Saturday, January 23, 2016

No. 12 Loneliness

Well, that’s it. Twelve translations are done, leaving twelve to go. (We are performing the first twelve Winterreise February 10 at The Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural Center.) The challenge in this one was to maintain the simplicity of the vocabulary: I had to change "trübe," which expresses absolutely everything to "somber" which reaches for about 3/4 of the meaning while pulling a muscle in the process. This also produced some regrettable alliteration that would make Wagner proud. I found that simple words like “merry” “carefree” and “bright" are closer to the German than their more artful alternatives.
I didn't want to know too much in the way of music history before I got to this point because I wanted the poems to open to me of themselves. Now that I've finished translating half of the cycle, I’m loving Bostridge's fascinating take on Winterreise as well as Fischer-Dieskau’s and Richard Wigmore's. There's not enough space here to share all the insights from these authors, but it is instructive to know that the cycle originally ended here:

12. Loneliness
A single somber cloud shape
Drifts through the carefree sky
While in the highest fir trees
A feeble breeze blows by
So down my lonely byway
I plod with trudging feet
Through merry, bright expanses
Alone no one to greet
Alas, the air is still
Alas, the world’s aglow
Before when storms were raging
I was not ailing so

12. Einsamkeit
Wie eine trübe Wolke
Durch heit're Lüfte geht,
Wenn in der Tanne Wipfel
Ein mattes Lüftchen weht:
So zieh ich meine
Straße Dahin mit trägem Fuß,
Durch helles, frohes
Leben Einsam und ohne Gruß.
Ach, daß die Luft so ruhig !
Ach, daß die Welt so licht !
Als noch die Stürme tobten,
War ich so elend nicht.


No. 11 Dream of Spring

11. Dream of Spring
I dreamed of the colored blossoms
Janelle Wills, artist
Just as they bloom in May
I dreamed of the bright green meadows
Of birdsongs along the way
And at the roosters' crowing
My sleeping eyes were roused
To find in cold and darkness
That ravens screamed over the house
Upon the window's surface
Who painted a garland green?
He mocks this fitful dreamer
With blooms in this winter scene
I dreamed of requited love
From one fine lovely maid
Of cuddling and of kissing
Of wonder and blissful days
And with the rooster's crowing
At once my heart arose
Now sitting all alone here
I turn to my dream's repose
I close again my eyelids
My heart still warmly strains
Will green leaves grow in the window?
Will I hold my darling again?

11. Frühlingstraum
Ich träumte von bunten Blumen,
So wie sie wohl blühen im Mai;
Ich träumte von grünen Wiesen,
Von lustigem Vogelgeschrei.
Und als die Hähne krähten,
Da ward mein Auge wach;
Da war es kalt und finster,
Es schrien die Raben vom Dach.
Doch an den Fensterscheiben,
Wer malte die Blätter da ?
Ihr lacht wohl über den Träumer,
Der Blumen im Winter sah ?
Ich träumte von Lieb um Liebe,
Von einer schönen Maid,
Von Herzen und von Küssen,
Von Wonne und Seligkeit.
Und als die Hähne krähten,
Da ward mein Herze wach;
Nun sitz' ich hier alleine
Und denke dem Traume nach.
Die Augen schließ' ich wieder,
Noch schlägt das herz so warm.
Wann grünt ihr Blätter am Fenster ?
Wann halt' ich mein Liebchen im Arm ?

No. 10 Rest




No. 10 Rest
I notice now how far I've gone
My resting legs are weary
The journey served to push me on
The route so stark and dreary
My feet, they never quit the road
It was too cold for staying
My shoulders felt no heavy load
The storm this weight conveying
Within a coaler’s tiny hut
To quiet refuge turning
My weary limbs are quiet but
Their wounds continue burning
You too my heart in strife and gloom
So wild and so enduring
Feel in the quiet of the room
Your burning serpent stirring

10. Rast
Nun merk' ich erst wie müd' ich bin,
Da ich zur Ruh' mich lege;
Das Wandern hielt mich munter hin
Auf unwirtbarem Wege.
Die Füße frugen nicht nach Rast,
Es war zu kalt zum Stehen;
Der Rücken fühlte keine Last,
Der Sturm half fort mich wehen.
In eines Köhlers engem Haus
Hab' Obdach ich gefunden.
Doch meine Glieder ruh'n nicht aus:
So brennen ihre Wunden.
Auch du, mein Herz, in Kampf und Sturm
So wild und so verwegen,
Fühlst in der Still' erst deinen Wurm
Mit heißem Stich sich regen !

