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Old 08-19-2018, 10:26 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Default Rilke, Evening

Evening
by Rainer Maria Rilke

The evening slowly dons its evening wear,
held for it by a border of old trees.
You watch. The realms part company and veer
away: one falls, one rises to the skies.

They leave you, who don’t quite belong to either,
not quite so dark as the silent house, not quite
so surely conjuring what lasts forever
as that which turns to star and climbs each night.

They leave you (inexpressibly unwinding)
your life—enormous, ripening, tinged with fear—
now limited in scope, now comprehending,
by turns becoming stone in you and star.

Revisions:
S1L3 "realms" was "lands"
S2L4 was "as that which, turned to star, ascends each night."
S3L2 was "your life—uneasy, huge, nearly mature—"
S3L3 was "which is, now limited,"


Abend

Der Abend wechselt langsam die Gewänder,
die ihm ein Rand von alten Bäumen hält;
du schaust: und von dir scheiden sich die Länder,
ein himmelfahrendes, und eins, das fällt;

und lassen dich, zu keinen ganz gehörend,
nicht ganz so dunkel wie das Haus, das schweigt,
nicht ganz so sicher Ewiges beschwörend
wie das, was Stern wird jede Nacht und steigt;

und lassen dich (unsäglich zu entwirrn)
dein Leben bang und riesenhaft und reifend,
so daß es, bald begrenzt und bald begreifend,
abwechselnd Stein in dir wird und Gestirn.


Literal translation:
Evening

The evening slowly changes its attire,
held for it by a border of old trees;
you watch: and the lands depart from you,
one ascending to heaven and one that falls;

and leave you, not quite belonging to either,
not quite so dark as the house, that is silent,
not quite so certainly conjuring up the eternal
as that which becomes star each night and rises;

and leave you (inexpressibly to untangle)
your life, fearful and huge and ripening,
which becomes, now circumscribed, now comprehending,
alternately stone in you and star.

Last edited by Susan McLean; 08-23-2018 at 08:13 PM.
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  #2  
Old 08-19-2018, 10:45 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Susan,

Yup, again lovely. If you liked, you could shoot for regular IP throughout with "the still house." I think that would work for "das schweigt."
You've punctuated a little differently from Rilke. I imagine you thought about that.

Cheers,
John
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Old 08-19-2018, 12:01 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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John, I considered "still house," but it is ambiguous in English. It could mean "unmoving" rather than "silent," and I wanted it to be clear to the reader that "silent" was the right reading. The syntax of the poem is so complex, given that it is all one sentence in the German, that I feared the reader would become confused, so I divided it into units to avoid Rilke's extremely common use of semicolons and "and." There was also a chance of confusion about pronouns and references in the English version. By making stanzas two and three into separate sentences, I could emphasize the parallelism of their phrasing, while making it clear that "they" refers to "lands" and not to "one." Breaking the poem into several sentences does diminish the effect Rilke has of uniting opposites in a complex equilibrium, but I think that Rilke always risks tipping into meanings that are too abstruse to follow. I can't translate a poem if I don't feel that I understand it myself, and too often with Rilke I find that I am at a loss. However, if people here think that the division into multiple sentences sacrifices too much, I will consider changing it.

Susan
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Old 08-19-2018, 12:07 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Susan,

"I think that Rilke always risks tipping into meanings that are too abstruse to follow." Amen - and you've not even started working at the Duineser Elegien! I vote that you go ahead and keep Rilke's single sentence as you have it; German more than English, I think, gets a kick out of convoluted syntax. My 2c. Oh, and I agree about still house. I just like to go ti-tum ti-tum ti-tum.

Cheers,
John
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Old 08-20-2018, 07:57 AM
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Michael Ferris Michael Ferris is offline
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Hi Susan,

Here are some random thoughts as I read the poem -- I hope they are somehow useful to you.

I (perhaps) like ‘countries’ for Länder. Plays off of ‘begrenzt’. I’m sure you considered it. It’s a modest predilection.

I like ‘untangle’ or maybe 'unmix' for entwirrn. ‘Silently’ or ‘mutely’ could work for unsäglich, though that is to take a liberty, I know, and loses the connotation of ineffability.

I like ‘ripening’ for reifend. As I understand R, ripening was a big concept for him. It seems a more colorful word to me.

‘which is’ bothers me in L11. It’s superfluous. Not sure how to fix it.

I love the trope of the dusk or gloaming as an unmaking into separate countries or lands or natures, which are (uneasily) united in the human self. It’s R riffing on the old dogmas again, isn’t it? With the inescapable brooding of death. Wonderful.

