Eratosphere Forums - Metrical Poetry, Free Verse, Fiction, Art, Critique, Discussions Able Muse - a review of poetry, prose and art

Forum Left Top

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 04-14-2018, 07:26 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Iowa City, IA, USA
Posts: 7,408
Default Rilke, Imaginary Life History

Imaginary Life History
by Rainer Maria Rilke

First a childhood, limitless and free
of goal and renouncing. O unconscious bliss.
Suddenly limits, fear, school, drudgery,
the fall into temptation and sharp loss.

Defiance. Bent, the child becomes the bender,
revenging on others what he suffered through.
Loved and dreaded, savior, wrestler, winner
and conqueror, inflicting blow on blow.

And then alone in vastness, weightless, cold.
Yet deep within the person’s grown-up state,
a gasping for the first, the world of old . . .

Then God leapt out from where he lay in wait.

Revisions:
S1L2 "renouncing" was "surrender"
S2L1 was "Defiance. The bent child becomes a bender,"
S2L3 "savior" was "rescuer"
S3L1 "weightless" was "empty"
S3L3 "a gasping" was "an aching"

Imaginärer Lebenslauf

Erst eine Kindheit, grenzenlos und ohne
Verzicht und Ziel. O unbewußte Lust.
Auf einmal Schrecken, Schranke, Schule, Frohne
und Absturz in Versuchung und Verlust.

Trotz. Der Gebogene wird selber Bieger
und rächt an anderen, daß er erlag.
Geliebt, gefürchtet, Retter, Ringer, Sieger
und Überwinder, Schlag auf Schlag.

Und dann allein im Weiten, Leichten, Kalten.
Doch tief in der errichteten Gestalt
ein Atemholen nach dem Ersten, Alten...

Da stürzte Gott aus seinem Hinterhalt.


Literal translation:

Imaginary Course of Life

First a childhood, limitless and without
renunciation and goal. O unconscious delight.
Suddenly, terror, limit, school, drudgery,
and the fall into temptation and loss.

Defiance. The bent child becomes himself the bender,
and revenges on others what he succumbed to.
Loved, dreaded, rescuer, wrestler, winner
and conqueror, blow on blow.

And then alone in vastness, light, cold.
But deep in the grown-up character,
a gasping for the first, the old [world] . . .

Then God leapt out from his place of ambush.

Last edited by Susan McLean; 04-18-2018 at 10:52 AM.
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 04-14-2018, 07:51 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 2,840
Default

Good evening Susan,

Translating Rilke seems to me a worthy occupation. I was all for proposing avenged, on the basis that to revenge is not a verb, and the OED proved me wrong. Beyond that, I myself would look for more regular IP in rendering his German. Them's my nits.

Cheers,
John
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 04-15-2018, 12:33 PM
Julie Steiner's Avatar
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: San Diego, CA, USA
Posts: 5,341
Default

Hey, Susan!

Overall I like this very much, although I wish the second quatrain's rhymes were a bit less slant than they are, and I'm also having trouble scanning L5.

Perhaps I want more interpretive paraphrase than you're comfortable with, but in the first two lines I think Rilke was getting more at the blissful absence of long-term planning and self-discipline in the young child, who is able to live thoughtlessly in the moment. Your translation doesn't quite get me there. I want to argue that young children do, indeed, have "goals," although they are usually of the immediate-gratification variety. And they do, indeed, have to "surrender" many times a day to the will of adults who can physically overpower them.

I'm also not sure what "unconscious bliss" might mean in the context of a young child. Since the end of the poem expresses longing for that early-childhood state expressed in the first two lines, the cliché of innocent bliss might be better. Innocence does have that etymological connection to not knowing....
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 04-15-2018, 02:39 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Iowa City, IA, USA
Posts: 7,408
Default

Thanks for the responses.

John, I think of "avenging" as being more righteous in nature and directed at the people who did the wrong. "Revenging," on the other hand, seems more consciously negative and is here directed at the wrong people. I tend to feel that too-regular meter would betray the more colloquial voice that many hear in Rilke's verse, and it also runs counter to my own practice.

Julie, by trying to stay very close to the meaning of the original, I have accepted the need for slant rhymes, sometimes very slant. And the middle stanza is where the life goes off the rails, so slant rhymes seemed particularly appropriate there. I hear L5 like this:

DeFIance. The BENT CHILD beCOMES a BENder,

There is one double iamb and a feminine ending, but otherwise it is straight iambic.

In S1, I take "unconscious" to mean that the bliss is unaware of its own conditions and temporary nature. "Innocent" would bring guilt into the mix. I view children not as being unaware of the wrong they do, but as having a morality that is not yet fully developed. I think the portrait here is of a relatively pampered child who is allowed to do what he wants to do most of the time and therefore doesn't feel either driven or deprived. But I will keep thinking, to see if I can find more obvious ways to convey these interpretations.

Susan
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 04-15-2018, 03:04 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 2,840
Default

Hi Susan,

By all means, do what you want with your translations!

Cheers,
John
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 04-16-2018, 02:13 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Iowa City, IA, USA
Posts: 7,408
Default

John and Julie, I decided to try a more regularly iambic version of S2L1. Let me know if you think it is an improvement.

Susan
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 04-16-2018, 02:48 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 2,840
Default

Hi Susan,

I have no strong metrical opinion about the revision. Semantically, it may be further from the German - "Der Gebogene wird selber Bieger" - but I also think it's a bit clearer. So I guess it gets my vote.

Cheers,
John
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 04-17-2018, 12:33 AM
Edward Zuk's Avatar
Edward Zuk Edward Zuk is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Surrey, Canada
Posts: 577
Default

Hi Susan,

My impression is also that this is a little rougher than Rilke but still an excellent version overall.

This may be a shot in the dark, but are there a few more overt Christian references in the original than appear in your version? I’m thinking of “renunciation” in line 2 and “savior” in line 7.

For line 5, I think you need the definite article before bender:

The bent child becomes the bender
The child, bent, becomes the bender

For line 7, I’d like to see “savior” put in for “rescuer.”

In line 9, “empty” does not match the “light” in your crib. Either “brightness” or “lightness” (as in the unbearable lightness of being) fit metrically.

In line 11, “gasping” from your crib is a much more interesting word than “aching.”

Your last line is superb.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 04-17-2018, 01:23 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 2,840
Default

Yup, another vote for your last line.

Cheers,
John
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 04-17-2018, 12:19 PM
Julie Steiner's Avatar
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: San Diego, CA, USA
Posts: 5,341
Default

I like the new L5 better, but then I would, wouldn't I?

I'm sorry I was so focused on other things that I've neglected to praise your final line until I saw Edward's and John's praise. But it is, indeed, a stunner.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump



Forum Right Top
Forum Left Bottom Forum Right Bottom
 
Right Left
Member Login
Forgot password?
Forum LeftForum Right


Forum Statistics:
Forum Members: 7,895
Total Threads: 19,050
Total Posts: 245,092
There are 149 users
currently browsing forums.
Forum LeftForum Right


Forum Sponsor:
Donate & Support Able Muse / Eratosphere
Forum LeftForum Right
Right Right
Right Bottom Left Right Bottom Right

Hosted by ApplauZ Online