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German folk song, help with translation

29 Mar 04 - 11:24 AM (#1149102)
Subject: German folk song, help with translation
From: Wilfried Schaum

Since the Eurogathering is coming near, I have tried to translate an old German folk song of the 16th century to celebrate this event.
And because I got a lot of help with this thread I feel free to ask for your help again.

The Blue Stork

   Down yonder on a meadow
A blue stork I did see.
I thought it were my true love
And called her: Stand with me!

   Oh God, I have to cut my grass,
How could I stand and linger?
So tell your people that you have
Cut off your little finger.

   Oh God, how could I ever lie,
It doesn't suit me well.
The huntsman is my good man
I'd rather like to tell.

   Oh mother, dearest mother,
Good counsel do me say;
There is a brisk young huntsman,
He follows me all day.

   Oh daughter, dearest daughter,
My counsel you shall hear:
Send off this brisk young huntsman
And stay with me this year.

   Oh mother, dearest mother,
Your counsel is not good.
The huntsman I hold dearer
Than all your chatt'l and good.

   Oh daughter, dearest daughter,
Your talk makes me so sad,
So run off to the huntsman,
About him you seem mad.

   Oh mother, dearest mother,
Your talk now pleases me.
I shall wait for the huntsman
Until he comes for me.

My question is directed immediately to Her Majesty's Own subjects:
Does it sound English?

Discuss, please

Wilfried


29 Mar 04 - 11:29 AM (#1149107)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Wilfried Schaum

The German text you will find on my page Signals, Mudcatters, For the Use Of.
The tune will be attached soon.

Wilfried


29 Mar 04 - 12:45 PM (#1149127)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Parallel to some English songs in the same vein. I wouldn't be surprised if this one had come to the British Isles.

Suggestions-
Verse 3- change my good man (sounds old-fashioned) to my true love; my one love ?

Verse 6- chattels is not much used now. Good as a singular noun for property is obsolete for most of us. Then all your worldly goods? Messes up the rhyme.

Verse 2 has an idiom or import that I don't quite understand. Is she trying to escape the duty of collecting grass in order to meet her love? What is the grass for? Cattle? If so, 'hay' is more understandable.


29 Mar 04 - 12:48 PM (#1149130)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Nigel Parsons

Wilfried:

I hope you know what you're letting yourself in for. An earlier attempt Cân Y Melinydd took on something of a life of its own.

Your English seems up to the task, although some idiomatic phrases could be changed. But first, does it scan? First lines are all 7 syllables except verses 2&3 which are 8,
Second lines are all 6 syllables except V2 which is 7. (would "How long can I linger", or even "How I long to linger" be suitable?)

This is just for starters. I love this sort of thing, but would like to know how the words should fit before taking it further.

CHEERS (PROSIT!)

Nigel


29 Mar 04 - 01:17 PM (#1149162)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Ed.

Excellent effort, Wilfried.

Not speaking German, and hence not being able to understand the original, I can't offer much assistance. Here are a few minor points, though:

"Down yonder in the meadow" would perhaps sound more natural, although your translation is in no way bad English.

"I thought it was my true love"

"Stand with me!" sounds a little strange.

I don't really understand the second verse. Could you perhaps explain what it is supposed to mean a bit more? I understand the main idea, but that's about all.

"Good counsel do me say" is awkward. "Good counsel do me give" would be better, but would obviously ruin your rhyme.

Than all your chatt'l and good, could perhaps be improved as: "Than all your worldly goods"

Hope that helps a bit. Overall, I'm very impressed!

Ed

btw, I'm a citizen, not a subject! :-)


29 Mar 04 - 01:52 PM (#1149211)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Ed is right about the 'in the meadow' and it 'was' my true love. Lately I have been looking at a lot of ballads in the Bodleian, and it has caused me to be less discerning.

