Monday, February 27, 2012

Lost in Translation or Gained in Translation?? I Think Gained.... Seize the Day

One of the most interesting situations with works of art in written form is translating the words from one language to another.  Anyone who has learned or is learning an additional language or three knows that literal translations are rarely possible and are often confusing.  Poetry then, which relies creative use of a language complicates translation even more.  The outcome can be quite beautiful should the reader allow for the various translations to be taken as a unique perspective on the Poem.  Because I love Art History, Art and Poetry I love the 'Torso of an Archaic Apollo" (Archaischer Torso Apollos).  I have attached the original poem and two translations to illustrate how in translation even the translator must apply their artistic abilities to convey the original intent of the poem as best they can while changing the wording into a new language.... I hope you enjoy....

Torso of an Archaic Apollo
Translated by C. F. MacIntyre

Never will we know his fabulous head
where the eyes' apples slowly ripened. Yet
his torso glows: a candelabrum set
before his gaze which is pushed back and hid,

restrained and shining. Else the curving breast
could not thus blind you, nor through the soft turn
of the loins could this smile easily have passed
into the bright groins where the genitals burned.

Else stood this stone a fragment and defaced,
with lucent body from the shoulders falling,
too short, not gleaming like a lion's fell;

nor would this star have shaken the shackles off,
bursting with light, until there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

~Rainer Maria Rilke

Torso of Apollo, Probably a Copy after a statue of Onatas from Aegina (ca.460 BCE), Munich
Rilke: Archaic Torso of Apollo

We didn’t understand that outrageous head, the eyes
whose irises actually flowered. But his torso
still stares like a chandelier turned low,
dimmed to illuminate just its own steady

flame. Why else would the crease
of the chest muscles blind you? And the slight
tensing of the loin — it’s nothing if not a smile
traveling to his center on a journey to procreation.

If not, this would only be a fragment
of mutilated stone under the shoulders’ transparent
slump. Wouldn’t glisten, anymore than a predator’s

fur, or leap like radiating star fire.
Because there isn’t any single part of it that isn’t
watching you. You have to live another life.

                                               — Trans. Art Beck 2007

Male Torso, Hellenistic Theater of Miletus, 480-470 BCE, Musee du Louvre
Archaischer Torso Apollos

Wir kannten nicht sein unerhörtes Haupt,
darin die Augenäpfelreiften. Aber
sein Torso glüht noch wie ein Kandelaber,
in dem sein Schauen, nur zurückgeschraubt,

sich hält und glänzt. Sonst könnte nicht der Bug
der Brust dich blenden, und im leisen Drehen
der Lenden könnte nicht ein Lächeln gehen
zu jener Mitte, die die Zeugung trug.

Sonst stünde dieser Stein enstellt und kurz
unter der Schultern  durchsichtigem Sturz
und flimmerte nicht so wie Raubtierfelle;

und bräche nicht  aus allen seinen Rändern
aus wie ein Stern: denn da ist keine Stelle,
die dich nicht sieht. Du mußt dein Leben ändern.

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