"Machine Translation" is an investigation into the inexactitude of translation and the corruptability of transmitted texts, particularly oral literature. "Machine Translation" takes as its starting point an English text (in each case the translation of a work that was originally orally transmitted) and repeatedly translates parts of that text into a foreign language, displaying the translation momentarily, and then back into English. Inevitably, the double translation is not the same as the original text and the document is changed, just as an oral message in the children's game "Telephone" or "Chinese Whispers" is changed.
Translations are carried out automatically using Google's machine translation API. The intermediate language is selected randomly among German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek and Turkish.
Click to change the text: The Odyssey Genesis The Epic of Gilgamesh The Volsunga saga
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning- the first day.
And God said, "Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water." So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse "sky." And there was evening, and there was morning- the second day.
And God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear." And it was so. God called the dry ground "land," and the gathered waters he called "seas." And God saw that it was good.
Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning- the third day.
And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth." And it was so. God made two great lights- the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning- the fourth day.
And God said, "Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky." So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth." And there was evening, and there was morning- the fifth day.
And God said, "Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind." And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."
Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground- everything that has the breath of life in it- I give every green plant for food." And it was so.
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning- the sixth day.
Now Sigi grew old, and had many to envy him, so that at last those turned against him whom he trusted most; yea, even the brothers of his wife; for these fell on him at his unwariest, when there were few with him to withstand them, and brought so many against him, that they prevailed against him, and there fell Sigi and all his folk with him. But Rerir, his son, was not in this trouble, and he brought together so mighty a strength of his friends and the great men of the land, that he got to himself both the lands and kingdom of Sigi his father; and so now, when he deems that the feet under him stand firm in his rule, then he calls to mind that which he had against his mother's brothers, who had slain his father. So the king gathers together a mighty army, and therewith falls on his kinsmen, deeming that if he made their kinship of small account, yet none the less they had first wrought evil against him. So he wrought his will herein, in that he departed not from strife before he had slain all his father's banesmen, though dreadful the deed seemed in every wise. So now he gets land, lordship, and fee, and is become a mightier man than his father before him.
Much wealth won in war gat Rerir to himself, and wedded a wife withal, such as he deemed meet for him, and long they lived together, but had no child to take the heritage after them; and ill-content they both were with that, and prayed the Gods with heart and soul that they might get them a child. And so it is said that Odin hears their prayer, and Freyia no less hearkens wherewith they prayed unto her: so she, never lacking for all good counsel, calls to her her casket-bearing may, (1) the daughter of Hrimnir the giant, and sets an apple in her hand, and bids her bring it to the king. She took the apple, and did on her the gear of a crow, and went flying till she came whereas the king sat on a mound, and there she let the apple fall into the lap of the king; but he took the apple and deemed he knew whereto it would avail; so he goes home from the mound to his own folk, and came to the queen, and some deal of that apple she ate.
So, as the tale tells, the queen soon knew that she big with child, but a long time wore or ever she might give birth to the child: so it befell that the king must needs go to the wars, after the custom of kings, that he may keep his own land in peace: and in this journey it came to pass that Rerir fell sick and got his death, being minded to go home to Odin, a thing much desired of many folk in those days.
Now no otherwise it goes with the queen's sickness than heretofore, nor may she be the lighter of her child, and six winters wore away with the sickness still heavy on her; so that at the last she feels that she may not live long; wherefore now she bade cut the child from out of her; and it was done even as she bade; a man-child was it, and great of growth from his birth, as might well be; and they say that the youngling kissed his mother or ever she died; but to him is a name given, and he is called Volsung; and he was king over Hunland in the room of his father. From his early years he was big and strong, and full of daring in all manly deeds and trials, and he became the greatest of warriors, and of good hap in all the battles of his warfaring.
Gilgamesh spoke to Utanapishtim, the Faraway: "I have been looking at you, but your appearance is not strange-- you are like me! You yourself are not different- you are like me! My mind was resolved to fight with you, but instead my arm lies useless over you. Tell me, how is it that you stand in the Assembly of the Gods, and have found life?"
Utanapishtim spoke to Gilgamesh, saying: "I will reveal to you, Gilgamesh, a thing that is hidden, a secret of the gods I will tell you! Shuruppak, a city that you surely know, situated on the banks of the Euphrates, that city was very old, and there were gods inside it. The heards of the Great Gods moved them to inflict the Flood. Their father Anu uttered the oath of secrecy, valiant Enlil was their adviser, Ninurta was their chamberlain, Ennugi was their minister of canals.
Ea, the clever prince, was under oath with them so he repeated their talk to the reed house: 'Reed house, reed house! Wall, wall! O man of Shuruppak, son of Ubartutu: Tear down the house and build a boat! Abandon your wealth and seek living beings! Spurn possessions and keep alive living beings! Make all living beings go up into the boat. The boat which you are to build, its dimensions must measure equal to each other: its length must correspond to its width. Roof it over like the Apsu. I understood and spoke to my lord, Ea: 'My lord, thus is the command which you have uttered I will heed and will do it. But what shall I answer the city, the populace, the Elders?'
Ea spoke, commanding me, his servant: 'You, well then, this is what you must say to them: "It appears that Enlil is rejecting me so I cannot reside in your city, nor set foot on Enlil's earth. I will go down to the Apsu to live with my lord, Ea, and upon you he will rain down abundance, a profusion of fowl, myriad fishes. He will bring to you a harvest of wealth, in the morning he will let loaves of bread shower down, and in the evening a rain of wheat!"'
