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translation of Wagner's Meistersinger opera Options
musicafficionado
Posted: Friday, December 4, 2015 3:26:13 AM
Rank: Newbie

Joined: 7/7/2015
Posts: 5
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In the mid 1800's Wagnerian opera Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg (Act III, Scene II) Wagner writes:

"all' Dichtkunst und Poeterei
ist nichts als Wahrtraumdeuterei"

I have seen the above phrase translated into English rhyme as:

"All poems that the world has known are nought but truths our dreams have shown."

I generally like the translation (since there seem to be less accurate and worse rhyming versions out there),
but my question is mainly about the first (German) line which contains what seem to be two different references
to poetry or something like it, yet there is only the single word "poems" in the translated verse.

It seems to me that "Dichtkunst" may be referring to something a bit different than "poems".
Since Wagner wrote operas and music, could that word (or even "Poeterei") be translated as something like "lyrics" or "libretto"?

If that is accurate, could a reasonable, rhyming (and more modern) translation look something like:
"All lyrics and poems the world has known are nothing but truths our dreams have shown." ?

Thanks in advance for your help!
IMcRout
Posted: Friday, December 4, 2015 5:35:32 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 5/27/2011
Posts: 35,199
Neurons: 545,925
Location: Lübeck, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany
"all' Dichtkunst und Poeterei
ist nichts als Wahrtraumdeuterei"

"All poems that the world has known are nought but truths our dreams have shown."

Let me take a closer look at the words:

-- Dichtkunst - means the art of composing poems, a division of literature commonly called 'poetry' in English; this may of course include the lyrics of songs or the libretti of operas.

-- Poeterei - can be understood in two ways - I feel:

a) as the older German word for 'Dichtkunst'. It used to be spelled 'Poeterey'.
In this case I would see the combination as a kind of hendiadys, i.e. two expressions for the same thing for the sake of rhythm and rhyme and effect;

b) or as a more modern way do describe shoddy poetry, the things a poetaster might produce. In this case the emphasis would be on 'good and bad poetry'.

I tend towards the former explanation. The derogatory meaning is probably too recent.

As to modernizing the translation, I would advise against it.
The version you quote is reasonably correct and adequate both in rhyme, rhythm and catching the spirit of the text and the time.

More knowledgeable musicologists or linguists, however, may think differently.



I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger. (Anon)
musicafficionado
Posted: Tuesday, December 8, 2015 3:51:12 PM
Rank: Newbie

Joined: 7/7/2015
Posts: 5
Neurons: 38
In a privately sent message...

[I wrote:] On a slightly different note, yet related to this stanza, questions involve the word/phrase "Wahrtraumdeuterei"/"Wahrtraumeterey":

[you wrote:] Watch out! The word is 'Wahrtraumdeuterei'. The German language loves those multi-noun-combinations. A 'Wahrtraum' is a kind of dream which shows real events, which have either taken place already or are about to come true.

Yes, this is seems to make sense from what I gather about the meaning Wagner is trying to convey in that stanza about bringing a dream "true" by artistic "interpretation" of it.

[you wrote:] If I were to translate the sentence "all' Dichtkunst und Poeterei ist nichts als Wahrtraumdeuterei" into modern language
...(and) put it into rhyme, (though it is not entirely correct) I might end up with:

All song(s) and verse the world has known
show only truths our dreams have grown.


Yes, seems to me also that "songs" makes sense to have in there, since Wagner not only wrote it in an opera, but even more so because that stanza has the character instructing his student to compose the verses of a song. It seems to fit a bit better with what Wagner is trying to convey than just the word "verse" or "poems" alone. Nowadays we also use the word "verse" for the lyrics/stanzas in a song anyway.

Your use of the word "grown" is creative. I considered that word too (i.e. "show only truths which from dreams have grown"), but the meter wasn't quite as good with that line, so I left the original "shown" word. The the two lines are very close, though, and it seems we are on the same page.

Thanks again for all your translation wisdom!
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