For those who’ve come across the seas – we need to develop renewable energy

In the ModPo course (which I have just about finished, 10 weeks of hard but excellent work), some of the language poets studied, experiment with translation. Some use Google to write alternative versions of an existing poem, or a new poem.

Here’s the result of an experiment of mine.

I’ve taken a famous line from the Australian National Anthem, a line which is somewhat controversial, as it is certainly not observed in the attitude of politicians to refugees. The line is:

For those who’ve come across the seas we’ve boundless plains to share

I put the line into Google translator, and passed it repeatedly back and forth between English and a foreign language, in alphabetical order, starting with Afrikaans and ending in Yiddish. If the translation from English to another language, back to English resulted in any change to the line, I put the line into the ‘poem’, and then passed it onto the next language in the list.

What’s the point, you might say? Good question. Maybe none. Except that it does make us think about the meaning of words, the meaning of translation, the translation of meaning, and it was a bit of fun. The transformation from first to last line is an interesting one, I think.

Here’s the end result:

_________________________________________

For those who’ve come across the seas we’ve boundless plains to share

For those who came over the sea we’ve boundless plains to share

For those who came over the sea we have boundless field to share

For those who came from over the sea we have limitless field of post

For those who came from the sea we have an inexhaustible field post

For those who came to the sea we have a post in the field of renewable

Those in the sea we have a post in the field of renewable

Those who are at sea we have a message for renewable

The sea has we have a message for renewable

Sea we have a message for renewable

Tues we have a message for renewables

Tuesday we have a message on renewable energy

Tuesday we report on renewable energy

Tuesday we refer to renewable energy

Tuesday we refer to the renewable energy

Tuesday we refer to renewable energy

Tuesday we look at the renewable energy

Tuesday we are looking for renewable energy

Tuesday we are seeking renewable energy

Tuesday we want renewable energy

Tuesday we want to make renewable energy

Tuesday we want to create renewable energy

Tuesday we want to build renewable energy

Tuesday we need to develop renewable energy

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3 thoughts on “For those who’ve come across the seas – we need to develop renewable energy

  1. And an interesting question is “Who wrote this?”. The first line was written by Scottish-born composer, Peter Dodds McCormick. The process or ‘constraint’ was defined by me. The subsequent lines were output from Google Translator. I did no editing or selection of the output. Could I claim it (if it was worth claiming)?

  2. Hi Mike

    Fascinating exercise. I think you can claim it just as a miner can claim unearthing a gemstone, simply because you did the unearthing when you pressed the Google button. The poem would not have come into existence without your manipulation.

    I had a go using a line from John Howard’s infamous “expression of regret” to the indigenous people of Australia. I found that using languages that don’t use the Roman alphabet produced the most interesting distortions. The final result certainly highlighted how meaningless his regret really was. I’ll bring the whole thing to Poetica, but for now, here’s the source line and the final version, having been translated via ten languages:

    Mr Speaker, I move that this House expresses its deep and sincere regret that indigenous Australians suffered injustices under the practices of past generations and for the hurt and trauma that many indigenous people continue to feel as a consequence of those practices.

    Mr. President, that hell hole practice is still The sentence, the effect of the number of this species suffered from the pain and their neighbours fraud in the previous generation, as I was in Australia to the house, we sincerely regret the rapid motion.

    Cheers,
    Marianne

    • Love the transformation of the Howard speech Marianne. It is uncanny how the transformed version still sheds light on the original, isn’t it. Mine, I thought, was quite interesting until it got stuck on Tuesday and renewables. But I swore not to intervene! I think I’ll try the same exercise with the same starting point, but put it through the translator languages in reverse order (i.e. start with Yiddish and finish with Afrikaans) and see what difference it makes.

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