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  #1  
Unread 01-07-2019, 09:19 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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Default Rilke, San Marco

San Marco
......Venice

In this interior, like a hollow den
that turns and arches, sheathed in tiles of gold,
smooth, round-edged, oiled with preciousness within,
this nation kept its darkness in its hold,

heaped up in secret, as a counterweight
to the light that so increased and multiplied
in all its objects that they almost died.
And suddenly you wonder: do they not?

You push back from the rigid gallery
that hangs there by the dome’s resplendent gleam
like a catwalk in a mine, and, as you view

the whole bright scene, you somehow wistfully
compare its tired continuation to
the survival of the nearby four-horse team.


Revisions:
S1L2 was "that turns and arches in enameled gold,"
S1L4 added comma after "hold"
S2L1 removed "a" before "counterweight" and changed "heaped up" to "amassed"; then was "and secretly amassed, as counterweight"
S2L3 "almost" was "nearly"
S4L3 was "the close survival of the four-horse team."


San Marco
......Venedig

In diesem Innern, das wie ausgehöhlt
sich wölbt und wendet in den goldnen Smalten,
rundkantig, glatt, mit Köstlichkeit geölt,
ward dieses Staates Dunkelheit gehalten

und heimlich aufgehäuft, als Gleichgewicht
des Lichtes, das in allen seinen Dingen
sich so vermehrte, dass sie fast vergingen -.
Und plötzlich zweifelst du: vergehn sie nicht?

und drängst zurück die harte Galerie,
die, wie ein Gang im Bergwerk, nah am Glanz
der Wölbung hängt; und du erkennst die heile

Helle des Ausblicks aber irgendwie
wehmütig messend ihre müde Weile
am nahen Überstehn des Viergespanns.


Literal translation:
San Marco
......Venice

In this interior, which, as if hollowed out,
arches itself and turns in the golden tiles,
round-edged, smooth, oiled with preciousness,
this state’s darkness was safeguarded

and secretly heaped, as counterweight
to the light that in all its things
so multiplied itself that they almost passed away.
And suddenly you doubt: do they not pass away?

and you push away the hard gallery
that, like a walkway in a mine, hangs near the brilliance
of the dome, and you perceive the whole

brightness of the prospect but somehow
wistfully compare its weary duration
to the nearby survival of the four-horse team.*

*alluding to the four bronze horses from a chariot statue, taken from Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade and placed on the exterior of the Basilica San Marco in Venice

Last edited by Susan McLean; 01-09-2019 at 07:56 AM.
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  #2  
Unread 01-08-2019, 01:42 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Susan,

Another saint poem! He he. This isn't my favorite Rilke sonnet, but I think you've basically got it. Rilke's meter is tighter than yours - I'd suggest removing "a" before "counterweight," to be a tad more regular - and my only other suggestion just now is to use "almost" instead of "nearly." The English feels a bit convoluted, but then, so does the German; and the two "ands" i note in the English are there in the German as well.

Cheers,
John
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Unread 01-08-2019, 07:55 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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Thanks for the suggestions, John. I have taken them. Rilke has a whole series of Venetian poems, and I have tried to translate most of them. I am intrigued by his attitudes to the city, and I have been there myself, so I can picture what he is describing.

Susan
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  #4  
Unread 01-08-2019, 01:58 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Susan, glad to have been of help. Those were my only nits btw.

Cheers,
John
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  #5  
Unread 01-08-2019, 03:18 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Hey, Susan!

I can't help contrasting the closed-ness of this sonnet with the startling openness of the Roman road sonnet. I know that Rilke didn't really intend the two poems to be in conversation that way, but I don't care.

Is "enameled gold" the best translation for "den goldnen Smalten"? Is Rilke ignoring the colors of the mosaics and just focusing on the golden backgrounds?

The "catwalk in a mine" simile is fantastic. I was there on a rainy day, and the interior of the church was astonishingly gloomy, in spite of the gold-covered surfaces. The "catwalk in a mine" image really evokes how close and closed-in those dark, curved, only occasionally-glittering ceilings felt from the upper level, and how alarmingly far down the floor looked, before I went outdoors to see the (reproductions of the) famous horses.

I would prefer a hyphen in "heaped up," to clarify that "heaped" is a past participle rather than an active verb. I kept hunting in vain for the object. Wouldn't have done that if a hyphen had signified that "heaped up" was adjectival.

