Off-topic request for opinion from all you literary types

HSchinske at HSchinske at
Mon Jan 10 16:10:55 EST 2005

In a message dated 1/10/2005 10:09:19 AM Pacific Standard Time, Gili writes:

> In English it doesn't seem to matter whether
> the house is a sentient being that can feel the cold or not, and both
> meanings can be there, side by side.

I think in English "the house feels chilly" would *not* ordinarily imply a 
personification at all (that is, not in ordinary speech). It would be the same 
sort of expression as "the sweater feels soft," or "the grapes taste sweet." I 
just looked up "feel" in the dictionary and find that one meaning of it as an 
intransitive verb is "to appear to be to the senses, esp. to the sense of 
touch [the water _feels_ warm]." I have been speaking English with some fluency 
for nearly forty years, and had never noticed this inversion of the usual order 
of things :-)

In a poem, of course, one of the things the poet may legitimately do is to 
call our attention to another way of reading a common turn of phrase, hence 
charging it with multiple meanings, and Elizabeth Bishop does seem to me to be 
that sort of poet. I suspect translators are often forced to choose among 
ambiguities, or made to move ambiguity to another expression in the poem that can 
better bear a double force in the new language. The only thing I can think of 
probably (a) won't work in Hebrew and (b) might not quite fit the style: saying 
something like "the air in the house seems chilly" in such a way that it could 
also mean "the spirit of the house seems chilly."

Helen Schinske
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