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  #1  
Unread 01-29-2019, 10:03 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Default Rilke.Black Cat

Black Cat

Even a ghost is like a spot your stare
bumps into with a sound that resonates,
but there, encountering this inky fur,
your strongest gazing will disintegrate,

the way a raging madman, when he’s full
of frenzy, pounding in the night,
in the subduing padding of a cell
suddenly desists and peters out.

All of the glances that have ever met her
she seems to carry on her, under wraps,
so that she later, ominous and bitter,
may pore on them and guard them as she sleeps.
But all at once, as if awakened, she
swivels her face directly toward your own:
you meet your gaze there, unexpectedly
again, within the golden amber stone
of her round eyes, inside of which you’re locked
like a small insect long since gone extinct.

Revisions:
S1L1 "spot" was "place"
S1L3 was "but here, against this pelt of inky fur,"
S2L1-2 was "the way a raging man, when in the thrall / of frenzy, stomps into the night,"
S2L3 was "in the benumbing padding of a cell"
S2L3-4 was "in the subduing padding of a cell, / abruptly he desists and peters out."
S3L1 "met" was "hit"
S3L5 "all at once" was "suddenly"
S3L8 "golden" was "yellow"
S3L10 was "like an insect that long since became extinct."



Schwartze Katze

Ein Gespenst ist noch wie eine Stelle,
dran dein Blick mit einem Klange stößt;
aber da, an diesem schwarzen Felle
wird dein stärkstes Schauen aufgelöst:

wie ein Tobender, wenn er in vollster
Raserei ins Schwarze stampft,
jählings am benehmenden Gepolster
einer Zelle aufhört und verdampft.

Alle Blicke, die sie jemals trafen,
scheint sie also an sich zu verhehlen,
um darüber drohend und verdrossen
zuzuschauern und damit zu schlafen.
Doch auf einmal kehrt sie, wie geweckt,
ihr Gesicht und mitten in das deine:
und da triffst du deinen Blick im geelen
Amber ihrer runden Augensteine
unerwartet wieder: eingeschlossen
wie ein ausgestorbenes Insekt.


Literal translation:
Black Cat

A ghost is still like a place
your glance strikes against with a sound;
but there, at this black fur,
your strongest gaze will dissolve:

as a raging madman, when in fullest
frenzy he stomps off into blackness,
abruptly at the moderating padding
of a cell he ceases and dissipates.

All glances that have ever hit her
she seems to conceal on herself
so that, menacing and sullen,
she can pore over them and sleep with them.
But suddenly she turns, as if awakened,
her face and into the middle of yours:
and there you meet your gaze in the golden
amber of her round eye-stones
unexpectedly again: locked in
like an extinct insect.

Last edited by Susan McLean; 02-04-2019 at 03:25 PM.
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  #2  
Unread 02-02-2019, 01:35 AM
Julie Steiner's Avatar
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Fascinating series of similes.

I had difficulty thinking of a ghost as a "place," but that seems to be what Rilke wrote, so I guess you're stuck with it. I really, really wish it were a "thing," though.

I think S2 needs a bit more work for clarity. Stomping into the night implies literal freedom to me, so it took some puzzling to figure out that the man was stomping forward in some sort of frenzied delirium inside his cell, until he bumped into the padded wall and had to stop. I'm not sure "relieving" really captures what the padded wall is doing, and works on both the literal and figurative level to say something about how one's gaze behaves when encountering the black fur.

In S3, since "hit" is in the same line as "glances," I can't shake the idea of those visual glances being somehow like glancing blows, and bouncing off. But those looks are actually being absorbed, aren't they? Since Rilke repeats "Blick," you might repeat your translated "stare" from S1L1, and get rid of "glances."

I'm also not 100% enthusiastic about "under wraps," which makes me envision literal wraps, hiding things. But maybe it will grow on me.

[Obligatory reference to Vantablack and Black 3.0]


Last edited by Julie Steiner; 02-02-2019 at 01:41 AM.
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  #3  
Unread 02-02-2019, 10:24 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Julie, thanks for your suggestions. I have made a few changes so far and am pondering others. I tried changing "place" to "spot," but the word does not mean "thing." I am a bit puzzled too by S2. I imagine that the man in a rage stomps off into darkness and then is apprehended and put into a padded cell, where he calms down immediately. The word "benehmenden" means "taking away," but exactly what is being taken away is less clear. Is it the rage or the energy? With "relieving" I was leaning toward the former, but "benumbing" tends to suggest the latter. It is hard to find a good English equivalent. In S3 I used "hit her" for the rhyme, but "trafen" can also mean "to meet," so I think I will try "met her" to sound less violent (though one does wonder whether there is a suggestion of violence to explain the sense of grievance on the part of the cat). I currently need a two-syllable word that means "looks" to fit the meter, so I can't just switch to stares. I will think about "under wraps," but that was partly dictated by the need of a rhyme with "sleeps."

Susan
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  #4  
Unread 02-02-2019, 11:51 AM
Martin Rocek's Avatar
Martin Rocek Martin Rocek is offline
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Hi Susan,
this is a really difficult poem; I checked with my wife (a native German speaker), and she suggested some corrections to the crib. For S1

A ghost is still like a place
against which your glance knocks with a sound;
but there, at this black fur
your strongest gaze will dissolve:

S2 is fine. In the rest, she commented:
zuzushauern isn’t an actual word; shauern means shudder or shiver, and zushauer means the audience, so the coinage is unclear; adding zu in front could turn a noun into a verb.

She felt that in S3L6, the “towards” is unjustified, and says “und” must be “and”:

her face and in the middle of yours:

geelen is again not a familiar word; golden is probably a better translation than yellow.

eingeschlossen is “locked in”

The standard rhyming translation that can be found online is here:

https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/black-cat

I hope that the these comments are some use.
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  #5  
Unread 02-02-2019, 11:54 AM
Martin Rocek's Avatar
Martin Rocek Martin Rocek is offline
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Actually, my wife said that "benehmenden" means "behaving", so the padded cell is making the madman behave.
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  #6  
Unread 02-02-2019, 02:53 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Susan,

I think you've done your usual fine work here. My only quibble, to the extent that I have anything to add, is the number of words you've got for this line: "wie ein ausgestorbenes Insekt."

Cheers,
John
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  #7  
Unread 02-02-2019, 03:22 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Martin, I have tried to change the crib in accordance with your wife's suggestions, though there is no way that "behaving" padding can sound natural in English. I was puzzled too by some of the unusual spellings of German words, and wonder whether Rilke had a dialect of German that is nonstandard. I checked the texts I was working from, and those forms do not seem to be typos.

John, am I misreading the number of beats in the last line as five? I am trying to mirror the meter in terms of number of beats, though switching from trochaic to iambic. Sometimes that means I have to fill out the line somewhat, but I try not to add anything that is not implied in the German.

Susan
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  #8  
Unread 02-02-2019, 04:01 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Susan,

I read five beats as well, and my Gesammelte Gedichte has zuzuschauern, which is indeed weird.

Cheers,
John
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  #9  
Unread 02-04-2019, 02:43 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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I didn't like the way S2 was reading, so I tried rewriting the first two lines of it to make it flow better.

Susan
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