Interesting that my first reaction is to get a clear, understandable translation before worrying about scan, meter, etc. The real work of revising and fitting it to music would follow.

verse 4- ?(Please) council (advise) me, I say, (Good council do me say is a bit archaic, but it is an old song, so some old usages may be desired).


29 Mar 04 - 01:59 PM (#1149220)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: GUEST,MMario

perhaps warping the translation a bit while retaining the sense would be "Good counsel give me, pray."


29 Mar 04 - 03:38 PM (#1149301)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: boldreynard

Forgive the thread creep, but I was just trying to look up the German lyrics collection at http://www.acronet.net/~robokopp/folkindx.htm . The link isn't working. Does anyone know where this great collection of lyrics has gone?

Adam Frost


29 Mar 04 - 04:41 PM (#1149358)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Jim McLean

Wilfried, 'and called her' should be 'and called him'. I have had just a quick look at your translation and this jumped out. The main character is a woman, so wie so.
Jim


29 Mar 04 - 05:21 PM (#1149418)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Third verse, 'I'd rather like to tell,' is weak. ?My mother I must tell.
The rhymes throughout your translation, however, are forced and weaken the impact- always a problem in translation- major changes must be made to get the story into an English form that works with the music. This is one of the reasons that songs written in one language become quite different when translated into another.


30 Mar 04 - 01:19 AM (#1149637)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Wilfried Schaum

Thanks so far for your good advice, or counsel. I will rework the translation in a few days, when I have copied the tune and inserted it.

There seems to be some trouble with discerning the characters:
1. A sees a blue stork and it seems to be his true love B.
From the further development we see that A is the huntsman and B is his girl. A asks B to stop working and to come to him.
[The obsolete German word Buhle is of masculine gender, but is used for both sexes.]
2. B answers that she hasn't finished cutting grass and can't linger. A asks B to tell a lie to have some rest with him.
[You don't cut hay; you cut grass, and after some time of drying in the sun it becomes hay. We also use newly cut grass to feed small animals in cages or cattle in the stable.]
3. B won't tell a lie and prefers to give as an excuse that A is her man.
[The girl might stop with the passing husband, but not with a stranger to whom she isn't even engaged.]
4 ff. A dialogue between B and her mother C.

I know that I have used some obsolete words in my translation, but I think I'm justified because of the age of the song where a lot of words long gone are used.
The problem of translating songs is always to find rhymes, keep the metre and deliver an understabdable and correct text. To keep me from despairing of the task I fortunately have you to ask.

Wilfried


30 Mar 04 - 07:31 AM (#1149846)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Snuffy

You don't cut hay; you cut grass, and after some time of drying in the sun it becomes hay. Technically that is true, but most folks here don't know that. "New mown hay" is a very common English expression, which features in several songs, so something like this would sound more likely:

"Oh God, I have to mow the hay,"


30 Mar 04 - 07:38 AM (#1149853)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Jim McLean

Doesn't 'Und hieß ihn stille stan' refer to a male?


30 Mar 04 - 08:39 AM (#1149906)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Wilfried Schaum

Grammatically yes, but in this case the masculine may denote both sexes. Cf. my previous post, remarks to verse 1.


30 Mar 04 - 08:47 AM (#1149919)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Kevin Sheils

    Oh mother, dearest mother,
Your counsel is not good.
The huntsman I hold dearer
Than all your chatt'l and good.


Taking that verse and Q's comment:

Verse 6- chattels is not much used now. Good as a singular noun for property is obsolete for most of us. Then all your worldly goods? Messes up the rhyme.

How about writing it as

Oh mother, dearest mother,
Your counsel I'll not hear.
The huntsman I hold dearer
Than all your goods and gear.


30 Mar 04 - 09:57 AM (#1149987)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Wilfried Schaum

Yeah, Kevin - that's it!