No. 9 Ghost Lights

No. 9 is about a "will-o'-the-wisp" leading the poet astray. Clearly I could not set that awkward word, so I opted for "ghost lights." Translating this one felt like a satisfying game of Tetris.

No. 9 Ghost Lights
Through the deepening mountain chasms
Led by ghostly lights I wind
Leaving from this place of darkness
Weighs not heavy on my mind
Always used to err and follow
All the roads lead to one aim
All our joy and all our sorrow
All a part of ghost lights' game
Down the dry and rocky course
Winding slowly through the cave
Every stream must find its source
Every suffering find its grave

9. Irrlicht
In die tiefsten Felsengründe
Lockte mich ein Irrlicht hin;
Wie ich einen Ausgang finde,
Liegt nicht schwer mir in dem Sinn.
Bin gewohnt das Irregehen,
's führt ja jeder Weg zum Ziel;
Uns're Freuden, uns're Wehen,
Alles eines Irrlichts Spiel !
Durch des Bergstroms trockne Rinnen
Wind' ich ruhig mich hinab,
Jeder Strom wird's Meer gewinnen,
Jedes Leiden auch sein Grab.

Friday, January 22, 2016

No. 8 Backward Glance

At this point they started getting harder and harder. Each translation took anywhere from ten to fifteen hours. I don't know what I would have done without Schubert's musical setting, which always inspired some expedient rhymes just when I thought there was no solution. How do people translate poetry without music? For me, the whole rhyming thing started to feel a bit ungepatchged as I got deeper into the work, but a prose translation just didn't sing. (I attempted a 'free prose translation' of No. 10.) The songs don't work without their delicate rhymes, always perfect in German, sometimes contrived in English...

VIII. Backward Glance
My footprints burn with every step
Although I walk on ice and snow
I dare not stop to catch my breath
Until the towers pale below
I'm sure I tripped on every stone
So hurried was my quick retreat
The crows hurled bits of ice and snow
Down upon my hat on every street
How strange you now appear before me
You town of insincere repute
Once from your windows clear and shimmering
Rang lark and nightingale's dispute
With thickening lindens round me blooming
The town's clear fountains gaily splashed
And oh, a maiden's eyes were looming
And there my hopes were soundly dashed
When thoughts of her come to remind me
I long to cast one wayward glance
To turn and gaze again behind me
Before her house in quiet stance

8. Rückblick
Es brennt mir unter beiden Sohlen,
Tret' ich auch schon auf Eis und Schnee,
Ich möcht' nicht wieder Atem holen,
Bis ich nicht mehr die Türme seh'.
Hab' mich an jedem Stein gestoßen,
So eilt' ich zu der Stadt hinaus;
Die Krähen warfen Bäll' und Schloßen
Auf meinen Hut von jedem Haus.
Wie anders hast du mich empfangen,
Du Stadt der Unbeständigkeit !
An deinen blanken Fenstern sangen
Die Lerch' und Nachtigall im Streit.
Die runden Lindenbäume blühten,
Die klaren Rinnen rauschten hell,
Und ach, zwei Mädchenaugen glühten.
- Da war's gescheh'n um dich, Gesell !
Kommt mir der Tag in die gedanken,
Möcht' ich noch einmal rückwärts seh'n.
Möcht' ich zurücke wieder wanken,
Vor ihrem Hause stille steh'n.