I didn't understand L14's "the close survival of the four-horse team" until I read the paraphrase. Maybe it's different in the German, but in English having "close" or "near" next to "survival" suggests that maybe they didn't quite survive, after all. If you can stand the bumps in the meter, something like "the survival of the nearby four-horse team" would be clearer.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 01-08-2019 at 03:20 PM.
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Unread 01-08-2019, 04:27 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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Thanks for your suggestions, Julie. Rilke only mentions gold in the enamel, but I think he intends people to imagine the other colors of the enameled tiles as well. The gold suggests the richness of the visual effect. "Heaped up" would normally only be hyphenated if used in front of the noun it modified, but I have tried substituting "amassed," which implies the same effect and has the needed pattern of stresses. I originally had the version of the last line that you suggested. I had changed it to try to make the rhythm more regular, but now I have gone back to my original version, which is less ambiguous, as you say.

Susan
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Unread 01-08-2019, 07:11 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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I'm pretty sure that enamel isn't involved at all. Smalti (the plural of smalto) just seems to be the name for tesserae (the plural of tesserae--mosaic tiles) that are made of glass, as opposed to those that are made of stone.

The gold smalti in Byzantine mosaics are made of gold foil sandwiched between two layers of clear glass, and the colored smalti are glass impregnated with metal oxides to produce colors, just like the stained glass used in windows. At least according to Wikipedia.

Byzantine enamels feature translucent or opaque glass melted onto metal or glass objects for decorative purposes. Maybe the German word for that melting process is similar.

Cobalt glass can be ground into a pigment used in painting and ceramics, called "smalt," but that seems to be unrelated to the smalti of Byzantine mosaics.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 01-08-2019 at 07:31 PM.
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Unread 01-08-2019, 07:39 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hmm. Well, the German, being dative plural, is ambiguous: does Rilke mean "Schmalt (m) = Email" or "Schmalte (f) = Kobaltschmelze fuer Glasuren," both from the Italian smalto? He doesn't say. However, my Wahrig gives the "Smalte (f)" form exclusively to mean Schmalte, without ch. So I'd go with Kobaltschmelze here. Hope that's cleared things up!

Cheers,
John

Update: or, rereading Julie's post, at least muddied the waters. Here's German Wikipedia:

"Smalte
Die Smalte (auch Schmalte[1][2]) ist ein mit Cobalt(II)-oxid blau gefärbtes Kalium-Silikatglas; sie ist gepulvertes Kobaltglas. Sie wurde vor allem seit der Mitte des 16. Jahrhunderts bis ins 19. Jahrhundert in Blaufarbenwerken hergestellt und als Pigment verwendet. Je nach dem Gehalt an Cobalt ist ihre Farbe transparent schwachblau, blau, tiefblau oder dunkelblau und mehr oder weniger durchscheinend; feingemahlenes Pulver ist blasser und heller als gröberes. Sie ist feuerfest und wurde daher insbesondere zum Dekorieren von Keramik benutzt, aber auch häufig in der Malerei verwendet. Da Schmalte wesentlich günstiger war als Ultramarin, wurde sie vor allem im 17. Jahrhundert in großem Maßstab gebraucht.[3] Heute wird sie vor allem von Restauratoren benutzt.[4]"

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smalte

Last edited by John Isbell; 01-08-2019 at 07:45 PM.
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Unread 01-08-2019, 07:43 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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Thanks, Julie, you have helped to clear up something I didn't understand, since I was not aware of that particular kind of tile called smalti. I associated the word with the process of enameling, which also involves glass, but it is different. I have removed the "enameled" from the description. Unfortunately, that also takes away the suggestion of other colors that I associate with enameling, but that can't be helped.

Susan

John, we cross-posted. I don't think the cobalt explanation fits the context as well as the glass tiles do. There are blue tiles, but the overall effect in San Marco's interior seemed more gold to me.

Last edited by Susan McLean; 01-08-2019 at 07:53 PM.
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Unread 01-08-2019, 07:47 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Just a note to say I suspect Rilke wouldn't have objected to this ambiguity.

John

And an update to say the OED seems happy with either smalted or smalto'd as an option. smalt and smalto both feature. "Smalt-blue gold" won't quite work, I think.

Last edited by John Isbell; 01-08-2019 at 07:52 PM.
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