Sunday, March 22, 2009

Anno 2009. Her Bligh rice onfeng

So Qld elects the first woman premier in Australian history...bout time too.(And without the weird Hilary Clinton I'm a woman, you're a woman, why aren't you voting for me ploy.)
But that phrase from the Chronicle, in this year x came to power/acquired the Kingdom/come into the ruler ship...reveals the problem not so much of translation but of understanding.
Imagine Godwin or Leofric, Harold or William the Bastard, resurrected to watch the election campaign. They were astute men used to the getting of power. But would they have had a chance of understanding or appreciating what was happening? The juxtaposition, the image of them sitting in the commentary box sending dispatches home as the election unfolds, reveals the problem.
Those nouns and verbs in Old English which describe power can be easily translated into modern English. And t'other way round. You could explain things like Parliaments in terms of Witan or Moot, and the idea of election wouldn't have been too alien (certainly not to Harold). But the translations mask the realities. To rule, to govern, a kingdom, a nation, a state, a King, even "to be elected" don't mean the same thing now as then, can't mean the same thing now as then.
SO our encounter with the past, which is irremediably other, is domesticated and familiarised simply though the effect of language. Not just the vocabulary but the syntax too, of which much more later.
Hardly an original thought, but enough for a Sunday morning...
So Qld elects the first woman premier in Australian history...bout time too.(I like that, said Offa, sing it again!)

1 comment:

Anne Gilbert said...

Well, if all those people were resurrected into very modern times, I can imagine the scene: William the Offspring of An Informal Relationship(which how some lawyers refer to the um,relationship of his daddy and mommy), would probably try to storm t White House with his mounted men, then storm Congress until it agreed to "elect" him, and Harold would probably try to turn Congress into a Witan, and persuade them to elect him! Godric and Leofrric? Who knows? I sure don't! In any case, I think there are a good many things that haven't changed much,no matter what chronicles you read!
Anne G