No. 7 On the River

This one was challenging, but at least I wasn't dealing lots of internal and alternate rhyme. Whenever I got frustrated I would pause, close my eyes and put myself in the poet's scene. Then the obvious solution would come.
I am pleased with my solution for "liegst kalt und unbeweglich im Sande ausgestreckt" but a way to capture the meaning of "mein Hertz in diesem Bache erkennst du nun dein Bild?" still eludes me:

On the River
You who so freely ramble
You clear unruly stream
How still you are converted
No last farewell it seems
With hard encrusted armor
You've all your surface sealed
You lie so cold and quiet
Upon the sandy field
Upon your frozen surface
I write with jagged stone
The name of my beloved
The hours and days I've known
The day of our first meeting
The day I left her side
Round names and figures winding
A broken circle wide
My heart, this frozen river
Do you not see your face?
And underneath your surface
Do raging currents race?

Auf dem Flusse
Der du so lustig rauschtest
Du heller, wilder Fluß
Wie still bist du geworden
Gibst keinen Scheidegruß
Mit harter, starrer Rinde
Hast du dich überdeckt
Liegst kalt und unbeweglich
im Sande ausgestreckt
In deine Decke grab ich
Mit einem spitzen Stein
Den Namen meiner Liebsten
Und Stund und Tag hinein:
Den Tag des ersten Grußes
Den Tag, an dem ich ging
Um Nam und Zahlen windet
Sich ein zerbrochner Ring
Mein Herz, in diesem Bache
Erkennst du nun dein Bild?
Ob’s unter seiner Rinde
Wohl auch so reißend schwillt?

No. 6 Floodwaters

I have sacrificed some alternate rhymes here but somehow I don't mind. The motion in the ideas touches you, even in English.

Floodwaters

Many a tear abundantly flowing 
Falls upon the shifting snow
Into the drifts of snowflakes falling
Thirsting for all my burning woe
When the grasses sprout in spring
There comes again a warming breeze
With the ice in shattering pieces
Far and away the soft snow streams
Only the snow knows of my longing
Speak, where does your trail way go?
Follow my tears they guide you onward
To the brook away they flow
Flow with the brook through town and city
In and out of bustling estates
When you feel my teardrops burning
There you'll find my dear one's gate

6. Wasserflut

Manche Trän' aus meinen 
Augen Ist gefallen in den Schnee;
Seine kalten Flocken saugen 
Durstig ein das heiße Weh. 

Wenn die Gräser sprossen wollen 
Weht daher ein lauer Wind,
Und das Eis zerspringt in Schollen 
Und der weiche Schnee zerrinnt. 

Schnee, du weißt von meinem Sehnen, 
Sag', wohin doch geht dein Lauf ? 
Folge nach nur meinen Tränen, 
Nimmt dich bald das Bächlein auf.

Wirst mit ihm die Stadt durchziehen, 
Muntre Straßen ein und aus;
Fühlst du meine Tränen glühen,
Da ist meiner Liebsten Haus. 

No. 5 The Linden Tree



It's always the simplest poems that are the hardest to translate. But I enjoyed pulling my hair out over this one:

5. The Linden Tree
Der Lindenbaum
Beside the fountain's gateway
There stands a linden tree
Asleep beneath its branches
Sweet dreams had come to me
Am Brunnen vor dem Tore
Da steht ein Lindenbaum;
Ich träumt' in seinem Schatten
So manchen süßen Traum.
I carved into its bark
So many heartfelt lines
It drew me to its shelter
In sad and peaceful times
Ich schnitt in seine Rinde
So manches liebe Wort;
Es zog in Freud' und Leide
Zu ihm mich immer fort.
Today I passed in darkness
The place the figure stands
My eyes closed to its image
On route to wintry lands
Ich mußt' auch heute wandern
Vorbei in tiefer Nacht,
Da hab' ich noch im Dunkeln
Die Augen zugemacht.
I heard it its branches rustling
This song, a final plea:
"Return to me my wanderer,
You'll find your rest with me"
Und seine Zweige rauschten,
Als riefen sie mir zu:
Komm her zu mir, Geselle,
Hier find'st du deine Ruh' !
The cold and angry gale winds
Blew gusts against my face
My hat was blown behind me
I left it in that place
Die kalten Winde bliesen
Mir grad' ins Angesicht;
Der Hut flog mir vom Kopfe,
Ich wendete mich nicht.
Now far along my journey
I hear that Linden tree
Forever in its rustling
It calls, "Come rest with me"
Nun bin ich manche Stunde
Entfernt von jenem Ort,
Und immer hör' ich's rauschen:
Du fändest Ruhe dort !

