terça-feira, 17 de março de 2009

A Pantera

And now for something completely different... Hoje temos um desvio (temporário) das hormonas e bonecada habituais. Não, hoje há poesia. Rilke, no less. Bom, não tanto Rilke, antes um exercício de tradução de um dos seus poemas: A Pantera (1902). Transcrevo a tradução inglesa de Walter Arndt, seguida dos seus comentários a anteriores versões de diversos autores (Leishman, Norton, MacIntyre, Lemont, Mitchell). Também as versões prévia e final de Arndt sofrem igual tratamento. Tudo isto consta de The Best of Rilke (Walter Arndt, University Press of New England, 1989). Porquê? (ao som disto) "It's my blog and I do what I want to, do what I want to, do what I want to..."

Im Jardin des Plantes, Paris

Sein Blick ist vom Vorübergehn der Stäbe
so müd geworden, dass er nichts mehr hält.
Ihm ist, als ob es tausend Stäbe gäbe
und hinter tausend Stäben keine Welt.

Der weiche Gang geschmeidig starker Schritte,
der sich im allerkleinsten Kreise dreht,
ist wie ein Tanz von Kraft um eine Mitte,
in der betäubt ein großer Wille steht.

Nur manchmal schiebt der Vorhang der Pupille
sich lautlos auf —. Dann geht ein Bild hinein,
geht durch der Glieder angespannte Stille —
und hört im Herzen auf zu sein.

Rainer Maria Rilke (1902)

Jardin des Plantes, Paris

His gaze has been so worn by the procession
Of bars that it no longer makes a bond.
Around, a thousand bars seem to be flashing,
And in their flashing show no world beyond.

The lissom steps which round out and re-enter
That tightest circuit of their turning drill
Are like a dance of strength about a center
Wherein there stands benumbed a mighty will.

Only from time to time the pupil's shutter
Will draw apart: an image enters then,
To travel through the tautened body's utter
Stillness — and in the heart to end.

tradução de Walter Arndt (1989)

"The taut, seamless perfection of this most famous of the animal poems is thrown into high relief by the misprisions, shortcuts, evasions, and pis allers of the translators not born to Rilke's language. Let us not just vaguely «compare» some version but pass them in review one by one, note felicities, and account for errors and lapses of taste that remove them out of aesthetic recognition of the original:


His gaze those bars keep passing is so misted
with tiredness, it can take in nothing more.
He feels as though a thousand bars existed,
and no more world beyond them than before.

Those supply-powerful paddings, turning there
in the tiniest of circles, well might be
the dance of forces round a centre where
some mighty will stands paralyticly.

Just now and then the pupil's noiseless shutter
is lifted.— Then an image will indart,
down through the limbs' intensive stillness flutter,
and end its being in the heart.

Line 2: Defect in German; nichts mehr «nothing any more» translated as if it were nicht mehr «no more (of something).» The idea is not that the gaze can't take in anything but bars any more but that it can't take in ANYTHING. Also, meter spoilt by «nothing more» for, say, «no more.»
Line 4: Similar trouble with «more.» Should be «no world,» not «no more world.» «Than before» is padding.
Lines 6, 7: Forces: the plural is a gratuitous fault — force around would have solved the spurious metrical dilemma. The rhyming on where / there and be / -ly is sadly weak. No further points need be made, though, since line 8 resoundingly disqualifies the whole enterprise.


His vision from the passing of the bars
is grown so weary that it holds no more.
To him it seems there are a thousand bars
and BEhind A thouSAND bars, uh, no world.

The padding gait of flexible strong strides,
that in the very smallest circle turns,
is like a dance of strength around a center
in which stuPEfied a great will, uh, stands.

OnLY some TIMes the curtain of the pupil
soundlessly parts — then an iMAge enTERS,
goes through the “tensioned” stillness of the limbs —
and in the heart ceaSES to be.

This sample is not so much a failed achievement as a failure to try. A Rilke translation with neither rhyme scheme nor even iambics preserved is simply hors de concours. The farcical effect of capitalizing misstressed syllables above is to emphasize that when dealing with Rilke, modernist «relaxed metrics» are no refuge to translators who haven’t the gift of being accurate semantically as well as prosodically.


His sight from ever gazing through the bars
has grown so blunt that it sees nothing more.
It seems to him that thousands of bars are
before him, and behind him nothing merely.

The easy motion of his supple stride,
which turns about the very smallest circle,
is like a dance of strength about a center
in which a mighty will stands stupefied.

Only sometimes when the pupil's film
soundlessly opens ... then one image fills
and glides through the quiet tension of the limbs
into the heart and ceases and is still.