Thanks
Wilfried


30 Mar 04 - 10:23 AM (#1150006)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Nigel Parsons

Or,

Oh mother, dearest mother.
Keep counsel with yourself.
The huntsman I hold dearer
Than all your goods & wealth

Nigel


30 Mar 04 - 10:32 AM (#1150016)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: GUEST,MMario

I like that better - a bit older in feel


30 Mar 04 - 03:04 PM (#1150305)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Your usage of 'grass' I have never heard in USA or Canada. It is never applied to hay fields. This, again, points out the difficulty in applying German usage to a translation into English. Unless you want to use footnotes (useless with a song) the result is not understandable or raises questions in the mind of listeners.

Some time ago, I translated a work on orchids into English for a German author. Scientific German is quite different from colloquial German, but we still had arguments. Idioms or usages common in German could not be translated directly because the literal equivalent is meaningless in English. I tried to be as literal as possible, to preserve the author's thought processes, but some usages have no equivalent. The book was eventually published, but I don't think the writer was completely pleased by the end text. One problem that is not present here is the use of redundant phrases in German for emphasis- a practice that is discouraged in English- "get to the point, please!"

'Gear,' might be applied, e. g., to the equipment a hockey player carries, but, at least in America, is considered kid's slang when used for worldly goods.


31 Mar 04 - 04:12 AM (#1150765)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Wilfried Schaum

As I expected the discussion is about the verse I had the most difficulties with.
The vote goes for Nigel's version; thanks to you all.

Q - Scientific German is a special form of language, mostly unintelligible for readers not of the same discipline, and this seems to be done deliberately. I became aware of this problem when reading Frederick Loewe's excellent work: The Loom of Language. Here he discusses the difference between German and English scientific language. The latter wins, because of a "democratic tradition" - everybody should be able to understand what he is reading.


01 Apr 04 - 07:20 AM (#1151820)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Nigel Parsons

Wilfried:

How about an updated version in full. If problems with the one verse are solved we can then concentrate elsewhere in the song.

Nigel (songwriting by committee)


01 Apr 04 - 08:31 AM (#1151867)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Wilfried Schaum

Nigel - this is a hard week for me at the office (that is where I can put the pages into the web), and in the evenings I have to join the one or other committee.
At weekend I will see some light at the end of the tunnel (a German saying), and I hope that I'm able to insert the changes next monday.

Thanks for the interest and the help
Wilfried


01 Apr 04 - 09:32 AM (#1151915)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Wilfried Schaum

What the hell - I have updated the verses, changes marked in blue characters. tune will follow next week.

Enjoy, if possible


01 Apr 04 - 09:35 AM (#1151917)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Nigel Parsons

repeat of link to see the updated version

Nigel


01 Apr 04 - 09:35 AM (#1151918)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Nigel Parsons

Forgot to say:

Thanks Wilfried

Nigel


01 Apr 04 - 09:41 AM (#1151921)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Wilfried Schaum

Hey, Nigel - I am so flattered that waiting for my posts seems to be your most important occupation! 3 minutes, that is a remarkable short time for your reaction!

Wilfried


01 Apr 04 - 09:42 AM (#1151925)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: GUEST,MMario

Here's the latest version as posted on Wilfreid's site: (Changes in italics - less typeing then making them blue!)

Down yonder in the meadow
A blue stork I did see.
I thought it was my true love
And called her: Stand with me!

Oh God, I have to mow the hay,
How could I stand and linger?
So tell your people that you have
Cut off your little finger

Oh God, how could I ever lie,
It does not suit me well.
The huntsman is my good man
I'd rather like to tell

Oh mother, dearest mother,
Good counsel give me, pray,
There is a brisk young huntsman,
He follows me all day.

Oh daughter, dearest daughter,
My counsel you shall hear:
Send off this brisk young huntsman
And stay with me this year

Oh mother, dearest mother.
Keep counsel with yourself!
The huntsman I hold dearer
Than all your goods & wealth

Oh daughter, dearest daughter,
Your talk makes me so sad,
So run off to the huntsman,
About him you seem mad

Oh mother, dearest mother,
Your talk now pleases me.
I shall wait for the huntsman
Until he comes for me.


