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Thread: How do poems that rhyme in German always translate into poems that rhyme in English?

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    Question How do poems that rhyme in German always translate into poems that rhyme in English?

    How do poems that rhyme in German always translate into poems that rhyme in English? It's impossible, isn't it? I can't read German, so I have no way of verifying how closely poems are translated. Can someone explain just how much literary license translators use in order to keep a poem being the rhyming kind? This thread http://forums.skadi.net/showthread.p...813#post907813 is a case in point.

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    Well, evidently many things can be translated in many a way. Look at how different the two translations in this thread are. The meaning is still the same, and they have tried to captivate the same feeling - but something is always lost in translation, because different rhymes, different plays on words etc. etc. etc. will have to be used than in the original language: Be that a translation from German into English or from Finnish into Flemish.

    For Lorelei, f.ex. the word-by word translation would be:

    I know not, what it shall mean
    That so sad I am
    A fairy-tale from ancient days
    That will not leave my mind
    The air/breeze is cool and twilight strikes
    And calm flows the river Rhine
    The peak of the mountain glimmers
    in the evening sun shine

    The prettiest virgin is a-sat
    Up, on there, fabulously
    Her golden frame blinks
    She combs her golden hair
    She combs it with a golden comb
    And sings a song whilst she does
    That has a wonderful,
    Striking melody.

    The boatsman in the small skiff
    is struck with wild pains [note: pains of love ]
    He looks not at the rocky riffs
    He looks just above, high up
    I believe, the waves devour
    In the end boatsman and boat
    And that, with her singing
    Is what Loreley did.


    So as you can see - most of the meaning is maintained, but it is quite different. And that's how you usually do it with poems when translating them: You try to keep some of the atmosphere, you try to keep some of the meaning, but you let it flow in the language it is translated into.
    -In kalte Schatten versunken... /Germaniens Volk erstarrt / Gefroren von Lügen / In denen die Welt verharrt-
    -Die alte Seele trauernd und verlassen / Verblassend in einer erklärbaren Welt / Schwebend in einem Dunst der Wehmut / Ein Schrei der nur unmerklich gellt-
    -Auch ich verspüre Demut / Vor dem alten Geiste der Ahnen / Wird es mir vergönnt sein / Gen Walhalla aufzufahren?-

    (Heimdalls Wacht, In kalte Schatten versunken, stanzas 4-6)

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