Les Hopper, compiler of "1,001 German
Beer Stein Translations", is to be thanked for his totally voluntary
and uncompensated efforts to support the hobby of stein collecting by helping
collectors understand their steins. Not having the ability to translate the
German expressions on his steins himself, when he started this project he turned
to his friends, and was promptly told "they can't be translated." As
Les states in his book, "Of course the expressions can be translated word
by word with the help of a good dictionary; but they really don't make sense in
this form. What [these] friends meant was that the expressions probably would
lose their true meaning in translation." Not ready to accept defeat, Les
pressed ahead, and with the aid of many friends and fellow collectors was able
to compile 1,001 translations into book form, which was distributed to all
members of Stein Collectors International at no cost. Some may disagree with the
translations he has published, and some may argue that they could have (or
should have) been stated differently, but if it was as simple as making sausage,
we'd just feed the German text in one end of the sausage maker and take our
translations out the other end.
|The next bit of controversy
arose over an article appearing in the front of Hopper's work entitled "An
Outstanding Example of German Expressions on a Stein". That article
contains the original German verse shown side by side with a translation by Art
Maethner, a native German and an active student of German language, culture and
art. Basically the criticism said the translation was nonsensical, and
challenged "those fellow collectors who rely mostly on what is written in
these so-called stein sayings translations, especially those who immediately
came to the defense of LH and attacked the original critic, to take the best
available dictionary and then try and match the translations offered to the
German words or phrases that are actually written on Mettlach stein # 171."
This points out one of the major difficulties in translating verse, that of maintaining not only the original meaning, but the lyricism and the rhyme in a translation. No word-for-word translation is likely to be satisfactory. Mr. Maethner's translation is entirely in rhyming verse, in an attempt to retain the lyrical quality of the original German verse. This certainly required taking some liberties, and it is up to those who seek translations to determine if they prefer a literal, word-by-word translation, or an attempt to portray the lyric style and sense of the original phrase or verse.
Let's look at the twelve-stanza verse which appears on Mettlach relief master stein number 171. The first column shown below provides the verse as it appears on the stein. Note that this inscription was written in a style which preceded the use of umlauts (in the first verse, we expect to see the words written as "Jänner", "füllen" and "Fässer"). The second column shows Art Maethner's published translation, while the third column shows a more literal translation. Which one is correct? Which one is wrong? Or are they both useful in their own way?
Please note that I have tried to faithfully reproduce both the original verse and the translations performed by others. Any errors in transcription may be attributed to me.
Note: If you wish to print the verse and its translations, or to view them in a larger font, you may use the links which appear above each version of the verse. Use your browser's BACK button to return to this page..
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