Showing posts with label translation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label translation. Show all posts


Ezra Pound - Alba


Kühl wie die bleichen nassen Blätter
                                              des Maiglöckchens
Lag sie in der Morgendämmerung an meiner Seite

Translated by Johannes Beilharz (© 2020)

Note on this translation
There is a previous translation by Eva Hesse that is quoted on the Internet. She translated the word leaves as Blüten (blossoms, flowers). It seems unlikely that Ezra Pound did not know the difference between leaves and flowers, i.e. he did not require correction in German. Granted, white (the color of the flowers of lily of the valley) is paler than green (the color of the leaves), but the shape of the leaves (longish and flared) is more like the body of a woman than the flowers, which are bell-shaped (hence the German name Maiglöckchen) and round. Unless Pound really found a whitish, bell-shaped round woman by his side on that poetic morning...

– Johannes Beilharz


Thomas Bernhard / Psalm


What I do is poorly done,
what I sing is badly sung,
therefore you have a right
to my hands
and to my voice.
I will work with all my strength.
The harvest shall be yours.
I will sing the song of peoples long gone.
I will sing my people.
I will love.
Even criminals!
Together with the criminals and the unprotected
I will found a new homeland –
Despite all this, what I do is poorly done,
what I sing is badly sung.
Therefore you have a right
to my hands
and to my voice.

Thomas Bernhard (1931-1989)

English Translation by Johannes Beilharz (© 2012)

Original found in Deutsche Lyrik / Gedichte seit 1945, edited by Horst Bingel, sonderreihe dtv, 1963. At the time this anthology was published, Thomas Bernhard had published three books and was not very well-known.


An autumn poem by Max Dauthendey

The ravens scream their wounded cry;
of night and need they prophecy.
Frost has surrounded every door;
hunger’s dog barks out there for more.
We hold each other ever more tightly;
for sake of kissing we’ve spoken only lightly.
The larks have sung themselves to death,
and clouds have shooed summer with their breath.
Your head, cradled here in my arm,
no longer knows this earth ... without alarm.

– Max Dauthendey (1867-1918)

Translated from German by Johannes Beilharz.
English translation © by Johannes Beilharz 2011.
The German original of 1905 is here.



Grey melody.
Earth and sky sing in you
And are Spring.

– Peter Hille (1854-1904)

(Translation of Nachtigall; copyright © of translation from German by Johannes Beilharz 2010)


Rainer Maria Rilke: Archaic Torso of Apollo

Archaic Torso of Apollo

We did not know his head of such unheard-of fame
wherein the orbéd eyes matured. Even so,
his torso, candelabrum-like, still is aglow,
and there his gazing, merely set low-flame,

persists and glitters. For otherwise the incurvation
of the chest could never so bedazzle you, nor indeed,
could from the loins’ soft turning a smile proceed
to that midpoint which once bore procreation.

Otherwise this stone tortured and squat would stand
beneath the shoulders’ lucent sweep, and
would not shimmer like a coat of sable;

nor would it burst forth from all its margins, rife
with the light of stars: for there is not one site unable
to perceive you. You have to change your life.

– Rainer Maria Rilke

Translated by Thomas Geydan. Translation copyright © 2008 by Thomas Geydan, published here with the translator’s kind permission.

Also in Thomas Geydan's translation: Spanish Dancer

An interesting link about translating Rilke ("Rilke translation has become an industry...")


Rainer Maria Rilke: Spanish Dancer

Spanish Dancer

As a struck match, before becoming flame, white
flickering tongues in all directions sends,
so, bystanders looking on, unfolds her dance: bright,
hot and hurried, a circular rite,
pulsating with passion, and intense.

And suddenly it is fully aflare.

With just a glance she lights her hair,
and then, with daring art, turns her entire
dress into this flaming ball of fire,
from which, each like a startled snake,
her naked arms dart, rattling and awake.

Then, deeming too close the lambent heat,
she gathers all of if it together and flings it to her feet
with an imperious gesture, haughtily gazing.
There it lies on the floor, enraged and blazing,
and burning still, refusing to retire.
But, confident of victory, her smile assured and sweet,
she lifts her face as if in greeting to the fire,
and stamps it out with solid little feet.

