“Only one thing remained reachable, close and secure amid all losses: language. Yes, language. In spite of everything, it remained secure against loss.” ~ Paul Celan, from his Bremen Prize acceptance speech (1958)

***Okay, I just this second found this post in my drafts. I pushed the published button. Really, I did. I have not idea what happened . . .

Two for Tuesday: Celan in Translation

Tuesday evening. Showers and cool. 60 degrees.

I have always been fascinated by those individuals who translate other people’s works. The way I see it, so many things can go wrong. One would need not only a mastery of the language used in the original, but also a clear mastery of the language into which the work is being translated. And I wonder how much depends upon the personal prejudices of the translator.

For today, I have chosen two different translations of a poem by Paul Celan. Notice how even the use of passive versus active voice dramatically changes just the first line.


Akseli Gallen-Kallela Autumn 1902
“Autumn” (1902)
by Akseli Gallen-Kallela


Autumn eats its leaf out of my hand: we are friends.
From the nuts we shell time and we teach it to walk:
then time returns to the shell.

In the mirror it’s Sunday,
in dream there is room for sleeping,
our mouths speak the truth.

My eye moves down to the sex of my loved one:
we look at each other,
we exchange dark words,
we love each other like poppy and recollection,
we sleep like wine in the conches,
like the sea in the moon’s blood ray.

We stand by the window embracing, and people
look up from the street:
it is time they knew!
It is time the stone made an effort to flower,
time unrest had a beating heart.
It is time it were time.

It is time.

~ Paul Celan, trans. Michael Hamburger


Charles Burchfield Autumn Flowers c1955-60 watercolor on paper
“Autumn Flowers” (c1955-60, watercolor on paper)
by Charles Burchfield


From my Hand the Autumn eats its Leaf: we are Friends.
We shell Time from Nuts and teach it to walk:
Time returns to the Shell.

In the mirror it’s Sunday,
in Dream there is sleep,
the Mouth speaks true.

My eye bends down to the Sex of my Loved One:
we gaze at each other,
we speak a Darkness between us,
we love each other as Poppy and Memory,
we sleep like Wine in the Mussel,
like the Sea in the Blood-Beam of Moons.

We stand entwined at the Window, they look up at us from the
it is Time, that they knew!
It is Time, that the Stone condescended to flower,
that Unrest’s Heart beat.
It is Time that it became, Time.

It is Time.

~ Paul Celan, trans. A. S. Kline


Music by Wake Owl, “Wild Country”

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