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  #1  
Unread 10-11-2019, 01:04 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Default Rilke, Opium Poppy

Opium Poppy (revised)

Off in the garden blooms the evil slumber,
in which the ones who furtively slipped in
found love of their own images when younger
(willing, open, hollowed-out within)

and dreams, which entered in excited masks,
made tall by tragedy’s raised boots: this all
coagulates inside these topmost flasks
on tender stalks that (when the petals fall,

subsiding after a while, designed to fade)
lift the tightly fastened seed-urns up,
flinging the fraying calyxes aside
that feverishly surround the poppy-cup.

Revisions:
S2L2-3 was "whom tragic drama’s thick-soled boots made tall: /all of this thickens in these topmost flasks"


Opium Poppy

Off in the garden blooms the evil slumber,
in which the ones who furtively slipped in
found love of their reflected selves when younger—
willing, open, hollowed-out within—

and dreams that entered in excited masks
and platform boots that made them very tall:
all this condenses in these topmost flasks
on tender stalks, which (after a long while,

the buds subsiding downward, meant to fade)
lift the tightly fastened seed-urns up,
flinging the fraying calyxes aside
that feverishly surround the poppy-cup.


Schlaf-Mohn

Abseits im Garten blüht der böse Schlaf,
in welchem die, die heimlich eingedrungen,
die Liebe fanden junger Spiegelungen,
die willig waren, offen und konkav,

und Träume, die mit aufgeregten Masken
auftraten, riesiger durch die Kothurne -:
das alles stockt in diesen oben flasken
weichlichen Stengeln, die die Samenurne

(nachdem sie lang, die Knospe abwärts tragend,
zu welken meinten) festverschlossen heben:
gefranste Kelche auseinanderschlagend,
die fieberhaft das Mohngefäß umgeben.


Literal translation:
Opium Poppy

Off in the garden blooms the evil sleep,
in which those who secretly penetrated it
found the love of younger mirror-images
that were willing, open, concave,

and dreams that entered with excited masks,
made taller by the thick-soled boots of tragedy—:
all of this thickens in these topmost flasks
on tender stalks, which (after a long while,

the buds bearing downward, meant to fade)
lift up the seed-urns, tightly closed,
flinging aside the frayed calyxes
that feverishly surround the poppy-cup.

Last edited by Susan McLean; 10-14-2019 at 09:23 AM.
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  #2  
Unread 10-12-2019, 01:22 PM
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Spindleshanks Spindleshanks is online now
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Hi Susan.

From my own limited experience as a novice translator, I admire your perseverance with Rilke. A tough gig.

I'm hesitant to offer some suggestions for improvement, given my novice status, but I'll take the plunge because I will likely benefit from your response to what I see as Rilke's take on the subject.



___________

L1: I think "Away from" is indicated by both translation and context.
L2, 3: "found love of their reflected selves when younger—" The translation seems to allow for the invaders indulging themselves in reflecting upon their youth, rather than seeing a reflected image in some way.
L5: It's notable that a comma follows Traume, separating the clauses and tying the dreams to the reflections rather than the masks.
L6: Kothurne was tricky, but research revealed that it goes beyond platform shoes: it relates to the ancient Athenian tragedies played out on stage, connoting an elevated style of acting. You may know this, but the etymology of the English "cothurnus" was enlightening to me.

FWIW

Best,
Peter

Susan, having slept on it, I've realised that I committed the cardinal sin of presenting a rewrite masquerading as crit, so I've removed it. My apologies for the faux pas. I've edited my comments to reflect some suggested revisions.

Last edited by Spindleshanks; 10-12-2019 at 07:37 PM.
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  #3  
Unread 10-12-2019, 03:59 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Susan,

Elegant as always and a nice poem to read. I have two little nits, which I'll share below:

and platform boots that made them very tall:
all this condenses in these topmost flasks

The first line is IMO a bit weak for Kothurne. Platform boots are today's fashion, whereas Rilke's reference is precise and classical. I'm also not a huge fan of "which made them very tall." In the second line, none of my dictionaries contain flask or flaske, but it's worth noting that it's evidently an adjective here, not a noun, as the lowercase f indicates.

Cheers,
John
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Unread 10-14-2019, 07:32 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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I'm sorry I wasn't able to respond more promptly. I was away and unable to work on revisions. I have now posted a newer version that addresses some of your suggestions.

