Thursday, March 16, 2006

George's Car

Once a man named George was walking along a road with his friends and came to a rusted old truck. They tried driving the truck, but it wouldn't move because parts of it had gotten wedged into the road and into other parts of the truck. With some patience and work, George and his friends removed the parts that were in the way, and soon they had a simple, flatbed truck that took them all over the place, and anyone could ride on it.

After a long while, people began to ride the truck not because it got them anywhere, but because they liked the idea that anyone could ride on the truck. Some people who liked to fly added wings to it. Then someone who liked boating replaced the steering wheel with a rudder. A skier replaced two of the wheels with skis, while a biker installed a bike wheel. Pretty soon, the truck was such a mixture of all kinds of vehicles that no one could even describe it. And it never went anywhere.

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

A little bit of Rilke

I have been reading the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke lately. The German is just beautiful. I haven't really found an English translation that captures enough of the feel of it, so I naively decided to give it a try myself. I wanted to try to preserve the rhyming scheme and meter as well as the meaning, because Rilke fits them together so well.

I started with The Book of Hours (Das Stundenbuch) and translated the first two poems. The first, in German, is:

Da neigt sich die Stunde und rührt mich an

Da neigt sich die Stunde und rührt mich an
mit klarem, metallenem Schlag:
mir zittern die Sinne. Ich fühle: ich kann -
und ich fasse den plastischen Tag.

Nichts war noch vollendet, eh ich es erschaut,
ein jedes Werden stand still.
Meine Blicke sind reif, und wie eine Braut
kommt jedem das Ding, das er will.

Nichts ist mir zu klein, und ich lieb es trotzdem
und mal es auf Goldgrund und groß
und halte es hoch, und ich weiß nicht wem
löst es die Seele los...

And here is my translation:

The clock strikes the hour and stirs me awake

The clock strikes the hour and stirs me awake
with a clear, metallic chime:
my senses now quiver. I feel: I'm able -
and I seize the moldable day

Not a thing is completed outside of my sight
and things yet forming stand still
my vision is ripe, and like a bride in white
receives everything in its will

Nothing is too small to me, and I love it still
and I paint it large and in gold
and I hold it high, and know not for whom
it will cause the soul's wings to unfold

The second poem is pretty well-known. Again, the German version:

Ich lebe mein Leben in wachsenden Ringen

Ich lebe mein Leben in wachsenden Ringen,
die sich über die Dinge ziehn.
Ich werde den letzten vielleicht nicht vollbringen,
aber versuchen will ich ihn.

Ich kreise um Gott, um den uralten Turm,
und ich kreise jahrtausendelang;
und ich weiß noch nicht: bin ich ein Falke, ein Sturm
oder ein großer Gesang.

And here is my translation:

I live my life in widening rings

I live my life in widening rings
That spread themselves over all
I may not complete the last of these things
But to journey is my call

I circle round God, the most ancient form
My journey a thousand years long
Yet still I don't know: Am I a falcon? a storm?
Or part of a much larger song.