Translation of ‘Blauer Himmel’ by Gustavo Sack


Since none of my blog posts will allow me to finish them of late, I decided to do some translation to pass the time. My rules are: it should be short and sweet, and there cannot exist a translation that brings me to my knees in sweet liberating humility, and it has to be in German (or possibly Hindi, I suppose).

For my first one, I picked ‘Blauer Himmel’ by Gustav Sack, a poem from the early 20th century.

BLAUER HIMMEL

So liebe ich dich nicht;
doch wenn der Sturm durch deine Weiten brüllt
und wenn die Wolken wiederum
wie Winterwölfe durch dich fahren
heißhungrig und vor Hunger stumm,
wird meine Unruh offenbaren,
wie ich nach deiner Freiheit lechze.
So liebe ich dich nicht,
so nicht in deinem wolkenlosen Prahlen,
denn diese prahlerische Reinheit
drückt mich tot, wie man ein Blatt zerdrückt.

BLUE SKY

I don’t like you like this;
yet when the storm howls
through your 
vast space
and clouds race through you
like winter wolves
insatiable and silent from hunger,
my poise will reveal
how I long for your freedom.
I don’t love you like this,
in your cloudless ostentatiousness.
Your braggadocious purity
squashes me dead,
like a leaf getting squished.

Most people translate the word ‘Unruh’ with agitation, disquiet etc. I too assumed that the writer was taking poetic licence with the spelling of ‘Unruhe’ which means unrest.

However, ‘die Unruh’ (without the ‘e’ at the end) means the balance-wheel inside a watch. The thing that oscillates and enables the watch to incrementally tick and precisely ‘tell’ the time.

A certain group of humans (a group to which I belong essentially but not really, thanks to my purposefully-mellow-and-adjusted-state-of-being) is in a constant state of flux on the inside, a low-volume agitation that spikes in the face of hypocritical justifiers of the status-quo, a stagnant environment with a demeanor where everything just is without a sense of before, after, or – most terrifyingly  – even a during. This calmness however, is pregnant with the possibility of unspeakable horror – or so one feels – and this can drive one quite mad from within..

This personality type is simply unable to articulate such emotions in any way other than through tensely coiled relationships of space, light, sound, color, and metaphor to freeze-capture their elusive movement in precarious, ephemeral balance.

Which is why most translators make a beeline for the ‘unrest, disquiet, agitation’ angle.

But stay with me – because I know. Nothing seems more crushing and bluntly disorienting than a calm windless day surrounded by a vast and homogeneous sky, a behemothian sense of numb despair that seems overwhelmingly inescapable.

One is constantly plagued with the question as to why the norm doesn’t feel normal in the least, and despite all the probing one’s fingers can never quite touch the answer to that question – and look left and look right in a desperate bid for a distraction, perchance an answer, and the blood-chilling realization that the stage set is only painted on. Imagine!!

This inner balance-wheel is so asynchronous and cacaphonic most of the time, that it only begins to oscillate in a steady and hopeful rhythm when there is wild beauty to be had. When lightning splits the heavens in two and nostrils drink deep of the scent of ozone and an electric needle flies through the skin of the forehead, and every skin-cell begins to awaken to a sense of awakened ecstasy, when chaos rushes in to fill the ever-changing spaces within, and through its very movement causes balance to occur, that is when one feels relaxed, free, and happy.

Which is why I chose to translate ‘Unruh’ as ‘Poise’. Because the poise that manifests outwardly from the inner pillar of calm, shows us the true nature of the character who wrote this poem.

And as we all know, no work of creative expression is ever really complete except in the moment that it is experienced. Therefore, I, the translator, have every right as co-creator to translate it thusly!

So Sacky, don’t reincarnate as a mosquito and come to bite me!

omg I think I finished a blog post. Finally. Quality-schmality.

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