No. 4 Frozen

I knew that performing this one would require singing long phrases so while I was translating this poem I thought of the stanzas as having only two lines:

4. Frozen 

I search the snowy meadows for traces of the trail
Where hand in hand together we crossed the verdant dale
I want to kiss the ground, to pierce the ice and snow
With my own burning teardrops to see the soil below
No more the flower blossoms, and gone the blooming vale
All flowering is ended, the fields are all so pale
This journey has no keepsake, no memory of my pain
When all my sorrow ends, no thought of her remains
My heart is also frozen, her cold gaze in its cell
If ever it should melt, her image melts as well

4. Erstarrung

Ich such' im Schnee vergebens 
Nach ihrer Tritte Spur,
Wo sie an meinem Arme 
Durchstrich die grüne Flur.

Ich will den Boden küssen, 
Durchdringen Eis und Schnee 
Mit meinen heißen Tränen, 
Bis ich die Erde seh'.

Wo find' ich eine Blüte, 
Wo find' ich grünes Gras ?
Die Blumen sind erstorben, 
Der Rasen sieht so blaß.

Soll denn kein Angedenken 
Ich nehmen mit von hier ?
Wenn meine Schmerzen schweigen, 
Wer sagt mir dann von ihr ?

Mein Herz ist wie erstorben, 
Kalt starrt ihr Bild darin; 
Schmilzt je das Herz mir wieder, 
Fließt auch ihr Bild dahin !

No. 3 Frozen Tears

Here I had to add some syllables to preserve the word stress within Schubert's meter. I'm still struggling with keeping the subject consistent in "und dringt doch aus der Quelle"...

III. Frozen Tears 

With frozen teardrops gathering
From frozen cheeks to fall:
How then had I not noticed
That I had cried at all?

Oh tears, my tears,
Are you so barely warm
That you would freeze to ice
Like dew of early morn?

Yet deep within the well
Of my breast your burning glow
Would strain to melt the mountains
Of winter's deepest snow
--or--
Yet flow forth from my breast
With lava's burning glow
As though to melt the mountains
Of winter's deepest snow
--or--
You well forth from the depths
Of my breast as a burning glow
And strain to melt the mountains
Of winter's deepest snow

III. Gefror'ne Tränen

Gefrorne Tropfen fallen 
Von meinen Wangen ab: 
Ob es mir denn entgangen, 
Daß ich geweinet hab' ?
Ei Tränen, meine Tränen, 
Und seid ihr gar so lau, 
Daß ihr erstarrt zu 
Eise Wie kühler Morgentau ?
Und dringt doch aus der Quelle 
Der Brust so glühend heiß,
Als wolltet ihr zerschmelzen
Des ganzen Winters Eis!

No. 2 The Weathervane

This one was fun. Here I managed to do a line by line translation that was pretty straightforward. I normally try to avoid unfamiliar English words like "truss" but again the rhyme scheme was tough with that one. As much as possible I try to keep with the simplicity of Müller's language. I don't think there are any words in these poems that a German speaker wouldn't know by fourth grade. Indeed, when the poems first came out, a critic called the language "naive."
I love to try out these translations on people who didn't learn English as their first language. Often they are more helpful as an audience because they don't fall for fancy lingo and give honest feedback about what is intelligible. On the other hand, if they fail to understand the words at first hearing, they are more apt to grasp the overall 'spirit' of the poem and sometimes give me insights about a meaning I didn't catch.

II. The Weathervane
The wind plays with the weathervane
Atop my darling’s rooftop truss.
I thought it so in my delusion:
Its whistling mocked the fugitive thus!
If only he’d noticed before he entered
The symbol’s warning to beware
He’d never ever have hoped to find
A picture of womanly faithfulness there.
The wind plays with the household’s hearts
As fiercely but not so loudly inside.
Why should they mind my desolation
Their child is now a wealthy bride.

