I think we were all rather surprised at the number of persuasive translations of Classical poetry, since it had incorrectly been assumed by some of us that Latin and Greek were in terminal decline. Impressed, as in the first year, by the cogency and honesty of many of the commentaries, especially those to do with the translation of Classical verse, I asked myself why the Classics seemed to fare so well. It occurred to me that perhaps, faced by a famous piece from the Classical past, translators felt simultaneously more bound to the source text, because of its status, and more free, due its distance in time, this ambivalence apparently being a fruitful one.
We are now able to include a prize for translators under 14. Curiously, I found that many of my choices in this category were also among my choices in the 18 and Under category. Is it that translators are born rather than made? Skills useful in translation may be learnt or encouraged, but certain admirable qualities of character seem necessary as well.
As before, I found judging a rather invidious task, probably because there so much of the work is commendable. In the end one picks what seems most accomplished, most coherent, but also what makes the greater impact upon one. This must have as much to do with one's own tastes as regards source text authors; so, if one doesn't like Prévert in French (I do), one will probably not like him in English, however exemplary the translation. I tried to remain aware of these personal quirks of taste, but there is the opposite danger of overcompensation!
The winners are all thoroughly deserving, but there were quite a few others I should like to mention as well. The task was not rendered easier for me by the fact that my approach to translation is eclectic. If I favour anything it is translation which displays a willingness to allow English to be modified by the source language. This does not necessarily mean — although it might — that metre or rhyme, if there, must be closely imitated. In this eclectic spirit, I am also prepared to regard parody as a form of translation, although it is rarely offered, even if some translations resort to it here and there. Other judges evidently felt differently about this and other matters, and yet there was a good deal of agreement, suggesting that whatever one's principles or predilections, we tend to find what we are looking for in the same places. That this is no more than a tendency, however, is shown by the lengthy but enjoyable discussion that we had.
Among those translations that I would like to mention, which do not appear in the final listing, are Richard Abbott's commentary on and version of Psalm 39, and the several versions of Verlaine (by John Turner, Richard Ingham, Norma Rinsler, Mary Lowerson, Ralph Scrine and Jane Fraser Esson), a famously 'untranslatable' poet. I also liked some of the brave attempts to render epic verse: Homer (Roland Lloyd Parry), 'The Song of Roland' (Charles de Salis) and 'The Seafarer' (Amelia Penny), the latter managing not to be influenced by Pound's celebrated version. I was impressed, too, by the translation from the Dutch by Gillian Healey of Annie Schmidt's 'Koekerlootje'.