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

Forum Left Top

Notices

Reply
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Unread 11-30-2019, 10:46 AM
Spindleshanks's Avatar
Spindleshanks Spindleshanks is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: Australia
Posts: 1,077
Default Rilke: Abschied

Parting

I have so felt the meaning of goodbye.
I feel it still: this something dark, invincible,
this thing which is both cruel and beautiful
that's showed once more, to rend and tantalise.

Defences down, how could I watch you going,
me calling as you left me, and discover
that, as all women would, so meek, so knowing,
you fell short, leaving this and nothing other:

A wave that wasn’t meant alone for me,
a faint wave disappearing fast—, as might
a cuckoo inexplicably take flight
and hastily depart a damson tree.

Original:

Wie hab ich das gefühlt was Abschied heißt.
Wie weiß ichs noch: ein dunkles unverwundnes
grausames Etwas, das ein Schönverbundnes
noch einmal zeigt und hinhält und zerreißt.

Wie war ich ohne Wehr, dem zuzuschauen,
das, da es mich, mich rufend, gehen ließ,
zurückblieb, so als wärens alle Frauen
und dennoch klein und weiß und nichts als dies:

Ein Winken, schon nicht mehr auf mich bezogen,
ein leise Weiterwinkendes - , schon kaum
erklärbar mehr: vielleicht ein Pflaumenbaum,
von dem ein Kuckuck hastig abgeflogen.

Crib:

How I do feel that which is good-bye.
How I do still: a dark unwounding
cruel something which is a beautiful composite
once more showed and tantalises and tears.

How could I have, defenceless, looked on,
that, as it was me, crying me, let me go,
fell short as would all women,
and yet low and know and nothing but this:

A wave, already not relative to me,
next a gentle waving onward - yet hardly
explicable: perhaps a plum tree,
from which a cuckoo took off hastily.

oOOo

Last edited by Spindleshanks; 12-04-2019 at 11:22 AM.
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Unread 12-03-2019, 12:12 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Iowa City, IA, USA
Posts: 8,451
Default

Peter, your crib doesn't make a lot of sense and gets a number of meanings wrong, so I think the poem also is inaccurate in a number of spots. In S1L2, for example, "unverwundnes" is more "unwounded, invulnerable" which is not quite the same thing as "invincible." It is the "something" that is cruel and the bond that is beautiful. It is the bond that is being broken and the something that is doing the rending. I am under the impression that the "something" is a kind of personification of parting. In S2, the speaker is not crying. Someone is calling to him and letting him go. I'd suggest you read a number of other translations of the poem to get a better idea of what is happening in it, so that you can convey it more faithfully.

Susan
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Unread 12-04-2019, 11:21 AM
Spindleshanks's Avatar
Spindleshanks Spindleshanks is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: Australia
Posts: 1,077
Default

Susan, thanks for your views on this.
A little background in response. About eight years ago, when I first dipped my toe into the murky pond of Translation as an exercise to determine whether one could successfully translate from the German without any knowledge of German, Abschied was my chosen model. Given its complexity, my choice could have been wiser. It was a stinker. However, my efforts did prompt some patient guidance and support from some of the active members of the day, notable among them the then incumbent mod Adam Elgar, Seree Zohar ( a fellow Oz), Janice Soderling, Petra Norr and others. I subsequently focused on Heine, but Abschied remained a challenge, albeit unfulfilled. After a time, life got in the way and I withdrew from involvement with the Board, and indeed from poetry, for a number of years. Now I've returned, I'm drawn to taking up the challenge again. In meeting that challenge I came to the belief that it called for a fresh approach.
You suggest I read a number of other translations to get a better idea of what is happening in it. In approaching a translation attempt, that is always my practice. What tends to happen, particularly with Abschied, is that it simply adds to the confusion. My research has unearthed just two English translators, along with some commentators on Rilke which, unfortunately, are in German and can only be read in the machine-translated form provided by Google. What one commentary revealed, though, was quite helpful: the contentious "unverwundnes" was evidently a Rilke neologism, which likely explains why I have been unable to find a direct translation of the word in any resource. The practice is to offer as a suggestion "unwounded", "undamaged" or similar, actually drawn from the related "unverwundet," a different inflection. This word has clearly been a source of difficulty in translation. Crego translates it as "unscathed;" Steffen as "horrific" (though I do thank him for "damson"). For myself, the chief difficulty was in regard to logic. The "something" is evidently sinister in nature as signified by "dark" and context. "Unwounded" doesn't fit the register. So the "-nes" suffix likely indicates another inflection of the adjective. Now this is where I struggle, because I'm no English grammar guru, let alone German, but a search of German grammar found no "-nes" suffix. It occurred to me that the neologism might be to indicate, not "unwounded," but "unable to be wounded;" hence "invincible." In passing, I see little difference between "invincible" and "invulnerable," your own suggestion. In fact, the two words are offered as synonyms in some thesauruses, and I had considered invulnerable, favouring invincible for the prosody value.

