mIwmey – "Stufen" in Klingon
As we know since Chancellor Gorkon explained in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991):
"You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon."
So I attempted to translate another classic piece of literature into Klingon: the poem "Stufen" by German author Hermann Hesse. (In English, the title is usually translated as "stages" or "steps".)
The recording is also available on YouTube.
What follows is a translation in Klingon script. Scroll down to find a version in Latin script, an IPA pronunciation guide, an interlinear translation, and more details about the translation.
Klingon Text in pIqaD
ngap Hoch 'InSong rur 'ej qanghachvaD
nup Hoch Qupghach rur poHchaj ghajtaHvIS
chep Hoch yInmIw 'ej chep Hoch chulghach
Hoch ghob je 'ej Hochlogh ratlhlaHbe'
rIchwInDaj jachtaHvIS yIn
mabmey pIm chu' je 'elmeH
'ej yoHmeH 'ej 'IQbe'meH
tlheDghachvaD bI'reS chu'vaD je ghuSnIS tIq
'ej Hoch bI'reS Dab
nuQanbogh 'ej mayIn 'e' nuboQbogh 'IDnar
pa' pa' je mabeghnIStaHvIS maQuchnIS
juH wI'uch rur pagh wI'uchnISbe'
nubaghqangbe' qo'qa' 'ej nuweghqangbe'
mIwvaD mIwvaD je nupepqang nuSachqang
yInmIwDaq Sungmey maHDI'
'ej mavey'DI' nubuQ Doy'moHghach
roSHa'moHbogh quvyaHmeyvo' Haw'laH
tlheDrupbogh 'ej ve'rupbogh vay' neH
chaq pa'mey chu'vaD Qupqa'bogh
maH nungeH vabDot Heghrep
not maHvaD yInrIchwIn mev
Qapla' 'o tIq yItlheD 'ej yIpIv
Phonetic Transcription (IPA)
Note: The English translation tries to outline the Klingon word order.
|PURP||purpose clause marker|
|REL||relative clause marker|
For verb prefixes indicating person and number of subject and object, for example "1PL.3SG", the first abbreviation refers to the object and the second abbreviation refers to the subject.
Note that in Klingon there are two different translations for the conjunction "and": "je" and "'ej". The conjunction "je" joins noun phrases and always appears after the list of noun phrases. The conjunction "'ej" joins whole sentences. Both conjunctions are glossed as "and" in English.
- The German title "Stufen" has a double meaning: It refers to the stages of a process, but could also refer to the literal steps of a staircase. This is lost in the Klingon translation, where "mIw" only refers to a process or stage thereof. (title)
- I found no translation of "to fade" referring to flowers specifically, so I went with the more general term "ngap" ("to vanish"). (line 1)
- The Klingon word "Hoch" actually translates as "all" or "everything", but if the following noun is in singular form, it functions as "each". (line 1)
- Metaphors are in fact quite common in Klingon. They are typically referred to as "simile" which are expressed using the verb "rur" ("to resemble"). The English "like" is translated in a way that imitates this Klingon style of speech. (line 1)
- In Klingon, there is also the word "nen" which refers to growth or maturation. Since I wanted to refer to the state of "old age" rather than the process of maturation, I decided to nominalize "qan" ("to be old") instead. (line 1)
- The metaphor that youth makes way for old age is translated using the Klingon noun suffix "-vaD", which is similar to a benefactive case. (line 1)
- I didn't find a specific translation for "to give way to so./sth.", so I translated it very generically using "nup" ("to decrease"). (line 2)
- At least some people argue that overusing the nominalization suffix "-ghach" is bad style. Either way, I chose to nominalize "Qup" ("to be young") to translate the state of "youthfulness". In Klingon, there is also the word "HojnIy" ("teen", "youth"), but that apparently refers only to young people, not the state of being young. (line 2)
- It is my understanding of Klingon syntax that phrases containing a verb with the "-vIS" suffix, loosely translatable as "during", appear before the phrase they refer to. Thus, the phrase order is swapped compared to the original German poem. (Note that the suffix "-vIS" makes the continuous aspect marker "-taH" mandatory.) (line 2)
- Since I didn't find an exact translation of "to bloom" (in the context of flowers), I decided to use the more general verb "chep" ("to prosper") instead. (line 3)
- In Klingon, there is also the word "val" ("to be clever, smart, intelligent"), but since that's not quite the same, I decided to nominalize "chul" ("to be wise") instead. (line 3)
- I didn't find a literal translation of "forever" as an adverb indicating an infinite amount of time. The closest translation I could come up with was "can not remain always". (line 4)
- I translated "life's calling" as a "directive" or "order" that life yells at the "heart". That sounds rather harsh, but then again, Klingon culture has a reputation for being harsh, so it's probably fitting. (line 5)
- Not quite sure if "je" ("and") can be used to join two adjectives as in "mabmey pIm chu' je" ("different and new commitments"). Also, in the original German text it says "other, new commitments". It is implied with "new" that the commitments are of different nature, not additional. Thus, I chose the Klingon translation "pIm" ("to be different") instead of "latlh" ("additional"), which implies another one of the same kind. (line 6)
