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  #1  
Unread 05-31-2019, 01:51 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Default Rilke, Morgue

Morgue
by Rainer Maria Rilke

They’re lying there prepared, as though an act
belatedly might be devised that will
have power to reconcile them and connect
them each with one another and this chill,

for all is yet as if without conclusion.
What sort of name for them might have been found
inside their pockets? Someone’s scrubbed around
their mouths to wash away the disillusion:

it didn’t wash away; it just turned clean.
The beards stand up, a little stiffer now,
but neater, in the judgment of the keepers—

if only not to nauseate the gapers.
Behind their lids, the eyes have turned their view
from front to back, and now they gaze within.


Revisions:
S1L1 removed comma after "there"
S1L2 "might" was "must"
S1L4 was "them both with one another and with this chill,"
S2L1 "yet" was "still"
S2L2 was "What sort of name might somebody have found"
S3L3 dash was a comma


Morgue

Da liegen sie bereit, als ob es gälte,
nachträglich eine Handlung zu erfinden,
die mit einander und mit dieser Kälte
sie zu versöhnen weiß und zu verbinden;

denn das ist alles noch wie ohne Schluss.
Wasfür ein Name hätte in den Taschen
sich finden sollen? An dem Überdruss
um ihren Mund hat man herumgewaschen:

er ging nicht ab; er wurde nur ganz rein.
Die Bärte stehen, noch ein wenig härter,
doch ordentlicher im Geschmack der Wärter,

nur um die Gaffenden nicht anzuwidern.
Die Augen haben hinter ihren Lidern
sich umgewandt und schauen jetzt hinein.


Literal translation:
Morgue

They lie there prepared, as if it were of value
belatedly to devise an action
that might reconcile and connect them
with one another and with this cold;

because all is still as if without conclusion.
What sort of a name should have been found
in their pockets? At the disgust
around their mouths, someone has scrubbed:

it did not come off; it merely became totally clean.
The beards stand up, a little more stiffly,
but neater, in the judgment of the attendants,

if only not to sicken the gawkers.
The eyes have turned themselves around
behind their eyelids and gaze now within.

Last edited by Susan McLean; 06-02-2019 at 01:58 PM.
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  #2  
Unread 06-01-2019, 02:18 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Susan,

I think you’ve got the sestet exactly. In the octave, I have a couple of hesitations. I’m not sure you’ve yet caught the flavor of gaelte and Handlung. Also, in for all is still as if without conclusion, I like the internal rhyme but the German is wonderfully bare and you’ve enriched it - “still” isn’t there for me. I say this all because your art and craft generally rises to meet any obstacle it encounters.
Not a poem I’d expected to enjoy much, but it is inimitably Rilke. Nicely Englished.

Cheers,
John

Oh - you might remove some commas from line one, and the octave could go ti tum ti tum more. Also , it’s too bad that the passive voice and man meld into somebody/someone in English. Little notes inspired by the search for perfection, which I feel your sestet just about achieves.

Last edited by John Isbell; 06-01-2019 at 02:23 AM.
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  #3  
Unread 06-01-2019, 12:55 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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John, I get what you mean about the meter, though I usually like some variation, as opposed to lockstep iambic. I can make it smoother. But I am puzzled about how you would read "gälte" in the context of S1L1, and doesn't "Handlung" in S1L2 mean "deed, action" and "noch" in S2L1 mean "yet, still"? I have removed one of the commas from S1L1. I will look into fitting the passive voice into S2, to see if I can remove the "somebody" and "someone."

Susan
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  #4  
Unread 06-01-2019, 08:18 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Susan,

I guess act is worth keeping, plus it rhymes nicely. Maybe might could work better for gaelte, with its subjunctive and the fact that it’s not muss. I’d read your still as not moving, which I think is a risk with your syntax. The rest sounds like we are on the same page.

Cheers,
John
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Unread 06-01-2019, 11:00 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Thanks, John. I have changed the "must" to "might" and the "still" to "yet," to try to avoid the misunderstanding of "still."

Susan
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  #6  
Unread 06-02-2019, 02:27 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Susan,

To my mind, you’ve pretty much got it. I guess you might consider an em dash after keepers.

Cheers,
John
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  #7  
Unread 06-02-2019, 02:00 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Thanks for the suggestion, John. I have changed that comma to a dash, which does clarify the relationship of the following clause to the rest of the sentence, I think.

Susan
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  #8  
Unread 06-03-2019, 03:43 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Hey, Susan!

I'm glad you got rid of "still," which in the context of a morgue seemed to mean "immobile" rather than "yet." Much better now. I also like the addition of the em dash after "keepers."

Switching the order of "belatedly" and "might be devised" would sound smoother in English, even though the German has it the other way. [Edited to say: On second thought, no, it wouldn't. Ignore that.]

I wish the rhyming end-position of "will" didn't place such unnatural emphasis on what's really just a pedestrian auxiliary. But it might be a major hassle for a minor gain to rework that bit.
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  #9  
Unread 06-04-2019, 04:28 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Maybe "cold" for chill would offer some rhymes. I think I'd prefer that word if it could be made to work. Hold? Unfold?

Cheers,
John
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  #10  
Unread 06-04-2019, 01:14 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Julie and John, I had looked for rhymes for "cold," but they weren't working for me, which is why I turned to "chill."

Susan
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