Translating a poem

Posted: 1 November, 2011 in Translation
Tags: ,

Have you ever translated a text? Do you know how hard it can be to find the perfect and most suitable word? Well, that’s nothing compared to the tremendous difficulty of translating a poem. Especially if the poem is playing with the language it is written in. Here’s my trial…

Der WerwolfVon Christian Morgenstern (1871-1914)

Ein Werwolf eines Nachts entwich

von Weib und Kind und sich begab

an eines Dorfschullehrers Grab

und bat ihn: oBitte, beuge mich!

Der Dorfschulmeister stieg hinauf

auf seines Blechschilds Messingknauf

und sprach zum Wolf, der seine Pfoten

geduldig kreuzte vor dem Toten:

Der Werwolfn, sprach der gute Mann,

des Weswolfs, Genitiv sodann,

dem Wemwolf, Dativ, wie man’s nennt,

den Wenwolf, — damit hat’s ein End.

Dem Werwolf schmeichelten die Fälle,

er rollte seine Augenbälle.

Indessenn, bat er, füge doch

zur Einzahl auch die Mehrzahl noch!

Der Dorfschulmeister aber mußte

gestehn, daß er von ihr nichts wußte.

Zwar Wölfe gäb’s in großer Schar,

doch ›Wer‹ gäb’s nur im Singular.

Der Wolf erhob sich tränenblind —

er hatte ja doch Weib und Kind!!

Doch da er kein Gelehrter eben,

so schied er dankend und ergeben.

The werewolfBy Christian Morgenstern (1874-1914)

A werewolf escape one night

From wife and child and proceed

To a village school teacher´s tomb

And asked him: Please, decline me!

The village school teacher climbed up

From his tin-plate brass-knob

And spoke to the wolf, who patiently

Crossed his paws in front of the dead:

The werewolf, said the good man,

The werewolf´s, possessive then,

For the werewolf, the so-called dative,

To the werewolf, and that´s all.

The werewolf was flattered by the cases,

He rolled his eyeballs.

However, he asked, please add

To the single also the plural!

The village school teacher however

Had to admit he did not know about it.

It is true that wolves in a hordes exist,

But “were” exists only in the singular.

The werewolf rose blinded with tears:

He still had wife and child!

Since he was no kind of scholar,

He left grateful and humble.

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