What a special surprise to receive a German translation of the Stabat Mater text! But I was even more impressed after I found out that the translation had been done by Philippa Wells, a 17(!) year old student from King’s School in Worcester.
And of course, I did wonder how a 17 year old girl could get interested in translating a Latin text from the Middle Ages!
This is what she wrote to me:
…I am a 17 year old student, interested in Latin, German and Linguistics so I knew I wanted to translate something as part of my Extended Project Qualification. I read through quite a few Latin poems, but many were fairly long, or difficult to understand.
When I read the Stabat Mater I was completely arrested by the simplicity of the words, but the pathos of the piece is what I found captivating. The shades of grief felt by the Virgin Mary were lamented, in fact James Macmillan even goes so far as to label it as the ‘ultimate Kindertotenlied.’ My religious background made the context comprehensible to me, but my translation is aimed at a modern German audience, who do not need a religious background to access the translation. I translated it into German, because the pre-existing German versions I found all used very heavy, old German and I wanted to make it accessible to a current audience. I think that whilst Latin texts have an integrity in the original language, the decrease of Latin in a Globalised world means that these texts will lose their meaning, as less people understand them. Therefore, translating them, whilst losing the original plaintive nuances of the Latin, has benefits, since it can reach a larger audience. Of course, a translation is only a version of the original, but one could suggest that the meaning of the text finds new expression through a different language as the idiosyncrasies of that language document it in a different way…
It was an honour for me to add Philippa’s translation to my site. Her German translation is a part of her dissertation for her Extended Project Qualification, titled: A Translation of the ‘Stabat Mater’ text into German for a modern German audience. It contains 13 pages. Her research also gives new insights into issues surrounding the translation of a text, such as how close it should remain to the original, and how far it should be tailored to the intended audience. Thank you, Philippa, you did a brilliant job!