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Unread 09-13-2019, 09:06 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Default Rilke, The Poet

The Poet
by Rainer Maria Rilke

Hour, from me you fly away.
Your wingbeat wounds me through and through.
But what am I supposed to do
now with my mouth? My night? My day?

I have no home, no one to love,
no place that’s mine for me to be.
All things to which I give myself
grow rich themselves and squander me.


Revisions:
S1L2 "wounds" was "cuts"
S1L3 was "Alone, what am I meant to do" then changed "It's just" to "And yet" then to "But what am I supposed to do"
S2L4 "rich themselves" was "prosperous"


Der Dichter

Du entfernst dich von mir, du Stunde.
Wunden schlägt mir dein Flügelschlag.
Allein: was soll ich mit meinem Munde?
Mit meiner Nacht? Mit meinem Tag?

Ich habe keine Geliebte, kein Haus,
keine Stelle auf der ich lebe.
Alle Dinge, an die ich mich gebe,
werden reich und geben mich aus.


Literal translation:
The Poet

You are departing from me, you hour.
Your wingbeat strikes wounds in me.
It's just . . . what I am supposed to do with my mouth?
With my night? With my day?

I have no loved one, no house,
no place in which I live.
All the things to which I give myself
become rich and spend me.

Last edited by Susan McLean; 09-23-2019 at 12:53 AM.
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Unread 09-13-2019, 07:30 PM
Julie Steiner's Avatar
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Sorry, Susan, I can't get past the first two lines without feeling crippling guilt about all the other stuff I'm supposed to be doing right now.

Just kidding.

These simple-diction poems can be really tricky, in part because they tend to make use of the syntax in addition to the rhyme to make them resonate aurally, and it's hard to translate both. I really notice the inevitably unrolling pattern of the anaphora in the second half of S1 in the original, which you can't really do in the English. "Mouth" is such a strange thing to say in the original that at first it seems almost rhyme-driven, which is an attention-getting effect that you can't easily duplicate. And the two polysyllabic words in the final line might be gilding the lily a bit, given the monosyllabic simplicity of the original in that spot. I'm interested to hear what John thinks.
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Unread 09-13-2019, 08:06 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
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Hi Susan,

Some lovely stuff here IMO in German and English both. Let's take a look:

Hour, from me you fly away.
Your wingbeat cuts me through and through.


I'd go with wounds not cuts. Otherwise I very much like what you've done here.

Alone, what am I meant to do
now with my mouth? My night? My day?


Yes, except that Allein with a colon to me means "It's just ...," an idiomatic usage having nothing to do with the meaning "alone." Just maybe, to my mind, there's a hint of the non-idiomatic meaning, given the following stanza. If my point is convincing, I'm unsure that Allein can be duplicated in English.

I have no home, no one to love,
no place that’s mine for me to be.


I do like that second line here, with its whiff of tautology; I get a tremendous feeling of anchoring from it, or in this case of that lack.

All things to which I give myself
grow prosperous and squander me.


I agree with Julie, it would be nice to use rich instead of prosperous for reich - German, like English, has synonyms that Rilke has eschewed. Then you have two syllables to fill. OTOH I think squander is great.
So them's my nits. I do find this poem quite lovely, and I think you're well on the way to capturing it in English. It does put our work into perspective, though, as Julie notes. :-)

Cheers,
John
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Unread 09-13-2019, 11:20 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Thanks for the suggestions, Julie and John. I have made some changes, including changing "cuts" to "wounds" and using "rich" instead of "prosperous." John, I was not aware of that idiomatic meaning of "allein." It makes more sense than "alone" in the context, though I do feel an extreme sense of isolation in the speaker.

Susan
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Unread 09-13-2019, 11:59 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
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Hi Susan,

I like your revisions here, I think they work.
I'm looking up allein in Wahrig. Online I found this, which Wahrig also gives: "allein schon der Gedanke, (schon) der Gedanke allein ... the very or mere thought ..."
Wahrig continues, II Konj. (meist. poet.) aber, doch: "ich wollte dem Bettler etwas geben, allein ich hatte nichts bei mir." So that's a bit more precise than my "It's just," you can see the German in action. My gut does tell me this sense is Rilke's meaning here.

Cheers,
John

Oh: so, maybe either "It's just" or "And yet"?

Last edited by John Isbell; 09-14-2019 at 04:07 AM.
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Unread 09-14-2019, 07:46 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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John, the other two options I had been considering for "it's just" were "only" and "and yet." Though "only" sounds closer to "alone," I think I will go with "and yet," whose rhythm I like better there.

Susan
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Unread 09-14-2019, 07:56 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
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Hi Susan,

Yes, I think that works better.

Cheers,
John
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Unread 09-14-2019, 09:53 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Thanks again, John, for letting me know how it sounds to you.

Susan
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