Translating the Translator I

2006-03-10

One of my favorite poets is Walter Kaufmann, who is best known for his magisterial translations of the works of Nietzsche, but whose poems I've read with pleasure over the years (many thanks to John Enright for turning me on to his poetry). In addition to many fine poems in English, Kaufmann wrote some poems in German in the period 1939-1942 (copyright 1962, 1971, 1975 by Walter Kaufmann), which to my knowledge have not been translated into English. Since few people know of Kaufmann as a poet and even fewer still are probably interested in rendering his German poems into English, I thought I would try my hand at the daunting task of "translating the translator". The first of Kaufmann's poems I've rendered into English is this:

Regen

Der Regen ist ein müdes Kind
das heim zur Mutter Erde will:
er gleitet schlafend durch den Wind
und sinkt zur Erde und liegt still.

Here's my first pass at a translation:

Rain

The rain is an exhausted child
that's homesick for its mother earth:
it glides down sleeping through the wind
and sinks to earth and there lies still.


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