Did you ever feel this way?

08 Jul

Do you ever feel tongue-tied?  Ever wish you could pull out just the right words to issue comfort when needed, a laugh when warranted, or a snappy comeback when someone puts you on the spot?   I often have this problem.  Word often seem to get stuck in my head, rattling around in there.  Often time, thought and putting pen to paper may help me in these situations, but how often I’ve wished for better immediate command of words.   And when someone actually DOES give you the right words in a situation, it is truly golden.  Proverbs says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”   So true.

So, tell me I’m not alone in this…right?  Someone out there feels this way too?

Perhaps this is why I LOVED this quote from Madame Bovary.   It just rang so true.   I read it first on my Kindle, then checked my print edition and liked that translation even more.   Maybe some of your translations would say it even better.    I’d love to hear them.

This is from Part II, Chapter 12. It’s actually talking about how Rodolphe doesn’t really listen much to Emma’s flattery because he’s heard it all before from other lips.   He discounts her flowery speeches as exaggerations and empty metaphors.   Here’s the part I liked from the Kindle (free) version:   “…no one can ever give the exact measure of his needs, nor of his conceptions, nor of his sorrows; and since human speech is like a cracked tin kettle, on which we hammer our tunes to make bears dance when we long to move the stars.”

Here is a translation by Lowell Bair (Bantam Classics edition):  “no one can ever express the exact measure of his needs, his conceptions or his sorrows, and human speech is like a cracked pot on which we beat out rhythms for bears to dance to when we are striving to make music that will wring tears from the stars.”  Much better translation, in my opinion.  I’d love to make music with my words that would cause the stars to weep, but mostly, I’m just directing the bear dancing.  Sigh.

I think this may be the quote I may commit to memory from Bovary…


Posted by on July 8, 2012 in Madame Bovary


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2 responses to “Did you ever feel this way?

  1. Christine

    July 10, 2012 at 6:41 am

    Penguin Classics, Wall translation: “…since no one can ever give the exact measure of their needs, their ideas, their afflictions, and since human speech is like a cracked cauldron on which we knock out tunes for dancing-bears, when we wish to conjure pity from the stars.

    I like this version’s “conjure pity” part.

  2. Christina Joy

    July 10, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    I don’t have my edition handy, but I’ll try to check it later, because this totally went under my radar, so thanks for pointing it out.

    Also, how’s that commit a line to memory thing going? Which lines have you chosen? Can you post about them?

    (Apparently I’m too busy to post but not too busy to assign.)


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