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Mental health break

I’m heading back to Philly from 9/15 to 9/30. I trust my homies in Illadelph will all be around? Not sure what my phone number will be, but if my folks didn’t lose my old SIM card, it should be 215-880-8629.

Those of you who read Chinese may like 别了费城, “Leaving Philadelphia,” which I have been trying to write in English for almost a year now. Also, my girlfriend and I translated “Herbsttag” by Rainer Marie Rilke. It seemed to fit with the surprisingly autumnal weather we had last weekend, and anyway it’s one of my favorite poems. The Chinese translations I saw by Feng Zhi and Bei Dao didn’t really do it justice; hopefully our attempt is a bit closer to the mark:

秋日

主啊
时已至 夏无殇
刻影仪晷上
扬风在草场

催生果实于藤间
再给它两日南方的天
熟硕得只为
醇醪最后的甘甜

失所者注定流离
孤独者久无所依
便醒着 读着 写着长信
踟蹰在公园的小径上
叶自飘零

“Autumn Day”

Lord, it is time. The summer was too long.
Lay your shadow on the sundials now,
and through the meadow let the winds throng.

Ask the last fruits to ripen on the vine;
give them further two more summer days
to bring about perfection and to raise
the final sweetness in the heavy wine.

Whoever has no house now will establish none,
whoever lives alone now will live on long alone,
will waken, read, and write long letters,
wander up and down the barren paths
the parks expose when the leaves are blown.

(William Gass)


Herbsttag

Herr: es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr groß.
Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren,
und auf den Fluren laß die Winde los.

Befiehl den letzten Früchten voll zu sein;
gieb ihnen noch zwei südlichere Tage,
dränge sie zur Vollendung hin und jage
die letzte Süße in den schweren Wein.

Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr.
Wer jetzt allein ist, wird es lange bleiben,
wird wachen, lesen, lange Briefe schreiben
und wird in den Alleen hin und her
unruhig wandern, wenn die Blätter treiben.

13 Comments

  1. monk wrote:

    my experience is that, as long as u can prove ur the owner of the sim card lost, for about 20 bucks ur service provider (cingular? verizon?) can get u a new sim under same old number.

    may i also add that if ‘let the winds THRONG’ can get more than ‘扬风’ it would be doing the poem fantastic justice. i somehow see waves of grass. i may be hellucinating…

    but i love ur writings. i’ll be back ;)

    Friday, September 15, 2006 at 8:53 am | Permalink
  2. I have no comment on your Chinese translation. That’s way beyond my level. But I definitely prefer the German to the English versions.

    Friday, September 15, 2006 at 11:06 am | Permalink
  3. Prince Roy wrote:

    I haven’t seen the versions of Bei Dao or Feng Zhi: were they more faithful to the rhyming scheme? It seems like you gave up after the first stanza.

    Rilke was by far my favorite German poet when I was still able to read German (this back in my high school days, before they sent Col. Klink to the Russian Front).

    Sunday, September 17, 2006 at 2:21 am | Permalink
  4. James wrote:

    I’ve been really enjoying your poetry translations. Even with my poor Chinese it’s a fascinating experience. Can we make requests? I’m tempted to ask to see Ezra Pound’s faux-translations translated, because although his idea of Chinese was largely imaginary, some of them are beautiful poems.

    Sunday, September 17, 2006 at 6:36 pm | Permalink
  5. Laska wrote:

    love your blog; also love your translation, though I may not be schooled well enough in Chinese poetry to fully appreciate it.

    as it is also one of my favorite poems, I am picking nits, just for fun and in comradely spirit.

    Gass has deviated from the meaning of the original, mainly to preserve the rhyme scheme (which he abandons in the last stanza) but also meretriciously, as when he translates sehr (very) as “too” in the first line.

    Also, in the German it’s very clear that what is being perfected in the second stanza is the fruits.

    Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful translation and may be one of the best out there.

    Quickly scanning what’s available on the internet, I conclude that M. D. Herter Norton’s translation comes closest to an interlinear rendition of the German. And for that I like it. There is an attractive modesty in not taking too many liberties with the original.

    Now let me add something original: there’s this very cool hunting trope that doesn’t seem to be being caught by any of the English translations that I’ve seen so far. The winds are being unfessled in fields. The days are being pushed, jostled and pestered to perfection, as if by a pack of dugs. The sweetness is hunted into the wine.

    Tuesday, September 19, 2006 at 11:20 pm | Permalink
  6. PR — This translation sort of sticks to the rhyme scheme of the German, whereas the Feng Zhi and Bei Dao translations are unrhymed.

    Hey, Laska — thanks for the comment. This Chinese translation is getting savaged on my Chinese blogs, so it may be a bit early to crown myself King of Chinese Poetry, but I still like it more than the Feng Zhi / Bei Dao translations.

    You’re right about the Gass translation taking liberties (though I have to say, I really like his last line). The rhyme scheme getting abandoned in the last stanza stems, I think, from being unable to find a good rhyme for “letters.” Interesting point about the “hunting” trope; I’d noticed ‘jage’ there, but since I don’t actually speak German, I wasn’t sure if I was just missing something there.

    Wednesday, September 20, 2006 at 1:53 am | Permalink
  7. Prince Roy wrote:

    I must be missing something. Here’s the rhyme scheme in German:

    Stanza I:
    Lines 1,3.

    Stanza II:
    Lines 1,4
    Lines 2,3

    Stanza III:
    Lines 1,4
    Lines 2,3,5

    Friday, September 22, 2006 at 11:16 pm | Permalink
  8. nausicaa wrote:

    Yup, that’s what I got too:

    ABA
    CDDC
    EFFEF

    So not *quite* the same rhyme scheme. Nevertheless, an elegant translation. In terms of sonics it doesn’t approach the richness of the original (with all that consonance of lugubrious long “o” sounds), which embues the poem with such melancholy, but I guess that would be expecting too much out of what is already a very ambitious undertaking.

    Anyway, congrats. Good work.

    Tuesday, September 26, 2006 at 6:28 am | Permalink
  9. nausicaa wrote:

    Whups, I meant the Gass translation, not the original German (can’t read German.)

    Tuesday, September 26, 2006 at 6:31 am | Permalink
  10. D’oh, yes. This is what I get for posting late at night. An earlier draft stuck much more closely to the original rhyme scheme; was thinking of that.

    Wednesday, September 27, 2006 at 3:01 am | Permalink
  11. Hey, I think there’s an imposter posting under your name. Surely that couldn’t have been you praising Wade-Giles. We are truly approaching the End of Times.

    Tuesday, October 3, 2006 at 11:30 am | Permalink
  12. Come now — Wade-Giles has reached the end of its usefulness, but there’s nothing wrong with it when it’s used correctly — i.e., not by Taiwanese people.

    Tuesday, October 3, 2006 at 11:32 am | Permalink
  13. 宇文寒秋 wrote:

    说什么好呢,爱极了你的诗,呵呵
    非常支持你!!!!!!
    欣赏你的文章!!!
    英文的和汉语的都喜欢!!!!!
    祝你快乐。。
      宇文寒秋
    二○○六年十月九日

    Monday, October 9, 2006 at 1:00 am | Permalink

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