Beim Schlafengehen (English translation)


Beim Schlafengehen

Nun der Tag mich müd gemacht,
soll mein sehnliches Verlangen
freundlich die gestirnte Nacht
wie ein müdes Kind empfangen.
Hände, laßt von allem Tun,
Stirn, vergiß du alles Denken,
alle meine Sinne nun
wollen sich in Schlummer senken.
Und die Seele unbewacht
will in freien Flügen schweben,
um im Zauberkreis der Nacht
tief und tausendfach zu leben.
English translationEnglish
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When Falling Asleep

Versions: #1#2#3
Now that the day has worn me down
The star-strewn night in mercy mild
Graciously accepts my fierce demands
As if those of a weary child
Hands, leave off from all your doing,
Brow, forget every thinking
All of my five senses now
Wish to be in slumber sinking
Thence to soar in boundless flight
The unwatched soul freely gives
Itself in the magic sphere of night
Deep and thousand-fold to live
thanked 4 times
Submitted by GlennGlenn on Thu, 09/04/2020 - 16:58
Author's comments:

This 1911 poem by Hesse was included in Richard Strauss's last published work, the Four Last Songs of 1950 -


The translation by David Paley -

- was a source for this translation.

Hansi K_LauerHansi K_Lauer    Sun, 05/07/2020 - 00:11

There is a misunderstanding in the translation of verse 1:
Not 'The star-strewn night in mercy mild graciously accepts his fierce demands'
But 'his fierce demands graciously accept the star-strewn night in mercy mild'
more precisely:

'Now my fierce demands shall graciously accept
The star-strewn night in mercy mild
Like a weary child'

GlennGlenn    Thu, 16/07/2020 - 17:05

Hello Hansi,

Thank you for your comment, it is very kind of you to take the time to review this work.

With respect, my translation is not based on a misunderstanding; I am able to make a more literal translation, such as the one which you suggest above.

But the goal is to make the translation become a poem in its own right, a poem with rhyme and flowing metre, a poem which captures in the target English language the beauty of the original poem in German.

So I have rearranged the words of the poem a little to achieve that goal.

But do please go ahead and add your own new translation of the poem, in accord with your own views, and I will look forward to reading your work.

Hansi K_LauerHansi K_Lauer    Fri, 17/07/2020 - 03:16

Never mind, Glenn.
The other translation done by @elopesdecezar1 has the first verse perfectly alright.

GlennGlenn    Sun, 23/08/2020 - 11:38

Hello Hansi

You have commented on the other translation as being a literal translation, i.e. following the literalistic approach which you favour in your own translations.

And that is perfectly fine, if a literal translation is what one is trying to achieve.

But I prefer to translate a poem from the source language into a poem in the target language, to try to do full justice to the material.

As I say above, the goal is to make the translation become a poem in its own right, a poem with rhyme and flowing metre, a poem which captures in the target English language the beauty of the original poem in German.

I'd respectfully ask you to think about that difference in approach.

IsraelWuIsraelWu    Mon, 28/09/2020 - 20:43

I don't understand German enough to judge your work, but I know Hansi does. From what I read in his comment it seems to me that you took, let's say, a man eating a pie described in a very poetic way. To keep this high style you could say in your translation that the pie was eaten by a man. This is true. This gives you the rhyme, rhythm, whatever and everybody is happy. You took a work of somebody else and made a most beautiful translation of poem about the pie eating a man. It's a lie and you put it on the head of the poet, without a word of explanation, not mentioning it's entirely your work inspired by the original. That's cheating, plain and simple. Now I am under the impression that Hesse was, let's say, a little bit simple minded. You come thru with flying colors, translated a master in a weird poem and so beautifully, right?
Translate the way you like, we have in descriptions here something like a P letter (for Poetic translation). This gives you a right to do to the translation whatever you like and it comes back to you. If you joined in 2014 and even were a wonder child you should be above the age of 12 and understand what I am talking about, right? Full justice for the material includes fidelity of contents, unless warned in advance by the translator.
I'd respectfully ask you to consider the rights of the original poets, your problem is solved by adding a simple letter P for Poetic.

ScieraSciera    Mon, 28/09/2020 - 15:11

I'd like to ask you to adjust your tone a little, provocative language isn't welcome here.
Furthermore, there is no website rule saying that a poetic translation needs to be marked as such, it usually is obvious to the reader anyway.

In any case, as you readily admitted, you don't speak German well enough, and so you, as also possibly the commentators before us, didn't notice: The lines is question are ambiguous in the original, they can be read either way. I would have first understood it the way it was translated above actually, yet one can as easily also argue for the other way round.

IsraelWuIsraelWu    Mon, 28/09/2020 - 19:01

You quoted: Denn Ordnung ist das halbe Leben, Chaos sind die restlichen zwei Drittel.
I said I don't understand German enough to judge, but I am not a total stranger to the language.
So I am the half and, believe me, I am not your problem, Glenn seems to belong to the 2/3 (and I didn't need GT for this, Yiddish, heard for 50 years even if not actively spoken is enough). I didn't say I took Hansi's word blindly, I looked at both the English translations and the German original as well and my knowledge of other languages could lead me astray. I really bow to your knowledge of the language and experience (still there is a 50% chance that I could be right :-). Anyhow, I"ll check it again.
It seems to me that Glenn was no less provocative first, which explains my reaction, but at my age, I should probably be more wise than right, right?

