"Advent" - Need English translation

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"Advent" - Need English translation

Beitrag von Rilke Fan » 7. Mai 2003, 15:58

Could someone please help me translate this poem? I can't find an English translation for it anywhere.

ADVENT

Es treibt der Wind im Winterwalde
Die Flockenherde wie ein Hirt,
Und manche Tanne ahnt, wie balde
Sie fromm und lichterheilig wird,
Und lauscht hinaus. Den weißen Wegen
Streckt sie die Zweige hin - bereit,
Und wehrt dem Wind und wächst entgegen
Der einen Nacht der Herrlichkeit.


If nothing else, could someone tell me how you would translate the word "lichterheilig" into English?

Thanks so much,

Linda

Gast

Advent

Beitrag von Gast » 9. Mai 2003, 00:52

A Chistmas poem - in May?
Not a translation, only an attempt:


Es treibt der Wind im Winterwalde
In winter's forest the wind is driving
Die Flockenherde wie ein Hirt,
The flock of snowflakes, herdsman-like
Und manche Tanne ahnt, wie balde
And many a fir tree foresees how soon
Sie fromm und lichterheilig wird,
She will be pious in holy lights.
(Tanne = feminine in German)

Und lauscht hinaus. Den weißen Wegen
And harks out. Against the white paths
Streckt sie die Zweige hin - bereit,
She stretches her branches - being ready
Und wehrt dem Wind und wächst entgegen
Resisting the wind, and growing towards
Der einen Nacht der Herrlichkeit.
The only night of excellence (glory).


"lichterheilig" - a creation of Rilke, impossible to translate,
something like "Full of holy lights", maybe.

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Volker
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Advent Translation

Beitrag von Volker » 9. Mai 2003, 00:56

Hi Linda!
The above was my attempt to translate "Advent"
Hope this helps.
Volker.

Das war ein Versuch von mir.
(Hatte vergessen mich einzuloggen)
Gruß! V.
Ich hab' auch Verstand.©
gez. Volker

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"Advent" translation

Beitrag von Rilke Fan » 11. Mai 2003, 03:47

Hi Volker,

Thanks so very, very much for the translation and also for the explantion about the word "lichterheilig." This is really a big help. Below is what I had come up with on my own, but I see that I had missed the mark in quite a few places. I studied German at Christian-Albrechts University for two years while living in Kiel, but it is so very difficult to translate poetry. I think you always lose something, and I don't really speak German well enough to translate. And yes, Christmas in May! Only because I am working on putting together all of my favorite Rilke poems with as many translations as possible, and I couldn't find any for this one. I don't know if you'd be interested in helping, but I have several others I could use help with. I would also love to hear your interpretation of this poem. I think I understand it, but I suspect there is more behind it than what I fully understand.

The wind is driving the flock of snowflakes
in the winter forests like a shepherd.
And many of the fir trees sense how soon
they shall become meek (or gentle) and holy bright (or light).
Listening, they stretch out their branches
to the white paths – ready,
fending off the wind and growing towards
that one night of splendor.

Once again, thanks so very much!

Linda

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"Advent"

Beitrag von Rilke Fan » 11. Mai 2003, 15:16

Hi Volker,

Just wanted to say, if I understand this poem correctly, I think I can see why it was never translated into English in any of the books with English translation of Rilke's work (and I think I have them all!) You lose the magic of Rilke's play on words in the line "Sie fromm und lichterheilig wird," which I assume is speaking not only of the "Tanne" but also of the virgin Mary if I understand the poem correctly, and thereby you lose the whole beauty of the poem translated into English. The problem with translation is that you have to translate it so that it makes sense to non-German speaking individuals, and that is often simply not possible I guess. I am thankful that I understand just enough German to usually understand fairly well what Rilke is trying to say, though I suspect even those who speak German are often not completely sure what he was trying to say, but you definitely have an advantage over anyone who doesn't speak German. How I wish my German were better so I could understand Rilke better.

I also wanted to say that originally I had used the word "foresee" as you did, rather than "sense" in the line "Und manche Tanne ahnt, wie balde" but later I changed it to "sense" which probably isn't a very good substitute.

