Thursday, January 28, 2010

New Translation Thursday - Seeing the Differences in the Gloria

Welcome to this installment of "New Translation Thursday." I know there are many of you who have been slavishly following the journey of the new translation. And I also know there are some of you who have had limited interest. I wanted to give you a simple example today of the kind of changes we are talking about with the new translation. Let's take a look at the first two sentences of the Gloria.

Here is the latin from the Missale Romanum:

Glória in excélsis Deo
et in terra pax homínibus bonae voluntátis.
Laudámus te,
benedícimus te,
adorámus te,
glorificámus te,
grátias ágimus tibi propter magnam glóriam tuam,
Dómine Deus, Rex cæléstis,
Deus Pater omnípotens.

Here is the currently used English translation:

Glory to God in the highest,
and peace to his people on earth.
Lord God, heavenly King,
almighty God and Father,
we worship you, we give you thanks,
we praise you for your glory.

And here is the new English translation:

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to people of good will. 
We praise you, 
we bless you, 
we adore you, we glorify you, 
we give you thanks for your great glory, 
Lord God, heavenly King, 
O God, almighty Father.

You can see from this simple example that the new English translation is most definitely closer to the latin. If we were to add the Spanish translation of this section from the Gloria, you would also see that the Spanish translation is much closer to the latin as well. When the translation rules were changed to embrace "formal equivalence" over "dynamic equivalence," the translators obviously had to abide by the new rules. You can see the results, just from this small example. 

One of the major changes here is in the adherence to the sense order of the original latin. The one who is being adored, glorified, etc. is named first in the current translation and—strictly adhering to the latin—is now named at the end of the phrase in the new translation. It's strange to the ears at first, of course. I believe we are used to addressing people in this way: "John Smith, I appreciate you, I love you, I give you thanks for everything you have ever done for me." As opposed to: "I appreciate you, I love you, I give you thanks for everything you have ever done for me, John Smith." So the adherence to the latin sense order can seem a little jarring at first. What do you think? Obviously there is a recapturing of the staccato-like rhythm of the latin in the new translation. And composers have done some wonderful things with this kind of repetitive structure: "We praise you; we bless you. we adore you; we glorify you." Once again, I must say that the musical settings will have much to do with the success of the implementation.

Thanks for listening to these musings - busy, busy day here today, so my thoughts around all this are not complete. Just wanted to get this out there an ask for some feedback.

Here is a photo of yesterday's farewell for Sister Joan Thomas (see yesterday's post) here at WLP. This was taken in my office. For you chant lovers, you'll see some notated pages (on lambskin) in the background.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Charles said...

Interesting point, Jerry. Top o' my head, I boiled your query to whether the syntax is essentially salutation or exclamation. Your comment that the new version jars our modern sensibilities that we conventionally begin our addresses or letters with a salutation, ie. John Smith, we....
But one could look at the object of "We praise You..." as already having been "saluted" with "Glory (in the highest) to God," yes? Therefore, "God" is then amplified by the litany of titles, "Lord God, heavenly King, Almighty God and Father EXCLAMATION POINT.
Just twopence.

Chironomo said...

I think the Gloria will be fairly easily comprehended by most once the initial change is taken in. It's a brief text, and hopefully the settings will be appropriately brief as well. I've always felt that many of the "refrain" style settings stretch the Gloria out to a disproportionate length when compared to the Kyrie... one of the influences of the Gregorian settings might be a better balance of these two parts of the Opening Rites. A 45 second long "Lord Have Mercy" followed by a 5 minute long Gloria is just a bit unbalanced.

The Creed will be the more difficult new text...while the new translation is beautiful in it's imagery and word choice, it will take a great deal of time to become accustomed to the very long sentence structures and lack of referential nouns and pronouns. And since the Creed is seldom sung now, there will be a very brief window to introduce sung settings if that part of the musical vision of this Missal is ever to be realized.

Anonymous said...

Also, and space is brief here so there is no way to get entirely into this subject, keep in mind that Latin sentence structure is not exactly analogous to that of English, and the Gloria in particular was composed as a hymn. As such, it is stylized in much the same way as we stylize lyrics in English.

It's interesting to note that in the chant settings, there is traditioanlly a period after "gloriam tuam", and the phrase "Domine Deus rex caelestis. Deus Pater omnipotens" belongs with the next phrase, "Domine fili unigenite, Jesu Christe." This is also expressed musically in the melodic structure. We tend to group it with the preceding phrase because that's how the translation grouped it, but that is not how it has been done in older settings.

Frajm said...

Thanks for your posts--you have such tact! I struggle with tact trying to say the very same thing you say. Great posts and very helpful for future catechesis. Fr. Allan McDonald, Macon, GA