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Like gold to airy thinness beat

Posted by Russ Cable on August 19, 2005

In Reply to: Like gold to airy thinness beat posted by Smokey Stover on August 19, 2005

: : : Please, can anyone explain the meaning of a phrase "Like gold to airy thinness beat" to me. It is probably a quotation from John Donne, and it is also a phrase from the dedication in Robert B. Parker´s book Valediction, which begins with the words "For Joan" and this phrase follows. I am currently translating this book to the Czech language and I have no idea what the dedication means... Thank you

: : Google has tons of hits.

: Since it is Parker, not Donne, whose work you are translating, you need to tell us what follows the phrase you have given. Bruce Kahl's link gives you Donne's poem and at least one very plausible interpretation. As we grow distant from each other our separation expands the bond between us, "like gold...", rather than ruptures it. Gold can be hammered (beat) into extremely thin gold leaf, which then can cover an area far greater than its original size. I'm guessing that Joan was separated from Parker at the time, at least in distance. But how Parker followed up may dictate how you translate the phrase. Or you can just say, "Like gold which has been hammered into extreme thinness," with a note. SS

Since the dedication is sort of a "private" message between the author and the dedicatee, it seems odd to me to translate it into a language that the dedicatee cannot read. In any case, the author is probably intentionally directly referencing the sentiment of the poem by John Donne (A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning) so by translating it into anything that is not a reference to the poem, you would be destroying the meaning. If you must translate it, I would look for the poem already translated and try to go with that. The poem is about how close their two souls are and the thinness of the gold is how brief/insubstantial the separation between them will be when he dies first. It's hardly meant to say "For Joan, who is really, really skinny." ^_^

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