- It's my understanding of Klingon syntax that phrases marked with the "-meH" suffix, indicates the purpose of an action, come before the main clause. Thus, the phrase order of lines 5, 6, and 8 is quite different from the original German text. This part probably sounds most foreign to readers familiar with the original poem. (lines 5, 6, and 8)
- Since Klingon does not seem to have an instrumental case, I simply joined "being brave" and "not being sad" using the conjunction "'ej" ("and"). (line 7)
- In the original text, "courage" and "mourning" are actually nouns. Since I didn't want to overuse the nominalization suffix "-ghach" and keep it simple, I translated them as verbs instead. (line 7)
- In Klingon, one must distinguish between the words "mej", which indicates simply leaving or walking away, and "tlheD", which implies going on a journey with a purpose in mind. In this context, "tlheD" seemed most appropriate. (line 8)
- If a noun with the "-vaD" suffix is followed by a verb serving as an adjective, such as "chu'" ("to be new") in this case, the suffix is shifted to the adjective. (line 8)
- I am not 100% sure if the suffix "-vaD" to indicate what the heart should be ready for is actually needed, or if it should be the direct object of the verb "ghuS" ("to be ready"). (line 8)
- It is not clear to me whether the word "tIq" ("heart") can be used only to refer to the organ. In the original poem it is obviously a metaphor for the soul/psyche. I didn't find a translation for "soul" (except for "qatra'", but that's the Vulcan soul specifically!), so I hope Klingon speakers will understand that this is not meant literally. (line 8)
- The most famous line of the poem, describing the magic of new beginnings, had to be changed a little, as relative clauses referring to a noun as the subject must precede the noun. (If they refer to the object, they go after the noun.) (line 9)
- I wasn't sure if "'ej" can actually be used to join two relative clauses, so I'm hoping this is correct anyway. (line 10)
- The special pronoun "'e'", which refers to the previous sentence, is used to turn the phrase "mayIn" ("we live") into the direct object of the verb "boQ" ("to aid"). Hopefully, this is correct. (line 10)
- In Klingon, there is a distinction between the verbs "boQ" ("to aid") and "QaH" ("to help"). The former refers to assistance that makes things go more smoothly, while the latter refers to help that is strictly necessary to accomplish a task. From the original German text, it doesn't seem like life would be absolutely impossible without the magic described in the poem, but that's up to debate. (line 10)
- I didn't find a specific translation for "X by X", thus I translated "room by room" simply as "room and room". (line 11)
- In the original text, "cheerful" is an adverb. Because I'm also using the neat suffix "-nIS" to express obligation, I wasn't quite sure how to express the (compulsory) cheerfulness, so I chose to describe it as happening "during" the striding, and mark both verbs as obligatory. (line 11)
- Again, I tried to express the metaphor using the verb "rur" which means "to resemble". This leads to duplication of the verb "to hold" not found in the original, but is hopefully more idiomatic than other translations. (line 12)
- "Weltgeist" is a philosophic term which acquired a sort of Pantheistic coloring from the 17th century onward. You can read more about it on Wikipedia. I chose to translate it as "qo'qa'", literally "world spirit". Other, less literal translations would have been "'u'qa'" ("universe spirit") or "ngeHbejqa'" ("cosmic spirit"). (The word "ngeHbej" resulted from a translation error in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, so "u'" would probably be the better option.) (line 13)
- Because the Weltgeist's desire is expressed using the suffix "-qang" ("to want"), it has to be repeated. Perhaps the conjunction "'ej" could have been dropped in this case. (line 13)
- Again, I didn't find a specific translation for "X by X", so I decided to translate "stage by stage" as "for stage and for stage". Hopefully this is correct. (line 14)
- Again, the Weltgeist's desire is expressed using the suffix "-qang" ("to want") and has to be repeated. I dropped the conjunction "'ej" ("and") to keep the line shorter. (line 14)
- Klingon has no verb "to be", therefore the personal pronoun "maH" ("we") functions as a verb. In the original German text, the state of "being (like a) native" is expressed using a participial construction. I simplified this by using the noun "Sung" ("native"). (line 15)
- Translating the German word "traulich" is a bit difficult because it has a double meaning along the lines of "comfy" and "familiar". I translated that using the Klingon word "vey'", which roughly translates as being "(very) comfortable", "free of hardship", and "sufficient beyond average". I did not translate it as "baw', which can also mean "to be comfortable", but refers to a certain preparedness and confidence regarding an upcoming journey, battle, or other event, which is precisely the opposite of what's implied here. (line 16)
