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Tomas Tranströmer, “Romanesque Arches” – two translations

I found this a moving poem when I first read it in Bly’s translation[1]. In Fulton’s version[2] I find it almost overwhelming. Not knowing Swedish, I can’t compare how well the two capture the flavour and spirit of the original, but I have no doubt which makes the better poem in English.

You can link to Bly’s version here and Fulton’s here.

You just have to put them side by side to see how much more taut and dynamic Fulton’s is, even simply on the level of sentence construction. This is obvious from the … Continue Reading

Tomas Tranströmer: Robin Fulton and Robin Robertson

Having just read the versions of Tomas Tranströmer’s poems in Robert Robertson’s The Deleted World I can understand why people love and admire them so much and perhaps in time I’ll come to do so myself.  Their language is supple and fluent, rich and delicate in sound and full of expressiveness, and behind it all there is the immense power and humanity of Tranströmer’s own vision. At least for now, though, they just don’t feel right to me.

Perhaps familiarity with Robin Fulton’s versions means that I’m not approaching Robertson’s with an open enough mind. And of course I have no … Continue Reading

Rilke, “The First Elegy”; Tranströmer, “Romanesque Arches”

Perhaps this is a commonplace but the first Duino Elegy reminds me irresistibly of Tomas Tranströmer’s “Romanesque Arches”.

You can find Robin Fulton’s translation of “Romanesque Arches” at http://www.ellenlindquist.com/ellen/?p=520 . Countless sites give the first Duino elegy as a whole, among them http://homestar.org/bryannan/duino.html (using Stephen Mitchell’s translation).

The most obvious link is the embrace by the angel. Behind that there‘s the contrast between the human and angelic orders of being, and the sense of the human condition as inherently one of incompleteness.

But the two poems work in vastly different ways. Rilke’s eloquence is splendid and overwhelming. Line after line chants … Continue Reading