Wuthering Heights in German

English is crisp, elegant, and terse.

I once said to a friend, “English is like a bonsai tree.  German is like…a wild overgrown forest.”   So I could only nod and smile when I came across this piece in The Germans by Gordon A. Craig: “…the most frequent cause of foreign misunderstanding is not the sometimes clumsy form assumed by written and spoken German but rather the difficulty of determining what is actually being said.  The non-German reader has the impression of trying to cut his way through the jungle of words, many of which have no precise meaning, a good percentage of which are clearly redundant, and some of which appear to be superfluous.”

German will never be known for its succinctness.

German’s worth lies in its strength, its passion.

Due to the inherent differences in the languages they evoke quite different feelings in the listener or reader.  And  some things just naturally sound better in one rather than the other.   There is a reason why Germany is not known for its comedies.  But drama!  The German language was made for drama- and the more dramatic the better.

So what better book to try reading next than my beloved Wuthering Heights?  How will it fare?

Entitled Die Sturmhöhe in German, here is a piece that you will probably be able to recognize:

“Mein Liebe zu Linton ist wie das Laub im Walde: die Zeit wird sie änderen, ich bin mir dessen bewußt, wie der Winter die Bäume verändert.  Meine Liebe zu Heathcliffe gleicht den ewigen Felsen dort unten; sie ist eine Quelle kaum wahrnehmbarer Freuden, aber sie ist notwendig.  Nelly, ich bin Heathcliffe!  Ich habe ihn immer, immer im Sinn, nicht zum Vergnügen, genausowenig, wie ich mir selbst stets ein Vergnügen bin, sondern als mein eigenes Sein.”

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Published in: on July 25, 2010 at 9:11 pm  Comments (23)  
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Charles Baudelaire: The Beautiful and Dark Poet

Charles Baudelaire: French poet.  April 9, 1821- August 31, 1867

“A frenzied passion for art is a canker that devours everything else.”- Charles Baudelaire

    When  Charles Baudelaire was only six, his father passed away.  A year later, his mother wed the future French ambassador, Lieutenant Colonel Jaques Aupick.   While  the sensitive and artistic child was extremely close to his mother, he found himself constantly at odds with his rigid stepfather.   Sent away to a boarding school in Lyons, Charles later described that time as, ” the unease of wretched and abandoned childhood, the hatred of tyrannical schoolfellows, and the solitude of the heart.” 

Upon finishing his education, while his stepfather wished him to enter law, Charles decided to pursue a literary career and began associating with fellow bohemians.  By 1843, he’d become known as a dandy- living off of credit and the goodwill of others.   Around this time he began a lifelong romance with the Hatian-born actress and dancer, Jeanne Duval.   Born of French and black African ancestry, she became his muse, his  “Vénus Noire”.

One of the poems he dedicated to her was The Balcony, in which he declared:

    “MOTHER of memories, mistress of mistresses,
    O thou, my pleasure, thou, all my desire,
    Thou shalt recall the beauty of caresses,
    The charm of evenings by the gentle fire,
    Mother of memories, mistress of mistresses!
     
    The eves illumined by the burning coal,
    The balcony where veiled rose-vapour clings–
    How soft your breast was then, how sweet your soul!
    Ah, and we said imperishable things,
    Those eves illumined by the burning coal.
     
    Lovely the suns were in those twilights warm,
    And space profound, and strong life’s pulsing flood,
    In bending o’er you, queen of every charm,
    I thought I breathed the perfume in your blood.
    The suns were beauteous in those twilights warm.
     
    The film of night flowed round and over us,
    And my eyes in the dark did your eyes meet;
    I drank your breath, ah! sweet and poisonous,
    And in my hands fraternal slept your feet–
    Night, like a film, flowed round and over us.
     
    I can recall those happy days forgot,
    And see, with head bowed on your knees, my past.
    Your languid beauties now would move me not
    Did not your gentle heart and body cast
    The old spell of those happy days forgot.
     
    Can vows and perfumes, kisses infinite,
    Be reborn from the gulf we cannot sound;
    As rise to heaven suns once again made bright
    After being plunged in deep seas and profound?
    Ah, vows and perfumes, kisses infinite!”
     portrait of Jeanne Duval by Manet 

   Although Baudelaire became a highly respected art and literary critic, his own work did not appear until the publication of Flowers of Evil (Les Fleurs du mal) in 1857.   While such lofty figures as Flaubert and Victor Hugo praised the book,  the sexual and macabre themes caused much consternation and Charles, his publisher, and the printer,  were fined for offenses against public morals.

