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  #1  
Unread 06-21-2019, 11:40 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Default Rilke, The Rose Window

The Rose Window
by Rainer Maria Rilke

In there, the languid pacing of their paws
creates a stillness that can almost daze;
then one of the big cats abruptly draws
your gaze (which periodically strays)

forcefully into its great eye, and there
your gaze, held fast as if within the whirl
of a maelstrom, stays afloat a little while,
then sinks below and knows itself no more,

when that same eye, which only seems to drowse,
snaps open and then roars as it slams shut,
dragging your gaze inside its own red blood—

so, long ago, the giant window-rose
of the cathedrals would snatch up a heart
from darkness and would drag it into God.


Revisions:
S1L2 substituted a semicolon for the comma
S1L3 was "and then one of the cats abruptly draws"; then changed "great" to "big"
S2L2-3 was "that gaze, held fast as if within the swirl / of a whirlpool,"
S3L2 was "snaps open and then slams shut with a roar,"
S4L1 was "so, long since, the enormous window rose"
S4L2-3 was "of the cathedrals from the dark would tear /a heart away and drag it into God."


Die Fensterrose

Da drin: das träge Treten ihrer Tatzen
macht eine Stille, die dich fast verwirrt;
und wie dann plötzlich eine von den Katzen
den Blick an ihr, der hin und wieder irrt,

gewaltsam in ihr großes Auge nimmt, -
den Blick, der wie von eines Wirbels Kreis
ergriffen, eine kleine Weile schwimmt
und dann versinkt und nichts mehr von sich weiß,

wenn dieses Auge, welches scheinbar ruht,
sich auftut und zusammenschlägt mit Tosen
und ihn hineinreißt bis ins rote Blut - :

So griffen einstmals aus dem Dunkelsein
der Kathedralen große Fensterrosen
ein Herz und rissen es in Gott hinein.


Literal translation:
The Rose Window

In there, the lethargic pacing of their paws
makes a stillness that almost dazes you;
and the way then suddenly one of the cats
draws your gaze, that occasionally wanders,

forcefully into its great eye—
the gaze that, as if seized by a whirlpool’s circle,
floats a little while
and then sinks and knows itself no more,

when this eye, which seemingly rests,
opens itself and slams shut with a roar
and drags it inside its red blood—

so, once, from its own darkness
the cathedrals’ great rose windows would seize
a heart and drag it into God.

Last edited by Susan McLean; 06-24-2019 at 12:28 PM.
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  #2  
Unread 06-23-2019, 06:45 PM
Julie Steiner's Avatar
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Hey, Susan!

I've been waiting to find enough time to do this justice, but I'll just have to take whatever snatches of time I can get. So this is an incomplete crit. But maybe it will encourage others to comment.

There's a lot of dramatic imagery in the original, but I'm not quite sure I follow what Rilke is getting at.

First, the "In there." In where? The church? Are there actually cats pacing inside the church, or are we still in metaphor-land, with the cats imagined in someone's cozy (Rilke's?) home before they suddenly become unsettlingly wild? If so, would "Indoors" or even "At home" be more appropriate in that context than "In there," even if that's not what the German literally means? (Then again, maybe he wants the ambiguity. Personally, I'd rather emphasize the contrast between the deceptively safe setting and the violence of the snatching, which seems to be applicable to the beautiful church setting, too.) And how about the abrupt colon?

I think changing the second gaze from "that gaze" to "your gaze" would help to clarify what's happening.

My biggest problem was that I read "the enormous window" as a subject and "rose" as a verb, and then had to struggle to displace that incorrect image once I figured out that I was wrong. I think the inversion of "window rose" is too attention-getting for you to get away with.

I hope to return to this soon. Now back to the project I was procrastinating....

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 06-23-2019 at 06:51 PM.
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Unread 06-23-2019, 08:18 PM
A. Sterling A. Sterling is offline
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Hi, Susan

Just as a first impression: this strikes me as masterfully done up until the final tercet, the first two lines of which seem a bit awkward. I didn’t realize immediately that the heart was being torn away from the darkness and not the person whose heart it is. Also, if “window rose” is going to be singular, I think it would make more sense to have “a cathedral” rather than “the cathedrals”. And, to answer Julie’s point, I suppose that “window-rose” could be hyphenated?

My assumption on reading this was that the cats are big cats, and we’re looking into their cage, as in “Der Panther.” But it's odd that Rilke didn’t give any context at all.
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Unread 06-24-2019, 12:21 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
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Hi Susan,

I like window-rose hyphenated, if you're going to invert (which I think is OK), but would retain cathedrals in the plural, as in the German. The roar to me determines that this is a big cat, as in "Der Panther," and da drin to me must refer to the cage; the cat is literal, the church a metaphor.
So: I like this a good deal, in German and in English, and have only tiny nits. I think Dunkelsein is more than Dunkel or dark. I also think you could tidy the rhythm of "of a whirlpool, stays afloat a little while," perhaps along the lines of "a whirlpool/maelstrom makes, floats on a little while." Somehow your off-rhymes seem to capture the German. Nicely done.

Cheers,
John
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  #5  
Unread 06-24-2019, 12:59 AM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Isbell View Post
The roar to me determines that this is a big cat, as in "Der Panther," and da drin to me must refer to the cage; the cat is literal, the church a metaphor.
Oh!

That's delightful.

[Edited to add: Maybe something like "Contained: " would work for "Da drin: "]

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 06-24-2019 at 10:53 AM.
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  #6  
Unread 06-24-2019, 11:37 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Thanks, everyone, for the suggestions. I have made a few changes, but am still working on a way to smooth out the last tercet.

Julie, yes, in "The Panther" Rilke wrote about a panther in a cage at the botanical garden in Paris. I assume that we are back there in this poem. The beginning is confusing, since the reader wants the setting to fit the title, and at first there is no obvious connection. I hesitate to change the "in there" into something much more specific, such as "contained," because I think Rilke wants the reader to be thrown off balance at first and aware of a mystery that needs to be solved. I have hypnenated "window-rose" and changed "that gaze" to "your gaze" to make the meaning clearer, but those are small changes.

Anka, I will see what I can do to change the ending. I would justify the singular "window-rose" with the plural "cathedrals" by saying that Rilke is imagining this happening at a lot of cathedrals, but it could only be one window at a time that has the effect on the viewer that he describes. I have changed "cats" to "great cats" so that the reader will not picture house cats in the setting.

John, as I said to Anka, I have changed "cats" to "great cats" for clarity. I will work on finding another way to convey "Dunkelsein." I have changed "whirlpool" to "maelstrom," so that I can use "whirl" in place of "swirl," but I do not like too much regularity in the meter and am comfortable with starting the line with an anapest.

Susan

Last edited by Susan McLean; 06-24-2019 at 12:18 PM.
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  #7  
Unread 06-24-2019, 12:11 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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I like the anapest of "of the maelstrom" a lot.

I'm not so taken with "great cats" before "great eye." Too many "great"s.

I seem to be the only person who took the title so literally--probably because I've been translating that "Heavenly Stained Glass" essay by José María González de Mendoza, and have rose windows on the brain right now. So I doubt that there's likely to be widespread confusion about the scenario.

I do think that the colon of "Da drin:" suggests a dramatic, forceful emphasis that seems too weak with just a comma after "In there,". I now picture this comment as similar to the segue between a tour guide's comments on the previous exhibit and this one. I hear it as almost a "Next cage:". But I'm pretty sure you wouldn't be comfortable with such a big departure from the German.

(Then again, until John's comments I saw the whole thing as something it wasn't, so you should take my impressions with a generous grain of salt.)

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 06-24-2019 at 12:17 PM.
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Unread 06-24-2019, 12:16 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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I've made a few more changes to the sestet, which I hope will make it clearer.

Susan
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  #9  
Unread 06-24-2019, 12:22 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Julie, we cross-posted. I have changed the first "great" to "big" in order to avoid the repetition. Also, Rilke uses a huge number of colons, far more than are allowed in English sentences. I have to decide which to keep and which to change to other punctuation marks. Here, I did not feel that the first two words deserved to be set off with a colon.

Susan

Last edited by Susan McLean; 06-24-2019 at 12:24 PM.
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