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  #1  
Unread 10-04-2019, 05:24 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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Default Rilke, The Sisters

The Sisters
by Rainer Maria Rilke

See how the same potential is expressed
and understood quite differently in them,
as though we’re watching different times go past
across a pair of matching rooms.

Each means to be supportive of the other,
while, nonetheless, she’s leaning on her, tired;
they cannot be of use to one another
because they’re stacking blood on blood

when they go walking down the avenue,
gently touching like before, and aim
to feel they're led and lead each other, too--
but oh! the way they walk is not the same.


Revisions:
S1 was:
See how the same potential is in them
grasped and embodied differently, as though
we’re watching different eras as they go
passing through two matching rooms.
S2L2 semicolon was comma
S2L3 started "and they can’t"
S2L4 ended with a semicolon; "stacking" was "piling"
S3 was:
when they are walking down the avenue
and touching gently, as before, their aim
is to feel led and lead each other, too:
but oh! the way they walk is not the same.
S3L1 "avenue" was "boulevard"
S3L3 was "to feel that they are being led and lead--"


Die Schwestern

Sieh, wie sie dieselben Möglichkeiten
anders an sich tragen und verstehn,
so als sähe man verschiedne Zeiten
durch zwei gleiche Zimmer gehn.

Jede meint die andere zu stützen,
während sie doch müde an ihr ruht;
und sie können nicht einander nützen,
denn sie legen Blut auf Blut,

wenn sie sich wie früher sanft berühren
und versuchen, die Allee entlang
sich geführt zu fühlen und zu führen:
Ach, sie haben nicht denselben Gang.


Literal translation:
The Sisters

See how they wear and understand
the same possibilities differently,
as if we’re watching different periods
pass through two identical rooms.

Each means to support the other,
while, all the same, she rests on her wearily,
and they cannot be of use to one another
because they lay blood on blood

when they touch each other gently, as before,
and try, along the avenue, to feel
themselves led and to lead--
oh, they do not have the same gait.

Last edited by Susan McLean; 10-08-2019 at 06:42 AM.
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  #2  
Unread 10-04-2019, 05:52 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Good morning Susan,

Nice poem! To my mind, you've rather elegantly captured pretty much everything the German is saying here, and my two little nits are both more to do with the music of the English than anything to do with your rendering. I'd love this line - "and they can’t be of use to one another" - to have one fewer syllable. I know, it's an old hobby-horse of mine. And ideally, I'd like some other rhyme than other-another. Them's my 2c. Thanks for the read.

Cheers,
John
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  #3  
Unread 10-04-2019, 06:38 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is online now
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I think this really well done Susan.

I found the opening line slightly odd word/ inverted phrasing of the opening line:

See how the same potential is in them grasped and embodied differently.

Can you rhyme 'same'/'room' it seems as close as 'them/room'. Then maybe something like:

See how each one's potential is the same
yet grasped and worn quite differently, as though
we’re watching different eras as they go
passing through two matching rooms.

Rhyming 'other' with 'nother' in S2 seems legitimate to me; it doesn't sound like an identity rhyme to me.

I'm wondering if the semicolon at the end of S2L4 is a good idea (ditto the lack of one at the end of S2L3). It seems to change the sense of what's said slightly.

Isn't it that they're laying blood on blood when they're walking down the avenue and touching each other and aiming to feel both led and leading? Your S3 seems to read that, "when they walk, touch etc, then their aim is to ....".

Also, the 'as before' seems ambiguous, it could be that "as before, their aim ..." or it could be walking and touching gently, as [they were doing] before".

Anyway, maybe I'm misparsing the original. My German is very ropey. But if not, it'd be an easy tweak:


while, nonetheless, she’s leaning on her, tired;
and they can't be of use to one another
because they’re piling blood on blood

when they are walking down the avenue
and touching gently, as before, and aim
to feel they're led and lead each other, too:
but oh! the way they walk is not the same.

You might consider "when they go walking" over "when they are". Otherwise, it can seem a little padded, given that you have "they're" two lines later. (Also "can't", "she's" etc. elsewhere).

best,

Matt
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  #4  
Unread 10-05-2019, 03:36 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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John, I am puzzled by the line you say should have one fewer syllable. I assume you mean that you find the rhythm rocky, since it is perfectly acceptable to have eleven syllables in an iambic pentameter line with a feminine ending. I have tried eliminating the "and" to get a more standard rhythm. As Matt said, "other/another" is not an identity rhyme.

Matt, I don't like using "same" twice as a rhyme in the same poem, so I can't rearrange the first stanza the way you suggest. The slightly odd syntax will have to stay unless I can figure a way around it. I have tried changing the punctuation in S2 and doing a more thorough rewrite of S3.

Thanks for the suggestions.

Susan
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  #5  
Unread 10-05-2019, 07:17 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Susan,

I like your fix for the line that bugged me. Now it doesn't bug me! And as for other/another, I'd just prefer a rhyme which didn't end in the word other both times. Not a big deal though.

Cheers,
John
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  #6  
Unread 10-05-2019, 07:43 AM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Standard caveat that I often miss the point completely. But you know that.

I prefer the original version of S3, Susan, with the exception of "When they go walking" for "When they are walking." Part of the reason that I prefer the old way is that I prefer the more perfect rhyme of "avenue" and "too" to the awkward "boulevard" and "lead." (I'm not wild about "tired" and "blood" in the preceding stanza, either, and these seem to be continuing the same off-rhyme--and perhaps even as if "tired" is matched with "boulevard" in the next stanza, and "blood" with "lead.") But I also thought the old way was clearer about each sister wanting to feel as if she were being led, as well as leading.

I wish you could find a way to keep "gait" or "stride" (probably too forceful a word) or similar in the final line, rather than having "walking" in S3L1 and "walk" in S3L4.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 10-05-2019 at 07:46 AM.
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Unread 10-05-2019, 09:56 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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Julie, I have gone back to "avenue/too" as the rhyme in S3, but I did not like any of the alternatives for "walking" in S3L1, though "strolling" came closest. But "strolling" sounded a bit too casual: even when they are just walking, the sisters have an agenda. I don't see any fix at the moment for the "tired/blood" rhyme.

Susan
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  #8  
Unread 10-06-2019, 10:02 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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I enjoyed this, Susan. It reads like an original poem, and I see that you've stuck quite close to the original sense.

I have the smallest of nits: should the opening line have a comma at the end of it?

See how the same potential is in them
grasped and embodied differently,

Without the comma, it might be read as a syntactical inversion for "is grasped and embodied differently in them." A shade of difference in meaning, but I think a significant one.

Very nice work.

Andrew
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  #9  
Unread 10-06-2019, 11:15 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is online now
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Hi Susan,

I guess a case could be made for the open with:

See how each one's potential is the same

and end

but oh! the way they walk is not the same.

But I can see arguments against too. I had pretty much the same thought to Andrew's to avoid the inversion in L1/L2, which was:

See how the same potential is in them,
yet grasped and worn quite differently,

Though I wonder if then stress falls too much toward 'in' and then away from 'them'. But now I've said it out loud too many times to be sure

-Matt
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  #10  
Unread 10-06-2019, 02:28 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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Andrew and Matt, adding a comma at the end of L1 changes the meaning in a way I don't like, but I have tried rewriting the whole first stanza.

Susan
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