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Verletze nicht durch kalten Ton [Warnung] (English translation)

  • Artist: Heinrich Heine (Christian Johann Heinrich Heine / Harry Heine )
  • Song: Verletze nicht durch kalten Ton [Warnung]
  • Translations: English, Russian

Verletze nicht durch kalten Ton [Warnung]

Verletze nicht durch kalten Ton
Den Jüngling, welcher dürfrig, fremd,
Um Hilfe bittend, zu dir kömmt --
Er ist vielleicht ein Göttersohn.
Siehst du ihn wieder einst, sodann
Die Gloria sein Haupt umflammt;
Den strengen Blick, der dich verdammt,
Dein Auge nicht ertragen kann.
Submitted by Paul LawleyPaul Lawley on 2022-09-24
English translationEnglish (equirhythmic, metered, poetic, rhyming, singable)
Align paragraphs


Just don’t be cold, or spout abuse,
When this strange youth, bereft and fey,
Comes asking you to let him stay,
For he might be a son of Zeus.
There he is later, proud and sure;
The flames around him take your breath,
The ruthless glance portends your death --
These your eyes cannot endure.
This is a poetic translation - deviations from the meaning of the original are present (extra words, extra or omitted information, substituted concepts).
Submitted by Paul LawleyPaul Lawley on 2022-09-24
Author's comments:

The 'Göttersohn' is Dionysus/Bacchus. The poet imagines himself as (or as advising) Pentheus, who rejects Dionysus, with fatal consequences, in Euripides' play THE BACCHAE.

Translations of "Verletze nicht durch..."
English E,M,P,R,SPaul Lawley
Dr_IgorDr_Igor    Mon, 26/09/2022 - 01:13

Hi Paul,
I stopped by because the combination of tags E and M looked strange to me, as possibly redundant. My logic goes like this: if the original is metered and the translation is equirhythmic, then the translation is metered automatically. Then I looked further and came up with the following hypothesis - your translation is metered, but it can't be equirhythmic because Heine's original is not perfectly metered. The problem is in this line
Die Gloria sein Haupt umflammt;
In it, the fourth syllable - a in Gloria can't be stressed (accented), can it? My knowledge of German is zero, so I don't really know, maybe it is pronounced GloriA...

Paul LawleyPaul Lawley    Mon, 26/09/2022 - 10:52

I forgot to mention the most obvious point: HH is using 4-stress lines. I think my way of hearing his line (as regular) is the only plausible way of getting the 4 stresses in it. The rhythmic momentum in the line ensures that GloriA doesn't sound unnatural. (Maybe a native German speaker would disagree.) It's meant to expand and roll at that point.

Paul LawleyPaul Lawley    Mon, 26/09/2022 - 09:58

Thanks for reading and reacting! On the specific point, I think your latter suggestion is right. I read it as a regular iambic line (de-DUM x 4). An alternative would be to hear 'Gloria' as 2 syllables: GLOR-ya (plausible in English, anyway). So the rhythm would be: x / x x / x /. That's fine, though I didn't go with it. But it wouldn't be x / x x x / x /, I think. I've slaughtered nearly a hundred Heines and I can't remember an obvious example of the extra weak foot, like this. And (apropos my choice) he does wrench stress now and again. But I'd happily acknowledge that nothing can be proved. There is sometimes a big temptation to regularize his metre when German syntax demands irregularity even though it can be done comfortably in English. But I always follow HH -- at least as I read him ... One assumes he WANTS the irregularity. But not here, in my view.
On your general point: well, yes, but people use these codes (or not) eccentrically. My use is merely to suggest that these are singing translations (even if no-one ever set the poem!).
Thanks again!

Dr_IgorDr_Igor    Mon, 26/09/2022 - 13:25

first, many thanks for responding. It is all very interesting. Coincidentally we in "Russian section" of this site are having endless discussions on the theme of what equirhythmic should mean and if all the (natural) stresses in words as they are expected in regular speech should be reflected in a translation in the same positions. I generally come from translating lyrics of songs where there is melody and musical rhythm that can be quite different from meter because there are durations of notes and rests(pauses). Your remark about "rhythmic momentum" is very interesting to me, it is close to what often happens in songs - "normally" unstressed syllables appear stressed because they are sung on long notes.
I've commented on some of these issues in my translation to English of one Pushkin's poem which became the lyric of a romance song by Rachmaninov
Later in the day, I'll have time to read carefully your second comment and potentially have more thoughts. Thanks again.

Paul LawleyPaul Lawley    Mon, 26/09/2022 - 14:00

Yes, Igor, it's fascinating and thorny. I assume it's different with different languages too? As to getting certain words in certain positions because of their musical prominence, I should say that, when rhyming is necessary, and when a composer's written pauses are to be respected, this defeats me most of the time. I am sceptical, I must say, of any insistence that a 'key word' MUST be in a particular position in a melodic line. That is impossible if you are to retain naturalness of phrasing. I am not sure that it is always desirable. Sometimes artificiality is a possibility too (because of irony or formality of tone), but I mostly try to avoid it whenever possible. My guide is Brecht: above all, tone and attitude (the Gestus), as far as one can understand them, are the essentials; everything else cedes to these, including literal word-for-word meaning. As rhyme is almost always essential to tone (and metre or rhythm in their turn essential to rhyme), I rhyme. In fact, I am not interested in doing versions of non-rhyming verse. All this said, I do try (and try again) to 'translate' rather than paraphrase. Happily, I am a hobbyist. My stuff begins and ends on LyricsTranslate. The parallel text suits me very well: it shows that, however wide of literal equivalence I steer, I am not hiding my departures from anyone, not trying to pass anything off as a literal equivalent! On the other hand, I would also suggest that literal equivalence is often less true to the original than my attempts to get tone and attitude right. I see you translate lots of Yeats. I always remember what he said to someone who once asked him (good question!) how and when he knew that a poem was FINISHED. He said something like, 'Well, it's like a box clicking shut!' I feel that about rhyme, on the rare occasions when I feel I've got it right (or thereabouts).
I'll take a look at the comments you link to. Thanks for that!

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