Antero de Quental was a major Portuguese poet active in the second half of the 19th century. Late last December, I came across a translation of one of his last sonnets into Russian by a highly competent scholar, a classicist by training. Comparing the Russian version with the Portuguese original, I noticed that one Russian line had diverged dramatically from the source.
Soon I realized that it was not the Russian translation but the Wikisource text I was using that had strayed from Quental’s original. The sonnet in question is Solemnia Verba, which can be found on page 119 of this 1886 edition of the poet’s Complete Sonnets. The line in question is Line 11:
E no uso do penar tornado crente…
“In the custom of torment, rendered a believer” or “through habitual pain, transformed into one who has faith,” or, in S. Griswold Morley’s verse translation (1922):
And given faith by pure excess of pain…
The transcribed Wikisource version differs from the 1886 edition (and from the 1890 edition) by just one letter – it inserts an s in penar, as you can see:
E no uso do pensar tornado crente…
“In the practice of thought, rendered a believer,” approximately. Wikisource relies on volunteers to check machine-scanned original texts. This little error (it seems an error to me) – pensar instead of penar – isn’t easy to catch. That’s because the line still makes sense, and even deeper sense, one might argue, with “thought” in place of “pain.”
What’s amazing is that Googling “no uso do pensar tornado crente” brings up so many results. Not just that, but searching Google Books yields a few hits – real printed books from the past, not web pages. Here are some titles: Antero de Quental e a sua morte (1930) by Manuel de Camara; a 1960 issue of Brotéria, a popular monthly published by the Jesuits in Portugal; Ensaios (Essays) by António Sérgio (1972).
Granted, it is a shorter list than the Google Books results produced by searching for “no uso do penar tornado crente.” Curiously, the line was unaltered in an earlier (1946) edition of Sérgio’s Ensaios.