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Delayed Action -- Christian Morgenstern

Wrapping up the theme...
(Poem #753) Delayed Action
 Korf invents some jokes of a new sort
 That only many hours later work.
 Everybody listens to them, bored.

 Yet, like some still fuse glowing in the dark,
 You wake up suddenly that night in bed
 Beaming like a baby newly fed.
-- Christian Morgenstern
Translated from the German by W. D. Snodgrass and Lore Segal.

Morgenstern has been described as the canonical example of the
untranslatable poet. Today's poem, though, exhibits none of the mystery and
magic of, say, "Der Lattenzaun" or "Das Mondschaf"; it's merely a charming
piece of whimsy, and deserves to be delighted in for that reason alone.



Here's the German original:

 "Korf erfindet eine Art von Witzen"

 Korf erfindet eine Art von Witzen,
 die erst viele Stunden später wirken.
 Jeder hört sie an mit Langerweile.
 Doch als hätt ein Zunder still geglommen,
 wird man nachts im Bette plötzlich munter,
 selig lächelnd wie ein satter Säugling.

        -- Christian Morgenstern

And here's Babelfish's stab at translation:

 "Korf invents a type of jokes"

 Korf invents a type of jokes,
 those only many hours later work.
 Everyone hears it on with long while.
 But as if a scale haett quietly geglommen,
 becomes at night suddenly lively one bed bed,
 blessedly smiling like a full baby.

        -- Christian Morgenstern /

Of course, the conjunction of German, translation and new jokes reminds me
irresistibly of Monty Python's "Funniest Joke in the World" sketch, which
you can read at .

[And finally]

If the idea, theory and practice of translation fascinates you, I can't do
better than to recommend Douglas Hofstadter's wonderful book "Le Ton beau de
Marot", which is almost as much of a tour de force as his earlier
masterpiece, "Godel, Escher, Bach". Read them both.

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