Eratosphere Forums - Metrical Poetry, Free Verse, Fiction, Art, Critique, Discussions Able Muse - a review of poetry, prose and art

Forum Left Top

Notices

Reply
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Unread 12-05-2019, 01:39 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Iowa City, IA, USA
Posts: 8,291
Default Rilke, Lullaby

Lullaby
by Rainer Maria Rilke

Someday, when I lose you, will
you have the power to slumber on
without me here to whisper still
above you like a linden’s crown?

Without me here, awake, to slip
my words (almost like lids on eyes)
over your breasts, over your thighs,
and lay them down upon your lips.

Without my closing you in your room
to leave you alone with what is yours,
just like a garden packed with flowers:
star-anise blooms and lemon balm.


Revisions:
S2L3 "over" was "across"
S3 was
Without me closing you like a room
to leave you alone with what is yours,
like a garden filled with hordes of flowers:
star-anise blooms and lemon balm.
S3L1 "my" was "me"
S3L3 was "just like a garden heaped with bloom:"
S3L4 was "star-anise and melissa flowers."

Schlaflied

Einmal wenn ich dich verlier,
wirst du schlafen können, ohne
dass ich wie eine Lindenkrone
mich verflüstre über dir?

Ohne dass ich hier wache und
Worte, beinah wie Augenlider,
auf deine Brüste, auf deine Glieder
niederlege, auf deinen Mund.

Ohne dass ich dich verschließ
und dich allein mit Deinem lasse
wie einen Garten mit einer Masse
von Melissen und Stern-Anis.


Literal translation:
Lullaby

Someday, when I lose you,
will you be able to sleep without
my whispering over you
like the crown of a linden tree?

Without my lying awake here and
laying down words, almost like eyelids,
on your breasts, on your limbs,
on your mouth.

Without my closing you
and leaving you alone with what is yours,
like a garden with a mass
of melissa [lemon balm] and star anise.


Note: I think I had workshopped an earlier version of this translation, but I have substantially rewritten it since then.

Last edited by Susan McLean; 12-10-2019 at 09:16 AM.
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Unread 12-09-2019, 12:52 AM
Julie Steiner's Avatar
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: San Diego, CA, USA
Posts: 6,134
Default

This is particularly lovely, Susan, but you lose me at "closing you like a room." I can't make literal sense of that. I think a comparison between a sarcophagus and a lidded potpourri container might be more likely, since lemon balm and star anise are both common ingredients of potpourri. (The idea of words as lids has already been introduced in S2.)

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 12-09-2019 at 12:55 AM.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Unread 12-09-2019, 03:12 AM
Spindleshanks's Avatar
Spindleshanks Spindleshanks is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: Australia
Posts: 1,077
Default

Susan, I have trouble with this. It lacks the fluency and simplicity of some versions I have read, even comparing it with the crib. As an example or two, "lids on eyes" is an awkward way of saying "eyelids." If you can achieve it, "lids" and "limbs" would be a satisfactory rhyme pair, although the scansion may be a problem. "Above" conveys the sense of "suspended" as against the tonally better "over" with its more apt connotation of "hovering". I see verschließ as closing the door and leaving the sleeper alone, as indicated by some of the suggested translations, such as "shut in; locked in; locked up" et al. Perhaps "closing you in your room"?

Peter
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Unread 12-09-2019, 10:32 AM
Julie Steiner's Avatar
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: San Diego, CA, USA
Posts: 6,134
Default

Yesterday I thought "when I lose you" implied death, rather than simply a breakup of a relationship. But this morning it doesn't look that way to me.

I still think "like a room" doesn't fit with the rest of the imagery, which is all outdoorsy. The sheltering linden tree, the garden with specific aromatic plants in it...there's definitely a vibe of interiority here, but I just can't reconcile those secret-garden images with the notion of a human-built "room."

I do concede that the poet/narrator claims that it is his own words, and nothing else, that are doing the closing, and sealing the beloved into the privacy of sleep, which he cannot join.

