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  #11  
Old 09-11-2018, 02:33 PM
David Callin David Callin is online now
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Has anybody translated Rilke's sonnets into English rhyming sonnets well? I do wonder. It seems a fearfully difficult task. (Names will be welcomed, if they have.)

I think with this one as I did with the Sarcophagi, Susan. There's clearly a lot of impressive effort - and, I must add, achievement - in the polished version, but there seems to me to be much more poetry in the unpolished literal translation.

But maybe that's because that's where, more than in the more worked-upon translation, we see Rilke plain - or as plain as we can without German. (I can only painfully limp through the German. But I can hear the music.)

I'll follow your further adventures with Rilke with interest and admiration, though.

Cheers

David
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  #12  
Old 09-11-2018, 04:15 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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David, it is discouraging to hear that you prefer the literal crib of a Rilke poem to a translation that tries to stay close to the meaning while also trying to suggest the rhyme and meter of the original. Cribs have their purpose, but the poetry of a rhymed, metrical poem also lies partly in the rhyme and meter. Rilke's ideas and metaphors are powerful, but so is his way with rhyme and meter.

Quite a few people have translated Rilke into formal poems. No one captures both sound and sense perfectly, so there is always room for new attempts. Len Krisak has a rhymed metrical translation of all of the poems in New Poems. He uses perfect rhyme more often than I do, and he also maintains the same rhyme scheme that Rilke used. Those two choices force him to depart from the literal meaning often, though they also deliver a more musical sound. Walter Arndt is another translator who tries to stick to perfect rhyme and keep the same rhyme scheme, with the same pros and cons. In the Oxford World's Classics text, translators Susan Ranson and Marielle Surtherland rely on slant rhymes more often and vary the rhyme scheme at times, but I would say that they still are often inaccurate in conveying the sense. Poetry translations always fail if they are held to the standard of perfection. But tastes vary in terms of what people are looking for in a translation.

Susan
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  #13  
Old 09-11-2018, 04:52 PM
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Martin Rocek Martin Rocek is offline
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Susan,
I am curious about the plover; as far as I can make out, no plovers are forest birds. Did Rilke simply make a mistake, or is there more going on here?

Martin
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Old 09-11-2018, 05:23 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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Martin, having looked at a map of the range of the European golden plover (a game bird), I saw that they were not just found along beaches. I am guessing that they must also frequent riverbanks, and some rivers do run through woods.

Susan
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Old 09-11-2018, 06:02 PM
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Martin Rocek Martin Rocek is offline
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Hi Susan,
not really--here is what Wikipedia says:

The European golden plover tends to breed in the Arctic tundra and other palearctic areas, ranging as far west as Iceland, where they are called Heiūlůa, and as far east as central Siberia. It tends to gather in large flocks and winter in open areas, agricultural plains, ploughed land, and short meadows, ranging from Europe to North Africa.
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Old 09-11-2018, 07:00 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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Okay, Martin, I really don't know anything about plovers. I'm not sure why Rilke says it is calling from a wood.

Susan
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  #17  
Old 09-12-2018, 07:10 AM
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Michael F Michael F is offline
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FWIW, I think itís an interesting question about the plover: did R make a mistake, did he encounter a peculiar plover, or was he using Ďpoetic licenseí? Iím not sure we can know, but it gives me a look into the Ďmachineryí of this poem, and TBH, it humanizes R a bit, for which Iím grateful. Itís easy for me to be overawed by his genius.

On the translations themselves, I like that Susan is sticking pretty closely to the cribs. I speak enough German to hobble through the poems with my Langenscheidts, and Iím grateful to read English versions that donít try to embellish Rís own thoughts and images Ė this lily doesnít need gilding.

I donít recall reading previously any of the poems Susan has posted; IMO her selections have been marvelous. Iím enjoying this project and Iím fascinated by him. But I repeat myself.
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  #18  
Old 09-12-2018, 08:37 AM
David Callin David Callin is online now
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Hi Susan,

Yes, that probably did sound a bit discouraging. Sorry about that. It wasn't my intention.

More power to your translating elbow!

Cheers

David
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