Translation, and Notes by Maria Boulding, O.S.B. Edited by John E. Rotelle, O.S.A.
Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, second printing of pocketsize edition, 2002. 307 pages. $9.95. Vol. I/1 in The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century.
Jill RAITT, The University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65201
Students reading The Confessions of St. Augustine find a kindred soul and marvel that someone living so long ago could feel as they do. But to experience this kinship, the text they read must be in today's English, good English, but as flowing and clear as was Augustine's Latin to his literate contemporaries. Students and teachers today can rejoice in several good translations, for example Henry Chadwick's 1998 translation of the Confessions of St. Augustine (NY: Oxford University Press, 1991) In my judgment, however, Maria Boulding's translation surpasses even that of the eminent English scholar. Her brief introduction is also excellent and just. There she explains the word confession as 1) confession to God of one's sin; 2) confession of God's glory; 3) confession as a creative process. "The human speaker is at one with God who is creating him; he becomes co-creator of himself, constituting himself in being by confession." (p. 12) That last sentence is itself permeated by Augustine's continual struggle to acknowledge himself and God in dynamic relation. These three meanings of "confession" are born out by Confessions'
Book I, 1.
In his new book, Christian Love (Georgetown University Press, 2003) Bernard V. Brady, chose Boulding's translation for long quotations from Augustine's Confessions. I think that he did so because Boulding stays close to the original Latin, but Englishes it admirably as demonstrated in this example from Bk XIII, ch. 32 (47):
videmus terrenis animalibus faciem terrae decorari, hominemque ad imaginem et similitudinem tuam, cunctis inrationabilibus animantibus ipsa tua imagine ac similitudine, hoc est rationis et intellegentiae virtute, praeponi; et quemadmodum in eius anima aliud est, quod consulendo dominatur, aliud, quod subditur ut obtemperet, sic viro factam esse etiam corporaliter feminam, quae haberet quidem in mente rationabilis intellegentiae parem naturam, sexu tamen corporis ita masculino sexui subiceretur, quemadmodum subicitur appetitus actiones ad concipiendam de ratione mentis recte agendi sollertiam videmus haec et singula bona et omnia bona valde. (Italics mine)
Boulding quite correctly uses "human being" in instances where Augustine has homo, and "man" where Augustine has vir. For in eius anima, Boulding has "within the human soul" to maintain the proper sense of its antecedent, homo, or human being. She stays close to Augustine's Latin:
And regard the fair face of the earth adorned with land animals; and we see humankind, made in your image and likeness, set over all these irrational living creatures in virtue of this same image and likeness to you, which resides in its reason and intelligence. And just as within the human soul one faculty deliberates and takes decisions, while another must be submissive and obedient, so too was woman made physically subordinate to man. Though equal to him by nature in her rational mind and intelligence, with respect to bodily sexuality she was subjected to the male, even as the impulse to action must be submissive in order to conceive from the rational mind the sagacity to act right. (Italics mine)
Chadwick translates homo as "humanity" and vir as "man". In eius anima, he translates as "in his soul" losing the inclusiveness of "humanity". But then homo is a concrete word, not an abstract term like "humanity." So in both of these respects, I prefer Boulding's translation. Chadwick's translation tends to greater wordiness, for example, "This is analogous" for quemadmodum where Boulding has simply "even as":
We see the face of the earth adorned with earthly creatures and humanity, in your image and likeness, put in authority over all irrational animals by your image and likeness, that is by the power of reason and intelligence. And as in his soul there is one element which deliberates and aspires to domination, and another element which is submissive and obedient, so in the bodily realm woman is made for man. In mental power she has an equal capacity of rational intelligence, but by the sex of her body she is submissive to the masculine sex. This is analogous to the way in which the impulse for action is subordinate to the rational mind's prudent concern that the act is right. (italics mine)
From Catholic First, 1999-2003 (a web site) we get:
. . . man, created after Thy image and likeness, in that very image and likeness of Thee (that is, the power of reason and understanding) on account of which he was set over all irrational creatures. And as in his soul there is one power which rules by directing, another made subject that it might obey, so also for the man was corporeally made a woman who, in the mind of her rational understanding should also have a like nature, in the sex, however, of her body should be in like manner subject to the sex of her husband . . . .
Chadwick's translation is clearly superior to those of his predecessors who allowed cultural prejudice to dictate the use of "man" for both homo and vir and light years ahead of such wooden and poor work as in the last example in which the translator failed to understand the Latin text at all. Boulding's translation offers readers still greater fidelity to the text, clarity, and felicitous expression. I hope that the same will be true of the translations still to come in this twenty-first century translation of Augustine's works. In the meantime, I suspect that Boulding's translation will enjoy a long and well-deserved life in the hands of students, scholars, and people seeking to enjoy Augustine's Confessions.
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