7

This extract from the novel 'Three Men in a Boat' refers to Job 5.7:

This world is only a probation, and man was born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.

I hoped to quote the source, expecting to find it in the Vulgate, — but it's not so simple.

  1. Vulgate (AD 382): homo ad laborem nascitur et avis ad volatum

  2. KJV (1611): Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.

  3. Luther (1545): Sondern der Mensch wird zu unglück geborn / wie die Vögel schweben empor zufliegen.

  4. Gute nachricht Bibel (2017): Aus seinem eigenen Wesen kommt das Leid, so wie der Funkenwirbel aus dem Feuer.

  5. bibleenligne.com (2017): car l'homme est né pour la misère, comme les étincelles s'élèvent pour voler. [lit. les fils de la flamme]

It isn't difficult to put into Latin (homo nascitur ad laborem sicut scintilla ad volatum), but can anyone direct me to a Latin original for the King James version, with sparks instead of the bird of Jerome et al or explain why the difference came about?

| improve this question | | | | |
  • 2
    What do you mean by Latin original for the KJV? Though it sometimes fell back on the Vulgate, the KJV was primarily translated from the original Hebrew. – C. M. Weimer Mar 22 '17 at 12:44
  • 8
    This springs from a different interpretation of the Hebrew: the relevant word (וּבְנֵי־רֶ֝֗שֶׁף) apparently has a few interpretations, on whose merits I can't comment: one interpretation is "sons of burning coals" (=sparks) and another is "sons of vultures"--which is rendered as such in the LXX (νεοσσοὶ δὲ γυπὸς) and Vulgate (simply avis). I would make this an answer, but my Hebrew is too rudimentary for me to pretend I know what I'm talking about. – brianpck Mar 22 '17 at 14:02
  • 3
    Ditto @C.M.Weimer, though: the KJV used the Hebrew original (probably compared to the LXX and Vulgate). If you want a (sometimes painfully) literal translation from the Vulgate, check out the Douay Rheims. – brianpck Mar 22 '17 at 14:05
  • 4
    This Language Hat thread has some discussion of the "sparks" phrase, its Hebrew original, and various possible interpretations. – TKR Mar 22 '17 at 16:59
  • 1
    @Rafael When I asked this, I merely wanted to put an acknowledgement of the original reference into my translation. I didn't expect any difficulty, but I've been rather taken aback by the helpful responses: I seem to have stumbled on a real curiosity. TKR's very useful Language Hat thread link is enormously entertaining, but it's persuaded me to let sleeping dogs lie. – Tom Cotton Mar 22 '17 at 20:25
2

This has given me a sharp admonition about the care needed in transforming idiom when translating. I'm always at pains to emphasise this when helping anyone with a rendition into Latin, and have many times discussed the degree of liberty that is allowable : for instance, is it legitimate to use ad aram ducere instead of the more authentic in matrimonium? (it is, according to an eminent English Latinist, but not everyone agrees).

I had almost forgotten that the same kind of problem awaits translators from other languages — and not only into English, but also into Latin from other languages, as the question and the subsequent comments well illustrates. This has been a useful reminder.

| improve this answer | | | | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.