Google Translating Rilke

Google, Gaelin McAllister Meyer, and Systran Translating Rilke

Rilke is a mostly impenetrable poet whose craft hints at great things, only briefly glimpsed through a language barrier and the inherent nature of the mystic. I’ve written many times on him, this is one page. (internal link)

How would Google do with Rilke? This poem is from the Book of Hours, see the original German below. I’m not sure the tile is correct, that being My Life is Not This Vertical Hour.

Google Translate

My Life is Not this Steep Hour

My life is not this steep hour
in which you see me rushing
I am a tree against my background
I am just one of my many mouths
and the one that closes the earliest.

I am the calm between two tones
who don’t get used to each other well:
because the tone of death wants to rise

But reconcile in the dark interval
both trembling.

And the song stays beautiful.

My Life Is not This Vertical Hour

Another writer attempts to translate.

Translated and sung by Gaelin McAllister Meyer, Heartsong Records

My life is not this vertical hour
in which you find me in such haste.
I am a tree in front of my own background,
I am only but one of my many mouths,
and the one which is the first to close.

I am the silence between two sounds
that only with difficulty grow used to one another:
for the tone of Death also wishes to be heard—

But in the darkness of the interval
they make peace with one another, trembling.

And the song remains beautiful.

This is what I think Gaelin McAllister Meyer translated from:

Mein Leben ist nicht diese steile Stunde

Mein Leben ist nicht diese steile Stunde,
darin du mich so eilen siehst.
Ich bin ein Baum vor meinem Hintergrunde,
ich bin nur einer meiner vielen Munde
und jener, welcher sich am frühsten schließt.

Ich bin die Ruhe zwischen zweien Tönen,
die sich nur schlecht aneinander gewöhnen:
denn der Ton Tod will sich erhöhn—

Aber im dunklen Intervall versöhnen
sich beide zitternd.

Und das Lied bleibt schön.

aus: Das Stundenbuch

And How Would Another Machine Do?

This is from Systran:, which seems fairly coherent compared to the three or four website translation services I tried:

My Life is not This Steep hour

My life is not that steep hour in which you see me so rushing.

I’m a tree in my background, I’m just one of my many mouths and the one that closes at the earliest.

I’m the calm between two sounds that are not very well accustomed to each other: The sound of death wants to increase— but in the dark interval, both of them are reconciled trembling. And the song remains beautiful.

My Note

I can’t find the translation now, but I remember a printed book that ended the poem like this, better, I think, than using the word beautiful.

“And the song stays sweet.”

By thomasfarley01

Business writer and graphic arts gadfly.

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