glad of a fellow

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palinurodimessico

Senior Member
México, Español
Perhaps someone here could give me a hand figuring out certain ambiguity in a poem by William Carlos Williams.

The poem "Portrait of a woman on her bath" says:

It is a satisfaction / a joy / to have one of those / in the house. //
when she takes a bath / she unclothes / herself she is no / Venus //
I laugh at her / an Inca / shivering at the well / the sun is //
glad of a fellow to / marvel at
/ the birds and flowers / look in
My question is whether the fellow refers to the object, in this case the women, or whether the fellow towards which the sun is glad refers to the subject of enunciation, that is, the voice of the poet. It might seem unimportant to an english readership, but when translating to a language where nouns have gender it becomes rather decisive. On the other hand, the sentence "the sun is glad of a fellow" sounds a bit strange, am I wrong?

Best,

d
 
  • Old Novice

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    A problem here is that poets often deliberately choose words with multiple possible meanings. As you note, she could be a "fellow" (a peer, an equal) to the sun, or the speaker could be a comical fellow, someone whose actions the sun marvels at. Since the poet might well intend us to think about both possible meanings, your best translation, to my ear, would preserve the ambiguity, not resolve it. Is that possible, given the nouns you have to work with?
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    My question is whether the fellow refers to the object, in this case the women, or whether the fellow towards which the sun is glad refers to the subject of enunciation, that is, the voice of the poet. It might seem unimportant to an english readership, but when translating to a language where nouns have gender it becomes rather decisive. On the other hand, the sentence "the sun is glad of a fellow" sounds a bit strange, am I wrong?

    Best,

    d
    I believe that the word "fellow" refers to the woman and that the meaning of "fellow" is genderless - in this case, it probably refers to a comrade or compatriot.
     

    Orange Blossom

    Senior Member
    U.S.A. English
    For me to determine who the fellow is, I really need more of the poem. The fellow could be the person looking at the Incan woman, or it could be the Incan woman. Unfortunately, I have not been able as yet to discover the poem. I did find "Portrait of a Lady" by William Carlos Williams, but that was a completely different poem.

    Fellow could also have multiple meanings as already suggested.

    Orange Blossom
     
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