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Professors of English Translation and Literature, Turin University, Italy
The Enemy Within is a wonderful play written by the Irish dramatist Brian Friel. Its main feature is the presence of a lot of colloquialisms, slang, idioms and biblical references.
An extract particularly challenging could be find in Act Two:
COLUMBA: Battle? No. There was no battle because the rats wouldn’t stand for a battle. Ran like the hammers of Jericho down through Monaghan and Cavan and when we cornered them […], if they had half a hundred scamps behind them, that was the height of it.
At first glance I wasn’t sure about the meaning of the ‘hammers of Jericho’ and how they could actually run (unless we were talking about the Pink Floyd song Another brick in the Wall‘s walking hammers!). However, after an extensive search on the web, I figured out that this expression could be used to create emphasis, modelling on the saying to run like hell, which means ‘to run very much’. Also, I found out the slang expression to run like the hammers, which derives from to run like the hammers of hell and means ‘to run hard and fast’.
Last but not least, the ‘hammers of Jericho’ are mainly a biblical reference. According to the Bible, the walls of the city of Jericho fell down when the Israelites marched around the city blowing their trumpets. Coming back to The Enemy Within, the fall of the walls of Jericho could represent a metaphor of the fall of the people who contrasted Columba and his cousin Hugh. For this reason, I have definitely translated as it follows:
COLUMBA: Una battaglia? No. Non c’è stata nessuna battaglia perché quei vermi non avevano il coraggio di combattere. Si sbriciolavano come le mura di Gerico verso Monaghan e Cavan e quando li abbiamo messi con le spalle al muro […], sarebbe stato davvero il massimo se fossero stati inseguiti da una cinquantina di furfanti.