A Heinrich Heine Poem

I talked about Heine a few posts back:  a great German poet of the 1st half of the 19th century (1797-1856).  I plan to try my hand at a translation of another Heine poem; for now, Edwin Morgan’s translation of this short one:

by Heinrich Heine

Hat man viel, so wird man bald
Noch viel mehr dazu bekommen.
Wer nur wenig hat, dem wird
Auch das wenige genommen.

Wenn du aber gar nichts hast,
Ach, so lasse dich begraben—
Denn ein Recht zum Leben, Lump,
Haben nur, die etwas haben.

Translation, by Edwin Morgan:
“Hoo the Warld Wags”

Some hae mickle, and to thaim
Mickle soon sall grow to muckle.
He that hasna but a maik
Sall tine his puckle’s hinmaist pickle.

Yince ye’ve tint the last bawbee,
Ach man, hang yersel on a widdie!
Nane but thaim as has, can hae;
Life, ye gowk, life disna need ye.

Does the Scottish translation also need a translation?

(mickle: a lot; muckle: a really big lot; maik: a halfpenny; tine: lose;   puckle: a little bit; pickle: a really little bit; yince: once; tint:lost;  bawbee: halfpenny; widdie: a rope; gowk:fool)


9 Responses to “A Heinrich Heine Poem”

  1. Ed Schmahl Says:

    I think the Scottish “translation” is harder to understand than the original German!
    Says an Irish-German_Scottish reader.

  2. cantueso Says:

    This is beautiful! Very nice! Could I have it for my blog? I would take all of it, especially your Scottish vocabulary list.

    Of course I would give you proper credit and put links to this blog and your header.

  3. pjoenotes Says:

    To cautueso: certainly, you’re welcome to use it! Of course the real credit goes to Angel Flores, who put together the “Anthology of German Poetry From Hoelderlin to Rilke” (published away back in 1960 by Doubleday). It ha been one of my favorite volumes, has kept me in touch with the German language.
    I will certainly visit your blog also (when I’m less busy). Thanks for visiting mine!
    — Peter Kenny

  4. cantueso Says:

    Thank you very much. I have various posts on Heine, but have to keep re-publishing them because of course nobody will ever read them, since the Germans don’t blog and the English speakers can’t read German, and Jewish people invariably get to read the wrong things and get angry at Heine.

    I don’t mind re-publishing. I do it all the time. I consider my blog a luggage carrousel with Nihil Novum as its real title.

    That is why it would be a pity to hide this Heine translation in some literary post. It will look much better if I can put it in something more “accrochable” (Gertrud Stein to Hemingway).

  5. cantueso Says:

    I wonder whether Scottish iis phonetically closer to my native Swiss German than American English which sounds to me like the Germans’ German in that the the words are all in a thick sauce and barely distinguishable as little individual entities.

    That sauce gives their speech a sort of thick defensive coherence.

    • pjoenotes Says:

      Here is the Wickipedia article on the Lowland Scottish language: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scots_language
      As the article says, it can be considered a language in its own right, rather than just a dialect of English. It’s a Germanic language, as is English basically. I imagine it must derive somewhat from the Vikings who conquered the Orkneys and the Hebrides– they were from Norway and Denmark. And also from the Gaelic, the Celtic language spoken in Scotland and Ireland; though the Irish and Scottish versions have diverged enough to be considered separate languages. In Ireland the old language is generally called Gaelic, or “Gaelige” in that language.
      I myself was born in Ireland; my family emigrated to the US (as had many relatives earlier) in 1948, when I was 8 years old. Irish was never my first language, but I have learned some Irish and enjoy reading it and listening to Irish-language songs; but am not a fluent speaker.
      I sometimes try my hand at translating Irish poetry into English. An example is this: https://pjoenotes.wordpress.com/2009/06/13/a-work-such-as-this/ I posted that piece just after another one, following a trip to Philadelphia: https://pjoenotes.wordpress.com/2009/06/13/the-irish-memorial-in-philadelphia/
      So, I can sympathize with you wanting to keep in touch with your own language– even though Irish is only my language in feeling rather than in real fact.
      Today is Dec. 26th, the 2nd day of Christmas by tradition. Merry Christmas!

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  8. cantueso Says:

    But it is no longer in the NYSE post, where I had put it in first. It is in the other one, because I know nothing about the NYSE, and I do know something about the dollar problem. — “By trade” I am a Wirtschaftsübersetzer” which is an “economics translator”, and in the preparation for that degree I decided to specialize on currencies.

    (I learnt the expression “by trade” only a few days ago, and I am not yet quite sure about its use, which is why I put it in quotation marks.” )

    The Irish text reads like a word play on mickle, muckle, and puckle, which sounds funny and must be intentional. If Heine saw it he would be very happy, I am sure. —

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