Monday, March 7, 2016

No. 14 The Grey Haired Man

Yesterday we performed the entire cycle for the first time. Poems like this one made me worry about finishing the translations on time.
This song is so diaphanous that I couldn't alter any syllable very much from the German without disturbing the entire musical setting. Generally this is more the case with the second half of cycle. The later songs demand more literal translations but offer fewer possibilities within their increasingly sparse language.
I attempted many pretty translations that read well as blog posts but fell flat when I sang them. It was impossible to keep Schubert's musical gestures in the line "mir übers Haar gestreuet" with anything more beautiful than the very clunky "All through my hair it sifted."

No. 14 The Grey Haired Man
The frost had left a whitened sheen
All through my hair it sifted
I thought I was a grey old man
At once my spirits lifted
But soon the melting snow revealed
Again this youthful knave
My youth no longer was concealed
How far away the grave!
From evening till the morning light
How many heads are greying
How strange that my hair never turned
Through all my lonely straying

14. Der greise Kopf                         
Der Reif hatt' einen weißen Schein
Mir übers Haar gestreuet;
Da glaubt' ich schon ein Greis zu sein
Und hab' mich sehr gefreuet.
Doch bald ist er hinweggetaut,
Hab' wieder schwarze Haare,
Daß mir's vor meiner Jugend graut -
Wie weit noch bis zur Bahre !
Vom Abendrot zum Morgenlicht
Ward mancher Kopf zum Greise.
Wer glaubt's ? und meiner ward es nicht
Auf dieser ganzen Reise !

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