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Language speaks, because speaking is its pleasure and it can do nothing else.

Penelope Fitzgerald

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I am a little surprised at the progress I am making with Hymns to the Night -- I was mentioning to a friend today that when I pick up projects like this, I usually map them out in detail, then translate a sentence or two and lose interest. Today I've got working translations of the first and second hymns, and I think they read reasonably well. I have borrowed heavily from MacDonald's translation but I think mine is more pleasant of a read -- you have to spend less time and effort on diagramming the sentences in your head to make them make sense.I think a combination of telling everybody I'm working on this and the effort I put into programming the translation page is making this feel like a higher priority to actually put in the time and do it. We'll see about the verse sections of hymns 4, 5, and 6 -- I think it is going to be really difficult to come up with anything.

Update: I'm no longer a one-man band! The first outside contribution to the project comes from Greg Woodruff, and it's a good 'un.

Update: Another translation, from Gary.

posted evening of Saturday, October 20th, 2007
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I posted my translation on your Wednesday post.

posted evening of October 21st, 2007 by Gary

Yep, I saw that -- thanks -- I am meaning to link to it from a couple of places. How did you come up with that so quickly? -- or did you have it lying around from before?

posted evening of October 21st, 2007 by Jeremy

I'm bilingual, so the German wasn't a problem. I find that I'm tempted to skim things like this unless I force myself to slow down by translating them.

I tried to keep each line intact, since each line is a sense-unit in the original. I sometimes had to change the syntax to make the sequence of sense-units work in English.

It took me about 2 hours of pleasant work.

posted evening of October 21st, 2007 by Gary

Well thanks! I liked your translation -- particularly switching around "x athmet es" to "it animates x" -- the sentence "light animates the heavens" gives me a strongly different image from "the heavens breathe light", I think a very useful one.

I'm tempted to skim things like this unless I force myself to slow down

Very good point -- maybe I should think about translating some English poems into a different language. If only I spoke one!

posted evening of October 21st, 2007 by Jeremy

The "it animates x" is exactly what I was referring to when I talked about switching the syntax. Glad you like it as much as I do.

I should point out that I used the manuscript text, not the published one. That explains some of the differences between my translation and yours. For example, "am weckenden Tage" is just "im Tage" in the manuscript version, so I translated it as "in daytime" instead of something like "in the stimulating daylight".

I like the manuscript layout much better. It presents the argument neatly, in bite-sized pieces logically laid out. The printed version feels much more ponderous to me. I'm going top try to see if I can use this technique (of re-writing in logical units instead of verse units) with other poetry that looks so dense on the printed page that my eyes glaze over.

posted morning of October 23rd, 2007 by Gary

Yeah, I figured you were using the manuscript layout since you had the line divisions -- I haven't really looked at that layout yet, I've been spending all my time with the printed copy. When I get to the bottom of that I'll take a look at the other.

posted morning of October 23rd, 2007 by Jeremy


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