Just as dawn began to glow the land assembled around me- the carpenter carried his hatchet, the reed worker carried his flattening stone, the child carried the pitch, the weak brought whatever else was needed. On the fifth day I laid out her exterior. It was a field in area, its walls were each 10 times 12 cubits in height, the sides of its top were of equal length, 10 times It cubits each. I laid out its interior structure and drew a picture of it. I provided it with six decks, thus dividing it into seven levels. The inside of it I divided into nine compartments. I drove plugs to keep out water in its middle part. I saw to the punting poles and laid in what was necessary. Three times 3,600 units of raw bitumen I poured into the bitumen kiln, there were three times 3,600 porters of casks who carried vegetable oil, apart from the 3,600 units of oil which they consumed and two times 3,600 units of oil which the boatman stored away. I butchered oxen for the meat, and day upon day I slaughtered sheep. I gave the workmen ale, beer, oil, and wine, as if it were river water, so they could make a party like the New Year's Festival. I set my hand to the oiling. The boat was finished by sunset. The launching was very difficult. They had to keep carrying a runway of poles front to back, until two-thirds of it had gone into the water. Whatever I had I loaded on it: whatever silver I had I loaded on it, whatever gold I had I loaded on it. All the living beings that I had I loaded on it, I had all my kith and kin go up into the boat, all the beasts and animals of the field and the craftsmen I had go up.
Shamash had set a stated time: 'In the morning I will let loaves of bread shower down, and in the evening a rain of wheat! Go inside the boat, seal the entry!' That stated time had arrived. In the morning he let loaves of bread shower down, and in the evening a rain of wheat. I watched the appearance of the weather-- the weather was frightful to behold! I went into the boat and sealed the entry. For the caulking of the boat, to Puzuramurri, the boatman, I gave the palace together with its contents. Just as dawn began to glow there arose from the horizon a black cloud. Adad rumbled inside of it, before him went Shullat and Hanish, heralds going over mountain and land. Erragal pulled out the mooring poles, forth went Ninurta and made the dikes overflow. The Anunnaki lifted up the torches, setting the land ablaze with their flare. Stunned shock over Adad's deeds overtook the heavens, and turned to blackness all that had been light. The land shattered like a pot. All day long the South Wind blew, blowing fast, submerging the mountain in water, overwhelming the people like an attack. No one could see his fellow, they could not recognize each other in the torrent. The gods were frightened by the Flood, and retreated, ascending to the heaven of Anu. The gods were cowering like dogs, crouching by the outer wall.
The man for wisdom's various arts renown'd, Long exercised in woes, O Muse! resound; Who, when his arms had wrought the destined fall Of sacred Troy, and razed her heaven-built wall, Wandering from clime to clime, observant stray'd, Their manners noted, and their states survey'd, On stormy seas unnumber'd toils he bore, Safe with his friends to gain his natal shore: Vain toils! their impious folly dared to prey On herds devoted to the god of day; The god vindictive doom'd them never more (Ah, men unbless'd!) to touch that natal shore. Oh, snatch some portion of these acts from fate, Celestial Muse! and to our world relate.
Now at their native realms the Greeks arrived; All who the wars of ten long years survived; And 'scaped the perils of the gulfy main. Ulysses, sole of all the victor train, An exile from his dear paternal coast, Deplored his absent queen and empire lost. Calypso in her caves constrain'd his stay, With sweet, reluctant, amorous delay; In vain-for now the circling years disclose The day predestined to reward his woes. At length his Ithaca is given by fate, Where yet new labours his arrival wait; At length their rage the hostile powers restrain, All but the ruthless monarch of the main. But now the god, remote, a heavenly guest, In AEthiopia graced the genial feast (A race divided, whom with sloping rays The rising and descending sun surveys); There on the world's extremest verge revered With hecatombs and prayer in pomp preferr'd, Distant he lay: while in the bright abodes Of high Olympus, Jove convened the gods: The assembly thus the sire supreme address'd, AEgysthus' fate revolving in his breast, Whom young Orestes to the dreary coast Of Pluto sent, a blood-polluted ghost.
"Perverse mankind! whose wills, created free, Charge all their woes on absolute degree; All to the dooming gods their guilt translate, And follies are miscall'd the crimes of fate. When to his lust AEgysthus gave the rein, Did fate, or we, the adulterous act constrain? Did fate, or we, when great Atrides died, Urge the bold traitor to the regicide? Hermes I sent, while yet his soul remain'd Sincere from royal blood, and faith profaned; To warn the wretch, that young Orestes, grown To manly years, should re-assert the throne. Yet, impotent of mind, and uncontroll'd, He plunged into the gulf which Heaven foretold."
Here paused the god; and pensive thus replies Minerva, graceful with her azure eyes:
"O thou! from whom the whole creation springs, The source of power on earth derived to kings! His death was equal to the direful deed; So may the man of blood be doomed to bleed! But grief and rage alternate wound my breast For brave Ulysses, still by fate oppress'd. Amidst an isle, around whose rocky shore The forests murmur, and the surges roar, The blameless hero from his wish'd-for home A goddess guards in her enchanted dome; (Atlas her sire, to whose far-piercing eye The wonders of the deep expanded lie; The eternal columns which on earth he rears End in the starry vault, and prop the spheres). By his fair daughter is the chief confined, Who soothes to dear delight his anxious mind; Successless all her soft caresses prove, To banish from his breast his country's love; To see the smoke from his loved palace rise, While the dear isle in distant prospect lies, With what contentment could he close his eyes! And will Omnipotence neglect to save The suffering virtue of the wise and brave? Must he, whose altars on the Phrygian shore With frequent rites, and pure, avow'd thy power, Be doom'd the worst of human ills to prove, Unbless'd, abandon'd to the wrath of Jove?"