11 January 2012

Reading is hard

I spend a bit of time each day reading The Meditations, not reading in depth or for any great reason, but just finding a random bit and reading it.  When I do that I use an old translation by George Long, replete with thee's and thy's and didst's.  There's nothing about past speech which makes it in any way "better" than modern speech, and there are arguments to be made that putting classical texts into modern English, or even vernacular, open them up to far greater audiences, but there's something about the movement and the flow of older English that really draws me in.  Seeing text in different formats definitely leads us to think differently about it, even when it is based around giving the exact same set of information.  What would some of those differences look like?

Take this section of Book Six:

"Return to thy sober senses and call thyself back; and when thou hast roused thyself from sleep and hast perceived that they were only dreams which troubled thee, now in thy waking hours look at these (the things about thee) as thou didst look at those (the dreams)."

That is the George Long interpretation.  Basically I love it.  How would it look with modern pronoun and vowel forms?

"Return to your sober senses and call yourself back; and when you have roused yourself from sleep and have perceived that they were only dreams which troubled you, now in your waking hours look at these (the things about you) as you did look at those (the dreams)."

Yet even without the archaic pronouns and verb endings, the sentence is still constructed in a way that makes it very difficult for many people to understand.  So which is more important, leaving the ideas as close to the structure of the original or having them put forward in a simple manner?  If they're put forward in a simple manner, would people really respect them as being something worth following?


When you wake up from a scary dream you realize that you're only worked up because of your dreams.  When you're awake the rest of the day, you should realize that the same thing is also true.  You are worried because of what is going on in your mind, not because of what is really going on around you.

work as well as the original?

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