I also struggled with whether I should use "be" or "will (or shall) become" in the line "Sie fromm und lichterheilig wird." Also, at first I was somewhat confused by the use of the word "Sie" which I knew was the singular form of the word because of the verb "wird," and yet I thought "Tanne" was the plural of that word which would require the verb "werden" and "they" in English, but later I realized this must be a play on words with the word “Sie” referring to Mary as well as the trees. Of course, in English you can't really say "She," which is a dilemma, so I chose to go with “they,” but thereby one loses the whole beauty of the poem in English.

One last thing I wanted to ask was if the word "lauscht" in the line "Und lausct hinaus. Den weißen Wegen" could also mean to "lie in waiting." I found that translation in one of my dictionaries in addition to the usual "listen," and I was wondering if any connection is made (mentally) with that meaning of the word as well as to "listen" when you read the poem in German, and if so I was wondering if this line could be translated as "Listening and waiting." I do like your use of the word "harks." It wasn't among the choices in my German-English dictionary and I didn't think of it, but it brings to mind the song "Hark the Herald Angels Sing."

I also had trouble finding the right words for "Nacht der Herrlichkeit" which in light of the title of the poem I assume is actually "Heiliger Abend."

Thanks once again so much for your help. Would love to hear any other thoughts you have regarding this poem, and would also love to hear from anyone else with thoughts on translation or interpretation of this poem.

Linda[/u]

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Advent Translation

Beitrag von Volker » 11. Mai 2003, 22:29

Hi Linda,

Thank you for posting back. It's always nice to receive a direct response.

You have translated ADVENT properly and accurately. Congratulations! Obviously, you didn't need any help. Using "holy bright" for "lichterheilig" e.g. is a very good choice, much better than my version. Another example: the word "fromm" can have different meanings, not only my "pious" but also your "meek". In this poem, a mix of both was meant, I believe. Also very good: the way you avoided the problem of using "she" for the fir tree simply by using the plural form. Great!

You're asking for an interpretation? Certainly, many of Rilke's poems can have a "deeper" or even concealed meaning. However, in this case (IMHO) there is nothing mysterious about it. It's just an expression of joyful anticipation: Pre-Christmas-time! Imagine you walk through a winter forest and think of how it would be like to be a fir tree, being chosen as Christmas tree. A feeling, only a little child can feel when seeing the Christmas tree for the first time. Not much different from the mood in Theodor Storm's "Knecht Ruprecht" (Santa Claus), a poem we used to (or sometime HAD to!) learn by heart when we were children:
Von drauss' vom Walde komm ich her,
Ich muss euch sagen, es weihnachtet sehr ...


Some more remarks to your second posting:

"und manche Tanne ahnt wie balde"
you translated "ahnen" with "sense" - very good! Actually, I was not very happy with my "foresee", but when I read your "sense" I thought: That's it!

"sie fromm und lichterheilig wird"
the word "sie" is clearly related to the (single) fir tree in the line above. "Die" Tanne is feminine in German, so you can say "sie" (="she") in German, even to a thing. I wouldn't go that far and assume any relation to the Holy Virgin in this case.
You are quite right to translate "wird" (from "werden") with "become".

"und lauscht hinaus"
"lauschen" means "to listen", but listening in a very quiet environment, listening to whispers, so to speak. I can't see any meaning like "to lie in waiting" to this word.

"Nacht der Herrlichkeit" is of course the Holy Night.

That's it for now. Post back if you have more questions also to any other Rilke poems. There are many people in this forum (including me) who will be happy to help the "Rilke Fan"! :D

Best regards.
Volker
Ich hab' auch Verstand.©
gez. Volker

Marie
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Beitrag von Marie » 11. Mai 2003, 22:36

Hi Linda,

as Volker said, it's quite strange to get into this "Advent"-feeling at this time of the year. There are other forces occupying mind and soul in May than "Winterwalde" and "lichterheilig"! But there may be other reasons, that even Rilke-fans are not very motivated to manage this task:
"Advent" is a kind of prologue to the early poem-collection edited in 1897 under the same title. After having problems with the edition, Rilke himself said, those verses appear as "episodes", as "little moments of a grat coming into being" ("eines großen Werdens" in German) (in: R. Freedman, Rainer Maria Rilke, Vol I; the original American title is "Life of a Poet", 1996; of course, I only have the German edition and try to translate back into the original language!). Freedman also describes the style of these poems as a "softly-indefinite diction of this period". In my own simple words: the poem sounds (probably not only in my ears?) at the edge of being trivial and reminds me in some ways of the tone of fairy tales. It's kind of "too" holy. Lyrics can't be old-fashioned, but, nevertheless, "Advent" implies in its tone such a feeling and in my personal opinion misses the timelessness of Rilke's later poetry.

