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  #1  
Unread 08-09-2019, 12:35 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Default Rilke, The Departure of the Prodigal Son

The Departure of the Prodigal Son
by Rainer Maria Rilke

Now to depart from everything complex
that’s ours and yet does not belong to us,
that, like the water in old wells, reflects
us, quivering, and wipes the image clear;
from all of this, that clings to us once more
as if attached with thorns, to go away;
and that and this,
which we had ceased to see
(they were so commonplace, so everyday),
at once to view contritely, tenderly,
as if at a beginning and from near;
to see, by guessing, how impersonally,
on everyone alike, the sorrow came
that filled our childhood up, right to the brim—
then still to leave, hand letting go of hand,
as if we tore anew a healed-up wound,
and to depart—to where? To the unknown,
far into some warm, unrelated land
that will be callous as a painted scene—
garden or wall—in back of every deed.
To leave—but why? From urge, from inclination,
from restlessness, from vague anticipation,
from not understanding or being understood—
to take on all of this, perhaps in vain
to let go all we cling to, each belief,
so that, not knowing why, we die alone—

Is this the entryway to a new life?

Revisions:
L8 "had" was "have"
L14 "up, right" was "right up"

Der Auszug des verlorenen Sohnes

Nun fortzugehn von alle dem Verworrnen,
das unser ist und uns doch nicht gehört,
das, wie das Wasser in den alten Bornen,
uns zitternd spiegelt und das Bild zerstört;
von allem diesen, das sich wie mit Dornen
noch einmal an uns anhängt - fortzugehn
und Das und Den,
die man schon nicht mehr sah
(so täglich waren sie und so gewöhnlich),
auf einmal anzuschauen: sanft, versöhnlich
und wie an einem Anfang und von nah
und ahnend einzusehn, wie unpersönlich,
wie über alle hin das Leid geschah,
von dem die Kindheit voll war bis zum Rand - :
Und dann doch fortzugehen, Hand aus Hand,
als ob man ein Geheiltes neu zerrisse,
und fortzugehn: wohin? Ins Ungewisse,
weit in ein unverwandtes warmes Land,
das hinter allem Handeln wie Kulisse
gleichgültig sein wird: Garten oder Wand;
und fortzugehn: warum? Aus Drang, aus Artung,
aus Ungeduld, aus dunkler Erwartung,
aus Unverständlichkeit und Unverstand:
Dies alles auf sich nehmen und vergebens
vielleicht Gehaltnes fallen lassen, um
allein zu sterben, wissend nicht warum -

Ist das der Eingang eines neuen Lebens?


Literal translation:
The Departure of the Prodigal Son

Now to depart from all the complication
that is ours and yet does not belong to us,
that, like the water in the old wells,
reflects us, quivering, and destroys the image;
from all of this, that, as if with thorns,
clings to us once more—to go away,
and this and that,
which we already no longer saw
(they were so daily and so ordinary)
to gaze at all at once: gently, contritely,
and as if at a beginning and from near,
and guessingly to see how impersonally,
how over everyone the sorrow came
with which childhood was filled to the brim—
and then still to go away, hand [removed] from hand,
as if we ripped afresh a healed [wound],
and to go away: where? Into uncertainty,
far into an unrelated warm land
that behind all action will be indifferent
as a backdrop—garden or wall—
and to go away: why? From impulse, from one’s nature,
from impatience, from obscure anticipation,
from not being understood and not understanding—
to take all this on ourselves and in vain,
perhaps, drop what was held, so that
we die alone, not knowing why—

Is this the entrance to a new life?

Last edited by Susan McLean; 08-12-2019 at 01:59 PM.
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  #2  
Unread 08-10-2019, 01:54 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
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Good morning Susan,

Traveling today, but will return and read closely.

Cheers,
John
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  #3  
Unread 08-11-2019, 05:53 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
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Hi Susan,

I think I'd say "had ceased to see," and here - "right up to the brim" - I'd try "full up to the brim," since right feels like padding. Two small nits. I think this is really splendid work, an interesting Rilke poem rendered elegantly into fitting English. People will get a sense of the poet.

Cheers,
John
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Unread 08-11-2019, 09:19 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Thanks, John. I took your first suggestion, but have reservations about the second because "filled . . . full" sounds redundant to me.

Susan
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Unread 08-11-2019, 09:44 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
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Hi Susan,

Sure, and glad to help with the first, but right still sounds like padding to me. Rilke rarely has that.

Cheers,
John
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  #6  
Unread 08-11-2019, 10:43 PM
Jake Sheff Jake Sheff is offline
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Susan,

I can see the rhyme in the original was lost. But I don't speak German, so I don't know what other layers of meaning or nuance are lost in translation.

But I see you hew very closely to the literal translation. Mostly it looks like a rearrangement here and there with synonyms in lieu of what your literal translation offers.

I think a translation is unique in that it somehow remains a creative act, but I don't see the creativity I know you have put to use in this translation.

I'm not an expert, but when I translate another poet, it's like watching the poet inside me work completely independent of me, like watching my poet work with someone else. Rather than asking for material from me, my poet is working with another's material... The first few times I translated, it was odd.

But I guess I just don't see your poet doing much work to create a new English poem from the Rilke original.

Hope this helps and doesn't sound loony.

Best,
Jake
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  #7  
Unread 08-12-2019, 07:48 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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John, I'll see what I can do about the "right" that sounds like padding to you.

Jake, actually, every line in my translation has at least one rhyme, but most of them are slant rhymes (similar consonants at the end but different vowel sounds) and I have altered the rhyme scheme where necessary. So a lot of work did go into this translation. It is also metrical and tries to follow the metrical pattern of the original. Different people take different approaches to translation, and all of them have drawbacks. But for me, sticking close to the meaning of the original is crucial.

Susan
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Unread 08-12-2019, 08:22 AM
Jake Sheff Jake Sheff is offline
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Susan,

Apologies for missing the rhyme. I see it now. I think because they are slant and not in Rilke's order, I missed it. I'm sorry for that.

Best,
Jake
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Unread 08-12-2019, 02:06 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Jake, it is okay that you missed the rhymes; slant rhymes have the effect of being much less noticeable, and the further apart they are, the easier it is to miss them.

John, I have tried to make the rhythm of L14 less awkward, since I was unable to find any other wording that had exactly the meaning I was going for.

Susan
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  #10  
Unread 08-12-2019, 05:33 PM
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Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
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L14 is better. ("full upon to the brim" is hardly English, at least relaxed English.) Reading the German, I don't think "right" is padding.
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