– Rainer Maria Rilke

Translated by Thomas Geydan, published here by kind permission of the translator. Copyright by Thomas Geydan.



My soul mate’s soul is like delicate silver,
Two lissome white seagull wings
Her feet,
And in her dear blood
Rises a blue intimation
Of things
All miraculous

– Peter Hille

English version by Johannes Beilharz, who writes:
In this translation I deviated quite noticeably from the German original, e.g. by avoiding the second person address and using third person instead ("her"), with the intention of rendering more the feeling of Peter Hille's poem or its inner intention, as I experienced it, than the actual words.
Peter Hille (1854-1904) traveled widely in England, Holland and Italy before settling in Berlin, where he became friends with Detlev von Liliencron (Germany's leading impressionist poet), Richard Dehmel, Rainer Maria Rilke, Otto Julius Bierbaum and Else Lasker-Schüler (who mystified him in her Peter Hille book of 1907). Lived most of his life in poverty, helped by friends. The Rowohlt Literaturlexikon 20. Jahrhundert (1971) calls him "the fragmentist of impressionism, who succeeded in recording momentary sensual and psychic impressions in an idiosyncratic manner." Along with Lasker-Schüler, he is also considered a precursor of German expressionism.


The state of the art in automatic translation

Wenn die Minni
im Bikini
in der Sonne sitzt
und der azurblaue Himmel niederblitzt,
dann stehn die Nachbarjungs am Zaun
und sehn: die Minni wird ganz braun

– Felix Morgenstern

Google's automatic translation of this ditty:

If the minni
in bikini
sitting in the sun
and the blue sky niederblitzt,
then stand on the nachbarjungs zaun
sehn and the Minni is quite brown

As anyone lightly conversant in German and English can tell, Google's translation skills are mostly distinguished by a great potential for improvement.

Is Babelfish any better? Here's its result:

If the Minni
in the bikini
sits in the sun
and the azure sky down-flashes,
then stehn neighbour-young at the fence
and long: the Minni becomes completely brown

OK, so Babelfish knows a few more German words than Google, but still:

Alleluia, us human translators won't run out of work if this is the state of the art in automatic translation...


Emily Dickinson, poem 479

She dealt her pretty words like Blades —
How glittering they shone —
And every One unbared a Nerve
Or wantoned with a Bone —

She never deemed — she hurt —
That — is not Steel's Affair —
A vulgar grimace in the Flesh —
How ill the Creatures bear —

To Ache is human — not polite —
The Film upon the eye
Mortality's old Custom —
Just locking up — to Die.


Zum neuen Jahr 2008

Mit den besten Wünschen zu einem glücklichen 2008 und zur kommenden Zeit verbinde ich eine Übersetzung des Gedichtes "To England" von Richard Brautigan, das sich mit dem Phänomen der Zeit befasst – wenn auch eher in umgekehrter Richtung...

Nach England

Es gibt keine Briefmarken, die Briefe
vor dreihundert Jahren nach England zurückschicken,
keine Briefmarken, die Briefe zurückreisen lassen
zu der Zeit, als das Grab noch nicht gegraben ist,
als John Donne am Fenster steht und hinausschaut.
Es fängt gerade an zu regnen an diesem Aprilmorgen,
die Vögel fallen in die Bäume ein
wie Schachfiguren eines ungespielten Spiels,
und John Donne sieht, wie der Briefträger die Straße heraufkommt,
mit sehr vorsichtigen Schritten, da sein Stock
aus Glas ist.

– Richard Brautigan (ins Deutsche übertragen von Johannes Beilharz)


Der König von Bombarien

von Sukumar Ray

Bombarien, ein weit entlegenes asiatisches Reich,
ist wohlbekannt für manch eigenartigen Streich.
Dort beschenkt zum Beispiel der König die Damen
Mit Schokoladetafeln in güldenem Rahmen.
Die Königin, nur selten im Bette zu finden,
Lässt um den Hals das Kopfkissen sich binden.
Die Höflinge, so lautet mein Bericht,
Schlagen Räder wenn sie plaget die Gicht.
Des Königs Tantchen, ein alter Drachen,
Bringt mit dem Cricketschläger alle zum Lachen.
Ihr Gatte der Onkel tanzt allabendlich Salsa
Und trägt dazu bunte Girlanden aus Balsa.
Das alles, mag es auch seltsam anmuten,
Gehört in Bombarien zum Üblichen und Guten.

