"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly." -- or, not.

Bathrobe's "Chinese, Japanese & Vietnamese Language Site" contemplates how the sentence "On ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur", from Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince), has been rendered in English (and Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese) by various translators:

All five English translations are a little different as each translator has made certain choices. The five English versions are:

Name of translator English version
Woods 1943 It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.
Cuffe 1995 You can only see things clearly with your heart.
Testot-Ferry 1995 It is only with one's heart that one can see clearly.
Wakeman 1997 We only really see with our hearts.
Howard 2000 One sees clearly only with the heart.

Of the five versions, Howard's is virtually a word-for-word translation from the French. The other translations vary in certain well-defined ways. Here we make a point-by-point comparison with the French and see where the translations vary...

I know jack about French (the only class in which I ever received a failing grade!), but the issues involved here are fascinating to the poet. These versions all have the same literal meaning, so what is difference? The big one is, I think, rhythm.
Woods and Testot-Ferry's versions have it: "It is ONLY with the HEART that ONE can see RIGHTly." "It is ONLY with one's HEART that ONE can see CLEARLYly." You can imagine singing these over four measures of 4/4, a line for a blues or rock song.

Try it: think of, say: "You Ain't Nothin' But a Hound Dog":

You Ain't NOTHIN' But a HOUND Dog / ROCKIN' all the TIME

It is ONLY with the HEART / that ONE can see RIGHTly.

or even, for a more exact parallel, move the break:

It is ONLY with the HEART that / ONE can see RIGHTly.

The other translations just don't have that driving beat.


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