There are no ghosts, no gods, nothing secretly lurking in the temple of the poem whose vengeful wrath we will incur through our failure to honour it. The author and the critic might reasonably scream travesty, but they aren't in the poem either. Any faith in anything is misplaced, and masks an essentialist creed. A 'faithful' translation requires an original, a translation and an essence. A poem has no essence. (It has a spirit, but this is utterly subjective and unfixable.) Trust, on the other hand, requires only two terms. So while faithful is an impossible judgement, our versions might nonetheless be subjectively reckoned to be trustworthy. The original poem has a consensually agreed paraphrasable sense, and a consensually agreed unparaphrasable sense. We translate the former and imitate the latter.
- Don Paterson, on translation, in Note #8 of his "Appendix: Fourteen Notes on The Version" in Orpheus: A Version of Rilke (Faber and Faber, 2006).