Thursday, January 05, 2006

Eyes in the Big City            [translation]

by Kurt Tucholsky (1890-1935)

translated by david raphael israel

in collaboration with
(& thanks to) Indeterminacy

When toward your work you're wending
            in early morn
and in the station standing
            with woes forlorn
the City smooth as asphalt
reveals before your gazes
in the funneling of humanity
en masse   its million faces
two alien eyes   one quick glance
    the pupils   lids & brow
what was it? maybe
        your life's lone chance
    gone forever now!

Throughout yourr days you'll amble
            a thousand streets
how many along your ramble
            your face forget
an eye   it is a'winking
the soul   it is a'ringing
you're reckoning its beckon
merely for a second
two alien eyes   one swift look
    the pupils   lids & brow
what was it? none
        turns back the clock
    gone forever now!

You're obliged   along your sojourn
            to cities-wander
you see in a pulse-beat's moment
            the unknown other
perhaps   it is a foe
maybe   it's a friend
it might   amid your woe
be offering   a hand
two alien eyes   one swift look
    the pupils   lids & brow
'twas what? a page from
        the great human book
    gone forever now!

    Augen in der Großstadt
Wenn du zur Arbeit gehst
am frühen Morgen,
wenn du am Bahnhof stehst
mit deinen Sorgen:
dann zeigt die Stadt
dir asphaltglatt
im Menschentrichter
Millionen Gesichter:
Zwei fremde Augen, ein kurzer Blick,
die Braue, Pupillen, die Lider -
Was war das? Vielleicht dein Lebensglück...
vorbei, verweht, nie wieder.

Du gehst dein Leben lang
auf tausend Straßen;
du siehst auf deinem Gang,
die dich vergaßen.
Ein Auge winkt,
die Seele klingt;
du hast's gefunden,
nur für Sekunden...
Zwei fremde Augen, ein kurzer Blick,
die Braue, Pupillen, die Lider -
Was war das? Kein Mensch dreht die Zeit zurück...
vorbei, verweht, nie wieder.

Du mußt auf deinem Gang
durch Städte wandern;
siehst einen Pulsschlag lang
den fremden Andern.
Es kann ein Feind sein,
es kann ein Freund sein,
es kann im Kampfe dein
Genosse sein.
Es sieht hinüber
und zieht vorüber...
Zwei fremde Augen, ein kurzer Blick,
die Braue, Pupillen, die Lider -
Was war das? Von der großen Menschheit ein Stück!
Vorbei, verweht, nie wieder.

This is the second in a series of new translations from Tucholsky's poetry. The first was: The Smile of Mona Lisa


Blogger ~River~ said...

Looks like this project is going places! Keep up the good work! I'm glad I'm getting to know Kurt Tucholsky's work. :)

Thu Jan 05, 11:29:00 PM PST  
Anonymous pam said...

yes, the faces/chances that grab us and then pass by.but sometimes, not--i met my long-term boyfriend on a subway platform. thanks for this beautiful translation.

Fri Jan 06, 09:04:00 AM PST  
Blogger david raphael israel said...

Thanks River--
me to, interesting to acquaint an unfamiliar writer thus bit by bit, one poem at a time.

ah, perhaps you caught a lesson this poet had desired to deliver!

Tocholsky's focus here on the stage & condition of human interaction & perception where relationships are nascent, potential, unexpressed, essentially close to a seed-form, and then his fairly mystical view of the nature of the city: as a place where this condition of relationship-latency is abundantly present (as a kind of warehousing for this restrained phantasmagoria of light soul-interaction), and as being (in a way) the typical (and perhaps a most interesting and notable) condition developed & encouraged by the collective phenomena of our urban environments -- these are quite imaginative notions & perceptions the poem seems playfully to develop & express, one could say.

cheers, d.i.

Fri Jan 06, 11:45:00 PM PST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you, david. i wasn't familiary with kurt tucholsky's work, but this poem whets my appetite for more. i like the translation.

one comment: i stumbled on the rather archaic "with woes forlorn" and would have preferred something more contemporary and natural-sounding.

Sat Jan 07, 08:58:00 AM PST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is a great,,great job! its very usefull for my thesis, im doing also with tucholsky, im crazy bout his poems

Thu Aug 09, 06:32:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful rendering of my favourite poem, I'm so glad I can share this with my English speaking friends now! Thank you!


Fri Oct 16, 09:20:00 AM PDT  

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