01 Apr 04 - 10:29 AM (#1151973)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Jim McLean

It all makes sense no, Wilfred, and a good job has been doen. How about 'The truth I'd rather tell' in the 3rd verse and the penultimate verse could be worked on.


01 Apr 04 - 10:31 AM (#1151976)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Jim McLean

Excuse my typing errors!! I meant 'sense now' and 'a good job has been done' .
Sorry.


02 Apr 04 - 02:02 AM (#1152558)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Wilfried Schaum

Jim - I'd rather like to tell is a nearly verbal translation, but it seems to me a little bit wooden, too.
Reconsidering the verse and its opponents lie vs. truth I think one could say " The huntsman is my good man should be the truth to tell".
Can it stand so, or must it be should be the truth to be told? In this case I have the next the problem.

MMario - thanks for your work. Italics are a good idea I took over immediately.

To thank you for your help I left a committee last evening prematurely and worked out the tune which you can see now here

Wilfried


02 Apr 04 - 03:50 AM (#1152599)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Nigel Parsons

If we're going from direct translation to a more suited idiomatic, but without major changes, then that penultimate verse which Jim seems to think needs work could be reconstructed from:

Oh daughter, dearest daughter,
Your talk makes me so sad,
So run off to the huntsman,
About him you seem mad

To:

Oh daughter, dearest daughter,
Your comments make me sad.
But
run off to/with your huntsman,
Who makes your heart so glad

Unsure of 'to' or 'with' in the third line, but as huntsman is not present, and daughter decides to wait for his return then 'with' makes sense. Although using 'to' suggests the mother is setting her daughter free but the daughter decides to await his return:
a, to check his constancy
b, to show she still loves her mother as well.
(If You Love Something Set It Free
If It Comes Back, It Was And Always Will Be Yours.
If It Never Returns,
It Was Never Yours To Begin With.)

Cheers

Nigel


02 Apr 04 - 04:09 AM (#1152612)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Nigel Parsons

Problems with the second & third verses are forced on us by the rapidly changing viewpoint of the song.
V1 sung by huntsman,
V2 sung by girl, then huntsman, or girl and her conscience?
V3 & 4 sung by girl (V3 still wrestling with consciecs)
V5 sung by Mother
V6 girl
V7 Mother
V8 girl

Depending upon the view of V2/3 then changes may be made along the following lines,

From:

Oh God, I have to mow the hay,
How could I stand and linger?
So tell your people that you have
Cut off your little finger

Oh God, how could I ever lie,
It does not suit me well.
The huntsman is my good man
I'd rather like to tell

To:
"Oh no! I have to mow the hay,
How could I stand and linger?"
"So tell your people that you have
Cut off your little finger"

Oh but, how ever could I lie,
I dare not be so bold.
The huntsman is my good man
The truth, it must be told

In keeping with the apparent period tone of the rest of the piece, I have also removed reference to "God" as the avoidance of blasphemy at that (apparent) time resulted in the formation of so many faux oaths ('zounds, gor blimey, odds blood, etc.,)


CHEERS

Nigel


02 Apr 04 - 04:52 AM (#1152629)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Wilfried Schaum

Nigel - The entire discussion, and now your last sensible remarks about the girl's relation to 1. the hunter, 2. her mother made me think more and deeper about one of my favourite songs. There is more in folk poetry than is dreamt of in our philosophy, I must confess.
As I see it now:

- Girl and huntsman:
The girl is of peasant stock and seems to be of a firm character, as the talk with the huntsman shows. He might be interested mainly in the pleasures of a relationship. He is frivolous, suggesting a lie to have her company. [Would like to have such a son-in-law? Not me.] The girl does not reject him as a potential partner, but the nature of the relation is made clear. Instead of telling lies she prefers the truth: matrimony.

