Time and Again: ASL translation

Time and Again: an original poem

Time and again, however well we know the landscape of love,
and the little church-yard with lamenting names,
and the frightfully silent ravine wherein all the others
end: time and again we go out two together,
under the old trees, lie down again and again
between the flowers, face to face with the sky.

Poem by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926), German poet.
Translated in English by J. B. Leishman
Interpreted in Ameslan/ASL by Jolanta Lapiak. April 2009.

Translation process

When an original poem has its rhymes or other elements, its rhymes or such can be sometimes lost when it is translated to another language. It is normal. This poem Time and Again by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926), although, is in free verse. Interestingly, when I translated this poem in its original free verse in English, rhymes (handshape, movement, and location) as well as symmetry arised in ASL. Below shows some rhymes in ASL.

An effective translation is to interpret a concept and meaning from one language to another more importantly than translating from a word of one language to another.

For example, if the English phrase time and again were to be translated word by word in ASL time and again, it would be awkward or unintelligible in ASL. To interpret the concept or meaning correctly, it is translated to as time again again in ASL, which is conceptually correct.

time and again = over and over, again and again, over and over again, time and again, time and time again.

Some words and phrases in this original poem were rearranged in ASL to maintain a grammatical and conceptual harmony, spatial unity, and smooth transition. For example, the poet Rilke began with the landscape in the first line and the little church yard in the second line, whereas I incorporated the little church and the landscape in the same sentence. Though, I accidentally omitted the "know" part (oh well) or I unconsciously omitted it.


The ASL words love and mourning (lamenting, sorrowful) contain the rhyme in "s" handshape. This idea of rhyme is somehow parallel to the idea of "alliteration" in English poetry. It is called a "handshape rhyme".

Again, right after the ASL words love and mourning, another rhyme appears name-on-each-grave and each-person-in-burial. Both have the same handshape in rhyme.

Another rhyme after the words above arises in ASL: ravine and silent which both have the same handshape.

After the phrase time again again, the words we-two and go-out-together in pair have the same handshape.

Now, here is a little different rhyme. This time, this phrase old trees is in "tune" with the next phrase flowers below.

The phrase trees-in-rows is corresponded to flowers-in-rows. Both of these things in rows have the similar movement, that is "movement rhyme". In addition, they also contain the "location rhyme" and "symmetry rhyme".

Finally, the last handshape rhyme comes in closing with two-persons-in-burial and two-persons looking up

That is the fascination of translating from one language to another. It can be sometimes surprising (e.g. with the discovery of rhymes or something) or sometimes disappointing (with the loss of rhymes or such).

Related posts

Related tutorial: Blossoms and Children: poetry.