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Old 12-07-2017, 11:57 AM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
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Default Early Apollo (Rilke)

Sam's recent post includes a translation of this sonnet. In studying the German in order to offer Sam comments, I found myself trying my own version. I thought it would be good to post while the poem is still fresh in people's minds.

Sam's thread includes the original German as well as a couple of cribs, so I won't duplicate them here.


EARLY APOLLO

As sometimes through the bare limbs of a tree
a morning can be glimpsed that seems like spring,
likewise, when we glimpse his head we see
no obstacle to dull the shimmering

of devastating poems not yet put down;
for there is yet no shadow in his gaze
--his temples cool, without their laurel crown---
and only later will his eyebrows raise

on lanky stems a garden filled with roses
from which loose petals, one by one, will drift
below to where his mouth for now reposes,

not yet put to use, but all the while
drinking something through its trembling smile,
as if pure song possessed him like a gift.
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Old 12-08-2017, 12:46 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Good evening Roger,

I like this a good deal. Now I'm going to dig out my Rilke to compare it.
OK. Mostly I think you've been true to Rilke's simple specificity; I have my doubts just about "shimmering" and "devastating", Rilke has gone for simpler words, like "toedlich". I like that you went with laurel not bay, which is a $10 word. There are details - "nur" near the end goes missing - but my main regret I think is the absence of "eingefloesst", which of course is not going to be easy.
All this to say that I find this far superior to anything I expect I could come up with. It's very nice, and broadly true. And poetry. Thanks for sharing.

Cheers,
John
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Old 12-08-2017, 07:51 AM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
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Thank you, John. I was hoping that "possessed" would be close enough for eingefloesst. What would you think about changing "possessed" to "instilled"?
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Old 12-08-2017, 08:16 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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I looked through Roget for synonyms for "fill", and found dwell and pervade (and permeate). To me, his singing is poured into him, and it looks like he's drinking. Instilled has that, but I hesitate at instilling a person minus "with". Maybe "dwelt in him"? It's a bit religious, which Rilke has avoided, of course. Or "filled him up", which is baggage-free, though I don't like the beat. "had filled him" is better I think. That might be my place-holder.

Cheers,
John
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Old 12-08-2017, 08:33 AM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
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But "had filled" loses the idea that what he is drinking is the song itself. I also think the German goes beyond "filled," suggesting more an infusion, something that permeates his very being, i.e., instill. It's that sense the led me to "possessed."
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Old 12-08-2017, 08:57 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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My little Cassell's has administer (medicine), impart, imbue, instill (which I guess in America has two ls), inspire. A nicely ambiguous German word. That prefix ein- carries a lot of weight in German, it's the action of the song coming from outside him to inside him, by some unnamed agency, given the passive voice.
Make of that what you will, as they say! I agree, it's key that what he's drinking is the song itself. Fiddly to render.

Cheers,
John

Oh- Cassell's does put "with" after all those im- words. Just to complicate things.
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Old 12-08-2017, 02:00 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is online now
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Yeah, that last line is hard. All I can fit in there are vague Latinate words like "suffuse" and "immerse." Hmn.

as if pure song suffused him like a gift.

as if pure song immersed him like a gift.
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