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The Stephen Spender Prize 2016 for poetry in translation
in association with the Guardian

14-and-under category, commended

Read the judges’ comments
Download the 2017 booklet
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Read the winning entries from previous years

Hannnah Gillot

The Anxious Lotus Flower

An anxious lotus flower
Fears the splendid sun.
She dreams, with petals drooping,
Of when the day is done.

The moon, he is her lover.
He wakes her with his light.
Her smiling face unveiled,
Pious in the night.

She's blooming, glowing, shining,
Stares mutely to the stars.
She cries and weeps and trembles
From love and all its scars.

Translated from the German by Hannnah Gillot

Die Lotosblume

Die Lotosblume ängstigt
Sich vor der Sonne Pracht,
Und mit gesenktem Haupte
Erwartet sie träumend die Nacht.

Der Mond, der ist ihr Buhle,
Er weckt sie mit seinem Licht,
Und ihm entschleiert sie freundlich
Ihr frommes Blumengesicht.

Sie blüht und glüht und leuchtet,
Und starret stumm in die Höh;
Sie duftet und weinet und zittert
Vor Liebe und Liebesweh.

Heinrich Heine

Translation commentary

I chose this poem because I like the imagery and anthropomorphism used by Heine to show status between the characters. I could understand it but it still challenged my German understanding and comprehension. It is the length of a poem I would choose to read, and short enough to enable me to consider each word, rather than rush to complete.

Heine tends to keep a fairly rigid meter and rhyme pattern, similar to my poetic style. I wanted to keep as close to the meter used by Heine, as well as maintain the ABCB rhyme pattern. This was a struggle because the most accurate translations don't always fit with this. For example, in line 3, 'haupte' means 'head', but I needed a two syllable word to fit to flow in English. I therefore chose to use the word 'petals' and maintain the flower imagery, especially since I didn't mention the flower explicitly as Heine did in line 8. In my first draft, I translated this line as 'she dreams, with head bowed, drooping', but I found the pause unnatural.

In line 7, I struggled to translate the word 'freundlich', since 'she unveils to him friendly' doesn't make sense in English. I decided to use 'smiling face' as I believe the connotations are similar; of warmth and closeness.

I ended with the love's scars, rather than 'pain' which I originally wrote, because I think this image reminds us of the power of love, and how it stays with us all our lives. Every good thing still has the capability to hurt us; I wanted to provoke these thoughts in the reader, as I believe Heine did.

Hannnah Gillot