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Sometimes I would forget Time altogether, and nestle into "now" as if it were a soft bed.

Orhan Pamuk


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Wednesday, July 23rd, 2003

Translation

In regards to the LanguageHat post on translating Wittgenstein -- I posted in his comments a translation of a line of Rilke that I think is pretty good, and maybe better than the previous translations that have been made of that line -- it was not hard, I used what seems like a pretty obvious device that seems, however, not to have occurred to J.B. Leishman, A.J. Poulin, Steven Cohn, or William Gass. And also I had some interesting ideas about the line of Wittgenstein that is quoted. So this is where I get things out of order and say, "Hey, maybe I've finally found my calling! -- I will translate German literature!"

But wait... what I translated was a single line, or half a line, out of the rather large Duino Elegies -- a work which I have not yet been able to make my way through. Perhaps though, some future exists for me as a translator of epigrams.

I have had some fun over the years translating German stories and other stuff, with varying degrees of success. I would like to reproduce here my best effort thus far, coincidentally also a poem by Rilke:

Der Novembertag

Kalter Herbst vermag den Tag zu knebeln,
seine tausend Jubelstimmen schweigen;
hoch vom Domturm wimmern gar so eigen
Sterbeglocken in Novembernebeln.

Auf den nassen Daechern liegt verschlafen
weisses Dunstlicht; und mit kalten Haenden
greift der Sturm in des Kamines Waenden
eines Totenkarmens Schlussoktaven.

The November Day

Cold autumn can muzzle the day,
silence its thousand jubilating voices;
from the high cathedral tower whimper, so peculiar,
from the steeple whimper, so peculiar,
death bells in November's mist.

On the wet rooftops lies sleeping
a white fog; and with cold hands
the storm inside the chimney's walls strikes
a death-karma's closing octaves.

It loses meter and rhyme which are, yes, rather important in the original -- but I think it communicates Rilke's image and feeling quite well. And I'm happy about preserving much of the word order and separation by line of images. By the way: is anyone else reminded very strongly of the end of Prufrock? -- I refer to the catlike fog which curled around the roof and fell asleep, I think is how it goes.

Update: I changed "high cathedral tower" to "steeple" in response to an accurate observation by LanguageHat that the former was too long. The rhythm is a lot better now. Also I took out a "the" in the following line and replaced it with an "'s". LH does not like the inversion in "lies sleeping/ a white fog", but I do, it's staying in there.

Update 2:I realize a potential major problem with this translation is, I have no clear idea what "a death-karma's closing octaves" means. If you have any thoughts in this regard, please let me know.

posted evening of July 23rd, 2003: Respond
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Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Two takes on Prufrock

caminamos tú y yo
se anochece en el cielo
como un borracho en el arroyo:
visitamos unos esquinas
y calles ya desconocidas
platicamos, sonreímos
me resulta muy difícil olvidar

-- The Modesto Kid

Let us go then, you and I,
the evening sprawled across the sky
just like a drunkard, passed out in the gutter.
The patrons scowl, and mutter.

-- Peter Conlay

posted morning of January 9th, 2013: 1 response
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Saturday, January 12th, 2013

Prufrock in Manhattan

On these pages I record and bequeath
the semi-autobiographical log,
a sort of last will and testament,
perhaps devoid of the Maestro’s
meter, rhythm and rhyme,
a run-away musical score
for a fugue in counterpoint

-- Fugue in Counterpoint with Prufrock
Colombian poet Luis Zalamea translated Prufrock into Spanish. The Fugue in Counterpoint is his own take on the poem, a take written in 1984 for the collection Voces en el desierto, with an introductory note. (The blog is duopoetico, looks very interesting, a collaboration between Zalamea and his daughter Pilar Kimbrell.)

Nice Prufrock passage at cleek's.

posted afternoon of January 12th, 2013: Respond
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Sunday, January 20th, 2013

Otra vez «Prufrock»

caminamos tú y yo
se anochece en el cielo
como un borracho en el arroyo
visitamos calles desiertos
esquinas quejumbrosas
y otras calles las que sigamos
y que formen argumento
cada vez mas aparente
hacia un propósito muy obvio
lo que sin embargo no podemos llamar
por cualquier nombre
o palabra

pero vengamos, no discutamos.

posted afternoon of January 20th, 2013: 2 responses
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Jeremy Osner, The Untranslated on The Disconnected (2 responses)

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