Sonnet translation Michelangelo

While looking for something entirely different I came across of Michelangelo sonnets, which got translated into German by Rilke. Well this caught my interest and I tried to make a little translation attempt into English myself. Trying to bring it in a real sonnet from, as good as I could. A huge Thank you to AC Benus, who supported me, edited my attempt, took care of my feverish brain spelling accidents and worked hard to provide me with the right Italian version. You are the best!

circa 1510
Michelangelo Sonetto 30°

Veggio co’ be’ vostr’occhi un dolce lume
che co’ mie chiechi già veder non posso;
porto co’ vostri piedi un pondo addosso,
che de’ mie zoppi non è già costume.

Volo con le vostr’ale e senza piume;
col vostro ingegno al ciel sempre son mosso;
dal vostro arbitrio son pallido e rosso,
freddo al sol, caldo alle più fredde brume.

Nel voler vostro è sol la voglia mia,
miei pensier nel vostro cor si fanno,
nel vostro fiato son le mie parole.

Come luna da sé sol par ch’io sia,
Ché gli occhi nostri in ciel veder non sanno
se non quel tanto che n’accende il sole.

Translation attempt:

Only with your eyes do I see sweet light,
when my own sight is dazzled and blinded;
there your feet support me, strongly minded,
when I am doubtful of my own feet’s might.

Featherless as I am, your wings uphold;
they lift me high, into heaven I sail;
your strength virile makes me blushing and pale,
bitter frost turns hot, the sun’s glow grows cold.

In yours, my own will is content and free,
deep in your heart my thoughts softly arise,
in your breath all my words emerge to sight.

Like the fair moon, my essence seems to be
followed through the dark night only by eyes,
provided from your sun with vivid light.

Translation by GedichtArt

Mit deinen Augen seh ich süßes Licht,
das ich mit meinen blinden nicht mehr schaue,
und, das ich, lahm, zu tragen mich getraue,
mit deinen Füßen trag ich dies Gewicht.

Dem Federlosen gibt dein Flügel Halt,
dein Geist weiß mich zum Himmel zu entfachen,
du hast die Macht, mich rot und blaß zu machen,
im Froste heiß und in der Sonne kalt.

In deinem Willen ist mein Wille drin,
mein Denken wird in deiner Brust bereitet,
in meine Worte weht dein Atem ein.

Es scheint, daß ich dem Monde ähnlich bin,
den unser Auge oben nur begleitet.
Soweit die Sonne ihn versieht mit Schein.

Übertragung: Rainer Maria Rilke

P.S. If someone is interested in more amazing translations, I recommend AC Benus work.


6 thoughts on “Sonnet translation Michelangelo”

  1. When you brought this to me, I was at first unfamiliar with the poem, or so I thought. I had read a translation of it by Symonds, but even though Symonds was Gay, his version was bloodless and forgettable. Since you started working on it, I had occasion to find and read other translations, but none of them as good as yours.

    You capture the rhythm and complexities of the opening Quatrains to a tee! And then, because you understand poetry, you follow Michelangelo’s example and change the music of the poem completely at the pivot point going into the concluding six lines. In addition, your rhymes are all very natural, and the entire translation seems like it was written in English first.

    Masterful work!

    Liked by 3 people

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