White Boy Learning Burmese

The journey of an average white guy trying to learn a non-Indo-European language

Poetry Translation [BUR –> ENG]: #1 From The Bosom of A Lover

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Hello All! I would like to try something new today, which is translating a simple Burmese poem into English. I may make this a regular habit, as I figure this flowery Burmese would be good for my practice. First, I will display the Burmese poem with the interlinear English, render a literal English translation, and then create a more “poetic” English version. The poem for today is called “ခ်စ္သူ့ရင္ခြင္”(Lit: The Lover’s Bosom) and I can’t exactly credit the author, but I “borrowed” the post from this blog: http://mgwinsoe.blogspot.com/2008/09/blog-post_08.html

INTERLINEAR:

ခ်စ္သူ…

[N: Love] [N: person]

နင္ဒီအတုိင္းပဲ

[Pro: 2] [LOC: This] [PART: like, as] [PART: only]

သြားေတာ့မွာလား…?

[V: Go] [Vprt: nearness in time] [Vprt-FUTURE] [PART: Yes/No Q]

ငါဟာ…

[Pro: 1] [SUBJPrt]

နင့္ေျခေထာက္ေလးေတြကုိ

[Poss-Pro: 2] [N: foot/ leg] [PART: diminuitive] [PART: Plurality] [OBJ-PART]

စုံဦးခုိက္ေနတ့ဲ

[N: both of a pair] [N: beginning] [V: to freeze, to hold on] [V: to pay respect/homage][Vprt-PROG] [PART: Adjective-former]

ဖိနပ္အသစ္ေလးတစ္ရံပါ။

[N: shoe] [Adj: new] [PART: diminuitive] [N-Count: surrounding article] [PART: politeness]

LITERAL TRANSLATION:

Lover…

You’re like this.

[CORRECTION] You just like this

Are you going to go…?

[CORRECTION] Are going to go?

I…

To your little feet

both holding on

[CORRECTION] Paying respect

a new little shoe

ENGLISH RENDERING:

My love…

You are to yourself an individual true.
Are you leaving…?

[CORRECTION]Are you simply leaving right on the next beat?

For I am naught but your new little shoe

Grasping tightly [CORRECTION] Paying respect to your precious feet.

This poem is quite basic, quite simple, yet in its simpleness, it expresses the devotion of the speaker “ငါ”to his “ခ်စ္သူ”.  I am not much of a literature fanatic, nor am I a poetry fanatic, but it’s nice in this modern 21st C. American life that I lead to see an innocent poem such as this.

I would say the most difficult part of this poem to translate was “စုံဦးခုိက္ေနတ့ဲဖိနပ္အသစ္ေလးတစ္ရံပါ။”Mostly because of the phrase “စုံဦး”.  Initially, I wondered whether this was a poetic inversion of “ဦးစုံ”, but of course, the word is “ဦးဆုံ”, so my translation may be rough on that part, but I at least got the gist of the poem😀.

Thanks to MayBayDar, I saw another error, which occurred because of the line-spacing of the poem. The space between lines 2 and 3 caused me to translate them as separate phrases, instead of one complete phrase.

5 thoughts on “Poetry Translation [BUR –> ENG]: #1 From The Bosom of A Lover

  1. I would translate the first 3 sentences into following. Didn’t mean you are wrong. It’s just my translation.
    “My Love,
    Just like this
    Are you leaving…?”

    I don’t know how to translate the 2nd part with poetic words. Yours is not bad anyway.

    • မွန္လုိက္တာ။ အဂၤလိပ္လုိ “Are you leaving just like that?”လုိ့ ပုိေကာင္းမယ္လုိ့ထင္တယ္။ ေက်းဇူးပါ။😀

  2. It’s a lovely poem. In simplicity it reminds me of a haiku. We are, of course, working without the ability to query the poet (at least, I don’t have a way to do it), but I suspect the phrase “စုံဦးခုိက္” is a poetic way to say “paying homage as a pair.” “စုံ” is pair. “ဦး” is used here like you would use “oo chya” — to pay homage to a pagoda, an elder, or a saint. I might translate the poem as:

    Lover,
    Are you leaving
    Just as you are?
    I am
    A new pair of slippers
    Bowing down in a tribute
    To your little feet.

    It might make more sense to envision the poet’s lover as a barefooted Burmese girl at home, getting ready to leave the house. The poem seems to capture the moment she’s about to slip her feet into her new slippers. The poet’s unconditional devotion is made clear in the way he offers himself up as a household object ready to do her bidding, awaiting her command with selfless submission.

  3. My pleasure to contribute to your journey, Ko Win Hein!

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