Monday, August 30, 2010

The quality of mercy is not strain'd... [Translated Shakespearean Quotation and Excerpts from an Essay by Ms. Lee Ying-Chuen, Bus Hostage Survivor]

Translation of a Shakespearean passage offered in humble tribute to all victims and survivors of the Manila bus hostage incident, and in admiration of the grace and true courage displayed by Ms. Lee Ying-chuen in her recent essay (Ms. Lee is one of the handful of survivors of this man-made tragedy)...

"The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway,
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's,
When mercy seasons justice...
... we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy."

-- Excerpted from the Shakespearean play "The Merchant of Venice" (Act 4, Scene 1)*


--- 節譯自莎士比亞劇目《威尼斯商人》(第四場,第一幕)

Translated by Snowdrops, 2010. All rights reserved.
(Most recent satisfied translation version published on 31st August, 2010, at 20:32).
(One key phrase change instituted on 14 January, 2011, at 16:44. Originally the first line of the translation had "strain'd" as "不吝嗇,也不費力的", to alert readers to the double-meanings of the term "strain'd" in this sentence. Further deliberation initially led me to utilise 牽強 instead of 吝嗇, even though I like 吝嗇 just as well if not better (it indicates the mean-spiritedness of Shylock very well, and also befits the meaning of word "Mercy" in the line as a quality that is generously given rather than forced). However 牽強 is more in keeping with the context of the dialogue between Portia and Shylock (where Portia was responding to Shylock's question about why he must be merciful), I have therefore ultimately decided to include 牽強. Subsequently I replaced 吝嗇 with 牽強, as I was going to leave 不費力 as part of the sentence because "not strain'd" does also refer to the fact that true mercy should be natural and effortless, precisely like how heavenly rain falls gracefully to earth. On further reflection however, 不牽強 does have this similar connotation to 不費力, and so the new translation of the phrase "not strain'd" becomes "不吝嗇,也不牽強的")

Further reading (Translations of these passages by Snowdrops published on 31st August, 2010, at 07:27; Slightly amended on 31st August at 17:48):

李瀅銓(馬尼拉事件倖存者):還死傷者公道, 不向弱者抽刃
Lee Ying-Chuen (Survivor from the Manila incident): "Demand Justice for the Victims; Don't Lash Out at the Weak"

[Since returning to Hong Kong, I realised quite a lot of anti-Philippines talk have surfaced here in the last few days. On the Internet there were those who claimed that all Filipino maids should be deported, so as to exact revenge by ruining the economy of the Philippines. There were also reports of Filipino maids being insulted on the streets, and epithets of "Slave country" and "Servant country" replacing the name of Philippines. I understand my fellow citizens' anger and frustration against the utter fecklessness of the Filipino government and its woefully inept police force. This is something I personally experienced. However, what has this got to do with ordinary Filipino folks? Have we ourselves forgotten what it's like to be discriminated against? Hong Kong had for a long time been a colonial society, in which Chinese had been discriminated against in the formal system as well as in their daily lives by their so-called "masters". Now it is quite frightening to witness how some well-to-do Hongkongers boastfully declare, "We employ so many Filipino maids, we are their boss!", adopting a kind of "You should've been grateful we deign to employ you, how dare you rise up against us?!" slave-master attitude to berate those who have absolutely nothing to do with the bus hostage tragedy. It should have been clear that the Filipino maids are in fact victims of their own useless government. They are here precisely because of their government's inability to provide a basic livelihood for its citizens, forcing thousands upon thousands of Filipino women to leave behind their homes and their own children to come to a foreign land and help us look after our kids. How could these women possibly be the scapegoat for their useless government? Why do some Hongkongers become racist in the midst of our collective sorrow and anger? Similarly, it boggles the mind why the Hong Kong administration chose this moment to announce the freezing of wages for all foreign workers including Filipino maids, thus preventing them from sharing in the fruits of our economic recovery. Is the Hong Kong government trying to take advantage of a political expediency? Can our government hold a public review of the standards and metrics used in determining foreign workers' wages? Exhibiting this sort of behaviour at this particular time gives the impression that the Government would like to punish foreign workers, and does nothing to help dispel the prevailing anti-Philippines mood. A friend quoted from a Lu Zhun saying: "When the brave are angry, they lacerate those who are stronger than themselves; but when the cowardly become incensed, they lash out at those who are even weaker." Are we Hongkongers some kind of cowards who only dare to lash out at the weak?]

[The way to help rest the souls of the poor victims is not to blame the innocent Filipino maids or ordinary Filipino citizens. Our focus has got to be clear, so that we set our sights squarely on the Filipino government and its police force, and demand an objective, fair and thorough investigation, in order that responsibility for the tragedy could be appropriately apportioned; as well as to support the injured and the families of the deceased in preparing for the maintenance of their future livelihoods. This is the kind of care and concrete assistance we can provide to those who suffer gravely in this tragedy. In the long run, we should work towards helping Filipino citizens to build a more reliable government and a more just society for themselves, as only by doing so could Hong Kong rightfully proclaim itself as a proud member of the international community, a world city that respects and promotes human decency.]

* Note: As the translator does not want the relevance of this Shakespearean quotation to Ms. Lee's essay to be misinterpreted, the quotation is deliberately abridged for the purpose of this translated post. The full quotation is available here.

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