A Heine request from selenak

I’m not sure about this one because I don’t know enough about the life of Heine to be sure who Pauline and Mathilda actually were. And there’s a dodgy elision in the last but one line – but it’s slangy enough.

They’ll sing no requiem for me
No Kaddish will they say
No word or song from anyone
to mark my dying day.

Yet maybe on the sort of day
when weather’s fine and mild
she’ll walk Montmartre with Pauline
Miss Matty, that sweet child.

She’ll bring a wreath of immortelles
to lay against my grave
and sob ‘Poor man’ and look so sad.
And up here I can’t wave

I’m stuck unhappily on high
My darling’s there below
I can’t reach her. She dawdles home
her limping feet are slow.

Oh sweet sad child, you shouldn’t walk
You’ve money for the fare
Stop just outside the graveyard gate
And get a taxi there


About rozkaveney

Middleaged, trans, novelist, poet, activist
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6 Responses to A Heine request from selenak

  1. Anonymous says:

    Nice One

    Now I like that; congratulations.

    Of course, I have even less feel for the original than you do. Still, even if it fails as Heine, I think it succeeds as Kaveney.

    Of course that is the usual problem – are you trying for an independent artistic achievement (albeit inspired by another, but then that is not exactly unusual in any art form); or

    are you trying to faithfully render the original – always tricky, which is why I think good translation of poetry often turns out to be prose and is probably best with footnotes and the original text i.e. an academic, not an artistic, exercise.

    Still metaphorically between Scylla and Charybdis is not an uncommon happenstance.


    • rozkaveney says:

      Re: Nice One

      I’m trying with all of these to create poems which work as an aspect of my own voice, but an aspect which has something in common with the poetic personality of the original, as I understand it. At the same time, I am trying to be as literal as possible wihtin the constraints of the original’s metre, rhyme scheme and general feel.

      Obviously this is truer when I can speak and or read the original language, In the case of the Sappho and Tsvetayeva translations, I am working from originals that I can in no sense read and whose sound world I can’t really inhabit. In the case of Sappho, that means I am writing new poems that refer closely to originals; with Tvestaeva, where the poems are not the common property of humanity to the same extent, I am trying to do the same but ultimately writing poems inspired by the originals.

      It’s perhaps significant that I am translating mostly Heine and Catullus, sophisticated urban poets where a certain pose and poise is part of the point. I find them simpatico – particularly Heine.

      It’s also that I need for my own work to be better at using rhyme and certain set metres – again, trying to adhere to Heine is a good exercise for me.

  2. crowleycrow says:

    “Graveyard gate” fits the meter better.

    • rozkaveney says:

      So it does – I quite liked the cheekiness of the elision, but you are right, I think.

      • crowleycrow says:

        Forgot to say: I much enjoyed it, and the other as well, I was reminded of a rule that I associate with Keats, though I don;t know if he stated it: if you are rhyming a word difficult to rhyme, and have come up with one, but it risks making a line seem a little forced, always use the odd rhyme word in the first of the rhyming lines and the commonplace one in the next. Makes the odd word seem more like a wrod you just wanted, not one you were forced to use. Simple instance, in “Misty” —

        Never knowing my right foot from my left
        My hat from my glove
        I’m too misty, and too much in love

        (ALMOST gets away with that, one solution to the lack of rhymes for “love”.)

      • rozkaveney says:

        I must go through the letters and check for that – overdue to reread them in any case. And yes, that’s quite a good rule – looking back it’s precisely what I did in the Caroline Blackwood poem where in the envoi I knew I needed to find a rhyme for while and so went – thanks a pile, rather than thanks a lot…

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