Friday, January 22, 2016

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.

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