- Girl and mother
But the girl seems to have fallen deeply in love with the young huntsman [small wonder I must say since I have served in a Jaeger Bataillon], and she asks an experienced older woman in whom she confides what to do: Her mother.
The relations between peasants and their children are economical, too. Children and in-laws form a considerable working force, and a huntsman must be counted out because of his profession. It makes sense that the mother wants to keep her daughter for aa additional year.
The quarrel between the two is ended by the mother's resignation: She sets the daughter free to run off. But the girl knows her duty. She will NOT run off TO the hunter, but do it the right way. The huntsman has to come for her and lead her into matrimony viz. with due ceremonies; until the time comes she will stay with her mother. Maybe she doesn't trust the huntsman, as you remarked so well. There are too many folksongs [she must have known] about poor maidens seduced and forsaken.

So the vote goes to run off to.

Your reconstruction of the penultimate verse sounds quite good, but I think the idiomatic is too modern. I'd like to keep the translation as near to the original as possible - which is sometimes impossible, alas.

Wilfried


02 Apr 04 - 04:52 AM (#1152630)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Nigel Parsons

Reviewing (again) V3, in light of the later evidence of V6 (in either of its versions)

Verse 6
Oh mother, dearest mother.
Keep counsel with yourself!
The huntsman I hold dearer
Than all your goods & wealth

It appears that all along the daughter has been keeping from her mother that this is not just a new infatuation, and that the huntsman is not a 'stalker' (despite V4 lines 3&4) so she should at least be honest with herself. Returning to 'Q's comments earlier:
Suggestions-
Verse 3- change my good man (sounds old-fashioned) to my true love; my one love ?


I would think "The huntsman is (my true love/ my one love / my sweetheart)" would be a more consistant approach

PROSIT

Nigel


02 Apr 04 - 04:56 AM (#1152633)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Wilfried Schaum

Now a lot of work has crisscrossed the waters - we seem to prefer the same working hours. So I'll wait for a while to collect more posts.

Cheers
Wilfried

P.S. Will you come to the Eurogathering May 1-3 near Hull?


02 Apr 04 - 04:57 AM (#1152634)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Nigel Parsons

Wilfried:

we cross posted.

So to the above (in line with your comments) perhaps the huntsman should be described
"The huntsman is a good man"

This is something of a testimonial made to the mother without the apparent possessivenes of "my good man"

CHEERS

Nigel


02 Apr 04 - 05:12 AM (#1152644)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Wilfried Schaum

But in the original the girl would prefer to say: The huntsman is my man, and in German my man is used by wives for my husband. What about: the huntsman is my own man? In older German love folksongs we often find the phrase he/she shall be my own.

Cheers
Wilfried


02 Apr 04 - 05:13 AM (#1152646)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Nigel Parsons

Wilfried:

- Girl and huntsman:
The girl is of peasant stock and seems to be of a firm character, as the talk with the huntsman shows. He might be interested mainly in the pleasures of a relationship. He is frivolous, suggesting a lie to have her company. [Would like to have such a son-in-law? Not me.] The girl does not reject him as a potential partner, but the nature of the relation is made clear. Instead of telling lies she prefers the truth: matrimony.


A lot, it seems, rests on whether V2 is indeed an attempt by the huntsman to get the girl to dally, or the girl wrestling with her conscience, trying to come up with an excuse to linger.
The third verse continues this either way, with the girl explaining herself either to the huntsman, or to her conscience.

With either version we will end with an incomplete song, as either we have no reply to, or dismissal of the hunter between V1 & V2. Or we see no break for the girl to return to her mother between V3 & V4.

However, this can be reconciled if we assume that the girl and mother are working alongside each other, cutting hay.
The hunsman's greeting is heard by both.
The girl tries to think of an excuse to stop work & meet with him.
Her conscience will not allow this.
She seeks advice from her mother, claiming the huntsman has been 'stalking' her.
She dislikes the advice she gets and decides on total honesty.
Her mother offers her her freedom, but she decides to await a more decisive move by the huntsman.

From this we lose the problems noted above, as the huntsman needs no dismissal (the girl is not alone & cannot thus reply). The girl does not need to seek out her mother as they are already together.

Nigel


02 Apr 04 - 05:22 AM (#1152652)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Nigel Parsons

Wilfried:

We cross-posted again!

But in the original the girl would prefer to say: The huntsman is my man, and in German my man is used by wives for my husband. What about: the huntsman is my own man? In older German love folksongs we often find the phrase he/she shall be my own.

In that case, assuming the huntsman is not her husband (the mother would then surely know) we need something like:
The huntsman is my sweetheart,    or
The huntsman's my belovéd    or
The huntsman is my true love   or
The huntsman's my betrothéd (engaged)


Nigel


05 Apr 04 - 04:22 AM (#1154629)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Wilfried Schaum

My beautiful virtual daughter-in-law Lilly, daughter of an American poet and a German mother, experienced in both languages, gave the verdict for the final form:
1. Down yonder in the meadow / A blue stork I did see. / I thought it was my true love / And called her: "Stand with me!"
2. "Oh God, I have to mow the hay, / How could I stand and linger?" / "So tell your people that you have / Cut off your little finger."
3. "Oh God, how could I ever lie, / It does not suit me well. / The huntsman is my young man / I'd rather like to tell."
4. "Oh mother, dearest mother, "Oh mother, dearest mother, / Good counsel give me, pray, / There is a brisk young huntsman, / He follows me all day.
5. "Oh daughter, dearest daughter, / My counsel you shall hear: / Send off this brisk young huntsman / And stay with me this year."
6. "Oh mother, dearest mother. / Keep counsel with yourself! / The huntsman I hold dearer / Than all your goods & wealth."
7. "Oh daughter, dearest daughter, / Your talk makes me so sad, / So run off to the huntsman, / About him you seem mad."
8. "Oh mother, dearest mother, / Your talk now pleases me. / I shall wait for the huntsman / Until he comes for me."

To be found here

Thanks to you all
Wilfried


13 Apr 04 - 03:40 AM (#1160512)
Subject: RE: German folk song, help with translation
From: Wilfried Schaum

Nigel - re: your post of Apr. 2
Unfortunately I cannot share your proposal. We clearly have two scenes: verses 1-3 on the meadow, in verse 3 the girl outlining her position (exit huntsman) and verses 4-8 elsewhere. There are a lot of German and other songs where no coherent action is told but different scenes are described. I call this impressionistic songs. Both scenes are complete in themselves.
But with this song there is one difficulty: the different scenes are not described in one verse as usual, and we have two discussions here. But there is an obvious solution to this problem: Two songs must have been joined together into one.
We have here two types: 1. the lovers' dispute, 2. the mother/daughter dispute if, whom or when to marry - a type widespread in all cultures (at the moment there is running a thread about la mamma mia).
Leafing through one of my favourite songbooks I accidently found the proof: verses 4-7 are recorded as a folksong from the German part of Switzerland, about the 18th century, in nearly the same words! Difference: instead of the huntsman the girl has fallen in love to a red lad. Verse 8 is omitted in this song, and its last verse (7 in the compound version) runs:
4. And if the red lad is dearer to you than all my good and wealth, so pack your bag immediately and run off to the red one.
I see two possibilities why the songs could have put together:
1. Sometimes when a song is sung to the tune of another one the 1st verse of the original starts the other song - but here we have three
2. A paedagogic purpose: in both songs the girl is firm in guarding her honour (my post of the same day).
So especially the 2nd argument gives a good reason in my opinion why the two songs have been put together.
The importance of the concept of sexual honour in a peasant society can be seen in the generating of a local branch of my family: some 3 centuries ago an eldest son made a maidservant pregnant and ran off with her to a town further away where he found work as a town clerk, and married the girl later on. Meanwhile he was disinherited.

Wilfried