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(Claude Monet)

When Douglas Hofstadter was 16, he read a poem. Just an innocent little poem, a few short lines, nothing special. But the poem burrowed deep into his brain, and many years later, he set out to translate the thing and landed in a world of ham and jam and endless partial views of a person lost to time.

Comments [27]

LIndsey from North Carolina

Are we sure the damsel is 7-8 years old? I'm thinking it might be a somewhat erotic poem...especially with the "sausage-shaped" form...

Jun. 05 2016 04:52 PM
JLDagenais from Kansas

You guys missed the joke that ham en Francais is spelled jamon.

Apr. 26 2016 04:17 PM
Yo from Everywhere

My translation:

To an ailing maiden:

My lady,
I wish thee
Allay pain;
A jailhouse.
Instead heal
Become strong,
And unlock
The entrance,
Breath the air
Go swiftly,
For Clemont
Thee hasten.
Go, fondly
Mouth agape,
To a place
Without risk
To consume
Sweet compote;
Only oppose
The illness,
Else pale tint
Thee shall have,
Besides lose
Fair poundage
May God grant
Thee vigor,
My lady.

Jan. 07 2016 07:21 PM
Anonymoussally2 from Bh

No, you can't.

Jan. 06 2016 10:44 AM

Correction to my poem a few comments is supposed to be "To Linus from Sally"

Jan. 05 2016 10:41 PM

Can you delete comments on this website?

Jan. 05 2016 08:30 PM

Can you delete comments?

Jan. 05 2016 08:28 PM

'I wrote this for my English class. I got inspiration from my sister watching "It's a great pumpkin Charlie Brown" while I was doing this. I only wish I had many things to rhyme. Here is the peanuts version!

To Linus from Lucy:

Sweet Babboo!
I love you!
I'm mad though
'Cuz you know...
Send me YOUR
You are MINE
But holding
Blue blankets.......
We will find
Great pumpkins!
Do no work!
Do artwork!
Play all day!
Craft some clay!
Eat Choc'late!
Fly Rockets!
Don't be down...
Charlie Brown
Won't Rescind,
You CUTE boo,
Sweet Babboo!

Hope you like it even though I'm not sure it follows the peanuts storyline. My sister likes to watch peanuts stuff so it's loud enough that I can hear it in the background. Thanks!

Jan. 05 2016 08:22 PM
Chris from Los Osos California

I loved this part of the show. Only last month we were discussing whether Dr. Seuss books were translated in a way that they were intended - to teach children to read by giving them simple words that rhyme. Is Cat in the Hat easy for children in Spanish or German? How do you create the same fun and simplicity (especially that go with the illustrations) in another language? Does one stick with the story and make the language difficult or does one use simple language and alter the story?

It really gives you an appreciation of how nuanced language is.

Thank you!

Feb. 13 2015 11:49 PM
Stephen J. Herschkorn from Highland Park, NJ

Why did you play Satie while speaking of Chopin?

Jan. 19 2015 08:16 PM
Joe Thomas from Kali-fornya

S.O. to OG Krish

My fairest
My true love,

I pine away
for today,
I'll send best wishes;
And lots of kisses.

Trapped inside
bed ridden,
tender body
quite hidden.

But, don't fret
Or get upset,
I'm here if you need me.

I can make,
all that ache,
From near or afar.

Get up soon
Eat sweet things;
From fruit to flesh,
Bijou monsoon.
But from love,
Or just rest
I'll be your pillow

If you bore,
Just call me
I adore being apart of
our little

Ma chérie,
get well please;
For I love thee

Jan. 08 2015 02:48 PM

By my teacher's challenge to translate my own poem, I created my own rendition of clement's poem;

To my love,
Sun above!
Your jailed stay,
Took away,
Well being,
Rest fleeting.
Open door,
Cough no more!
Please go fast!
We met last,
By the wood,
Wear your hood.
I, clement
Hope you want,
A bouquet,
For your day.
I would bet,
Bite you'd take,
Freshly baked!
Sweets will please
Your small knees.
You'll be fine,
Aged like wine!
God's good will,
Heal you still.
Like a dove,
To me love.

Jan. 08 2015 01:49 PM
Greg Diamond from Brea, CA

I went for spirit and strict adherence to form at some cost to literal translation. And I think that it benefits from line breaks after the periods.

- - - - - - - - -

For Milady’s Malady

Darling mine,
You’re supine
This fine day;
Where you stay
Bed’s a jail.

Without fail
You’ll be strong
Before long
Come outside
Don’t bed-ride
Let this be
Please, for me,
Regain strength.

Or at length
A closed mouth
Sends you south
Careful, sweet
You must eat
Comfort foods;
If you’re mood’s
Not for din,
Paling skin
Oft ensues,
You will lose
Too much weight.

Choose your fate
You’ll be fine,
Darling mine.