Her secret garden remains inaccessible to him, just as her eyes closed in sleep exclude him, and her sleeping but still-sexually-arousing body excludes him. But he's claiming that it is his words that are doing this, and when the relationship ends, she won't be able to sleep because...her next lover won't be a poet, and won't be able to resist waking her for sex?

Just thinking out loud. Maybe something here will be helpful. Or at least amusingly wrong.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Unread 12-09-2019, 11:30 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Iowa City, IA, USA
Posts: 8,291
Default

Julie and Peter, thanks for your responses. I will tell you what I am picturing in the poem, to explain why I added "like a room" after "closing you." I am assuming that he is describing a current affair and that he can already foresee that it will eventually end, and therefore he will lose her. I think the "here" is describing the bedroom in which he is with his beloved. She is asleep and he is still awake. Apparently, this is common, and he tells himself that his whispering the words of the poems he is composing about her body are the lullaby that helps her sleep, so once he is not there anymore, he wonders whether she will still be able to sleep. She is enclosed in his words, as eyelids close over eyes. When he leaves her bedroom, he imagines himself closing the door of a walled garden (the image is from the Song of Solomon). She is the walled garden, but the garden is a metaphor, and he is actually closing the door to her room. I could picture all of this from the words, but since they are not coming across that way to you, perhaps you can suggest how I can make this scenario clearer to readers.

Susan
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Unread 12-09-2019, 02:27 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Iowa City, IA, USA
Posts: 8,291
Default

I have tried making some revisions to S2 and S3. Let me know whether you think they are improvements.

Susan
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Unread 12-10-2019, 12:36 AM
Julie Steiner's Avatar
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: San Diego, CA, USA
Posts: 6,134
Default

As I see it, the poem's argument is that without the poet remaining with her to produce this uninterrupted lullaby--thus keeping this sleeping beauty under a spell--she probably won't stay asleep. No magically muttering poet, no sleep.

Hypothetically, if he ever slipped away while she slept--closing her bedroom door on her, as you suggest--she would no longer be spellbound, and would immediately wake up.

So, instead of sneaking out while she sleeps, or even sleeping himself, he stays hovering over her sleeping form, whispering like a leafy linden tree. But he knows that this behavior is so unusual that her next lover is unlikely to do this for her. So he worries that she won't get enough sleep "Someday, when I lose you."

That's why I don't see any bedroom door involved in the closure described in S3L1.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 12-10-2019 at 01:33 AM.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Unread 12-10-2019, 02:29 AM
Spindleshanks's Avatar
Spindleshanks Spindleshanks is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: Australia
Posts: 1,077
Default

Susan, S3 is an improvement in my view, with one exception: you have "mich" acting on the verb ("me closing") —I don't know the grammatical term for such usage; adverbial?— rather than the preposition ("without me"). In each of the three uses of the combination, the focus is on the N's absence, thus: 'Without my presence/availability/being here.' In my own take on Lullaby, I've rendered the line: Without me here to close the room, which I think preserves the sense of the argument.
I notice that same usage reflected in your crib, where you have translated mich as my in each instance.
It seems that we have a fundamental difference in our understanding of the role of the crib, which I was going to address in my Abschied thread response where you raised the matter, but I'll touch on it now as it's apropos to this discussion.

I understand the crib to be a literal translation, a transliteration, of the original. To me, that means essentially word for word, in the same manner, for example, of translators of the Hebrew/Aramaic and Greek Scriptures in producing their interlinear versions of the original. Of course, the translator is obliged to select from the range of possible definitions for any given translated word, usually governed by context and logic. I see it as an imperative approach in the translation process, if accuracy is to be pursued. It's then the objective of the translation to make sense of the crib.

Drawing further on your crib presented here, a literal translation wouldn't reverse the order of S1/ L3 and 4, whereas the translator may feel at liberty to make that transition in the final version in the interests of making sense and meeting the rigors of the process.

As a suggestion, I would reconsider the use of "over," S2, and work with the original "on/upon," along with replacing "above," with the original "over" for the reasons I mentioned in an earlier response.

