though the urn teases the speaker with his immortality, the speaker knows the urn never experience anything, it will remain in the midst of the other woe time presents. The speaker knows he will never escape all of the negative aspects of life, but he is willing to take that chance. To experience life overall might be the best gift, which makes being mortal worth it.

To conclude, each of the two parties has a different outlook on the other. The speaker sees the urn as ignorant to the way of the world, while the urn sees the speaker not understanding the secrets that life holds. That is what the poem tries to illustrate when it says, “’Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’�that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know” (v. 4-50). In other words let there be art for art’s sake, the Grecian Urn paints a picture, but it does not necessarily need to have a purpose. The underlying fact the urn presents is that life does hold many

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secrets. This quote may be a reminder of “negative capability,” being able to look at the mysteries of life and to be content having them unanswered. At the beginning of the poem, the speaker is almost interrogating the urn, asking question after question, but by the end of the poem the speaker is ok with not having all of the answers to his questions, or to life. He realizes that by not having the questions answered he has actually answered them himself. The speaker concludes that the beauty of life is everywhere, and people should make an effort to understand this; maybe that is where the truth will be found.



Please note that this sample paper on grecian urn is for your review only. In order to eliminate any of the plagiarism issues, it is highly recommended that you do not use it for you own writing purposes. In case you experience difficulties with writing a well structured and accurately composed paper on grecian urn, we are here to assist you. Your cheap custom college paper on grecian urn will be written from scratch, so you do not have to worry about its originality.

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