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  #1  
Unread 11-01-2019, 02:03 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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Default Rilke, The Lunatics

The Lunatics (revised)
by Rainer Maria Rilke

They do not speak, because within their heads
the separating walls are taken down,
and hours when they might be understood
arise awhile and then move on.

Often at night, when at the windowsill,
at once they feel completely well.
Their hands are resting on what’s really there,
their hearts are high and capable of prayer,
and their eyes are gazing out, relaxed and still,

on the unhoped-for, frequently defaced
garden in the courtyard’s calmed-down square,
which, in reflection of the worlds elsewhere,
is always growing and does not get lost.


Revisions:
S3L2-3 was "garden in the square, now pacified, / which, in reflection of the worlds outside," then S3L2 was "garden in the now untroubled square," then changed "peaceful" to "calmed-down."


The Lunatics
by Rainer Maria Rilke

They do not speak, because within their heads
the separating walls are taken down,
and hours when they might be understood
arise awhile and then move on.

Often at night, when at the window, they
suddenly feel that all is well.
Their hands are resting on what’s tangible,
their hearts are elevated and could pray,
and their eyes are gazing out, peaceful and still,

on the unhoped-for, frequently defaced
garden in the now untroubled square,
which, in reflection of the worlds out there,
is always growing and does not get lost.


Die Irren

Und sie schweigen, weil die Scheidewände
weggenommen sind aus ihrem Sinn,
und die Stunden, da man sie verstände,
heben an und gehen hin.

Nächtens oft, wenn sie ans Fenster treten:
plötzlich ist es alles gut.
Ihre Hände liegen im Konkreten,
und das Herz ist hoch und könnte beten,
und die Augen schauen ausgeruht

auf den unverhofften, oftentstellten
Garten im beruhigten Geviert,
der im Widerschein der fremden Welten
weiterwächst und niemals sich verliert.


Literal translation:
The Lunatics

And they say nothing, because the partitions
have been taken away inside their minds,
and the hours in which one might understand them
rise up and go away.

Often at night, when they go to the window,
suddenly all is well.
Their hands lie in the tangible,
and their hearts are high and could pray,
and their eyes gaze peacefully

on the unhoped-for, often marred
garden in the calmed-down courtyard,
which in reflection of the outside worlds
keeps growing and never becomes lost.

Last edited by Susan McLean; 11-04-2019 at 06:00 AM.
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  #2  
Unread 11-01-2019, 02:18 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Susan,

I've got no nits to speak of in your rendering of the semantics. Nice work! But OTOH, I don't quite hear Rilke's music in your English as it stands. Generally I do in your versions, so I miss it here.
Quite a nice poem.

Cheers,
John
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  #3  
Unread 11-01-2019, 06:08 PM
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Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
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Rilke has rather good psychology here. “Decompensation” is one type of clinical grad psych chat for a condition when the mind proper or self is unable to maintain independence from outside impressions and internal thrusts. I should review what I’ve forgotten about his experiences with the founders of, or readings in, early psychiatry. It’s a plausible metaphor and so is his image of inadequate walls. Not all “lunatics” are quiet. I should review Rilke’s life so I can decide how much of this, if any, comes from his personal insight, but I’m busy and won’t. “Tangible” is a good translation for “Konkreten.” On the other hand, Samuel Johnson refuted Bishop Berkeley’s airy philosophy (not bad, by the way) by kicking a stone, which was about as concrete as anyone might like. I like this.
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Unread 11-03-2019, 03:13 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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I have posted an alternate version, trying to make it sound more lyrical, though there are pros and cons to the changes. Let me know whether you feel the changes are improvements or not.

Susan
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Unread 11-03-2019, 04:12 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Susan,

Just to be tricky (or obnoxious); I pretty entirely prefer your new S2 - I like it quite a bit - but then think I prefer the old S3. I like windowsill and capable of prayer - nice. Tangible and what's out there I like about equally. But I also prefer "the now untroubled square" to "the square, now pacified," by I think a fairly wide margin. It's hard to revise the one without the other, I know, but anyway, this is where I'm at. My 2c for you.

