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Poem For Adlai Stevenson And Yellow Jackets

David Young

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2002-07-31
Added by: Charles Behlen
I'd like to take this opportunity to disagree with Young's decision to employ William Carlos Williams' triadic foot in his translation of Rilke's Duino Elegies. How the original looks on the page is an important aspect of the poem's effectiveness and shouldn't be discounted when the poem is 'carried' INTO another language.
And who would willingly render
"the City of Pain" in the Tenth Elegy as "Pain City"?! I was just seized by the scary notion that, at this very moment, a Japanese translator is rendering "Song of Myself" INTO a series of Haiku!
Charles...
2002-10-18
Added by: paul mckenzie
What have your comments got to do with the price of soap?

2003-09-04
Added by: Jacob
In response to Charles's comment:

First, I would like to express my belief that this is not the forum in which to trash Young's translations. Beside these comments is a single poem, and it is that poem, in isolation, that we should be discussing. Poetry criticism is meaningless when the text is even partially ignored.

That being said, I am going to contradict myself and comment on Young's translation, using this Whitmanian haiku as justification:

Do I contradict
myself? Then I contradict
myself. I am large.

Translators play with line breaks all the time; it is a necessary aspect of translation and I'm sure the majority of English Duino Elegies do so to some extent. Young's brilliance lies in is his willingness to ignore all but Rlike's sensitivity, which has clearly absorbed after much careful reading, and is able to imitate better than any other translator with whom I am acquainted. Young's impressions of Rilke's images are concrete but at the same time expansive; the writing is fervent but manages to come across as an intimate whisper. The line breaks aid this process because they isolate images; they make the unconquerable, endless compounds of German, which often come across as stilted and thick in English, more sparse and more elegant. A literal translator does not accomplish this, or, if he does, he does so only at those isolated moments at which Rilke reaches the innermost parts of his solitude, to imitate his own language. As a result the literal translator does not construct the web of sensibility in which we can feel Rilke's almost guttural labor, and the reader is left with no more than the outline of the shadow of the impression of the magnification of a feeling, if anything, and is taken away from Rilke's side and placed back, like a child unwilling to return to school after a summer vacation, on his bland, poorly upholstered sofa.

Obviously that’s a little extreme. The Leishman/Spender translation certainly comes close to Young’s, and does so while preserving the line breaks. To any reader considering the Elegies for the first time, however, I recommend Young’s translation without hesitation—he guides Rilke, with the greatest ease, straight into your kitchen, pours him something to drink, and has him recount a lifetime of hyper-sensitivity, exclusively for your ears. A nice experience, line breaks or no.

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