So, the fresh approach: to re-examine the translation of individual signal words for possible alternative renderings that fit the register better. And yes, I expected some resistance in view of the departure from the accepted renderings. And so, for example, hinhält became tantalise, weiß became knowing, and so on.
The result seems to fit the likely mood and tone of the narrator as he stands on the platform bitterly watching his lamented beloved depart into the distance.

I will concede "bond" and "crying," Susan. Both gave me misgivings, and I'll revise accordingly. I'm ambivalent about the subject of "calling," though I'm inclined toward it being the N, but grammatical structure may demand otherwise.

In all of this, given my personal lack of German, I may be overlooking something. But to claim that a number of the meanings are wrong, I think, is questionable, given that there is support for the alternative meanings I've chosen.

Just sayin' . . .

Peter
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Unread 12-04-2019, 12:20 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Iowa City, IA, USA
Posts: 8,451
Default

Peter, I don't know German, either. So it is problematic for me to attempt to translate Rilke, or any other German poet. I do it with great effort, consulting many different translations to see different interpretations, but also working through the German myself with dictionaries and online resources. The most useful translation for my purposes has been that of Edward Snow, because it seems to me that he is sticking closest to the literal meaning of the lines, and knowing that literal meaning is crucial for trying to work out a way to bring the poem into form in English without turning the poem into gibberish or seriously skewing the meaning. I workshop here to check whether I have made any errors in the meaning in the course of the process. Unfortunately, many of the translations available online seem to be quite poor. I think that may be why Rilke has the reputation for being such a difficult poet.

I apologize if I sounded judgmental. I assumed that, like me, you wanted to know if you were making errors in the meaning of the German. I'm not the best person to ask about that, but I have translated that poem, and it seemed to me that you were going wrong in a number of spots. Ultimately, translation always involves interpretation. When I read the poem, I picture a farewell (at a train station or a carriage) in which the woman stays behind and waves (probably a white handkerchief or a gloved hand) as the man leaves. She grows smaller, still waving, as he moves farther away.

Susan
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Unread 12-05-2019, 12:27 AM
Spindleshanks's Avatar
Spindleshanks Spindleshanks is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: Australia
Posts: 1,077
Default

Thanks for your understanding response, Susan. I did go on a bit.

I share your feeling that Rilke's reputation for difficulty in translating may in part be due to the quality of the translators. There is a related factor, though. I've just come across an interview conducted with Ian Crockatt, a Scottish translator of Rilke, back in 2012. While his translation of Abschied tends to transform the difficult into the totally obscure in my view, I have to agree with part of his response to the question, "How do you go about the translation process?" whereby he replied among other things: " Dictionary time - every word - and exploration of all possibilities of word-sense." Which epitomises my "fresh approach" to Abschied—to re-examine the translation of individual signal words for possible alternative renderings that fit the register better. So it's not just a question of determining the literal meaning of any given word, but more a question of selecting the appropriate literal meaning among various possibilities.

Interesting that you visualise the scene as taking place at a railway station with the woman remaining behind and the man leaving. I identify the opposite: the N remaining and the woman leaving, waving as she departs. That seems to be supported by the closing metaphor of the cuckoo hastily departing from the plum tree. Regardless, the consensus among commentators seems to be that the event takes place at a train station.

Thanks again for your comments Susan. I'll look out for a copy of Snow's translation of New Poems. Abe Books may be an option if I can't find one locally. On my budget, it's gotta be cheap. Looking forward to your next translation of this difficult poet.

Peter
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Unread 12-28-2019, 04:23 AM
Claude Neuman Claude Neuman is offline
New Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2018
Location: France
Posts: 5
Default

How I have felt what it does mean to part!
How I well know it still: a cruel something,
unwounded, dark, that still a fair bonding
once more holds out and shows and tears apart!

