Thursday, March 13, 2008

"translating" john wesley

I subscribe to Sojourners SojoMail a part of which is Verse and Voice. Yesterday's edition included a quote from John Wesley, which I paraphrase (in contemporary English):

What should you do? ... Do good. Do all the good you can. Let your abundance supply your neighbor's needs, and you will never be bored. Can't you find any who don't have the basics of life, who are worn down by cold or hunger; any who don't have clothes to wear or a place to live; any who are depressed; any who are languishing in prison? If you would pay attention to our Lord's words, "You will always have the poor with you," you would never ask, "What should I do."

Here's the original quote:

What shalt thou do? ... Do good. Do all the good thou canst. Let thy plenty supply thy neighbor’s wants; and thou wilt never want something to do. Canst thou find none that need the necessaries of life, that are pinched with cold or hunger; none that have not raiment to put on, or a place where to lay their head; none that are wasted with pining sickness; none that are languishing in prison? If you duly considered our Lord’s words, "The poor have you always with you," you would no more ask, "What shall I do?"
From "On Worldly Folly"

First of all, I wanted to post this because I think JW has an excellent point, one that I need to be reminded of from time to time.

Second, I've been following a series of articles by Wayne Leman over at Better Bibles Blog about translation equivalence, which is the task of expressing the thought written by the biblical author in contemporary language.

So, my "translation" of John Wesley was an amateur attempt at using translation equivalence from a text written in 1700's English to contemporary English.

I found the exercise fascinating. What to do with "pinched with cold or hunger"? It's actually a nice turn of phrase--should I "translate it literally" (leave it as is), or should I try to "modernize" it?

How about "pining sickness"? Or "languishing in prison"?

I made my decisions, and you see the result. How would you have approached it?

1 comment:

Jeff said...

Thanks for sharing your work Rich. It reminded me of the exchange we had in October after I did something similar with Wesley's Covenant Prayer: