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  #41  
Old 07-04-2018, 04:54 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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OK, how about a weird fix? "He raised / his eyes now from the harpsichord..." My argument being, "Er aber" is contrasting his intimate action with the broad forces at work as the army passes. I think something like now will capture that better than "though", which is misplaced syntactically.
I too think you need to lose "focus," and though and up don't work.

Cheers,
John
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  #42  
Old 07-05-2018, 04:10 AM
Clive Watkins Clive Watkins is offline
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Dear Susan

Here I am again.

Line 3 does not seem to be working, as has been noted. I suspect that the problem actually arises from your rhyme-choices: “raised / gazed” is just too tempting. Let me tease this out a bit.

This rhyme-pair is the only one in the translation that constitutes a full rhyme: all the rest are attractive forms of half-rhyme. This draws undue attention to these two words. This effect is sharpened by the fact that in the first quatrain you adopt an envelope pattern, whereas in the second you adopt an alternating pattern. This makes a resonant couplet out of lines 2 and 3. I am aware that Rilke is not consistent as between his two quatrains, but your combination of full rhyme and the envelope pattern highlights lines 2 and 3 in what is for me a distracting manner.

My suggestion would be to recast line 1 in a freer fashion so that you have an end-word that can be picked up as a half-rhyme in line 3. I don’t want to rewrite your version for you, but it strikes me that “road” and “harpsichord” offer possibilities.

Another suggestion might be this. Rilke has this sequence of details: the sound of the army moving along the road, the man lifting his eyes from the harpsichord, his continuing to play, his looking across at the woman. Would it be too much of a liberty to change the order here, as follows: the sound of the army moving along the road, the man lifting his eyes, his looking across at her, his playing on? To my mind this would be an acceptable – and dramatically plausible – compromise, but of course you may not see it that way.

To widen the point, in my own writing I often find that when I reach an obstacle what I need to look at is the syntax, because this dictates word-order and profoundly affects word-choice. By seeking out a different grammatical construction I find I can sometimes open up new verbal possibilities. I wonder if this is really the underlying issue here.

A few more things for you to ponder…

Good luck with this Susan!

Clive
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  #43  
Old 07-06-2018, 03:25 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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Clive, I will think about alternatives for the first stanza. However, I don't see having one pair of true rhymes as being a problem. If I could make every rhyme a true rhyme, without mangling the meaning of the lines, I would, because that would most closely approximate what Rilke does. I do put a premium on staying very close to the meaning of the original. I also want to keep all of the off rhymes recognizable as off rhymes. So that is the dance I am trying to dance. Every choice involves tradeoffs, and that is the price I pay for being a translator. It is a deeply humbling experience, but it doesn't mean that I am abandoning my own values at any point.

Susan
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  #44  
Old 07-07-2018, 10:27 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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John, I decided to take your advice partway, but I chose to go with "eyes then" instead of "eyes now" because the whole vignette seems to be set in the past.

Susan
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  #45  
Old 07-07-2018, 11:18 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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That makes sense to me, Susan. Glad to have been of help.

Cheers,
John
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