How I was defenseless, watching the one
who, while calling to me, would let me go,
staying behind, one and every woman,
and small and white, and yet naught but this though:

a sign, already no more meant for me,
a sweet repeated sign, already seen
nearly no more: p'rhaps a plum tree wherein
a cuckoo lived that flew out hastily.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Unread 12-28-2019, 07:22 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Iowa City, IA, USA
Posts: 8,451
Default

Claude, you need to read the "Guidelines" at the very top of the page, so that you will not break the rules that govern posting poems and critiques. One rule is that you are not allowed to post more than one of your own translations per week for critique. Another is that you should not post your own translation of a work as a critique of someone else's translation. Instead, you are supposed to comment on what you like about the translation of the other person and what you think could be improved, making suggestions for possible improvements. You are supposed to comment on several poems (not necessarily on the same thread) for every one of your own poems or translations that you post. Revising just one translation per week is supposed to give you time to focus on the comments and really think about the changes, but it also prevents one person from monopolizing the thread. Ideally, the process is reciprocal, with everyone trying to help one another.

Susan
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Unread 12-28-2019, 10:01 AM
Claude Neuman Claude Neuman is offline
New Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2018
Location: France
Posts: 5
Default

Thank you, Susan. I did not post my translation as a critique, nor do I await a critique myself, I thought the idea was to share. Indeed, I did not read the guidelines, sorry about that.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Unread 12-28-2019, 12:04 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Iowa City, IA, USA
Posts: 8,451
Default

Claude, this is a poetry and translation workshop, not a web site for publication of poems. You should look elsewhere for those. These threads are screened from online bots so that the poems will not be considered published. People who post here are assuming that the poem is not yet finished and are looking for ways to polish it.

Susan
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Unread 12-29-2019, 11:25 AM
Clive Watkins Clive Watkins is offline
Member
 
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Yorkshire, UK
Posts: 2,397
Default

Dear Peter

Thanks for posting this. It is an intriguing poem. A few observations on your crib, if I may, in part amplifying something Susan wrote above….

• ein dunkles unverwundnes / grausames Etwas: a dark unwounded terrible Something

• You write above about the “nes suffix”. The ending is not, as your note has it, “nes”, but “es”, which indicates simply the agreement of the adjective with the neuter noun it qualifies, “Etwas”. Compare “dunkles” and “grausames”, which also qualify “Etwas”. Nor do I think “unverwundnes” is a neologism. “Verwunden” is to wound. The prefix “un” has a similar effect to what it has in English. The dropping of an “e” (“unverwundnes” for “unverwundenes”) is a standard variant of the language. Invulnerable, by the way, is “unverwundbar”.

• hinhält – from “hinhalten”, literally to hold out or put forward but also perhaps hold back: a pun in the German, I suspect. “Tantalize” I would render as “reizen” or perhaps “zappeln lassen”. Here your literal version takes us, in my view, too far from the original.

• das, da es mich, mich rufend, gehen ließ: that which, in calling me, lets me go. The first “mich” is the object of “gehen ließ”, whose subject is "es"; the second is the object of “rufend”. By the way, the complex embedded syntax mimes the complexity of the actions here and their associated emotions.

• zurückblieb, so als wärens alle Frauen: it (i.e. the fact of parting) remained behind as though it were all women. The subject of “zurückblieb” is “es” from the previous line – i.e. parting presented as an entity or being in itself (and in fact of course the woman). As I have proposed elsewhere, the last part of this line suggests to me the idea of womankind (a mass noun analogous to "humankind"). By the way, these words indicate, clearly I think, that it is the woman who stays put and the man who is dismissed (“mich … gehen ließ ... zurückblieb, so als wärens alle Frauen”).

• schon nicht mehr auf mich bezogen: already having no relation to me – i.e. having nothing to do with me

• ein leise Weiterwinkendes: a gentle waving that went on and on. The prefix “Weiter” in this usage indicates that the action of the second part of the word is repeated or continues. It is true that in some contexts it can mean, as you have it, “onward”, but I am certain that is not its sense here.

I hope these observations are helpful to you. Good luck with this!

Clive

Last edited by Clive Watkins; 12-30-2019 at 03:01 AM. Reason: Minor correction of my own English...
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: 8,072
Total Threads: 20,068
Total Posts: 255,283
There are 187 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