In deep flight

by Nelly Sachs

In deep flight,
what grand reception
is underway—

in the wind’s shawl,
feet in the prayer of sands
which can never utter Amen
for he must go on
from fin to wing
and beyond—

The butterfly is sickly,
it will soon rediscover the sea—
This stone
with the fly’s inscription
has entered my hand—

In place of home
I behold the world’s chrysalis—

Translated by Eric Plattner


In der Flucht

by Nelly Sachs

In der Flucht
welch grosser Empfang

in der Winde Tuch
Füsse im Gebet des Sandes
der niemals Amen sagen kann
denn er muss
von der Flosse in den Flügel
und weiter—

Der kranke Schmetterling
weiss bald wieder vom Meer—
Dieser Stein
mit der Inschrift der Fliege
hat sich mir in die Hand gegeben—

An Stelle von Heimat
halte ich die Verwandlungen der Welt—

~ by Ep on July 6, 2012.

9 Responses to “In deep flight”

  1. Not an easy one, Eric – I’m impressed and though not entirely convinced by everything, I especially like your rendering of chrysalis for Verwandlungen. Very much in Nelly’s spirit.

    • I’m with you on not being “entirely convinced” by my choices, but it was put up or shut up on this tough nut, & as Roloff commented awhile back, some of Sach’s poems are almost untranslatable. But like the sick butterfly, we must go on. Thanks for your feedback.

      • Eric, it’s the same old dilemma. Some things just don’t translate – I know I wouldn’t have made a better job, and I really am impressed by what you have achieved here. Well done on all these latest ones, each one a challenge. I suppose that’s why we keep on trying to translate the untranslatable!

      • BTW I’ve put a referral to your site on my Nelly Sachs page.

  2. This is an extraordinary poem. And your translation, in its own way, is as good as, or in some ways even better, though it sounds odd to say it, than the original. You really have some fine phrasings here.

    • Thank you, Leif. The German sings ~ but the literal rendering sounded disparagingly leaden. I wonder how Sachs would react to my unfealty.

  3. You are true to her singing. In a medieval sense: in homage before her, your hands in hers. I’ve not tried to translate this myself, but I can see how literal English would be clumsy, and I find clumsiness everywhere in translated verse. Yours is not that. I’d probably find ‘Verwandlungen’ the most difficult to render.

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