Line 2: the usual American error of «nothing more» for «nothing any more.»
Line 3: the painful collision, phonetic and metric, of «bars are» should not have been allowed to stand.
Line 4: There is a hole at the end of the line; or does «merely» stand for an iambic rhyme with «more»?
Stanza 3: Aside from the helpless impression made by the half and quarter rhymes, «one image» for «an image,» «fills» without object, the spoiler «and» starting line 3, and the extra «and is still» at the end mark the translation a failed draft.


His weary glance, from passing by the bars,
Has grown into a dazed and vacant stare;
It seems to him there are a thousand bars
And out beyond those bars the empty air.

The pad of his strong feet, that ceaseless sound
Of supple tread behind the iron bands,
Is like a dance of strength circling around,
While in the circle, stunned, a great will stands.

But there at times the pupils of his eyes
Dilate, the strong limbs stand alert, apart,
Tense with the flood of visions that arise,
Only to sink and die within his heart.

Jessie Lemont’s is the only version so far that honors the esthetic necessity of the steady binary (usually iambic) pulse without which any imitation is at a hopeless remove from the classic Rilke of the advancing century. Unfortunately, she has bought this assonance at a heavy cost in dilution and departure — losing not only the fine closing image but the vital impact of lines 7 and 8 by a gratuitous syntactic weakness. The third stanza dissolves into fantasy.


His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold
anything else. It seems to him there are
a thousand bars, and behind the bars, no world.

As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
the movement of his powerful soft strides
is like a ritual dance around a center
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.

Only at times, the curtain of the pupils
lifts, quietly —. An image enters in,
rushes down through the tensed, arrested muscles,
plunges into the heart and is gone.

Here, in a dozen lines, we are asked to accept several dozen failures and gratuitous distortions.
Line 1: «constantly» has been inserted to fill the line; it is worse than superfluous, tripping the iambic flow up with a dactylic foot.
Line 3: the usual little blunder of the non-native: nichts mehr is «nothing any more,» not «nothing else.»
Line 4: the drugged languor of the stanza is spoiled, from mere ineptitude, by the indecent hop-and-skip of an anapaest. Its rhymes, moreover, are replaced by assonances. Close assonances may be unavoidable second-bests occasionally, but to this pains-faking paraphrast they are neither close nor occasional but part of a cheery what-the-hellitude that Rilke, of all delicate artists, has not deserved. Er war ein Dichter, Rilke noted somewhere, und er hasste das Ungefähre: «He was a poet, and he hated the approximate.»
In the second stanza, the first line has turned trochaic, which is harmless enough; «over» is rhymed with «center,» «strides» with «-lyzed,» which once more testifies to the reverse of genius, i.e., an infinite incapacity for taking pains. Yet in its flawed way, the stanza is reminiscent of Rilke's.
The third stanza produces more assorted lapses, both formal and semantic. In the second line, if Rilke had meant «quietly» he would have put «leise,» but he said «lautlos,» for which «soundlessly» is a perfect semantic and metric fit; at the end of this line, for Mitchell an image enters «in» — the type of pervasive American redundancy which produces «up until,» «dis-as-sociate» for dissociate, «off of,» «equally as,» «whether or not» for whether, «can't help but» for can't but, «infringe 'on' a rule» for infringe it, «expand 'on',» and a hundred others. This image should be entered out. In line 3 of the stanza, Mitchell suddenly loses his footing: The image «rushes down» instead of Rilke's «moves through,» then «plunges into the heart» with no textual excuse whatever. He has fortified the artifact, though, by rhyming «pupils» with «muscles,» and the supererogatory «in» with «gone.»
This Panther is not among the more lifelike specimens of the taxidermist's art. But then Mr. Mitchell, interviewed early in 1988 about his undertaking to translate Laotse into English without knowing Chinese, declared that it was not necessary to know the language of origin to produce a translation."


So wearied from the passing bars of iron
Is now his gaze, it fails to fasten on.
To him a thousand bars seem to environ
The present, and no world to lie beyond.

The supple force of strides which softly enter
That tautest turning of their circling drill
Is like a dance of strength about a center
In which there stands benumbed a mighty will.

But soundless, now and then, the pupil's curtain
Will draw apart... An image then is passed,
Pervades the halted limbs with tense alerting,
And in the heart gives out its last.