Your summary of what you see as the poem's concept is interesting. I wonder, though, if in fact the poem is less complex than imagined. Could it be simply what it declares itself to be: a lullaby, perhaps even a parent to a child. Much of it fits that interpretation perfectly; the image of a parent crooning over a sleeping infant, whispering words that reflect the beauty of the child in the eyes of the parent as he/she looks down at its perfectly formed figure and reflecting upon the child's future growth to adulthood and departure from the family. Had Rilke been drawing on the Song of Solomon, why "Lullaby" rather than "Canticle?" The N is not raining kisses, but whispered words on the child. Mention of breasts seems to be the sole indication of a sexual connotation to the scene, but that need not suggest anything more than a parent's loving gaze over the full form, admiring appreciatively each feature.

Just a suggestion, food for thought.

Peter
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Unread 12-10-2019, 11:27 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Iowa City, IA, USA
Posts: 8,291
Default

Julie, I think that, like most lullabies, this one is happening as the woman is falling asleep, not after she is already asleep. So the whispering stops eventually and he leaves. You may be misled by my using "slumber on" in place of the simple "sleep" that is in the text. The "on" is for the slant rhyme with "crown." I don't see an easy solution for that. Rhyming is hard. Affairs at the time Rilke was writing were clandestine, so sneaking off in the middle of the night was probably standard, to avoid discovery.

Peter, you are right that the "me" in S3L1 should be "my" to be grammatically correct. I have changed it. I had used the idiomatic "me" to make it parallel with the other cases of "without me." But the German says that he is closing "you," so I wanted the "you" to be in there, even if I added the room.

I think a crib that doesn't make sense is of small use to a reader who is trying to help someone improve a translation (often without knowing the language, since we have translations from many languages here). What is useful is to have the meaning of the original conveyed clearly, in syntax that makes sense in English, possibly with notes or other potential wordings that make clear what choices the translator has made.

Sometimes, the translation options one gets in a dictionary don't cover the full range of options in English. In S1, I don't see any clear advantage to "over" versus "above." On the other hand, to describe the covering action of eyelids on eyes, I thought "over" worked as well as "on." I do not think this could be a lullaby for a child. To me, the language has too much of the erotic to fit that context. Rilke likes to add the erotic to things that don't normally have erotic content, so his twisting of "Lullaby" to fit an affair seems to me to be consistent with what he does elsewhere. But these are just my interpretations.

Susan
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Unread 12-11-2019, 01:18 PM
Julie Steiner's Avatar
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: San Diego, CA, USA
Posts: 6,134
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Susan McLean View Post
Julie, I think that, like most lullabies, this one is happening as the woman is falling asleep, not after she is already asleep.
Sorry to be argumentative. But I can't help thinking that the fact that the narrator mentions that he is "lying awake here" strongly implies that she is also lying here, but not awake.

I still see "my closing you" as continuing the image of the previous stanza, in which the poet's words are like eyelids laid down "on your breasts, on your thighs, on your mouth". That laying down of words is compared to the closing of a sleepy eye. Her whole sexy self being the eye, and his words being the eyelid. So to me it seems more likely that his words enclosing her sleeping form, like an eyelid closing over a sleepy eye--and staying there throughout sleep--are what he means by "my closing you."

You've persuaded me that, practically speaking, he will probably sneak out and leave her sleeping, after a while. But I still don't think there's an implied bedroom door in the poem at all.

Okay, I'll stop arguing now. You have a perfect right to your own interpretation, and mine could be quite wrong. I've certainly changed my mind about this poem several times over the past few days, as my comments above show. This is just how it looks to me today.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 12-11-2019 at 01:26 PM.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump



Forum Right Top
Forum Left Bottom Forum Right Bottom
 
Right Left
Member Login
Forgot password?
Forum LeftForum Right


Forum Statistics:
Forum Members: 8,026
Total Threads: 19,752
Total Posts: 251,504
There are 205 users
currently browsing forums.
Forum LeftForum Right


Forum Sponsor:
Donate & Support Able Muse / Eratosphere
Forum LeftForum Right
Right Right
Right Bottom Left Right Bottom Right

Hosted by ApplauZ Online