Beyond ‘word-for-word’: Gruffudd Bola and Robert Gwyn on translating into Welsh


  • Erich Poppe Philipps-Universität Marburg


The paper compares and contextualizes the comments of Gruffudd Bola (fl. 1270/1280) and Robert Gwyn (c. 1545–c. 1597/1603) on their strategies of translating (quotations from) authoritative religious texts. In the introductory section of his translation of the Athanasian Creed, which he produced for Efa ferch Maredudd, Gruffudd Bola employs the topos of ‘(sometimes) word-for-word’ versus ‘(sometimes) sense-by-sense’ to explain and justify his approach whenever the structural demands of the target language render a literal translation impossible. About three hundred years later, Robert Gwyn, the recusant author of Y Drych Kristnogawl (‘The Christian Mirror’, c. 1583/1584), argues that in the devotional- didactic genre the translations of quotations from authoritative religious texts such as the Bible need to be adapted to his audience’s level of understanding. He thus subordinates fidelity on the literal level to the demands of comprehensibility. Both authors insist on the priority of successful communication, but approach the translator’s dilemma in different frameworks.