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Unread 10-18-2020, 08:15 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Default Rilke, The Stranger

The Stranger (revised)
by Rainer Maria Rilke

Careless of what those closest to him thought,
and tired of being questioned anymore,
he went away again; having left, having lost—.
Because to him such travel nights were dear

in different ways than every night of love.
He’d stayed awake through many nights of wonder
that, covered with the blazing stars above,
bent the narrow distances asunder
and, like a battle, kept on changing; others,

with little hamlets scattered all about
to the moon, surrendered as if holding out
their plunder, or through closely tended grounds
revealed their elegant gray mansions, where
he gladly dwelt awhile, with head bowed down,
residing for a moment, knowing more
profoundly that there’s nowhere that one stays;
he saw already, at the nearest bend,
roads again and bridges, other lands
stretching to towns where one gets carried away.

And always to let go of all of this,
not craving it, seemed more to him than his
life’s pleasure, property, renown.
Although from time to time, in foreign squares,
a well-stone’s hollow, carved by daily wear,
became like a possession of his own.


Revisions:
S4L6 was "to him became like something that he owned."


The Stranger
by Rainer Maria Rilke

Careless of what those closest to him thought,
and tired of being questioned anymore,
he went away again; having left, having lost—.
Because to him such travel nights were dear

in different ways than every night of love.
He’d stayed awake through many nights of wonder,
which, covered with the blazing stars above,
bent the narrow distances asunder
and kept on changing, like a battle; other

nights, with hamlets scattered all about
to the moon, surrendered as if holding out
their plunder, or through closely tended grounds
revealed their elegant gray mansions, where
he gladly dwelt awhile, with head bowed down,
residing for a moment, knowing more
profoundly that there’s nowhere one remains;
he saw already, at the nearest bend,
roads again and bridges, other lands
stretching to towns the mind has overblown.

And always to let go of all of this,
not craving it, seemed more to him than his
life’s pleasure, property, renown.
Although from time to time, in foreign squares,
a well-stone’s hollow, carved by daily wear,
to him became like something that he owned.


Revisions:
S1L3 was "he went away again, forsook, forgot—."
S2L1 "every" was "any"
S3L1-2 was "nights, with hamlets scattered all about / in moonlight, yielded as if holding out"
S3L4 was "revealed their gray ancestral mansions, where"


Der Fremde

Ohne Sorgfalt, was die Nächsten dächten,
die er müde nichtmehr fragen hieß,
ging er wieder fort; verlor, verließ -.
Denn er hing an solchen Reisenächten

anders als an jeder Liebesnacht.
Wunderbare hatte er durchwacht,
die mit starken Sternen überzogen
enge Fernen auseinanderbogen
und sich wandelten wie eine Schlacht;

andre, die mit in den Mond gestreuten
Dörfern, wie mit hingehaltnen Beuten,
sich ergaben, oder durch geschonte
Parke graue Edelsitze zeigten,
die er gerne in dem hingeneigten
Haupte einen Augenblick bewohnte,
tiefer wissend, dass man nirgends bleibt;
und schon sah er bei dem nächsten Biegen
wieder Wege, Brücken, Länder liegen
bis an Städte, die man übertreibt.

Und dies alles immer unbegehrend
hinzulassen, schien ihm mehr als seines
Lebens Lust, Besitz und Ruhm.
Doch auf fremden Plätzen war ihm eines
täglich ausgetretnen Brunnensteines
Mulde manchmal wie ein Eigentum.


Literal translation:
The Stranger

Without caring what those nearest him thought,
whom he tiredly meant to ask him no longer,
he went away again; having lost, having left—.
Because he clung to such nights of travel

differently than to each night of love.
He had stayed awake through wonderful ones,
which, covered with intense stars,
bent apart narrow distances
and kept changing, like a battle;

other ones that, with villages scattered
to the moon, surrendered as if with
held-out plunder, or through well-tended
grounds revealed gray mansions,
in which he gladly, with bowed
head, resided for a moment,
knowing more deeply that one stays nowhere;
and already he saw, at the next bend,
roads again, bridges, lands stretching
on toward cities where one gets carried away.

And constantly to let go of all this, undesiring,
seemed to him more than his
life’s pleasure, possessions, and fame.
But in foreign squares the hollow
of a well-stone worn away by daily use
was at times to him like something he owned.

Last edited by Susan McLean; 11-16-2020 at 10:28 PM.
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  #2  
Unread 11-12-2020, 11:47 PM
Martin Rocek's Avatar
Martin Rocek Martin Rocek is offline
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Hi Susan,
I checked with my wife--Rilke is difficult even for native speakers! She has a few corrections to your crib:
Instead of
he went away again, let go, forsook—.
She says a more accurate translations is:
he went away again; having lost, having left—.
(I'm not sure why you lost the semi-colon).
Instead of any night of love., she says it really should be
each night of love.
She cannot find any justification for "moonlight"; even though she doesn't understand the meaning, she says it should be
others, with villages scattered into the moon
Your reading of course makes more sense, but that doesn't seem to be what Rilke had in mind.
She says that "Edelsitze" cannot mean ancient seats, but must mean luxurious seats.
She also says that " übertreibt." cannot mean "overestimates", but rather "overdoes". Perhaps Rilke thinks of towns are places where one drinks too much, goes out on the town? It is an odd passage.
Finally, at the end, it is
like something he owned.

In fact your translation often corrects the crib, e.g., in the ending. I would reconsider the ancient mansions and the overblown cities--they seem to deviate a fair bit from Rilke's intent.

Otherwise, your translation reads very well. I compared it to Len Krisak's--and though his has some nice touches, I think in particular his ending is too far from the original--you do better.

Thanks for the read, and I hope that these comments are some use. I will try to get my wife to go over a few more of the cribs; she is not a huge Rilke fan, I am afraid!
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Unread 11-16-2020, 03:01 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Thanks for the suggestions your wife made, Martin. I really appreciate the perspective of a native speaker for trying to choose among several options that a dictionary offers. I was particularly puzzled by the phrase "into the moon," but her comment made me notice that there is an idiom of "living in the moon" that means being behind the times. I think we might say "living in the middle of nowhere." I am still a bit unsure of "die man übertreibt," which various sources have translated as "that one exaggerates," "which the mind magnifies," "that one overdoes."

Susan
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Unread 11-16-2020, 08:49 PM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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I've been circling this for weeks, trying to come up with something helpful to say, other than the obvious: that it's clearly a self-portrait of Rilke. I was happy to see Martin's wife's input, and glad that helped you, Susan.

All I've got to offer is that at the end, you might get a closer rhyme, and a slightly more emphatic contrast with the protagonist's previous lack of attachment, with:

     to him became like something of his own.
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  #5  
Unread 11-16-2020, 10:25 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Thanks, Julie, you have inspired me to rewrite that last line. I agree that this poem seems a self-portrait of Rilke, but I think that many of his other poems are also self-portraits in more subtle ways.

Susan
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