Occasional musings, Geistesblitze, photos, drawings etc. by a "resident alien", who has landed on American soil from a far-away planet called "Germany".

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hofmannsthal's poem Vorfrühling (Early Spring)

The Viennese poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal (1874-1929) is perhaps best known outside the German-speaking countries as the librettist of many Strauß operas, notably Der Rosenkavalier. What's less well know is that he also wrote some of the most beautiful and haunting poems in the German language. My favorite is his Vorfrühling (Early Spring), which is one of the three German poems I love most. Here it is, together with a prose line-by-line translation by me.

In response to a reader's comment, I've added since a second poem by Hoffmannsthal at that link, Reiselied (Travel Song).

Friday, March 20, 2009

Grammatical vs. natural gender

When my (American) wife learned German, I understood for the first time the difficulties posed for English speakers by the gender of German nouns, which, with very few exceptions, has nothing to do with "natural" gender. For example, a sausage (Wurst) is feminine, but an umbrella (Schirm) is masculine--how can this possibly make sense to someone for whom both are neuter? After all, there is nothing inherently "masculine" or "feminine" about either. This thread intends to explore this issue further.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Do-it-myself construction

Since I'm spending much time again on reconfiguring parts of our Hexenhaus and have less time for this blog, I may as well make a thread of it. Here's a link to detailed descriptions of everything I've done so far and what I'm currently doing.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Word of the month: Die Nachdichtung

Nachdichtung combines the preposition nach ("after", "according to") with Dichtung ("poetry"). The word denotes a piece of poetry that tries to re-create the spirit in which another piece of poetry was written and its effect on the reader without being literal about it—what's more important is that the new piece is a successful piece of poetry in its own right while staying "true" to the original in a deeper sense.

The term is particularly useful in discussions about translations, and the discussions we had on this blog about translations (from the German) motivated me to introduce the term, for which I cannot find an English equivalent. I'll give examples and a note on pronunciation in my comments.

Word of the Month: Index