Tuesday, March 22, 2016

No. 17 In the Village

Some have said this poem is a commentary on bourgeois life, that it is about people in a provincial town consoling themselves nightly with the sugarplums of their merchant class aspirations. Personally, I never envisioned this village as anything but poor. I'm sure that I'm wrong in this, but I can't shake the image. All translations are subjective and in this one my vision of the town is betrayed by words like "scraps" and "portion," connoting lack. Reading through the many books on Schubert, I see this kind of subjectivity in the different authors' versions of the man.
Schubert's economic status is curiously vague in the literature I've read. He comes across as romantically penniless or magically salient at different times and there is a lot of room to read between the lines. My version of Schubert is somewhere in between.
I'm not sure what the modern day equivalent of his class would be, but I'll be wildly subjective here and call him a 'baby blue collar' teacher. By that I mean he was on the lower cusp of the middle class, not the upper one. Although he was one of the first freelance composers to make a living from his art without the benefits of a court or church position, he often had to return to teaching high school when times got tough. His father ran a gymnasium, a sort of 19th Century preparatory school, and Schubert taught there for most of his life.
My Schubert isn't ecstatic about teaching to pay the bills, but he is aware that this arrangement affords him a level of artistic independence not enjoyed by court musicians. My version of the man is sometimes broke, sometimes flush, but never beholden.
Of all the songs, I found this one the hardest to translate because of the double meanings of almost every word. I tried to find English equivalents for Müller's unstressed final syllables like "Hun-de" and "Bett-en" but finally settled on single-syllable words like "hounds" and "beds." This affects the musical line and note values. To maintain the rhyme scheme and atmosphere in the last lines I had to accentuate the idea that the poet is beyond the renewing power of sleep, a not-so-subtle repetition of theme that doesn't exist in the German.
Our last concert is coming up:
April 2 at 8:00 PM
New York Theatre Ballet Studio
131 East 10th Street, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10003
All tickets $10
17. In the Village
The barking of hounds, the rattling of chains
The townsfolk asleep in their beds again
Dreaming of riches they'll never have
Turning their thoughts to the good and the bad
When morning comes and all is unfrozen
Well then, their portions have been chosen
They're hopeful the scraps they have forgotten
They'll find awaiting in pillow cotton
Drive me away you hounds from sight
Let me not rest in the hour of night
I've reached the end of dreams' undoing
Why should I bother with sleep's renewing?
17. Im Dorfe
Es bellen die Hunde, es rasseln die Ketten;
Es schlafen die Menschen in ihren Betten,
Träumen sich manches, was sie nicht haben,
Tun sich im Guten und Argen erlaben;
Und morgen früh ist alles zerflossen.
Je nun, sie haben ihr Teil genossen
Und hoffen, was sie noch übrig ließen,
Doch wieder zu finden auf ihren Kissen.
Bellt mich nur fort, ihr wachen Hunde,
Laßt mich nicht ruh'n in der Schlummerstunde !
Ich bin zu Ende mit allen Träumen.
Was will ich unter den Schläfern säumen ?

No comments:

Post a Comment