Sonnet #18 by William Shakespeare (Literal Translation):
Should I balance your qualities with those of a 24 hour period in the hottest season?
You are prettier and milder.
Callous movements of air rattle the dear flowerettes of May,
And the season of sun’s rental agreement possesses totally too brief a calendar length.
Once in a while overly high in temperature the visionary organ of paradise gleams,
And usually is his yellow metal coloring darkened by some degree;
And each decent from decent occasionally slopes downward,
By luck, or Gaia’s altering route, unshaven;
But your forever hotness won’t diminish,
Or fail to keep hold of that nicety you are in debt of,
Or will afterlife crow you meander within his darkness,
When in unending single dimension pictures to passage of days you syretch.
As opposite of short as males can take in oxygen, or ocular lenses can perform their primary function,
As opposite of short exists such, and such presents animation to you.
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st.
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
What a literal translation is: A literal translation is taking something and rewriting it in literal synonyms. For example rewriting “house” as “home,” or if you want to be less pretty about it, “living abode.”
The trick is you can’t use any of the same words as in the real poem, minus the’s and and’s and whatnot. Any word you can replace, you do replace. This is something my favorite professor had us do in college with poems that were hard to understand, or when she wanted us to think about them a different way, and it was one of my favorite things to do in her classes.
Every Thursday I’m going to be doing a literal rewrite of a poem for you. They may be long or short, but I hope they’ll be fun! I’m going to start out with some more familiar poems just to get things started. And I might throw in a song here and there for fun. If you ever want to see something literally translated, just let me know in the comments!