Paraphrase / Nachdichtung
von / by Walter A. Aue



Paul Verlaine:

Chanson dautomne

Les sanglots longs
Des violons
De l'automne
Blessent mon cur
D'une langueur
Monotone.

Tout suffocant
Et blme, quand
Sonne l'heure,
Je me souviens
Des jours anciens
Et je pleure;

Et je m'en vais
Au vent mauvais
Qui m'emporte
De, del,
Pareil la
Feuille morte.





Paul Verlaine

Lithograph by Antonio de La Gandara (1861-1917),
drawn a few months before Verlaine's death.

For comparison, check the famous "psychological" portrait of Verlaine by Eugne Carrire (1849-1906).









Paul Verlaine:

Autumn Song

The sobbing calls
from the fall's
fiddles' moan
through my breast
languidest
monodrone.

All out of breath
and pale, as
hours fly
my eyes behold
the days of old,
and I cry,

and I'll be gone
to wild winds thrown,
tossed aside
once to, once fro:
like wild winds blow
leaves that died.



I don't know any French, you say? Precisely. And very unfortunately so, too, for all kinds of reasons. But you see, I translated from the German!

And where I got the German from? From Bertram Kottmann, bless his heart - that is, from his far more trustworthy translation found on Emily Ezust's marvellous Lieder website. Because this poem has been set to music again and again...

And my German translation? Well, that came from my English one, you see, with an occasional look at the (to me) inscrutable French...

This is no laughing matter, you maintain? Right you are. Take my German and translate it back into French - no peeks at the original, please! - and once you have done that and have ended up where Verlaine ended up, I'll be ready to pity you and apologize...

I am hawking the translator's version of an old children game, you scoff? Well, yes. Old, but highly instructive. As Dr. Karl Lueger, the most beloved and successful of Vienna's mayors once said (and I paraphrase from memory): "Translations? Translations are what one translator copies from the other!" Sure, I know. Lueger talked about books (actually, he used a derogative term for books, and not only that), but today he could have mentioned not just books but TV and radio newscasts, journals, scientific reviews, political position papers, mission statements - and, yes, sometimes even poems. What goes round, comes round...

And, look, I won't do it again. Not unless severely tempted. But the poem fitted so beautifully into my Autumn Collection of Dead Leaves. Besides, my website also offers poems that, for one reason or another, played a role at world events (for instance Tennyson's Ulysses). And Paul Verlaine's Chanson dautomne was used to signal D-Day to the French Resistance...




Note added later

Today, and by pure chance, I stumbled onto C. John Holcombe's marvellous translation workshop, using this very poem. Some nine different English translations are cited and linked there, not to count the workshop versions themselves. They brought about some sanglots longs of mine...

But, then, not knowing French, I did this translation owing to a very peculiar set of circumstances - and I did it for the music and the challenge in it. I also promised never to try a French poem again. But it was fun while it lasted! So, whether for my English translation above or my German one below: Sincere apologies und nichts für ungut!




Still later

I promised never to try a poem in French again. But I never said anything about Italian! I guess I had to sin twice to make sure it's a sin translating from a language one doesn't know. So, yes it is!

What I'll do for penance? Well, see, right on top of the page it usually says "Translation - bersetzung". Have a look: It now says "Paraphrase - Nachdichtung". What that means? That means you can blame ME for it...




...



Paul Verlaine:

Chanson dautomne

Les sanglots longs
Des violons
De l'automne
Blessent mon cur
D'une langueur
Monotone.

Tout suffocant
Et blme, quand
Sonne l'heure,
Je me souviens
Des jours anciens
Et je pleure;

Et je m'en vais
Au vent mauvais
Qui m'emporte
De, del,
Pareil la
Feuille morte.




Paul Verlaine:

Herbstgesang

Wie Seufzer lang
und herbstesbang
Geigenton
schlgt mein Herz
in dumpfem Schmerz
monoton.

Ganz atemlos
und bleich und blo
die Sehnsucht mein
beim Stundenschlag
weckt fernen Tag
und ich wein,

und geh hinaus
in's Sturmgebraus
das mich hat:
Ein immerfort
(bald hier, bald dort)
totes Blatt.



Sie meinen, ich knnte kein Franzsisch? Stimmt auf's Haar. Aber Bertram Kottmann kann's - und ihm danke ich fr seine wunderschne (und weit sinngenauere) bersetzung.

Aber warum ich dann...? Naja, das war so ein Zufall. Ich versprech', ich werd's nicht wieder tun.

Und es ist ja ein Herbstlied. Und ein (fr mich jedenfalls) schwer zu bersetzendes noch dazu.

Außerdem, meine Website bietet nicht nur Gedichte ber den Herbst, sondern auch ein paar solche, die mit dem groen Weltgeschehen ein bichen was zu tun haben (z.B. Tennysons Ulysses).

Was Paul Verlaine mit dem Weltgeschehen...? Naja, das war wahrscheinlich auch Zufall. Aber sein Chanson dautomne signalisierte im Funkverkehr der Resistance in Frankreich die unmittelbar bevorstehende Invasion der Allierten ("D-Day")...



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First posted: July 2007
Last updated: June 2010