All the birds, translated by Matilda Hardman

All the birds are already there, all birds, all!
What singing, making music,
Whistling, chirping, trilling!
Spring wants to march in now,
She comes with song and sound.
How happy they all are, nimble and glad to move!
Blackbird, Thrush, Finch and Star.
And the whole flock of birds
Wish you a happy year,
Nothing but salvation and blessings.
We take to heart what they announce to us.
We all want to be happy,
Happy like the little birds,
Here and there, field out, field in,
Leaping, dancing, joking.

 

This poem expresses joy and cheer, as evident from the repeated exclamatives and includes some quite detailed descriptions of “the birds”. As this poem employs a variety of adjectives, I was able to substitute different adjectives fairly easily in order to avoid repetition or breaking the poem’s rhythm in my translation. It was challenging at times to find an adjective that both made sense and fitted the metre of the poem, hence why I translated the adjective “Tirilieren” as “trilling” instead of “caterwauling” to comply with the two disyllabic words before it. My greatest obstacle in translating this poem was deciphering the line, “Frühling will nun einmaschiern,”. I had to test out various combinations of this sentence by substituting in synonyms and shuffling the word order around. I was initially very confused by the verb, “einmaschiern” which is directly translated as “to mash up” but after much searching of my thesaurus, I found out this could also be translated as “to march”, personifying spring and creating a delicate, natural image in the reader’s mind. Finally, I chose not to make this poem rhyme as I felt like it would have deprived it of its depth and meaning. Had I made it rhyme, it would have created an inappropriate playful tone. I also like the way the poem has an irregular structure and uses enjambment as it reflects the freedom of the birds and the random nature of the poet’s thoughts.

Alle Vögel sind schon da, alle Vögel, alle!
Welch ein Singen, Musizieren,
Pfeifen, Zwitschern, Tirilieren!
Frühling will nun einmaschiern,
kommt mit Sang und Schalle.
Wie sie alle lustig sind, flink und froh sich regen!
Amsel, Drossel, Fink und Star
und die ganze Vogelschar
wünschen dir ein frohes Jahr,
lauter Heil und Segen.
Was sie uns verkünden nun, nehmen wir zur Herzen:
alle wolln wir lustig sein,
lustig wie die Vögelein,
hier und dort, feldaus, feldein,
springen, tanzen, scherzen.

 

Original poem by August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben.