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and so i repress myself



And so I repress myself, and swallow the call-note of depth-dark sobbing. (leishman)
And so I restrain myself and swallow the luring call of dark sobbing. (macintyre)
So I withhold myself and keep back the lure of my dark sobbing. (garmey/wilson)
And so I restrain myself and suppress the luring call with somber sobs. (boney)
So I control myself and choke back the lure of my dark cry. (poulin)
And since that’s the case I choke back my own dark bird-call, my sobbing. (young)
So I hold myself back and swallow the call-note of my dark sobbing. (mitchell)
And so I contain myself; choke back the appealing child’s cry of my innermost part. (gass)
And so I master myself and hold back the appealing outcry of my childhood heart.(gass)


These are different versions of the same line of a poem by Rilke, the First Elegy in The Duino Elegies. William Gass wrote a book about reading and translating Rilke, in which he trots out the attempts of other translators to capture Rilke in English. He gives a sporty blow-by-blow and often (shocker!) finds fault with the efforts of the other translators. You see he gave himself two shots at it, as well as the last word.

After I chose the photo from an old Newsweek, and then randomly found these poetry games to go with it, I noticed that Gass said this about the Rilke excerpt: “Welcome to the pole vault. The second section of this ‘First Elegy’ puts the bar at twenty feet. Und so verhalt ich mich den und verschlucke den Lockruf dunkelen Schluchzens.”

Happy accident in Rilkeland.

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