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  #1  
Old 07-18-2018, 11:14 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Default Rilke, From a Childhood

From a Childhood
by Rainer Maria Rilke

The darkening was like riches in the room
in which the boy, concealed and secret, sat.
And when the mother came, as in a dream,
a glass shook in the silent cabinet.
She sensed how the room had given her away,
and kissed her boy, murmuring “Are you here?”
Then both glanced shyly at the piano there,
because on many an evening she would play
a song the child found strangely riveting.

He sat quite still. His wide-eyed gaze would hang
upon her hand which, bowed down by the ring,
across the ivory keys would go
as if it toiled through drifts of snow.

Revisions:
L7-8 was "Then both glanced shyly at the piano, for / on it on many an evening she would play"


Aus Einer Kindheit

Das Dunkeln war wie Reichtum in dem Raume,
darin der Knabe, sehr verheimlicht, saß.
Und als die Mutter eintrat wie im Traume,
erzitterte im stillen Schrank ein Glas.
Sie fühlte, wie das Zimmer sie verriet,
und küsste ihren Knaben: Bist du hier?...
Dann schauten beide bang nach dem Klavier,
denn manchen Abend hatte sie ein Lied,
darin das Kind sich seltsam tief verfing.

Es saß sehr still. Sein großes Schauen hing
an ihrer Hand, die ganz gebeugt vom Ringe,
als ob sie schwer in Schneewehn ginge,
über die weißen Tasten ging.


Literal translation:
From a Childhood

The darkening was like riches in the room
in which the boy, very secretive, sat.
And when the mother entered, as if in a dream,
a glass quivered in the silent cupboard.
She felt how the room betrayed her,
and kissed her boy: Are you here? . . .
Then both looked timidly at the piano,
for on many an evening she would play a song,
in which the child was strangely, deeply caught.

He sat very still. His huge gaze hung
on her hand which, completely bowed down by the ring,
as if walking heavily through snowdrifts,
went over the white keys.

Last edited by Susan McLean; 07-18-2018 at 10:06 PM.
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  #2  
Old 07-18-2018, 01:15 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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I never really feel qualified to comment on translations. It seems to me you've done an excellent job, Susan (but is there some way not to have 'for' hang over like that in L7?)

But oh my god, what a beautiful poem!
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  #3  
Old 07-18-2018, 01:17 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Wow, what a wonderful poem! It hints at so much that it doesn't say. And your treatment of it is lovely, too.

When I look at the original, I have to think that all that monorhyme at the end is one of the things hinted at, rather than said--perhaps the sound of the piano itself.

I assume that you already tried hard to find more perfect rhymes for the final two lines, but I still wish...oh, well, if it can't be done, it can't be done. Still, I would strongly suggest changing L10's off-rhymed "hang" to the more perfect rhyme "cling."

I would also suggest, since you're not using a perfect rhyme for "here" in L6 anyway, that you end that line with "are" instead, which would allow the question to sound more natural (to my ear, anyway):

and kissed her boy: "So this is where you are?"
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Old 07-18-2018, 01:58 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Mark, I don't like ending L7 with "for," but so far I have not found a good off rhyme that would allow me to avoid it. I will see if I can find one.

Julie, the last five lines are not a monorhyme. If I am right, the rhyme scheme of the poem in German is ABABCDDCE EFFE. I have changed the rhyme scheme slightly at the end, but preserved the 3/2 pattern by doing E EEFF. I don't think "cling" works quite as well as "hang," which has the advantage of alliterating with "hand" and also fits the meter better. The off rhyme also seems to me to avoid the awkwardness of a triplet, which Rilke's poem does not have, yet it is close enough to look as if it partly rhymes with "riveting" and "ring."

Susan
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Old 07-18-2018, 03:14 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Oh. Oops. .........
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Old 07-18-2018, 03:55 PM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
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Susan's right, but there's a grain of truth to what Julie says because the E and the F rhymes are the same on the stressed syllable and differ only in that one of them has a hypermetric syllable added on. Ideally, I suppose a translaton would try to duplicate that soundplay as well, but it would certainly be above and beyond the call of a translator's duty.
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Old 07-18-2018, 10:19 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Mark and Julie, I have made a slight change to L7-8 to try to remove the awkward "for" at the end of L7. Though "there" is not present in the German in L7, it is implied that the piano is in the room with the boy.

Roger, I could not figure out any way in English to recreate the effect of the near monorhyme in the last five lines. The exact rhymes at least emphasize the closeness that is implied between the mother and son, and the rhymes fall closer together at the end because of the shortened last two lines.

Susan
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Old 07-19-2018, 05:46 AM
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Michael Ferris Michael Ferris is offline
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Yes -- what a gorgeous poem. And wonderfully rendered, very effective in English, I think. I'm enjoying these Rilke translations, Susan.
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Old 07-20-2018, 12:35 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Susan,

A fly-by visit to say pretty much what Michael said: I continue to enjoy your deft selection of Rilke poems, and the craft you put into rendering them in English. Props. I'm sitting in an internet cafe, but plan to be back later.

Cheers,
John
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Old 07-22-2018, 10:22 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Susan,

A return after studying the German just to note my unsureness about darkening and room. Could you go with twilight, which scans better? And is there an alternative to room for Raum, since Rilke plays on Raum and Zimmer?
The rest reads just fine to me as a rendering of the German text, with some lovely touches. More fine work IMO.

Cheers,
John
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