Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tremastet beton, by Gasolin, translated. "Three-masted concrete"

I was astonished and disappointed when I could not find any translation of Gasolin's classic song. So I translated it myself. It's quite poetic in style, so the translation had to be quite conceptual at places. The text was written by Mogens Mogensen, an old poet the band had befriended. He wrote the lyrics to several of their songs, and was "a sailor like Captain Haddock". - Eolake

Lyrics in Danish and English

Tremastet Beton

Du søger solnedgangens stille hygge,
der er myg
du drages mod havet der ser du mor'ild
gennem skovene's mørke sale

Three-masted Concrete

You seek the quiet coziness of dusk
mites in the air
You are drawn towards the sea
where you see phosphorescence
through the dark cathedrals of the forests

over marker, marker med kornmodsglans
da søger du hjem i din stue
ensomheden, skæret, skæret fra de fyrre watt
du smider dig i dækstolen
dine øjne er lukkede, men du ser.

Over fields, fields with the glow of ripe harvest
You seek your home and your room
Loneliness, the glow, the glow of forty watts
you throw yourself down on your deck chair
Your eyes are closed. But you see.

Du ser drenge der søger mod havet
de kommer inde fra, langt inde fra landet
legende langs kajerne med store kraner
de kommer langvejs fra
havnepigernes fnisen på dækket
et stød i fløjten,
du skal hjem, åh hold kæft

You see boys seeking the sea
They come from inland, far far inland
they play along the habor with its great cranes
They come from far away
The girls of the habor giggling on the deck
the whistle blows
You gotta go home now. Aw, shut up

hoppen skal, den skal den du vil
sømanden gør det sgu'
lukkede øjne, sømand fjorten somre.
Store have, ensomheden og drengen
solen, bølgerne, mågerne og stjernerne
krigen, pigerne og havnene, og myggene
og feberen, feberen og pigerne, piger i mange farver

The mare must, it must, what you know
The sailor does it, I'll be damned
Closed eyes. Sailor. Fourteen summers.
Great seas, loneliness and the boy
The sun, the waves, the gulls, the stars
the war, the girls and the ports, and the mites
The fever, the fever, the girls. Girls in many colors.

navne på havne, piger derfra er der ingen
sus-dus og rotter, delfiner og marsvin og lus
kanontorden, skibe der brænder, signalflag
havene ta'r dem, de sorte sejlere
lukkede øjne der stadigvæk ser
sømand, pensionist søger mage.

Names of ports, girls, none are from there
The wild life and rats, dolphins and porpoises and lice.
The thunder of cannons, burning ships, signal flags
The seas take them away, those black sailors
Closed eyes, but seeing still
Sailor, retired, seeking soul mate


Lauren said...

thank you again for that translation, Eo....

the whole song.... I imagined an old man, retired sailor,
reminiscing about his life.... when he first dreamed of
going to Sea, when he first dreamed of having a girl....
14 years old, dreaming of sex, love, oceans, distant
adventures, far from inland boringness...

then, an old man, thinking back, how it really was,
the unpoetic life on the the sea, the wars, the cannons,
the mosquitoes, the ships sinking,

finally, the present moment, a retired sailor, still dreaming,
dreaming of a soul mate.

Simply beautiful, and so poignant.

I thought of myself, as I am a dreamer too.


Erik said...

Not a bad translation. However, you didn't translate 'marsvin' in the last verse... The question is, is it a porpoise or a guinea pig?

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

It can mean both. In this case I'm sure it means porpoise.

I left it out because it seemed superfluous and I think too many non-sea-folk would not know what it is. (I only barely knew it because I grew up in a fishing village.)

Erik said...

I do have to take issue with your translation of the title, which you rendered as 'Sailing through concrete'. The literal meaning of the Danish 'Tremastet beton' is 'Three-masted concrete', which simultaneously evokes images of a three-masted sailing ship and dockside cranes (or possibly elevators for grain or cement lined up along a wharf).

'Sailing through concrete', on the other hand, simply sounds like a metaphor for some kind of impossible task. To my mind, it lacks the associations with seafaring or the activity of a harbour that a more literal translation would have preserved.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

You're right, Erik.
As I had just heard the song again, I got a mail from a dear friend saying she was "sailing through concrete". She probable even meant what you said. I was so struck by the coincidence that I kept it as title, even though a direct translation would be better. Now I've changed it.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

I guess you're Danish? Do you live in Denmark?

Erik said...

Born in the UK to a Danish mother, who persevered against heavy odds and succeeded in making me and my brothers fluent Danish speakers. Now about to depart from the USA, where I've lived for 15 years, back to the UK and possibly Denmark. Occupation: proofreader/copy editor (of English) and translator (Danish-English).

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Very cool.
It cannot have been very easy to learn Danish outside the environment, what with all the million subtleties and weird pronunciations, many of which do not exist in any other language.

Erik said...

The tricky part was not so much the language itself: when you're just a kid, you absorb whatever complexities it encompasses without even thinking about it.

No, the chief difficulty was the fact that all the effort fell on my mother; my dad was not a Danish speaker, and there were very few other Danes in the town we lived in. So except in the summer holidays, when we visited my grandparents and my aunt and uncle's family in DK, our mother was pretty much the only Danish speaker my brothers and I interacted with.

Fortunately, there were enough Danish-language children's books in the house that we were able to expand our exposure to the Danish language and culture by that means (and were also encouraged by our mother to read them). Even so, I doubt that we would have learned the language to any significant extent if it had not been for the fact that our mother insisted on us speaking Danish when we talked with her...

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

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