– Deutsche Übertragung von Johannes Beilharz

Übersetzt aus der englischen Fassung ("The King of Bombaria", siehe The Verse Marauder), die von Sukumar Rays Sohn, dem berühmtem Filmregisseur und Autor Satyajit Ray, stammt.

Sukumar Ray (1887-1923) ist der Lewis Carroll oder Christian Morgenstern der bengalischen Literatur.


Ringelnatz on silence


There are some people who bow
To those given to extended silence
With a serious brow.

And then there are those who resent
Contemporaries with a silent bent.

All in all, noone should confuse
Silence with a statement that is of much use.

Johannes Beilharz

An attempted English paraphrase of the following poem by Joachim Ringelnatz (1883-1934):


Manche Leute verneigen
Sich gerne vor Leuten, die ernsten Gesichts
Langdauernd schweigen.

Manche Leute neigen
Dazu, zu grollen, wenn andere schweigen.
Schonet das Schweigen! Es sagt doch nichts.


Robert Frost: The Road Not Taken / Der andere Weg

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as l could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

– Robert Frost

Der andere Weg

Ein Weg trennte sich im herbstlichen Wald
In zwei, doch ich war leider allein.
Als zaudernder Wand'rer sah ich kalt
Dem einen nach bis dort, wo er bald
Sich krümmte ins Gehölz hinein;

Dann sah ich den And'ren, genauso fein,
Und hatte vielleicht das bessere Ziel,
Da sein Gras wollte begangen sein;
Obgleich, und das galt für mich allein,
Entweiht hätt' ich beide ebensoviel.

Beide an jenem Morgen gleich lagen
Ohne Spuren, von Blättern belegt.
Oh, ich schenkte den Ersten späteren Tagen!
Weg führt zu Weg, so wollt' ich's wagen,
Auch wenn's mich hierher nie wieder verschlägt.

Ich werde ergriffen Dir davon singen
In fernen Jahrzehnten als mein Lied:
Am Scheideweg nach kurzem Ringen,
Nahm ich den Stilleren unter die Schwingen,
Und das war der große Unterschied.

– Übersetzung von Peter Morisse (2001)

Morgenstern zoology

The wingambat

The wingambat haunteth
through weerowarowood,
the ruby fingoor taunteth,
and cruelly laughs the drood.

Christian Morgenstern (1871-1914), translated by Johannes Beilharz (*1956)

This is a translation of Morgenstern's "Der Flügelflagel" (see preceding post).


A May Haiku

Май. Квітнеючая дзічка.
Затрымай дыханьне,
Інакш пасыплецца сьнег!

May. Blooming crab tree.
Do not breathe,
Snow will fall!

– Victar Licvinau

Written in Belarussian and translated into English by the author.


Platitudes revisited 1: poem by Ernst Jandl

no contradiction

becomes longer
and longer
i.e. shorter
and shorter
it doesn't stretch

(translated without much effort from the German original contained in ernst jandl, der gelbe hund, 1982)

For those of you who have never heard of Ernst Jandl: he was an Austrian poet who lived from 1925-2000 and was quite well-known for his humorous, partially experimental poems and linguistic artistry. He also created some funny neologisms.

Some of his poems, as the shining example above, are barely enough to elicit a half-chuckle and can be safely said to be padding material.


Il n'y a pas d'amour heureux

From this poem by Louis Aragon from 1946 two lines in a new translation by myself:
Mon bel amour mon cher amour ma déchirure
Je te porte dans moi comme un oiseau blessé

My beautiful love, my dear love, you who tear me apart,
I carry you in myself like a wounded bird.
For some reason, these two lines from the poem – which do so much to create the image of a love apparently full of pain and contradictory impulses – have stayed with me for many years, while the rest of the poem has not.

The ending, which sounds like a punch line from a French chanson, is actually on the flat side:
Il n'y a pas d'amour heureux
Mais c'est notre amour à tous les deux

There is no happy love,
But this is our love.
The very last line could become more prosy to reflect the French more directly, e.g. "But it is the love between the two of us" or "But it is the love the two of us share," but that doesn't do much, does it?