Just for fun, I decided to translate one of my favourite verses of the Tao Te Ching (a Taoist text). I have a book with a few different English translations, and the characters used in the ancient chinese text, with explanations about their shades of meaning and how they go together. So first, I translated my favourite English version into Esperanto, and then I produced a translation from the explanations of the chinese characters (Because my chinese is awful, and I know even less about more ancient forms of it!).
Turns out that (if I haven’t made grave errors), Esperanto can get much closer to the format of the original characters in a nice way, than English can.
So here’s what I got from translating the chinese characters directly:
Konante aliajn, oni inteligentas.
Konante sin, oni saĝas.
Venkante aliajn, oni fortas.
Venkante sin, oni ĉiopovas.
Forte alpaŝante vivon, oni ja akiras ion.
Kontentante pri sia vivon, oni ja akiras ĉion.
Dediĉante sin al sia vivejo, oni vivas longe.
Mortante tamen ne forgesote, oni ja vivas eterne.
So, making quite a literal English translation of this, you get:
In knowing others, one is intelligent.
In knowing oneself, one is wise.
In conquering others, one is strong.
In conquering oneself, one is all-powerful.
Approaching life forcefully, one surely gets something.
In being content in one’s life, one surely gets everything.
In being dedicated to one’s place, one lives long.
In dying but not being forgotten, on surely lives forever.
In my opinion, the English version in this style looks stunted and not flowing, it needs more gumpf to make it sound nice (I already had to add all those “in”s!). This is the style that the book I have goes for:
One who knows others is intelligent
One who knows onself is enlightened
And even here, most lines have to be prefixed with “one who”. It kinda helps it flow, and sometimes repetition is part of rhythm, but I think I’m beginning to prefer Esperanto here!
My Esperanto version is much closer to the ordering and use of the chinese characters than this English version (especially given that the Esperanto words mostly map one-to-one with the characters). I just found this interesting!
I also found the following interesting whilst translating:
- ĉiopova = all-powerful, omnipotent. Literally “everything-able” or like “able to do everything”. I thought this was a nice construction. Not my own, I stumbled across it.
- alpaŝi = to approach, to tackle, to deal with. “paŝi” means “to tread, to stride, to stalk”, and “al” means “to, toward”. I thought that was another neat construction to stumble across!
Some things I was unsure about:
- I use “ejo” on the penultimate line. I use it because I’m not talking about any old place “loko”. I’m talking about the place one has in the world, ones own path through the universe. EDIT: changed to “vivejo” (vivo = life),see comments below. I love the idea of a “life-place”.
- “Ne forgesote” = “not going to be forgotten, not being forgotten” on the last line. “Forgesi” = “to forget”. Here we want “to be forgotten” so we use a passive participle (-ot suffix rather than -ont), I’m sure of this. But I wasn’t sure if it should be “ne forgesate” = “not being forgotten” (present tense), however I felt that this implied that one need only not be forgotten in the present, whereas the true meaning is to never be forgotten, so future tense “ne forgesote”.Another alternative was “ne forgesiĝante” = “not becoming forgotten”, or “ne forgesiĝonte” = “not going to become forgotten. But after I thought of using the future tense “forgesote”, the “become” bit of these alternatives seemed to be unnecessary extra baggage.
An open question:
- I use “Kontentante pri sia vivon…” = “Being content with one’s life…”. Could this be entirely replaced by “viv-kontentante” does that make sense? From the verb “vivkontenti” = “to be content with life, to be life-content”.Similarly, I use “Dediĉante sin al sia ejo” = “Dedicating oneself to one’s place”. Could I replace this with “Ej-dediĉante sin” = “place-dedicating oneself”.
Do comment if there are any errors! Or if you wish to ask about any of it.