Skip to main content
Read page text

138

Reviews

always been the case – and the main reason that most translations fail. But to insist that these versions are not translationsisabitlikesayingtheSonettearen’tsonnets(which hasbeendonebefore). Howwell doesPatersonknowRilke’stongue?Heisrather coy aboutthis. At onepoint heseems about to tellus,butslips intothegeneralstatementthathecanread‘averylittleofafew languages’ without evensayingwhether heconsiders German tobeoneof them. Inan interviewinMagma(Winter2004/05) hesayshe used ‘all’ translationsof Rilketoworkfrom,without mentioning the original. However, fromthe evidence of Orpheus itself, it seems clear that he has beenlookingat it closely, comingupwiththings it is hardto see emerging through another version orevenfromthemultiplebearingsthe different translations allow. In this question too he tends towards extremes, suggestingthat not knowingthelanguage mightbepreferableto acquiringit(citingJ. B. Leishmanasan example of what knowledge cando for you), andpointing towardsbilingual poetssuchasMichael HofmannandGeorge Szirtesastheonlyreal alternativetoignorance. CriticisingLeishman’s version-like translation(as Paterson wouldhave it) for inaccuracyis unfair since hecorrectedhis mistakes inhis secondedition. Andwe must also question whether Paterson’s translation-like versionof thesamepoem doesn’t get it differentlywrong. In‘TheSarcophagi inRome’ hegivesthetombsinthefirstquartet‘heavylids’. YetRilke’s sarcophagi here are open ones withwater flowing through them(he hadwrittenabout thembefore inthe NewPoems ). Paterson makes the streams figurative, of dreams beneath eyelids,andsoconnectsforwardtothesecondquartetwhere,in Rilketoo, unliddedtombs areimaginedas openeyes. But in Rilke’spoem, ashisnotetoitmakesplain, thesesecondtombs are different fromthe first, not in Rome but in Arles. It seems apitytolosetheimage, obviouslyimportant toRilke, of living waters running through mortuary stone, with its resonanceintherest of thecycleof Orpheus’s ‘doublerealm’

My Bookmarks


    Skip to main content