M
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Old 08-20-2018, 09:54 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Michael, thanks for your suggestions. I had considered "realms," a more abstract word, in place of "lands," which sounded more concrete, so I will try that one out to see what readers think of it. The need to rhyme is limiting my options for words at the end of lines, such as "unwinding" and "mature." I know they are not ideal, but I can't find good replacements that rhyme. "Silently" and "mutely" seem much narrower than "inexpressibly," though the latter is also a more difficult word. But Rilke is difficult. I never know how much to smooth out the rough places. I have taken out the unneeded "which is."

Susan
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Old 08-20-2018, 11:45 AM
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Michael Ferris Michael Ferris is offline
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Oh, I hadn't thought of realms, but I like it.

I understand of course about the constraints -- sometimes I'm just thinking out loud to figure out what R was aiming at, which is fun (as you probably agree!).

I also like the fix for L11.

M
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Old 08-22-2018, 04:29 AM
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Kevin Rainbow Kevin Rainbow is offline
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I agree; it is a lovely poem and a fairly decent translation.

However, I think you need to put more effort into achieving stronger rhymes. It seems there is a bit a slackness here and/or an unwillingness to be flexibile enough in the spirit of what you are translating to do better with the rhymes. "Skies" with "trees"? "-ever" and "either" "-hending" and "winding"? The only full rhyme in this is "quite" and "night" This is in complete contrast with the quality of rhymes in the original.

It wouldn't take that much in the first stanza to make the rhymes strong:

The evening slowly dons its evening wear,
held by a row of agèd trees nearby.
You watch. The realms part company and fare
away: one falls, one rises to the sky.



Quote:
The evening slowly dons its evening wear
The second "evening" in my opinion doesn't really make sense here because evening is a given from the first mention, and by the very nature of it already being evening, the features thereof must already be donned, not merely in the process of being donned - being put on. I don't think evening is putting on evening (it already is evening) The change of clothes indicates evening changing gradually into night doesn't it?

How about: "The evening slowly dons a change of wear".



Quote:
They leave you, who don’t quite belong to either,
"Who" to my ear struggles to hold the beat well. I wonder if you may be willing to consider -

They leave you not belonging quite to either,

Or to improve the rhyme, something along these lines:

They leave you fitting neither perfectly,
...
so surely conjuring Eternity



Quote:
not quite so dark as the silent house, not quite
You have eleven metrical syllables here instead of ten, and the meter goes off in the second half of the line. Consider perhaps -

Not so dark as the silent house nor quite


This would restrict the variation to the beginning, where it is less disruptive, and would maintain the syllable count. Ideally the second "quite" before dark could be kept, but I don't think it is a good idea to put the meter of half of the line out simply for that "quite", which will still be implied anyway by the tone and context. "Nor" sounds slightly better after "house" to my ear.

Quote:
turned to star
"turned to star" needs an article "to a star", otherwise it sounds like the English of a foreigner who doesn't yet know where the articles go. Consider changing it to "turned a star" or even using the plural, "turned to stars"



Quote:
by turns becoming stone in you and star
Though it is less noticible here because "stone" can be used without "a", the point that star in English is used with an article "a/the star" still applies. We don't say "there is star" or that the "sky is in a state of star" or that "star comes out". We say "there is a star/there are stars" or "the sky is starry" "(the) stars come out".

I offer this as a suggestion, trying also to improve the rhyme -

They leave you (inexpressibly unwinding)
your life—uneasy, huge, less young by far,
now limited in scope, now widely finding,
A state by turns a stone in you and star.


.
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Old 08-22-2018, 10:45 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Kevin, thanks for your thoughts on the translation. Because you and I are privileging different areas, our results are quite different. You want to put the focus on regular meter and exact rhyme; I am willing to resort to loose iambic meter, more metrical variations, and slant rhyme in order to stay closer to the wording of Rilke. So although your suggestions work, they work in a different way, and I am not ready to make that change. In the first stanza, I hate adding a "nearby," even if the trees would necessarily be nearby. "Fare" is an old-fashioned word, and though I had considered it, I chose to stick closer to modern diction.

I chose "evening wear" partly because "attire" seems so flat in English, whereas "evening wear" evokes changing into formal dress for dinner, which was common among Rilke's crowd. Admittedly, that introduces a touch of humor that Rilke does not usually have. But the image is more striking, I think. That comma in "They leave you, who don't quite belong" is important to the meaning, I'd say, because it emphasizes that the speaker is alone, as well as that he does not belong. Rilke uses ganz ("quite') three times. To change the wording in order to omit some of those repetitions is possible, but I don't wish to do so because he is emphasizing parallels. "Stone" and "star" are being compared, so it does not make sense to me to have an article in front of one but not the other.

Susan

Last edited by Susan McLean; 08-22-2018 at 08:58 PM.
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Old 08-23-2018, 01:14 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Michael, I really wanted to get "ripening" into S3L2, and now I think I have found a way to do so.

Susan
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