"I am not happy with your version, although it is formally the most accurate of the lot.
Line 2: «is now his gaze,» placed where it is at the end of the opening clause, sounds like German syntax; it's not natural English.
«It fails to fasten on» would mean «der sich an nichts mehr hält;» it's the sense of containment in «halten» that's meant, or more literally of holding, but not of holding on, not of adherence. Aside from that, «fasten on» sounds like an awkward substitute for «cling,» since it's not normally used without an object; that is, one is left dangling in expectation of at least an implied object to which the failing gaze might have fastened on (such as «to anything»). As the sentence stands, one imagines that what the gaze fails to fasten onto is the passing bars, which of course is not the idea.
Lines 3 and 4: «environ / the present» introduces a complicated idea that is not in the original. «Environ» is, in itself, too abstract a verb for Rilke. «And no world to lie beyond» takes a troubling liberty with grammar: the plural seem of line 3 cannot be applied to the singular «world» of line 4.
Lines 5 and 6: Stripped of adjectives and adverbs, the statement boils down to: «The strides enter the turning of their drill.» There is nothing so complicated, and again, so abstract, in the German.
Line 10: If there were no need to rhyme or scan, «enters» would obviously be a much better translation of «geht hinein» than «is passed,» which to my ears has either a medical (kidney-stones) or military («... in review») provenance.
Line 11: Again a different idea from that of the original: In the German, the image passes through the tense stillness of the limbs; in your line, the image produces tension in the limbs. Also, «pervades... with alerting» is awkward.
Line 12: «Gives out its last» is too dramatic an expiration. «Hört auf zu sein» expresses simple extinction, no more and no less.
The only two successive lines that have the feeling, the sound, and the meaning of the original without any subtraction or addiction are lines 7 and 8.
The problem, I think, is that strict fidelity to the form forces you to be semantically «ungefähr» and at the same time too clever, recherché instead plain-spoken, ingenious instead of ingenuous. The artificiality of the rhyme scheme, in Rilke, is beautifully humbled by the simplicity of the diction; in your version, the diction, the tone and gestural manner of the poem, are made artificial by the strictures of the rhyme. I don't think that can be helped, unless you were to sacrifice either the rhyme or the meter or both. Given the need for this unhappy choice, as seems to be the case here, I would dispense with rhyme before meter, since in English, if the rhyming words don't come with an alibi of syntactical innocence or semantic necessity, they immediately look selfconscious and guilty of interloping in important matters that are none of their business («environ,» «drill,» and «alerting» are cases in point); and usually they come with unrhymed accomplices that make the entire line suspect. Something is lost with the rhyme, it's true, even a part of the meaning; but it is the most artificial and therefore the most extrinsic part. The poem may or may not bleed without it; I think it is worth trying.
Summarizing, I believe that «form-true» translation of rhymed lyrics (as distinct from humorous, narrative, philosophical, etc.) verse rarely succeeds and usually fails, not because the translator lacks talent, skill, or patience, but because for technical reasons it cannot be done. I strongly suspect that this is the case with «Der Panther», at least in English."


His gaze has been so worn by the procession
Of bars that it no longer makes a bond.
Around, a thousand bars seem to be flashing,
And in their flashing show no world beyond.

The lissom steps which round out and re-enter
That tightest circuit of their turning drill
Are like a dance of strength about a center
Wherein there stands benumbed a mighty will.

Only from time to time the pupil's shutter
Will draw apart: an image enters then,
To travel through the tautened body's utter
Stillness — and in the heart to end.

"I didn't get to respond immediately to your new «Panther» version. It's so much better than the old one — a better English poem and a better translation — much closer to Rilke's tone. In fact I find it admirable, and my first reaction was a big grin of delight and the impulse to eat my words according to which «it can't be done.» But there are two standards, that of the original and that of the copy. As a fellow translator I stand with you outside the gates of Eden and want to say to the man with the keys — especially after reading all the other versions — «This one is very good, probably as good a version as there ever will be;» but as a bilingual reader, I am in the position to take my stand firmly and with very little effort in the heaven of the German poem — and from this vantage I still see a few signs of purgatorial strain: «In their flashing show no world beyond» — compared with the plainness of the German; «drill» — (as you yourself pointed out); «makes a bond» still has the adhesive sense of «halten,» which I don't think is the intended meaning, and the secondary implication of emotional «bonding,» which is absent in the original; «lissom» is close to «geschmeidig» but a much rarer, even rarefied, word. The «flashing» of the bars is an addiction and as such questionable — but it's so closely involved with the idea of the bars blinding the panther that I don't mind it — and the half-rhyme «procession /flashing» strikes me as very good — as do all the rhymes. «Strength» in line 7 is more accurate than the earlier «force» — lines 7 and 8 seem just about perfect. And the solution of the last line, in fact the last stanza, is beautiful."