30 December, 2006

Gedichte: II

The internet's a great place, isn't it? According to Wikipedia, Saddam is currently 'most likely on his way to hell', though that won't be there by the time you read it. But the web is full of nice chaps, ready to offer their expertise. Steve Languagehat and I have traded advice now and then, and Stuart Heath, Simon Holloway and others have been kind enough to lend me their wisdom on more than one occasion. Now another fellow has come to my aid, handsome young Irishman Aidan Kehoe, who keeps a delightful blog—how can you dislike a man who writes a post in German on morsecode mnemonics, and lists "the French as a people" as his sole "disenchantment"? (Myself, I think the French are underrated, but then so are the British, not to mention the Americans.) Mr. Kehoe, in fact, has considerable fluency in German, and at my request he agreed to assist me in my translation of Herr Rochs' poetry, my previous attempt at which, with mixed results, can be found here. This is the second installment; the German original was written just four days after the first one.

Und menge ich von Nichts, als Lieb'
Und nie von andern Dingen,
Jedennoch stets genug nur blieb'
Mein Leben lang zu singen.

Ich brauche meinem Liebchen fein
Nur tief ins Aug zu sehn
Damit die Lieder gross und klein
Zu ihrem Lob entstehn.

Und bringe ich sie dann ihr dar
So Lohnt mich suess ihr Kuss
Und eine neue Liederschaar
Bringt ihr dann neuen Gruss.

5. Nov. 1876

My effort at comprehending this was poor, but Aidan came to my rescue, though Rochs' apparent archaism stretched even his powers. The second word menge, which normally means 'mix', is the chief sticking-point—here's what Aidan had to say on the matter:
It could be that menge was intended to convey the obsolete form of the verbal counterpart of Mangel 'lack [of something]'. The current verb is mangeln, but the Grimms list mengan as appearing in Hochdeutsch in that meaning long before Mangel itself.
Well, I take his ingenious word for it, as it's the only way I have of making sense of the first verse. Perhaps Herr Wokan will have other things to say. Aidan notes further, delightfully apoint, that such an explanation 'would require that your great-great-grandfather had both the desire and the education to be ridiculously archaic, though! All the same, such a combination was relatively fashionable in 1875'. It certainly was. Aidan's help is implicit throughout the first two verses here. There's one more thing to say, which is that I have taken a different stylistic tack for this version. With my last effort I was still writing in a Conradian style, whereas here I have kept to a strict accentual metre, in imitation of the original, which is in ballad metre, and in return allowed myself more freedom in sense. This isn't entirely comfortable to me, but as an experiment I don't think it is a failure. The last line is really mine—for a closer rendering, feel free to substitute 'My darling should readily greet'. The translation is for my wife, to whom kittle and bejaune are known terms of endearment.

And I've wanted for nothing but Love—
No, ne'er for a single damn thing—
But I've had enough push come to shove
That for livelihood lifelong I sing.

And I need only glance at my kittle,
And to look her so deep in the eyes,
For songs in her praise great and little
To swiftly materialise.

So I offer her these as a token
For one of her kisses so sweet,
Till a new flock of sonnets well spoken
Should knock my bejaune off her feet.


Jim T said...

"mengen" - to mix - still used - you can find it in recipes (like here

"If all I threw into the mix
were love, and nothing else,
I'd still have plenty of material
To sing my whole life long"

(You can work out the rhyme!)
(also note the mixed conditional - blieb'- = "würde bleiben"
menge = "wenn ich mengen würde")

Conrad H. Roth said...

Ah! Thanks muchly.

konrad said...

Hallo Conrad and Jim,

I think it cannot be "menge" because you must use "with" (mengen mit..)
if it were "mangel" you would use "an" (mangeln an) but the original says:
"von" Nichts.....

It must be "saenge" conjunctiv irrealis of singen (to sing)

let me try in my broken english:

if I ever would sing about nothing than love
and never about other things
always however would just remain
to sing my life long

I am not sure, that is "token".
it is something like: remuneration.
that she gives to him after he has laid down before her the songs

Wonderful poem !
Best regards and wishes
Ralf (Mr. Wokan)

Conrad H. Roth said...

Ralf, you're a bloody genius! I went back and looked at the text again, sure it was 'menge', and I looked very closely, and you're completely right--it is 'saenge'! The 's-a' ligature looks a great deal like an 'm'. Thanks for this, I'll have to go back to the English now.

As for 'token', yes I understand that it is remuneration, like a redeemable token as on the subway. One thing is exchanged for the other, the songs for the kiss.

Larry Blumen said...

I feel the same way about a true intellectual, now that I've seen one, as I do people who play the guitar well: I appreciate and enjoy the experience, and I would like to do it, but I can't.

But you don't arouse envy in me. Just a simple pleasure. Thanks.