King of Assyria

 

This is one of my favorite works of poetry, a bravura indictment of hubris and arrogance:

Parents meet

Kiwis

Who lives in the desert. For starters

Reduction

High blood pressure

It falls on the author.

World Health Organization

Collaboration

Words for him in the letters of the language.

King of Assyria.

People know that there are those who work before God.

These stars are needed

No notes

This is one of the most expensive products.

You don’t recognize it? Well, it is a bit obscure because I translated it through 60 different languages using Google Translate, then back into English. Here’s the original:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

As you can see, this little game of telephone turned an exquisite verse into nonsense. This is lots of fun; there’s even a young lady who makes a living out doing it on YouTube.* But it shows that there are limits on what Mr. Google can do for us. Try translating the poem into just one language, then back to English and you get this:

I met a traveler from the ancient world

Legs stretched out and worthless stone

Stay in the desert. In the adjacent sand

With a half, deep vision,

Cold lips, crazy pressure,

Show that the sculptor reads these desires

Who found all these things?

The satirical hand and the working heart

These words appear on the veranda:

My name is Azimidia, King of kings.

Look at my business, my mighty man, and do not give up! “

There will be nothing in the next house. About expiration

Then there is the great devastation without borders and nakedness

Isolated and flat sand is far away.

The complex rhymes have disappeared, some of the lines have completely opposite meanings, others are nonsensical, there is no meter–the poetry is gone. I don’t speak Afrikaans, but I doubt that someone who did would think this is a great work of art.

Though I would bet that some person has actually translated that poem into Afrikaans and it has most of the power of the original. The poetry of Ovid, the Psalms, French romantic rhymes, Beowulf; amazingly, they’ve all been translated into modern English by real human beings without anything like a computer.

The information revolution has been a wonderful thing. I have an object in my pocket that is an address book, calendar, camera, photo album, flashlight, detailed map of the world, newspaper, radio, portable stereo, calculator, compass, level, tape recorder, alarm clock, and a homing device. I can find the date of the Treaty of Westphalia or the name of the bass player on the White Stripes’ first album in seconds. Oh, and it has a telephone.

It is such a powerful tool that its shortcomings are not readily apparent. Yes, it has a calculator, but it’s useless if you don’t know how to set up a calculation. If you can’t do manual calculations, you won’t be able to recognize a bad result caused by an incorrect input. You have a map that will guide you anywhere in the world, but what happens if you lose it or the power runs out? If you don’t have a sense of direction and a basic knowledge of geography, you are lost. I can use Google Translate to ask how long the pus has been draining from the wound, but it turns poetry into gobbledegook.

The people rioting in the streets have never known a time when there wasn’t an answer at their fingertips. Unfortunately, they’ve never been trained to do the calculations so that they can recognize if the answer is off. Their view of history has been run through Google Translate. After being translated into Woke and Politically Correct and back to English, the result is a bunch of mumbo jumbo and the word ‘racist.’

So, yes, the first poem is an indictment of arrogance and hubris, but not in a way that Shelley could have ever imagined.

* Here she runs opera through Google Translate:

Published in Group Writing
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  1. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Very nice and very true, Jose P. 

    • #1
  2. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Fun with toys.

    • #2
  3. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    The people rioting in the streets have never known a time when there wasn’t an answer at their fingertips. Unfortunately, they’ve never been trained to do the calculations so that they can recognize if the answer is off. Their view of history has been run through Google Translate. After being translated into Woke and Politically Correct and back to English, the result is a bunch of mumbo jumbo and the word ‘racist.’

    This one of the best analogies I’ve seen.

    • #3
  4. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    I shudder to think of what would happen to an epic poem like Beowulf. It is hard enough for humans to turn that Old English verse into modern English, let alone a form that carries engaging meaning. Seamus Heaney did so in 2000, with his translation and the original text side-by-side. At the end of his life, he published a new verse translation of one book in Virgil’s Aeneid.

    Stop by today and sign up to share a bit of verse you like or dislike as part of our July Group Writing theme: “The Doggerel Days of Summer.”

    Interested in Group Writing topics that came before? See the handy compendium of monthly themes. Check out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

    • #4
  5. Ansonia Member
    Ansonia
    @Ansonia

    Like people who haven’t the understanding that would enable them to recognize when the sophisticated object in their pocket hasn’t told them what they sought to find out , or the understanding of what it can’t tell them——yes, it’s spooky how very much the people rioting in the streets seem like that.

    What did we do ?

    • #5
  6. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Thanks for this. I have now subscribed to Translator Fails. That opera vid was genial! /Google translate for “awesome” in German. 

    • #6
  7. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret
    @CarolJoy

    You have offered up an outstanding bit of wisdom and fun. (Well some misery too, when I’m thinking about how the Antifa’s brains are mush due to “digital intelligence” massively influencing their every thought and move.)

    As we embark into “the internet of things” it is only going to get worse. (I wish the coming age would be called “Parents meet Kiwis” as at least that would give people pause as to what is in store for us.)

    Ten years from now, will a newer crop of Antifa even know that the first version is totally gibberish?

    • #7
  8. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret
    @CarolJoy

    Ansonia (View Comment):

    Like people who haven’t the understanding that would enable them to recognize when the sophisticated object in their pocket hasn’t told them what they sought to find out , or the understanding of what it can’t tell them——yes, it’s spooky how very much the people rioting in the streets seem like that.

    What did we do ?

    Well if your “we” includes parents who insisted that cell towers be put up every quarter mile or so in order for them to check on their teenagers safety, I’d say that we helicopter- parented entire generations right into a world devoid of critical thought.

    Emojis seem to be the addictive candy of the brain pans of the young. If the grey matter is exposed to such before being given a truly meaningful wiring of the brain, such as once came about through memorizing math tables, learning cursive writing, being made to write out term papers, there is no sense of logic or proportion. Without that necessary sense of logic or proportion, individuals are caught up in wanting immediate results, which take only days and that are free from tiresome processes that take months if not years.

    Where has the new “mindset” brought these newer generations to stand? Why right to this cliff above the abyss: “So let’s smash America to bits so we can then work to improve it – that’s the ticket”

    Inside the thinking (if you can call it that) of the young now so afflicted, as they do lack logic and proportion, a tragedy becomes evident. Many of us are old enough we might hopefully be spared this horrifically tragic experiment’s logical outcome.

    Yet it is clearly obvious to those of us outside such a mindset that they have no way to realize how they are stuck in a maze that is incomprehensible in its complexity of endlessly circling deeper into the maze. Normally people outside the Matrix can help some people climb out, but to attempt it with this Antifa-inspired mob means only to be shouted down for our racism.

    • #8