Nov. 28 2014 09:34 PM
Luis from Estados Unidos

here you have the translations of D. Hofstadter.

Nov. 15 2014 09:23 PM
Cameron Sullivan from

I Loved this episode. This is a subject that I have thought a lot about. It is a big issue in many religions. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has dealt with this issue for quite sometime. Closely related to this episode is the LDS hymnbook. The words, the message, the music, the feeling, the rhymes, and the timing all need to match.
Here are the links for those interested. There is a drop down in the top left corner to swap languages.


Nov. 12 2014 12:49 PM
Sheyne from Hampshire, UK

I loved this section of the podcast. I was standing out in the field with the sheep and was laughing my head off with the different translations. What fun. It reminded me of the different translations of the famous Italian poem called The Hill by a chap called Leopardi.

Thanks again for putting so much effort into the podcast. Very enjoyable.


Nov. 08 2014 12:43 PM

the podcast's fab
Finest dab
my ears grab
Healthiest stuff
for this buff's
three pound cognitive flab
is understating
Intoxicatin' so
I crave evermo'
No way to girth
its joys and mirth
in three syllables per line
But hey, I'm tryin'!
Enough, 'ere, I break the form
for the uninform'd -
Who to blame?
Ahem, Doug/Clem*
So I shout
to scout
fellow devouts,
brains and minds,
cortex to spine
that yearn and pine
the blissful addiction
far-too-gone for rehab

Nov. 04 2014 09:47 AM
sophia from Los Angeles

The section about Chopin had a piece of music playing underneath that I don't believe is music by Chopin. Isn't it by Eric Satie?

Oct. 31 2014 03:06 PM
Len from Little Neck

Matt- beautifully done! I particularly love "It's Matt's rule," and "Although bed... /Do Think Twice," and "blow the pen/ O bedridden" is, if I may, darned insouciant! Bravo.

Oct. 29 2014 08:47 AM
Matt from Natick, MA

Len, great work! You've inspired me to try. I have no real knowledge of French, so this is a little dependent on the translated versions. Here it goes --

My sweet girl
please unfurl,
it is day.
Join the fray,
blow the pen
Salve with haste,
leave this place!
End those snores
Out the door!
Quick my sprout,
go get out!
It’s Matt’s rule.
Stop your drool
and fill up!
Mouth to cup!
Although bed
and warm bread
sound real nice,
do think twice.
You’ll get white,
thin and slight!
Please bestow
your warm glow
Upon us here
amongst your peers.
Heal young pearl.
My sweet girl.

Oct. 27 2014 07:30 PM
Huxley Wilder

I absolutely love this! His way of looking at this poem is very different, and how he decided to translate it is very interesting. One thing I love specifically abut this podcast is the way they play the music with the poems as they are being read to us, and how they match and give the poem something extra. 'Let one hundred flowers bloom' is a wonderful way to look at life, not just poems. Cool way to see translation.

Oct. 27 2014 07:01 PM
Len from Little Neck, NY

Couldn't resist-- had to give it a shot:

Sweetie Pie

Sweetie Pie,
First off: Hi.
(Hashtag hug.)
Why not shrug
Off the sheet
And retreat
From the bed?
Clear your head—
You’ll feel swell-
What the hell!
Out we’ll go,
Catch a show
Hit the zoo
Go canoe,
Grab a beer
Far from here.
Come on, please:
Herbal teas
And some toast
Are a most
Awful snack.
Don’t lie back
And just snore:
What a bore!
Rise and shine
Darling mine,
Len says try,
Sweetie Pie.

Oct. 27 2014 04:25 PM
clerk from library

Hofstadter's book: Le Ton Beau De Marot: In Praise Of The Music Of Language

Oct. 27 2014 11:41 AM
Henry Lau from London, UK

What's the name of the book he wrote about the poem. I really want to look it up now.

Oct. 27 2014 06:54 AM
occasional translator from miami, florida

Doug's contributions to the world of translators, not only through his writings on Ma mignonne but others where he talks about his philosophy on translations, are truly a gift to everyone in search of that elusive meaning of words in their original language. Nobody has pushed me into greater depths than Doug has. We owe him our eternal gratitude!

Oct. 26 2014 01:19 PM
Tracey from San Jose, California

fhp, Here you go:

A une Damoyselle malade

Ma mignonne,
Je vous donne
Le bon jour;
Le séjour
C’est prison.
Puis ouvrez
Votre porte
Et qu’on sorte
Car Clément
Le vous mande.
Va, friande
De ta bouche,
Qui se couche
En danger
Pour manger
Si tu dures
Trop malade,
Couleur fade
Tu prendras,
Et perdras
Dieu te doint
Santé bonne,
Ma mignonne.

Oct. 25 2014 05:56 PM
fhp from santa barbara

I wish you would have printed to the 28 line poem that visually captivated D. Hofstadter.

Oct. 24 2014 09:35 AM

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