ScieraSciera    Tue, 29/09/2020 - 09:29

I see - to me, Glenn's words don't sound provocative, but if they seemed like that to you, then yes, it explains your reaction better. Thanks for pointing that out.

IsraelWuIsraelWu    Mon, 28/09/2020 - 20:46

GERMAN Original

Nun der Tag mich müd gemacht,
soll mein sehnliches Verlangen
freundlich die gestirnte Nacht
wie ein müdes Kind empfangen.


Now that the day has worn me down
The star-strewn night in mercy mild (3)
Graciously accepts my fierce demands(4)
As if those of a weary child


Now this day has fatigued me
and my most arduous desire shall
receive kindly the starry night
like a tired child

Now, I would translate it like this:

Well(1), the day made me tired,
It should be my most arduous desire
To accept (2) the friendly starry night
As a tired child.

My remarks:
In my translation:
(1) In English the “Well, the day....” “Well” is an acceptable choice in English for "Nun", der tag is just “the day”, not “this” and not “that the day”
(2) Accept/Receive - you can use either one, I would prefer accept. A tired child, in the best case is ready to accept the night but never happy about receiving it.

In the first translation

(3) “Mercy mild” is translator’s addition/interpretation
(4) “Fierce demands” is translator’s addition/interpretation.

I have nothing against translator’s licentia poetica but I put it to you that, without changing the original order of the lines and these two changes/interpretations, you just can’t support the German version where the night is active. Only the poet/child is

Well, this is my opinion, but as we both know I am not fluent in German and I do admit it freely. I also do admit that I was perhaps a little bit too harsh but after looking at the translation it still think that he inverted the meaning.

ScieraSciera    Tue, 29/09/2020 - 09:29

You take "nun" to mean "well", but to me it very much seems to mean "now that", based on my native speaker intuition. It's poetic language to use it in that meaning.
About whether the "Verlangen" or the "Nacht" is the subject - to me it seems absolutely ambiguous, yet one argument for the "Nacht" being the subject is that the subject must be the one acting "freundlich", which is in the same line as the "Nacht".
Even if we take the "Verlangen" to be the subject, the "soll" doesn't refer to it but to the "empfangen" and the "freundlich" has to refer to the subject (it's used adverbially). So that part would then be "my arduous desire shall kindly receive the starry night like a tired child (would)".

If I take the "Nacht" to be the subject, I'd render it as:
"Now that the day has made me tired,
the starry night shall kindly
receive my arduous desire
as if it was a tired child (=like a tired child)"

IsraelWuIsraelWu    Tue, 29/09/2020 - 09:05

Reading "the small letters" I have discovered another funny thing, the translator have studied German but he says he did his translation from another English, mind you, translation and there is no inversion or any ambiguity there (I have checked it and I do know my English, O.K.?). I have seen here translators who, if they really like the source but aren't fluent in its language use an intermediate language as a source of their translation but not a target language (where is the fun of translating). Is a metamorphosis of standard English to standard English considered a translation? And even if this is the case I believe a man like Sciera could see the ambiguity in the German original, one that obviously I don't and perhaps even Hansi did miss. How did the translator come with the idea not being even able to translate directly from German? I mean, he could come with the idea but how did he know about the ambiguity and used it? Could I have some kind of satisfactory explanation from somebody just to put to rest my curiosity, please, pretty please ?

Now I have decided I am going for a full translation of my own from the German original. It will, probably, take me a couple of days as I have prior commitments but I promise I"ll deliver. I have already done one stanza (chaotic==2/3, only 2 "ordered" stanzas to go ==1/2)

ScieraSciera    Tue, 29/09/2020 - 09:29

I have also used existing translations as a base for my own translations even when fluent in both source and target language, like with this poetic translation:
and in many cases of translating from Latin in order to double-check that I understood it correctly. The translation here differs very much from the one in the link.

As a recommendation: Your words would sound less provocative if, instead of talking about the translator in third person you would ask Glenn directly. I'll refrain from making any further assumptions about how this translation was created before we have heard out the translator.

IsraelWuIsraelWu    Wed, 30/09/2020 - 07:03

First of all thanks, I'll look at your explanation in detail during the weekend, not to double check you but to learn the mechanism. You never know when something like this jumps at you, so it's better to be prepared. This part really was triggered by my own curiosity.
I try to make my own translations from the source only. If it's a language I almost don't know the poem has to interest me much more than usual and I am happy to have a translation to another language I do know, not necessarily the target, for a check and comparison but starting from scratch the design is mine.
About Glenn ("the translator"): I found his response to Hansi much more provocative than mine. The whole time we (at least I) understood that he is mistaken in his reading the text. I didn't "meet" him before, I have nothing against "beautified" translation as long as it conveys the idea the poet tried to express, even if not literally. If it strays too far afield, in my opinion, it's the translator's work, a new creation and he should notify the reader (especially the one who doesn't understand the source language). How far is too far ? I don't know. He said it's not based on a mistake and left it like that, without any explanation, while we saw it as a bad mistake. It seems to me they already have some past between them but I am not used to Glenn's attitude. As I don't have here the authority you have, to teach him his manners, in the future you will see only the big, cold, empty circle that I shall draw around him and walk carefully on the perimeter and you won't have any problem with me, I promise.

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