- Translating the German word "Erschlaffen" is a bit difficult: Neither "becoming tired" nor "becoming sluggish" really fit. A more literal translation would probably be "becoming saggy" or "becoming floppy". In either case, it implies that a person has a low energy level and is slow to respond. I chose to translate it using the Klingon word "Doy'", which simply means "to be tired", add the suffix "-moH", which roughly translates as "causing a change of state", to render the German prefix "Er-", and nominalize it using the suffix "-ghach". (line 16)
- In the original German text, "paralyzing" is an adjective. I translated it with the Klingon verb "roSHa'moH" ("to paralyze") and a relative clause because I wasn't sure if "roSHa'moH" could be used as an adjective as well. (line 17)
- The verb "entraffen" seems hard to translate, perhaps "to steal oneself away from sth." is the closest English translation. Because I couldn't find a specific translation, I chose to translate it more generically using "Haw'" ("to flee", "to get out") in the sense of "to escape". (line 17)
- In the original German poem, "departure" and "travel" are nouns, but they are rendered as verbs here. This allows for using the neat suffix "-rup" meaning "to be ready for", which I found more elegant than using the separate verb "ghuS" ("to be ready for") plus nouns. (line 18)
- Instead of using the noun "vay'" ("somebody") it would have been possible to use the indefinite subject suffix "-lu'", however, I wasn't sure how to combine that with "neH" ("only"), so I kept "vay'". (line 18)
- The suffix "-vaD", which can also be used in a benefactive sense, is used to simply mark the indirect object here, similar to a dative case. Because the Klingon word order is kind of reversed compared to English and German, the indirect object comes first and lines 19 and 20 are flipped compared to the original German text. (line 19)
- The word "young" is an adjective in the original German text, which I rendered as a relative clause here. Perhaps it could also be placed as an adjectival verb behind "maH" ("us"), but I wasn't sure if the syntax of the rest of the sentence would still make sense then, so I kept the relative clause solution. Also, I'm not 100% sure if "young" in the original German text actually refers to "us" (i.e. the people being young again, in the sense that their youth is restored), because theoretically it could also be an adverb referring to the verb "send" (implying that the act of sending happened in a somehow "youngly" manner). (line 19)
- There is no future tense in Klingon. (In fact, there are no tenses at all in Klingon.) Thus, that the death hour happens in the future is merely implied. (line 20)
- The original text has the expression "wohlan"" at the beginning of in the last line, which loosely translates as "well then". Since there is no exact translation anyway, I thought this would be a good opportunity to sneak in the famous Klingon exclamation "Qapla'", which is not a greeting and literally means "success". "Qapla'" is often used to wish someone good luck upon departure. I believe it fits perfectly here. (line 22)
- German does not have a vocative case, and in Klingon, the closest equivalent to such a case is the particle "'o" which is used here to clarify that the following commands are directed at the "tIq" ("heart"). (line 22)
- I did not really find a specific translation for "to bid farewell", so I translated it generically as "tlheD" ("to depart, with a specific goal in mind"). (line 22)
The following is a simple English translation of the original German text. It is intended for non-German speakers to allow them to compare differences between the original German text and the Klingon translation more easily. Thus, the translation is as literal as possible.
Like every blossom fades and every youthfulness
Gives way to old age, every stage of life blooms,
Every wisdom and also every virtue blooms
At its time and must not last forever.
The heart must be, on every life's calling,
Ready for farewell and new beginning,
To, with courage and without mourning,
Enter into other, new commitments.
And in every beginning dwells a charm,
That protects us and helps us to live.
We shall cheerfully stride through room by room,
Cling to none like a home.
The Weltgeist doesn't want to tie and restrict us
It wants to raise us stage by stage, expand [us].
As soon as we are native to a stage of life [lit. life circle]
And familiarly residing, sluggishness threatens [us].
Only who is ready for departure and travel,
May steal oneself away from paralyzing habituation.
Perhaps even the hour of death
Will send us, young, towards new rooms,
Life's calling for us will never end,
Well then, O heart, bid farewell and recover!
Copyright © 2021-2022 by Thomas Heller [ˈtoːmas ˈhɛlɐ]