I only tried to supplement the translation with some background information and my feelings as a native speaker about Rilke's use of the German language of this poem to make the emotional reception more conceivable for non-native speakers.

Yours friendly, M.

Marie
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Beitrag von Marie » 11. Mai 2003, 23:05

Hi Volker,

our responses reached the forum almost at the same time, so I didn't read yours before. Great! The comparison of "Advent" with the verses of Th. Storm was certainly the clearer version of what I tried to express with "the tone of fairy tales"

M.

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"Advent"

Beitrag von Rilke Fan » 12. Mai 2003, 05:46

Hallo Volker and Marie,

Thanks so much to both of you for your responses. I’m sorry to have thrown a Chrismas poem at you this time of the year, but as I mentioned I am working on putting together a notebook with about 200 of my favorite Rilke poems, and since they are listed in alphabetical order on my computer, this one was next in line, and I didn’t have an English translation for it, and I certainly don’t speak German well enough to trust my own translation. Quite the contrary, I definitely needed your translation, Volker, for comparison so I could see how far off I was in my own translation, which I still feel is rather inadequate, and I would welcome further translations from anyone.

For most of the poems I have collected from Rilke, I have at least 3 or 4 English translations from different books and sometimes more, which I like to compare because translating is such a difficult task. However, there are several poems for which I have no English translation, this one among others, and your translation and comments were of very valuable help to me, and I am very grateful.

And as you can see, I confused der Tann (forest) with die Tanne (fir tree), and thereby apparently I read more into the poem than is really there. I’m not even sure what I was thinking now. I guess maybe I was thinking of it in terms of the“first” Advent or shall we say the “approaching” first Advent, and I thought I had picked up some play on words which were intended to describe both the trees which were waiting for the snow to make them holy and bright, as well as the night which was waiting for the coming birth of Christ which would make it the “Nacht der Herrlichkeit” - holy and bright – or maybe I thought the line “Sie fromm und lichterheilig wird was speaking of the trees as well as perhaps the virgin Mary (there again related to my confusion with the the word “Tanne” and the feminine “sie” which threw me off). So maybe it is indeed just a plain and simple poem after all. I may also have read these things into the poem because I had just recently read “Gebürt Mariä” (from Das Marienleben) and “Verkündigung” (from Das Buch der Bilder, zweiter teil).

At any rate, I really like your portrayal of walking in the winter forest and being chosen as a Christmas tree and the feelings of a child. I also like your use of the word “resisting” (the wind) better than my “fending off” the wind.

And you are quite right, Marie in your evaluation of this poem. It is a poem I only recently discovered online and it is by far not my favorite, and as you pointed out, it is certainly not anywhere close to the best of Rilke’s work. Aber trotzdem, there was something about it that caught my eye.

Just out of curiosity, could I ask the two of you what your favorite Rilke poems are. That is perhaps a difficult question. I know it would be for me because there are so many I love, and many that I do not yet fully understand. For years now, for example, I have been fascinated by Rilke’s epitaph (Rose, O reiner Widerspruch) and have gone over and over it trying to decide just exactly what he was really trying to say. One of the biggest problems for me was trying to decide exactly how to translate the word “Lust” which in English can be so many different words (joy, delight, pleasure, enjoyment, desire, lust (as in carnal pleasure), and then there is the word “Lidern” and what was he actually referring to– is he referring to the petals of the rose as “eyelids and if so what is the significance in that or do the "Lidern" perhaps represent the "pages" of his writings which will live on as a part of him forever? And is it just coincidence that “reiner” rhymes with “Rainer?” And what exactly is the actual contradiction(Widerspruch) in it all? Such a short verse and yet so many questions.

Nochmals danke und viele Grüße,

Linda

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Beitrag von Marie » 12. Mai 2003, 08:58

Hi Linda,

just a short word for the moment (I intend to give you a more detailed response maybe this evening).
"Rose, oh reiner Widerspruch": we had an intensive discussion about it in the forum. You'll find it under "Rose", but you have to go back to the start (28th March) - there you'll probably find some ideas for a better (and your own!)understanding.
It' s absolutly respectable to like a poem just because it leaves behind an echo in your inner world. As a native speaker you have to climb over the fences of the knowledge you have about your own language first - and that indeed can be a difficulty for the emotional reception. I think it's comparable with pop-music: in a foreign language you may loudly and with the best feelings sing words , even though the quality is at the lowest level - if you'd listen to the same song in your own language you would perhaps change the radio station or get grey hair!