II. Die Wetterfahne
Der Wind spielt mit der Wetterfahne
Auf meines schönen Liebchens Haus.
Da dacht' ich schon in meinem Wahne,
Sie pfiff den armen Fluchtling aus.
Er hätt' es eher bemerken sollen,
Des Hauses aufgestecktes Schild,
So hätt' er nimmer suchen wollen
Im Haus ein treues Frauenbild.
Der Wind spielt drinnen mit den Herzen
Wie auf dem Dach, nur nicht so laut.
Was fragen sie nach meinen Schmerzen ?
Ihr Kind ist eine reiche Braut.



No. 1 Goodnight

This first song was a warm up to the process of writing poetic translations. I probably should have started with an easier poem, but I was committed to the process of discovering the pieces in order, sitting with each one until it 'opened to me' and only then moving on to the next song.
There are still problems with my English version in this one even though it has already been performed several times in public. "May favored my affections" strays a bit too much from the original than I would like. Also "God's will has made it right" has the same issue. My aim with all of these translations is to match the English as closely as possible to the German syllables so that the musical poetry remains in synch. The last stanza, well, I just don't know what to do about it yet. It must somehow include the word "goodnight" but this poses a problem for the rhyme. I have substituted "adieu" for the moment and await inspiration and/or assistance...

No. 1 Goodnight
I came here as a stranger
A stranger I depart
May favored my affections
With blooming flowery art
The maiden spoke of love
Her mother wedding days
Now all the world is darkness
And snow has veiled the way
No will of mine can govern
The moment of my flight
Alone the route I compass
In deepening dark of night
The moon is my companion
Its shadows walk with me
Through snowy fields I follow
Wild tracks I strain to see
Why should I tarry longer
When ill winds drive me out
Leave mad dogs to their howling
Outside their master's house
As love is like to wander
God's will has made it right
From one soul to another
Beloved, goodnight.
I dare not stir your slumber
Your peaceful rest is dear
So soundless steps I venture
Soft, soft the threshold near
I write this parting message
Upon the door: adieu
That waking you will see it
And know I thought of you.

1. Gute Nacht
Fremd bin ich eingezogen,
Fremd zieh ich wieder aus.
Der Mai war mir gewogen
Mit manchem Blumenstrauss.
Das Mädchen sprach von Liebe,
Die Mutter gar von Eh
Nun ist die Welt so trübe,
Der Weg gehüllt in Schnee.
Ich kann zu meiner Reisen
Nicht wählen mit der Zeit,
Muss selbst den
Weg mir weisen In dieser Dunkelheit.
Es zieht ein Mondenschatten
Als mein Gefährte mit,
Und auf den weissen
Matten Suchich des Wildes Tritt.
Was soll ich länger weilen,
Dass man mich trieb hinaus?
Lass irre Hunde heulen
Vor ihres Herren Haus;
Die Liebe liebt das Wandern
Gott hat sie so gemacht
Von einem zu dem andern.
Fein Liebchen gute Nacht!
Will dich im Traum nicht stören,
Wär schad um deine Ruh.
Sollst meinen Tritt nicht hören
Sacht, sacht die Türe zu!
Schreib im Vorübergehen
Ans Tor dir: Gute Nacht,
Damit du mögest sehen,
An dich hab ich gedacht.

The Winterreise Project




After holiday celebrations are over, it's time to embrace the season's inward, contemplative nature. Schubert's famous song cycle, Winterreise is a seventy-minute meditation on love and loss in wintertime. Its twenty-four songs form a story arc that has captivated audiences since 1828. Darren Chase sings his own English translation of the work, creating a direct connection between listener and text. Michael Scales accompanies this two-man opera.


Sign up for pop-up concerts in homes and intimate NYC venues January-March at:


info@darrenchase.net


For more info:


www.facebook.com/TheWinterJourney


darrenchase.net