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Unread 11-17-2019, 10:11 AM
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Spindleshanks Spindleshanks is offline
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Default Heine: Ich tanz nicht mit, ich räuchre nicht den Klötzen

This was my first attempt at Heine's Fresco Sonnets and was posted for critique soon after my initial venture into the Translation Forum, way back when Adam Elgar served as Moderator and the forum was abuzz with activity. In my 5 year hiatus, I've done nothing with it or any other translation, but have returned to it recently and revised.

Ich tanz nicht mit, ich räuchre nicht den Klötzen

Revision 2

I do not dance in mindless veneration
of gilded idols filled inside with sand;
I do not strike the boy with outstretched hand
who secretly would shred my reputation.

I do not greet cute strumpets whose profession
is shamelessly paraded to their shame;
I do not throng with rabble who acclaim
vain gods borne by in jubilant procession.

I know well, while the proud oak tree withstanding
the violent storm succumbs, the humble bending
bamboo beside the brook rebounds again.
But, ha! how truly lucky is that cane?
The walking stick that serves the dandy’s posture
serves also as the bootblack’s clothing duster.



Revision 1

I do not dance in mindless veneration
with those who offer smoke to gilded sand;
nor strike the tyke who offers me his hand,
yet covertly defames my reputation.

I do not greet cute strumpets whose profession
is shamelessly paraded to their shame;
nor rally with the rabble who acclaim
vain gods conveyed in triumphal procession.

I know well, while the proud oak tree withstanding
the violent storm succumbs, the humble bending
bamboo beside the brook rebounds again.
But, ha! how truly lucky is that cane?
The walking stick that serves the dandy’s posture
serves also as the bootblack’s clothing duster.

Translation

I do not dance in mindless veneration
with those who offer smoke to gilded sand;
nor deal with bubs who shake me by the hand,
yet covertly besmirch my reputation.

I do not greet those strumpets whose profession
is shamelessly paraded to their shame;
nor do I join the rabble who acclaim
vain gods conveyed in jubilant procession.

I know well, while the proud oak tree withstanding
the violent storm succumbs, the humble bending
bamboo beside the brook rebounds again.
But, ha! how truly lucky is that cane?
The swagger stick that serves the dandy’s posture
serves also as the bootblack’s leather duster.


Original:

Ich tanz nicht mit, ich räuchre nicht den Klötzen,
Die außen goldig sind, inwendig Sand;
Ich schlag nicht ein, reicht mir ein Bub die Hand,
Der heimlich will den Namen mir zerfetzen.

Ich beug mich nicht vor jenen hübschen Metzen,
Die schamlos prunken mit der eignen Schand;
Ich zieh nicht mit, wenn sich der Pöbel spannt
Vor Siegeswagen seiner eiteln Götzen.

Ich weiß es wohl, die Eiche muß erliegen,
Derweil das Rohr am Bach, durch schwankes Biegen,
In Wind und Wetter stehn bleibt, nach wie vor.
Doch sprich, wie weit bringts wohl am End solch Rohr?
Welch Glück! als ein Spazierstock dients dem Stutzer,
Als Kleiderklopfer dients dem Stiefelputzer.


Crib:

I do not dance, I do not offer smoke to the logs,
The outside are golden, inside sand;
I do not strike, a boy reaches me a hand,
He secretly wants to tear the name to shreds.

I do not bow down to those pretty strumpets,
The shamelessly flaunt to their own shame;
I do not go with it when the mob is stretched
Before the victory carriage of his vain idols.

