Tone Pavček was one of Slovenia’s most renowned modern poets. His work was recommended to me by a family member who knew I liked poetry. So I borrowed a book of his poems from the library. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find many translations of his work into English, so I thought I’d make an attempt myself. In fact, I’ve made two attempts to translate the same poem: the first paying more attention to the rhyme scheme, and the second aiming at a more accurate translation. In both versions, I tried to convey the beauty and sense of the original work.
Pesem (‘Poem’) by Tone Pavček
Attempt 1: Kept as close to the rhyming scheme as possible:
Away to the meadow let’s go,
away to the meadow, where wild wheat does blow,
where under my fingers, a forest shall grow,
and all the earth open below.
And I will listen to just how she trembles
And I shall hide myself between her palms
That there with her in the midst of that field
No sorrow can find me, nor do me no harm.
Attempt 2: Kept as close to the original wording as possible:
Let’s go to the flat meadow-field,
to the flat meadow-field of flowering wheat
and there let a forest grow under my fingers
and let the earth open to me.
And I will listen to how she does tremble,
and I will hide myself between her palms,
that there with her in the midst of the field
sorrow will not find me out.
Lost in translation
Whether you decide to stick with the rhyming scheme or the sense of the original poem, something of the poet’s brilliance is always lost in translation. The original poem is published in the collection Samo tu lahko živim, ‘Only here can I live.’ I’d be interested to know what you thought of this poem, and which version you preferred. If you enjoyed it, I will try to translate some more: if nothing else, it can only improve my Slovenian!
In other news, I’m avoiding the housework over at The Flippant, Comic, and Serious today. Do take a look over there, it’s a lot of fun! And thanks to Don Matthews for hosting me.
Always happy to help you avoid the housework Ingrid….
I know I’m a rhymer and should prefer the first but I really preferred the second, probably because it was more ‘natural’ and did not try and rhyme…..
That’s why we’re friends, Don! (The avoiding the housework part). The only bit I don’t really like about the second is ‘the flat meadow-field’ because it sounds contrived, but thos extra syllables are needed…🤯
The first brings an atmosphere of cheer, delight and dance to the heart. The second is one in deep thought. I assume it would depend on one’s mood 😊
Ingrid, i like both versions, but I have a slight preference for the second. I admire anyone who is fluent in more than one language, and I appreciate you for doing the translations. All the best! Cheryl <3
Thanks for sharing this. I love this line: “and I will hide myself between her palms,”