Cheers,
John
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Unread 11-03-2019, 10:46 AM
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Spindleshanks Spindleshanks is offline
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Susan, I've been pondering this for a while. It's nicely formed, but I have difficulty with some of the word choices.

Some suggestions to perhaps consider:
S1/L3, "periods" for "hours"
S2, stay with the first version, but substitute "what they can feel" for "what's tangible"
S3, Replace "unhoped for" with the more logical "unexpected;" Tinker with the stanza's rhymes and sequence to replace "get lost" with "disappear."

FWIW

Best,
Peter
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Unread 11-03-2019, 11:08 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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John, I have tried a different version of S3L2-3.

Susan
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Unread 11-03-2019, 11:37 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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Peter, we cross-posted. In S1L3 "hours" is pretty literal for "Stunden," and the word fits better in my line than "periods" would. I think Rilke implies that those hours often happen at night, when there is no one to witness them. I had problems with the first version of S2, so I probably won't return to it, but I will keep your preference in mind. In S3, the garden is "unhoped-for" because the lunatics have no hope and because it is counter-intuitive to keep planting a garden when it is frequently defaced. I prefer keeping that ambiguity to going with the more straightforward "unexpected." And the garden, which does not get lost, is being contrasted with the lunatics, who do. "Disappear" will not work in this context.

Susan
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Unread 11-03-2019, 12:22 PM
Clive Watkins Clive Watkins is offline
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Dear Susan

Intermittently I’ve been watching the growth of this interesting version. I have three observations to offer, which I hope are helpful. They concern details in the last five lines. Here is the German:

und die Augen schauen ausgeruht

auf den unverhofften, oftentstellten
Garten im beruhigten Geviert,
der im Widerschein der fremden Welten
weiterwächst und niemals sich verliert.

I am not persuaded by your rendering of “oftentstellten”. To my mind, “entstellen” in this context probably means something like “distorted” or “twisted out of true”, though I concede that in other contexts it might indeed be rendered as “scarred”, or “defaced” (your choice here) – though not, I think, “vandalized” (as your literal version has it: for “vandalized”, it would probably be “beschädigt” that would occur to me).

I wonder if “Geviert” corresponds to the “Hof” in this poem’s partner, “Irre im Garten”, which immediately precedes it in the collection, and that it refers, as in “Irre im Garten” “Hof” clearly does, not to a square (which might be taken for a town square, a public space) but to a private courtyard enclosed by the buildings of the asylum (“Noch schließt die aufgegebene Kartause / sich um den Hof” as the first poem has it) and in which, in that poem, the garden beds are to be found which the inmates tend.

I also wonder about “elsewhere” as a rendering of “fremden”. Like its most obvious translation in English, “strange”, “fremd” has a number of possible meanings, but I wonder if the dominant sense in this particular context is closer to “abnormal” rather than “foreign”.

Just some things to ponder… Good luck with this!

Clive
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Unread 11-03-2019, 04:07 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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Clive, thanks for your comments. I have made some adjustments to the literal translation in response to them, and I will try to see if those changes can be reflected in the translation in form. I have translated “Irre im Garten”, and I was working on the assumption that, like it, this poem referred to the former Charterhouse that had become an asylum. So I was picturing a courtyard (I called it a "yard" in my translation of the other poem), but here "square" was the only thing I could work into a rhyme. I may be able to come up with an alternative. I was assuming that the gardens were damaged by the patients, perhaps not intentionally, so "defaced" is probably more accurate than "vandalized." With "fremden," however, the outside worlds may seem strange to the patients inside the asylum, but Rilke seems to imply that people in those other worlds do not get lost, whereas the patients do. So to call those worlds "abnormal" would be misleading, or so I assume.

Susan
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