I know well, the oak must succumb,
Meanwhile, the tube by the brook, by bending,
In wind and weather it remains, as before.
But tell me, how far does the tube end up?
What luck! as a walking stick serves the dandy
As clothes beater serves the boot cleaner.

oOOo

Last edited by Spindleshanks; 11-20-2019 at 10:30 AM.
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Unread 11-17-2019, 04:43 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Peter, I am having trouble following the literal meaning of this poem in your translation, especially in some parts of it. I get the overall gist of the poem, but the idioms are opaque to me. When Heine says he does not dance, I am assuming he means he does not dance attendance on important people. But when he says that that he does not smoke the logs, all that I can figure is that logs are smoking already and don't need smoke from others (I would assume that this is a metaphor for buttering up important blockheads). However, smoking gilded sand sounds nonsensical to me. Perhaps he is implying that the blockheads look golden on the outside, but are actually filled with sand (i.e., dummies). I am not sure what you mean by "bub." I think it can mean boy or rogue. I don't think you should omit the "I do not strike" because he is implying that the person who is shaking his hand would gladly tear his name to tatters. But he doesn't strike the ill-wisher. I was sorry to see you lose the "pretty" before "strumpets" and the bowing to them, which was the way a gentleman would greet a woman who is not a strumpet. I think he is saying that he does not pull the victory car of the vain idols that the mob bows down to. He may be referring to the triumphal chariot of rulers, to religious processions, or even to something like the famous juggernauts of India, that worshipers supposedly threw themselves under. Bamboo sounds a bit out of place here. Probably a reed or cane would work better. I am guessing that the bootblack may be beating the dust out of clothing, not leather, but that is a guess. I hope some of this is helpful.

Susan
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Unread 11-18-2019, 08:15 AM
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Spindleshanks Spindleshanks is offline
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Thanks, Susan, for your observations.
My original posting way back when aroused interesting discussion on the opening line, centering on the translation of "räuchre." In understanding Heine here, it helps to recognise Heine's evident concept behind the "Fresko-sonette" series. Fresco, a painting technique used as a medium for religious murals, became the term to describe the murals themselves. Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam provides an example. The nine sonnets forming the series are addressed to Christian Sethe, Heine's close friend during his formative years. I think it's likely Heine was here presenting his sonnets as a series of word murals that depicted scenes of religious, ethical, moral and romantic experience and conflict. (Whether he was influenced by the given name of his Gentile friend and was engaging in a little word play following some sort of Pilgrim's Progress theme through the series is open to conjecture, but given his penchant for word play and wit, the possibility exists.) That helps to support räuchre as ritual smoke such as in the burning of incense to my mind, in line with the "fresco" motif appearing in different ways through the series. The "gilded sand" refers to golden idols or altars. Leland has "I dance not with, I worship not, that rabble Who are all gold without, within all sand."
I've made some revisions in accord with your suggestions, but have chosen to stay with "greet" because it matches the sense of "bow to" and suits the scansion; I'll stay with "bamboo" because it's a tubular cane; and, though "ziehen" may be translated as "draw" or "pull," "move" has equal weight and is the favoured definition by translation sources in the context of the sentence.

Peter

Last edited by Spindleshanks; 11-18-2019 at 09:46 AM.
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Unread 11-19-2019, 07:34 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Peter, I think a translator's first duty is to make sense, and that "offer smoke to gilded sand" is not going to make sense to most readers. No one gilds sand. If you mean the smoke to represent incense or burnt offerings, you probably need to make that clearer. If you mean gilded idols full of sand, I think you need to spell that out more.

Susan
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Unread 11-19-2019, 10:15 AM
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Spindleshanks Spindleshanks is offline
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I've revised again to address your concerns, Susan, along with some further tweaks to reflect more closely the original. I see the offering of smoke as simply representing a ritual of worship offered to idols that Heine derogatorily refers to as "logs" or "blocks," and covered by "mindless veneration" in my translation. Best I can do within the boundaries of space.

Thanks again for pushing me.

Peter
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Unread 11-19-2019, 04:35 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Peter, it is more intelligible now. I would suggest that "tyke" implies a small child, and that Heine is probably talking about a teen, at least. It is hard to picture a small child setting out to ruin one's reputation.

Susan
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Unread 11-20-2019, 10:37 AM
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Spindleshanks Spindleshanks is offline
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Susan, I used "tyke" in the defined sense of the dated "a crude uncouth ill-bred person lacking culture or refinement," but on reflection, I think it best to stay with Heine's non-pejorative "boy" and allow the context to reveal the boy's nature. I've revised accordingly.

Peter
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