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Old 08-12-2018, 05:00 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Default Rilke, Autumn

Autumn
by Rainer Maria Rilke

The leaves are falling, falling from on high,
as if far gardens withered in the sky.
They’re falling down with gestures that say no.

And in the nights the heavy earth falls, too,
from all the stars down into loneliness.

We all are falling. Here this hand is falling.
And look at others: it is in them all.

And yet there’s one whose hands hold all this falling
with infinitely gentle tenderness.


Herbst

Die Blätter fallen, fallen wie von weit,
als welkten in den Himmeln ferne Gärten;
sie fallen mit verneinender Gebärde.

Und in den Nächten fällt die schwere Erde
aus allen Sternen in die Einsamkeit.

Wir alle fallen. Diese Hand da fällt.
Und sieh dir andre an: es ist in allen.

Und doch ist Einer, welcher dieses Fallen
unendlich sanft in seinen Händen hält.


Literal translation:
Autumn

The leaves are falling, falling as from far off,
as if distant gardens withered in the skies;
they fall with denying gestures.

And in the nights the heavy earth falls
from all the stars into loneliness.

We all are falling. This hand is falling there.
And look at others: it is in all of them.

And yet there is one who holds this falling
with infinite gentleness in his hands.

Last edited by Susan McLean; 08-12-2018 at 10:06 PM.
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Old 08-12-2018, 05:15 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Susan,

Good choice of Rilke poem again. Not yet your best translation, to my mind; I don't much like "from on high" for "von weit", and the rhyme with sky seems easy. OTOH, the closing abba rhyme seems underrepresented in your English. I'd love to see at least a half-rhyme to close out the poem.
(By the way, you're missing an umlaut on the final German word, haelt - for the rhyme).
So in short, I think you have room for tweaking here.

Cheers,
John
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Old 08-12-2018, 09:47 PM
A. Sterling A. Sterling is offline
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Hi Susan,

I attempted a translation of this poem some time ago myself, and it was interesting to see the differences in how you’ve handled it here. I recall concluding that the rhyme scheme is impossible to replicate in English without departing from the original too far. In lieu of that, I kept to the original rhythm as closely as I could and hoped all the assonance would still hold it together sound-wise. But you’ve given it a different rhyme scheme—interesting! And more ambitious than what I was doing.
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Old 08-12-2018, 10:16 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Susan,

Yup, sorry I missed the closing rhyme scheme Anka spotted. For the loneliness-tenderness pair, could you try using caress? Say, "like a blank caress"? It would make the falling-falling identity rhyme less high-profile.

Und doch ist Einer, welcher dieses Fallen
unendlich sanft in seinen Händen hält.

Cheers,
John
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Old 08-12-2018, 10:34 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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John, thanks for catching the typo in the German. I thought that "on high" captured the idea of the leaves seeming to fall from gardens in the sky. I assume that the leaves are being whirled so high by the wind that they seem to be coming from nowhere. My last word, "tenderness," is a rhyme with "loneliness," though an identity rhyme like that (and rhyming "falling" with "falling") would not be my first choice. However, Rilke himself rhymes his first line with the fifth line, so he separates rhymes by an equal distance. I note that Rilke is also using a lot of internal rhyme of "all" and "fall" in various forms. So I thought I might be more experimental than usual in what I count as rhymes in this poem. There is a strange dying fall to these lines that I am trying to capture in the rhythms of the lines and in the very dissonance of the rhymes. But I am willing to keep thinking about alternate approaches.

A., I like to try to get a rhyme scheme into my translation of poems that rhyme in the original language, but I let myself depart from the poet's rhyme scheme if doing so helps me stick close to the meaning. I also try to listen for other sonic techniques the poet uses, but I realize that many of those cannot be replicated in English. What I most want to achieve is to translate music in one language into music in the other, but without doing violence to the poem's meaning.

Susan
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Old 08-13-2018, 12:42 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Susan,

See my second post for a suggested alternative rhyme, and my note I'd missed your closing rhyme scheme. I agree, it would be nice to lose at least one identity rhyme!
On high - I see your point, but von weit is surprising to me in the German (not, say, von oben), and I'd like to see you catch that in the English. It seems more horizontal, oddly.
Typo - no problem! I do like your choice of poem, as always. You are pretty unerring.

Cheers,
John
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Old 08-13-2018, 03:42 AM
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Kevin Rainbow Kevin Rainbow is offline
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I admire this translation. If only you could have kept the original rhyme scheme.

"Gentle tenderness" strikes me as redundant as "gentle" and "tender" mean basically the same thing. I, too, feel the ending rhyme needs to be more impactful, and I think it is important to keep "hands" near the end of the last line.

Perhaps something along these lines may be worth considering:


And in the nights the heavy earth falls, too,
From all the stars, as if alone, by chance.

We all are falling. Here this hand is falling.
And look at others: it is in them all.

And yet there’s one who's holding all this falling,
With neverending softness, in his hands.



Maybe even the last "falling" could simply be "fall" -


And look at others: it is in them all.

And yet there’s one who's holding all this fall,
With neverending softness, in his hands.


.

Last edited by Kevin Rainbow; 08-13-2018 at 04:06 AM.
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Old 08-13-2018, 01:07 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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John, sorry, we crossposted. I don't like "blank caress" because it does not seem at all close to what Rilke wrote. I still think that Rilke is implying that the leaves are high in the air because he says they are coming from gardens in the sky. Surely he would have said "gardens far away" if he meant that they were blowing horizontally. For me, the identity rhymes tie into the other repetitions in the poem in a way that seems intentional, though I have not ruled out trying to find alternatives.

Kevin, I see "gentle" as implying a physical action and "tenderness" as implying an emotional state, so I don't think the terms are redundant, even though they are inspired by just one word in the German. I would have liked to keep "hands" at the end, but it doesn't have many useful rhymes. "Chance" introduces an idea that is not in the original, and I try to avoid doing that.

Susan
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Old 08-13-2018, 01:24 PM
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Kevin Rainbow Kevin Rainbow is offline
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Quote:
"Chance" introduces an idea that is not in the original, and I try to avoid doing that.
I thought of that line about loneliness as meaning to be contradicted by the last line, suggesting loneliness is an illusion, since earth is not really left alone - there is always One still there taking care of us or cushioning the fall. Not being left to mere chance seems to fit naturally into the idea of not ultimately being left alone because the creator is always there.
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Old 08-13-2018, 01:39 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Kevin, from what I have read of Rilke, I get the impression that he thinks that loneliness is the human condition, not an illusion. This seems a very melancholy poem to me, not an optimistic one, seeming to imply that the creator is observing, but not preventing, all of the falling. Rilke is not a conventional Christian. He uses Christian themes as the jumping-off place for his own meditations.

Susan
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