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Unread 05-24-2019, 02:39 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Default Rilke, Leda

Leda
by Rainer Maria Rilke

When entering it, the god in his great need
was almost shocked to find the swan so fair;
wholly confused, he slipped inside it there.
But his deception bore him toward the deed

before he’d put its senses to the test,
this untried being. And the opened one
knew who was truly arriving in the swan,
and understood. The god had one behest,

which she had no more power to withstand,
confused in her resistance. He came down
and, nosing past the ever-weaker hand,

released himself in the beloved one.
Then only, in her lap, he thrilled to feel
his feathers, and became a swan for real.


Revisions:
S1L3 was "he slipped inside, his senses all a blur."
S2L1 "senses" was "feelings"
S2L3 "truly" was "really"
S3L3 "nosing" was "nudging"


Leda

Als ihn der Gott in seiner Not betrat,
erschrak er fast, den Schwan so schön zufinden;
er ließ sich ganz verwirrt in ihm verschwinden.
Schon aber trug ihn sein Betrug zur Tat,

bevor er noch des unerprobten Seins
Gefühle prüfte. Und die Aufgetane
erkannte schon den Kommenden im Schwane
und wusste schon: er bat um Eins,

das sie, verwirrt in ihrem Widerstand,
nicht mehr verbergen konnte. Er kam nieder
und halsend durch die immer schwächere Hand

ließ sich der Gott in die Geliebte los.
Dann erst empfand er glücklich sein Gefieder
und wurde wirklich Schwan in ihrem Schoß.


Literal translation:
Leda

When the god in his need entered it,
he was almost shocked to find the swan so beautiful;
he slipped himself into it wholly confused.
But his deception already bore him toward the deed,

before he yet had tested the untried being’s
senses. And the opened one
already knew who was coming in the swan
and already understood: he asked for one thing,

which she, confused in her resistance,
could withhold no more. He came down
and, nudging past the ever-weaker hand,

the god released himself in the beloved.
Then only did he feel his feathers with delight
and became a real swan in her lap.

Last edited by Susan McLean; 05-28-2019 at 10:32 AM.
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Unread 05-24-2019, 05:32 PM
Julie Steiner's Avatar
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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The subject matter is hard for me to read, but you've rendered it beautifully. (Then again, that beauty is part of why it's hard for me to read.) The proportion of perfect and near-rhymes works for me.

I would encourage you to try to capture the repetition of verwirrt, "confused." It seems significant that Rilke uses the same word for both Zeus and Leda. I also wonder about "feelings" in L5, which for me has more emotional than sensory connotations, and in the context of rape that seems slightly out of tune. Rapists generally don't give a damn about anyone else's feelings.

Of course, this particular portrayal is portrayed as more of a seduction, even if Leda has no real choice, and the theological implications of non-consent and submission are more metaphorical than with human rapes, anyway. Generally in Greco-Roman mythology it's deadly hubris to defy a god. But it's still hard for me to read.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 05-24-2019 at 05:44 PM.
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Unread 05-25-2019, 10:15 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Julie, I have taken your suggestions for repeating "confused" and changing "feelings" to "senses." Thanks. I find the content disturbing, too, as I do when I read Yeats's version of the same myth.

Susan
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Unread 05-28-2019, 12:17 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
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Hi Susan,

I think you've done your usual fine job with the German. Glad you repeated "confused" for verwirrt; there is a bit of repetition structuring this piece. You have a clause I find somewhat flat: "And the opened one / knew who was really arriving in the swan;" I wonder if this could be more poetic - maybe "truly"? And the closing halsend I think deserves a pun in English: "necking"?
I don't like either this poem or the Yeats, frankly. But that's hardly your fault.

Cheers,
John
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Unread 05-28-2019, 07:50 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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John, thanks for your suggestions. I have adopted "truly" for "really," but "necking" has a better known meaning that in the context would be confusing, so I would rather go with something clearer, such as "nudging" or "nosing."

Susan
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Unread 05-28-2019, 09:41 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
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Hi Susan,

Glad to be of help!
I like "nosing" in that case, since it still suggests the swan's long arching neck and gives it agency, like halsend. "Nudging" doesn't really, it seems to me.

Cheers,
John
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Unread 05-28-2019, 10:33 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Thanks, John. I have decided to go with "nosing."

Susan
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