That's it for now. My favourite poem follows tonight!
Thank you for inspireing us with your responses, too.

Best regards M.

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Beitrag von Rilke Fan » 12. Mai 2003, 15:37

Hi Marie,

I can certainly relate to what you were saying about pop music. During the years we lived in Germany, I alsolutely loved a lot of the pop German songs I heard and even the Italian Hits, though I usually understood very little. You are right. The words to a song are often disappointing, though I think we always feel like we are missing out on something when we don't understand. And that's the way I feel with Rilke because of my limited knowledge of German. I always feel like there is more to his poems than what I perhaps understand.

Your thoughts are very interesting. Looking forward to hearing more!

Freundliche Gruße,

Linda

Marie
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Beitrag von Marie » 12. Mai 2003, 21:46

Gieb deinem Herzen ein Zeichen,
daß die Winde sich drehn.
Hoffnung ist ohne gleichen
wenn sie die Göttlichen sehn.

Richte dich auf und verharre
still in dem großen Bezug;
leise löst sich das Starre,
milde schwindet der Bug.

Risse entstehn im Verhängnis
das du lange bewohnt,
und in das dichte Gefängnis
flößt sich ein fühlender Mond.

(Muzot, Anfang Februar 1924; Entwürfe)

Although, "Duineser Elegien" is my timeless favourite, because of the wonderful way Rilke found (or Rilke had been found by IT?) to build a bridge across worlds with lyric words. In my oppinion it's one of the brightest (in a literal sence: it's incredibly "LIGHT-ful" by going open-eyed through every pain one can imagine) poetical works that has ever been written. It connects the physical and the metaphysical existence in a loving vision that doesn't praise one side by devaluating the other.

The poem above has become my momentary favourite. It just corresponds to some "shadows" I have to go through and it helps to really use it as a kind of mantra that gets me back to life when it looks like, as if "winds" won't "change direction".
This might be a main possibility of poetry: it refers with its rythm and rhyme to soul conditions better than prose and can help to bring light into the depths of the inner world. Rilke certainly was a master of those depths - and wherever one of them crossed his way, he fell into it (and found poems on its ground!).

I haven't written an answer to your other demands concerning the translation of two further poems yet. I'll wait until Volker or anyone else has done the "hard work" and then I'll add my thoughts about it. Translation is not my favourite occupation. I prefer to bring the "flowers" after someone else has built the "house"! (Don't be cross about it, Volker! Have pity with those lazy ones!)

Marie

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Beitrag von Rilke Fan » 13. Mai 2003, 03:03

Hi Marie,

This poem is new to me, and I have no translation for it. Perhaps when you have a chance you can give it your best attempt, even though I know you said you don't really like to translate. I like what you said about being the one to bring the flowers after someone else has built the house. That's a nice expression.

I am almost embarrassed to say that I have not yet read the Duino Elegies yet, except for the first one which is wonderful. I know they are supposed to be one of his greatest works, and I am very anxious to read them, but I want to finish working on my collection of other poems first.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the poem,

Linda

Marie
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Beitrag von Marie » 13. Mai 2003, 10:29

Hi Linda,

don't be embarrassed because of the Elegies - I'm sure they'll find you when they want to be read by you! They should rather be pleasure than duty. I think that's the only condition to open the doors of understanding. Than knowledge turns into life.
I'll try a translation later on, but without rhythm and rhyme - just the tale of it. I don't dare to go further.

Viele Grüße M.

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Beitrag von Rilke Fan » 13. Mai 2003, 16:12

Hi Marie,

I like the way you put that - they'll find me when they are ready to be read! Please don't worry about rhyming the poem. I don't think it is possible to rhyme a translated poem without losing at least some of the true meaning of the poem, and my only concern is to be able to understand Rilke's actual words and what he was trying to say.

Rilke was such a deep thinker. I wonder if he had any idea or could even begin to fathom the influence that his poetry and writings would have over others in the coming years when he was no longer here. I doubt he could even begin to grasp the countless hours that so many people would spend reflecting on his thoughts and words.

Viele Grüße,

Linda

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