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  #1  
Unread 01-10-2021, 08:43 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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Default Rilke, Buddha (1)

Buddha (I)
by Rainer Maria Rilke

As if he listened. Silence: something far . . .
we pause and cease to hear it anymore.
And he is star. And other massive stars
that we don’t see stand all around him there.

O, he is all things. Do we really wait
for him to see us? What could he require?
Even if here before him we fell flat,
he’d stay inert and deep, as creatures are.

For that which tugs us roughly to his feet
has circled in him for a million years.
He, who forgets what we endure,
and who takes in what shuts us out.


Revisions:
S1L2 was "we hold still and don’t hear it anymore."
S1L3 "And he is star" was "And he’s a star."
S2L4 "withdrawn" was "as deep"
S2L3-4 was "Even if we fell prostrate to him here, / he’d stay withdrawn and torpid as a beast."
S3L4 "who takes in" was "undergoes"


Buddha

Als ob er horchte. Stille: eine Ferne...
Wir halten ein und hören sie nicht mehr.
Und er ist Stern. Und andre große Sterne,
die wir nicht sehen, stehen um ihn her.

O er ist alles. Wirklich, warten wir,
dass er uns sähe? Sollte er bedürfen?
Und wenn wir hier uns vor ihm niederwürfen,
er bliebe tief und träge wie ein Tier.

Dann das, was uns zu seinen Füßen reißt,
das kreist in ihm seit Millionen Jahren.
Er, der vergisst, was wir erfahren,
und der erfährt, was uns verweist.


Literal translation:
Buddha

As if he were listening. Silence: something far off . . .
we halt and hear it no longer.
And he is star. And other giant stars,
which we do not see, stand all around him.

O, he is everything. Really, do we wait
for him to see us? What could he need?
And even if we threw ourselves down here before him,
he’d remain deep and torpid as an animal.

Because that which pulls us to his feet
has circled in him for a million years.
He, who forgets what we experience
and who experiences what shuts us out.


Note: In his New Poems, there are two poems titled "Buddha." This one appears first.

Last edited by Susan McLean; 01-19-2021 at 02:19 PM.
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  #2  
Unread 01-15-2021, 04:26 PM
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AZ Foreman AZ Foreman is offline
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Just a small thought... I'm actually partial to "he is star" for "er ist Stern", for all that it sounds fractionally odder in English because the range of situations in which you can drop the (indefinite) article is wider in German.
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Unread 01-15-2021, 07:17 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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Hi, AZ,
I have been leaning in that direction, too. "He is a star" can have a very different meaning in English, so "He is star" is less open to misinterpretation, even though it does sound odd in the wording.

Susan
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Unread 01-15-2021, 11:04 PM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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I like "he is star," too.

I'm less enthusiastic about the rhyme of "wait" and "beast" in S2. Would "wait" and "brute" work, or does "brute" carry too much connotation of violence? I also wonder how any animal can be "deep" except positionally. Since many animals are not "torpid," I like the fact that "beast" connotes a large, slow animal, such as a beast of burden or a whale, which is probably just right for the context. So maybe I'll have to live with the rhyme rubbing me the wrong way.

I'm struck by the echo of the last word of S3L3 in the first part of S3L4 in the original. Would it be possible to make the verb in both places the same? E.g.:

     He, who forgets what we endure,
     and who endures what shuts us out.
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Unread 01-16-2021, 11:22 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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Julie, in S2L4, I think "deep" means "deep inside himself." I will try switching to "withdrawn," though I did like the overtones of profundity in "deep." I had considered "brute," but it seems to focus on animals in a negative way, and I am sure that is not what Rilke intends here. I think he is picturing a large, slow animal that appears peaceful when it is still. At the end, I think it would be wrong to imply that Buddha is "enduring," when he is totally accepting and participating in everything.

Susan

P.s., I realized that "undergoes" also has overtones of enduring something, so I tried changing it to the more neutral "who takes in."

Last edited by Susan McLean; 01-16-2021 at 12:16 PM.
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  #6  
Unread 01-16-2021, 07:56 PM
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Tony Barnstone Tony Barnstone is offline
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Hi Susan,

I enjoyed it. I had two little meter quibbles, but otherwise it flows well in terms of rhythm. See below:


we hold still and don’t hear it anymore. [i read this as anapest, anapest, iamb, iamb. "we hold STILL / and don't HEAR/ it A / ny MORE" -- I don't particularly like anapests, but the real problem for me is not having five beats. The only way it works is to put an artificial stress on "hold," but that isn't how "hold still" is said--the "still" takes the stress. Another way I could hear it is "WE hold /STILL and / don't HEAR / it A / ny MORE" -- which at least has five beats, but has the roughness of a troche in the second position and then a flip to iambs in the third]

Even if we fell prostrate to him here, [having a troche followed by a double iamb "E-ven / if we / FELL PROS" will tend to push the "if" into promotion, which makes the line start troche, troche, then switch to iambs. To make it work without the clumsiness of a troche in second position, the reader has to ignore the "three unstressed syllables will promote the middle one" rule. However, I THINK you still get away with it. I just note it as a place to scratch at, if you think it itches]

--though, if I am being honest, I will admit that I have myself followed a troche with a double iamb at times in my own sonnets, and even have a bit of affection for how it breaks the rules a bit.

Best, Tony
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Unread 01-18-2021, 01:30 PM
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Kevin Rainbow Kevin Rainbow is offline
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Interesting piece and a decent translation overall, I think.

The placement of "still" and "and" in L2 sounds awkward, in terms of the meter and meaning, to me. The expression "hold still" can mean "to remain motionless or stop moving", and so can be misleading at first.

Maybe something like this may do:

As if he listened. Silence: something far...
Something that we still hold but no more hear
And he is star. And other massive stars
That we don't see all round him there appear.


[Edit: forget "appear" after "...that we don't see..."! Bad suggestion. Not sure what to suggest as a replacement.]


Quote:
O, he is all things. Do we really wait
"Things" seems too unsubtly a stressed syllable in a non-beat position of the meter. It doesn't go by smoothly to my ear How about: "O, he is all. So really do we wait..."

.

Last edited by Kevin Rainbow; 01-18-2021 at 03:54 PM.
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  #8  
Unread 01-19-2021, 02:28 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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Thanks for the additional nudges. I have made a few more revisions to address them.

Tony, good catches on the metrical problems. I was hearing the lines differently in my head, but I had to admit that they could be read the way you were hearing them. I have tried to clear up the ambiguities.

Kevin, I have changed S1L2. I hear S2L1 as "O HE is ALL things." Though I could just say "O he is all," I don't like the sound of that as much, and I am reluctant to add a "so" or an "and" right after it.

Susan
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