Im Fruhling (In Spring)

by Ernst Schulze (1789-1817)

I sit here lonely on a hill
Where skies are clear and blue;
The sunset casts a glowing veil
Over the deep and tranquil dale—
I used to love this view.

I walked with my beloved there,
She was so close, so dear.
I saw within the mountain streams,
In sky and clouds, like passing dreams,
Her face so crystal clear.

And see, how spring already shines
From each young bud and bloom!
Though each is not the same to me.
The branch she plucked so gracefully
Would be the one I’d choose.

So all is as it was before,
Each bud and flowery scene.
The sun is just as bright today
And just as peacefully, the sky
Appears within the stream.

Illusions and our will must change,
Our luck can fade tomorrow;
The joy of love will one day fly
But still our true love cannot die—
Our love, alas, and sorrow.

If only I could be a bird,
Perched and sharing my song.
I’d settle there so quietly,
And sing for her a melody
That lasts all summer long.

 

Poet’s Note: Listen to Schubert’s musical setting of this poem:

 

 

Original

Still sitz ich an des Hügels Hang,
Der Himmel ist so klar,
Das Lüftchen spielt im grünen Tal,
Wo ich beim ersten Frühlingsstrahl
Einst, ach, so glücklich war.

Wo ich an ihrer Seite ging
So traulich und so nah,
Und tief im dunkeln Felsenquell
Den schönen Himmel blau und hell,
Und sie im Himmel sah.

Sieh, wie der bunte Frühling schon
Aus Knosp’ und Blüte blickt!
Nicht alle Blüten sind mir gleich,
Am liebsten pflückt’ ich von dem Zweig,
Von welchem sie gepflückt.

Denn alles ist wie damals noch,
Die Blumen, das Gefild;
Die Sonne scheint nicht minder hell,
Nicht minder freundlich schwimmt im Quell
Das blaue Himmelsbild.

Es wandeln nur sich Will und Wahn,
Es wechseln Lust und Streit,
Vorüber flieht der Liebe Glück,
Und nur die Liebe bleibt zurück,
Die Lieb’ und ach, das Leid!

O wär ich doch ein Vöglein nur
Dort an dem Wiesenhang!
Dann blieb’ ich auf den Zweigen hier,
Und säng ein süsses Lied von ihr,
Den ganzen Sommer lang.

 

 

Immer Leise Wird Mein Schlummer (My Sleep Grows Ever More Gentle)

by Hermann Lingg (1820-1905)

My sleep grows ever more gentle,
Only my sorrow, like a veil,
Trembles over me.
I hear you often in my dreams,
Standing at my door, calling me—
But no one answers, it seems.
I wake up and weep bitterly.

Death begins to rear his pale head;
You’ll kiss again when I’m long dead,
And safe in my tomb.
Before the May wind returns,
Before warblers call the moon,
If your heart for my kiss yearns,
Come, oh come soon.

All translations © David B. Gosselin

Poet’s Note: Listen to Brahms’ musical setting of this poem:

Original

Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer,
Nur wie Schleier liegt mein Kummer
Zitternd über mir.
Oft im Traume hör’ ich dich
Rufen drauß vor meiner Tür:
Niemand wacht und öffnet dir,
Ich erwach’ und weine bitterlich.

Ja, ich werde sterben müssen,
Eine Andre wirst du küssen,
Wenn ich bleich und kalt.
Eh’ die Maienlüfte wehn,
Eh’ die Drossel singt im Wald:
Willst du mich noch einmal sehn,
Komm, o komme bald!

 

 

David B. Gosselin is a translator, linguist and poet based in Montreal. He is the founder of the 21st century poetry website www.thechainedmuse.com


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5 Responses

  1. Joseph S. Salemi

    The translation of “Im Fruhling” maintains both the metrical line and the rhyme scheme of the original. That is a very difficult thing to pull off, but Gosselin does it.

    The metrical arrangement of tetrameter/trimeter/tetrameter/tetrameter/ trimeter in each stanza is not a common form in English, but it has been used expertly here in this translation.

    The translation of Lingg’s poem seems more free-verse-ish, although Gosselin tries to keep some of the original’s rhyme patterns. But then again, Lingg’s poem suffers from too much self-absorption and confessional lyricism.

    Reply
  2. Joseph Charles MacKenzie

    For me, the first question of translation is simply: Am I translating x as an academic exercise because I happen to like the original and expect everyone else to, or am I translating x to produce a truly magnificent poem in the target language.

    If the excercise is merely academic (how precisely have I replicated the original), then, for me (this is merely my own opinion), the exercise is unecessary and readers will get nothing out of it.

    If the exercise is truly an occasion to produce great poetry in the target language, then readers will be rewarded by the effort.

    Example: If W.B. Yates had strictly translated Ronsard’s sonnet, “Quand vous serez bien vielle,” merely replicating the form of the French original, its rhyme scheme, syntax, and so forth, then one of the finest, most lyrical poems in the language, “When you are old and grey” would be missing from the literary canon.

    Can one do both? Yes, in some cases. But one has to possess enough culture to know when and when not to, who and who not to, why and why not to translate. There is a bigger picture always surrounding this question. It’s called “my audience.”

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Well then, it would depend on whether one’s audience understands the original text of the poem (i.e. is bilingual), or if the audience is reading the translation as a means of gaining access to the poem.

      In the first case, the audience can make its own judgment as to the value or success of the translation. In the second case, the audience is obliged to depend on the translation as a kind of code-book. It seems to me that both types of audience are always with us.

      Reply
      • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

        And there is a third audience, not yet with us, that will render the verdict of Time. And for all that has gone before us, we ourselves are that audience.

        The immortal wreath is held out in the hand of Lady History.

  3. Uwe Carl Diebes

    Ernst Schultze, like other German Romantics, linked language deeply to the heart; which is why it is a real service Mr. Gosselin continues to remind SCP of those depths. Mr. Gosselin even strives to capture the meter, the meaning, and the masculine rhymes of the original. Für mich, the German Romantics are ever a reminder of those depths we lack in English. When I read the German Romantic poets, I often feel like I’m coming home (or I’m going in the right direction). [This is not to say that English does not have its own qualities of greatness—abundant recompense.] Another of the things I most appreciate about the German Romantics (and Realists, like Nietzsche), is their focus on Ancient Greek poetry and culture; and Schultze certainly was a figure in that camp.

    The more I read of Mr. Gosselin’s work, the more I see where his own oracular vision lies. And and it amazes me it is coming from Canada; he is definitely setting his sights high. But for me, English literature “must” (in the German sense) go beyond those heights [cf. Shelley’s “Mont Blanc”] that caught the youthful vigour of writers, like Keats, Shelley and Schultze, poets who died young.

    In a very unoracular observation, during the coronavirus, I am binge watching “Wilsberg”.

    Reply

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