The Secret Garden

*AC85 B9345 911s, Houghton Library, Harvard University

Hi everyone,

I translated this passage from “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett a few days ago and thought it presented a few interesting problems that are worth thinking about, especially in an exam context.

The major problem to overcome in the first paragraph is the tense. In particular, I struggled with the ‘if clause’ towards the end: what tenses would you use to express this habitual action but that is a consequence of a habitual condition?

There are also quite a few idiomatic and figurative expressions that are worth a look. How could you render these in exam conditions? Is there a way to describe around them? I’ve highlighted them in bold in the text below.

The final issue is translating culturally bound concepts like “porridge” in the last paragraph. How far do you think something like this should be domesticated? Is “il porridge” an appropriate translation, or should you somehow expand it to describe it, perhaps in a foot note?


“At first each day which passed by for Mary Lennox was exactly like the others. Every morning she awoke in her tapestried room and found Martha kneeling upon the hearth building her fire; every morning she ate her breakfast in the nursery which had nothing amusing in it; and after each breakfast she gazed out of the window across to the huge moor which seemed to spread out on all sides and climb up to the sky, and after she had stared for a while she realized that if she did not go out she would have to stay in and do nothing—and so she went out. 

She did not know that this was the best thing she could have done, and she did not know that, when she began to walk quickly or even run along the paths and down the avenue, she was stirring her slow blood and making herself stronger by fighting with the wind which swept down from the moor. She ran only to make herself warm, and she hated the wind which rushed at her face and roared and held her back as if it were some giant she could not see. But the big breaths of rough fresh air blown over the heather filled her lungs with something which was good for her whole thin body and whipped some red color into her cheeks and brightened her dull eyes when she did not know anything about it.

But after a few days spent almost entirely out of doors she wakened one morning knowing what it was to be hungry, and when she sat down to her breakfast she did not glance disdainfully at her porridge and push it away, but took up her spoon and began to eat it and went on eating it until her bowl was empty.”

Frances Hodgson Burnett “The Secret Garden”

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