The accusations meant little to Charles.  He wrote to his mother:  “You know that I have always considered that literature and the arts pursue an aim independent of morality. Beauty of conception and style is enough for me. But this book, whose title (Fleurs du mal) says everything, is clad, as you will see, in a cold and sinister beauty. It was created with rage and patience. Besides, the proof of its positive worth is in all the ill that they speak of it. The book enrages people. Moreover, since I was terrified myself of the horror that I should inspire, I cut out a third from the proofs. They deny me everything, the spirit of invention and even the knowledge of the French language. I don’t care a rap about all these imbeciles, and I know that this book, with its virtues and its faults, will make its way in the memory of the lettered public, beside the best poems of V. Hugo, Th. Gautier and even Byron.”  

#

Quotes:

 “One should always be drunk.  That’s all that matters… But with what?  With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you choose.   But get drunk.”

“Always be a poet, even in prose.”

“There is a word, in a verb, something sacred which forbids us from using it recklessly.  To handle a language cunningly is to practice a kind of evocative sorcery.”

A Mad Tea Party of Characters

Not so very long ago, I begged the question of which authors you’d invite to a tea party.  Now inspired by a discussion over at the fabulous Filling Spaces blog, I present the ten characters from novels that I’d invite to a tea party.

As with any list, this proved to be a challenge.  One, it’s hard to narrow down thousands of great fictional characters. Two, while I may love to read about a certain character, it doesn’t mean that I would want, let’s say Cathy or  Heathcliffe over for Earl Grey and scones.

But anyhow, without further ado:

1. Miss Jane Marple:  the white-haired,  perceptive, ever-knitting spinster.   She could relate firsthand her experiences at the Caribbean, Bertram’s Hotel, or how she discovered who killed the body that was found in the library.

2. Hercule Poirot:  I would love to watch the fussy, eccentric man with the “little grey cells” trade stories with the quiet yet sharp Marple.

3.  Nanny Ogg- she can bring something she baked from her The Joye of Snackes.  And can regale us with her infamous rendition of, The Hedgehog Can Never Be Buggered At All. 

4. Granny Weatherwax:  Nanny’s best friend.   Nanny, is by the way, probably the only friend Granny has.

Modern,” said Granny Weatherwax, with a sniff. “When I was a gel, we had a lump of wax and a couple of pins and had to be content. We had to make our own enchantment in them days. — from Wyrd Sisters

5.  Frankenstein’s Monster- yes, that poor soul who was cast out into the world alone, who taught himself how to read, who was continuously spurned by everyone- would have a welcome seat at my table.

6. The Crow Girls from the Newford novels by Charles de Lint.  The twins live in trees, eat candy for breakfast, love the scent of bacon, and wield switchblades.  Sure, I’d have to keep an ever present eye on them as they don’t understand the concept of stealing, but they are so full of utter joy that they’d be a must.

7.  Count Fosco- the tea party would require at least one villian. This cultured and  refined mastermind, with his love of bonbons, and a total devotion to his  pet mice, would definitely spice things up.

8. Allan Quartermain- to hear of all his magnificent adventures.  And to invite myself on his next trip.

9.  Marian Halcombe- before Mina Harker,  there was the brilliant and collected Marian who helped solve the mystery of The Woman in White.  And since Count Fosco was not-so-secretly in love with her…

10.  Carrot Ironfoundersson- the six-foot adopted dwarf from Disc World.   Utterly sweet and helpful to anyone in need, the always naive Carrot is hilarious in his proclivity of taking everything literally.

Who would you invite to your mad tea party?

A Dark Poem from Eichendorff

 “Of all nature’s scenes it is the wood in which all of her secrets and all of her favors are found together.”- Bogumil Goltz

  Caspar David Friedrich

 Zwielicht – (“Twilight”) Joseph von Eichendorff  (German Romantic Poet)

Dämmrung will die Flügel spreiten,
Schaurig rühren sich die Bäume,
Wolken ziehn wie schwere Träume –
Was will dieses Grau’n bedeuten?

Hast ein Reh du lieb vor andern,
Laß es nicht alleine grasen,
Jäger ziehn im Wald und blasen,
Stimmen hin und wieder wandern.

Hast du einen Freund hienieden,
Trau ihm nicht zu dieser Stunde,
Freundlich wohl mit Aug’ und Munde,
Sinnt er Krieg im tück’schen Frieden.

Was heut müde gehet unter,
Hebt sich morgen neu geboren.
Manches bleibt in Nacht verloren –
Hüte dich, bleib wach und munter!

Twilight begins to spread its wings,
The trees stir ominously,
Clouds come like heavy dreams —
What does this gloominess mean?

If you have a favorite little deer,
Do not let it graze alone;
Hunters roam the forest and blow horns,
Voices wandering in and out.

 If you have a friend down here below,
 Do not trust him in this Hour;
 He might he seem friendly in eye and mouth,
 But he makes plans for war in treacherous peace.

 What today descends wearily down,
 Will lift itself tomorrow born anew.
 Many things at night go lost–
 Guard yourself–be awake and alert!