Peter, I do find the explanations more helpful than a rewrite, because it is not always clear to me why you have made some of the changes (which may be dictated by a need to rhyme, not just by a different interpretation). I do think that the poppy is blooming in a garden, not away from it, but that the speaker is imagining the garden as being elsewhere. I have changed "reflected selves" to "own images." I have restored the comma after "dreams" and have added "tragic drama's" to make it clear that modern platform shoes are not being described. I do not expect most readers to know what a cothurnus is, so I thought the term needed some unpacking. And the overtones of "tragic" also apply to what happens to most opium addicts (though I was tempted to substitute "melodrama's" in order to suggest the over-the-top nature of the fantasy.

John, see my notes to Peter on the cothurnus. Though "flasks" may be supposed to be an adjective, I needed it to be a noun for the rhyme and I did not see a good way to make it an adjective.

Susan
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Unread 10-14-2019, 08:06 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Susan,

I think that’s better. Personally I’d prefer “tragedy” to “tragic drama;” if you went that route, you might try either cothurnus (I can’t track a plural for it, it’s generally singular, as in Rilke) or buskin.

Cheers,
John

Forgot to say: the masks might well be the masks of Greek drama.

Last edited by John Isbell; 10-14-2019 at 08:09 AM.
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  #6  
Unread 10-14-2019, 09:27 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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John, I have tried to use "tragedy" in place of "tragic drama," but I don't like either "cothurnus" or "buskin" as options, because I think most readers won't know either.

Susan
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Unread 10-14-2019, 11:24 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Susan,

I'm glad you like tragedy there. I do think Rilke's readers were largely in the same position as English readers today when it came to a word like Kothurne, and there is a risk of over-explaining what Rilke chose not to explain for them. That's why I like cothurnus or buskin, good words we don't often get to use in English. But I do definitely like your move away from platform boots. All your decision in the end of course.

Cheers,
John
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  #8  
Unread 10-14-2019, 12:25 PM
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Spindleshanks Spindleshanks is online now
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I think the revisions you've made are effective, Susan, though I have a couple of observations for your interest:

I've also translated this and had real trouble with understanding Rilke's intent with "concave" and "cothurnus." I've currently opted for "curvaceous" for "concave," believing perhaps that he was aiming for shape, but it's also possible that he was conveying the image of a distorted shape as the product of a drug-induced dream, and concave might be correct. With cothurnus, I've opted for what the sandals (from the description and illustrations I've sourced, it seems sandals laced up to the knee would be more accurate than boots) came in time to represent, and interpret the line as: "larger than life as Grecian drama gods."

I'm reluctant to post my attempt so close to your own, but would appreciate your observations if you agree to receiving it by pm?

Peter
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Unread 10-14-2019, 01:10 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Peter, I don't mind if you post your translation on a separate thread and workshop it here. I think a cothurnus is usually defined as a boot: an open-toed boot that laces up the front, but only halfway up the calf. It is a lot sturdier than a mere sandal. It was thick-soled to make the actors taller and more impressive-looking. But I don't think Rilke implies that the actors are playing gods necessarily. Most characters in Greek tragedy are important people, but few of the characters are gods. The masks in Greek tragedy are similarly exaggerated, often reflecting a strong emotion. So Rilke seems to be using the theatrical metaphors to suggest that opium makes everything seem larger than life and more intense (but with negative overtones).

I take "concave" to mean just what the word suggests, focusing on an inner emptiness, not an outer voluptuousness. He is casting the younger self-image as feminine and sexually receptive, so that the drug addict is basically embracing himself, but that inner hollowness is also sinister, suggesting what is happening to the addict himself by turning inward instead of outward.

By the way, though people are allowed to post a translation at the same time as they post a regular poem (once a week for each) they are not supposed to post more often than that. That gives them time to get responses and revise each poem before moving on to the next one, but it also ensures that no one overwhelms the board with a lot of translations at once.

Susan
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  #10  
Unread 10-14-2019, 09:34 PM
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Whoops! Thanks for the gentle reminder, Susan. It's a few years since I last posted and I had forgotten that point of posting protocol.
Yes, boot. Closer research confirmed your description. It's back to the drawing board for my Rilke, still a work in progress. I appreciate your help. "Gods" was for the sake of the rhyme with "pods," inferring the status of the players more than their roles, but it needs a rethink.

Peter
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