View Full Version : Rainer Maria Rilke: Poems

Sunday, August 24th, 2003, 10:44 PM

by Rainer Maria Rilke

Who, though I cry aloud,
would hear me in the angel orders?
And should my plea ascend,
were I gathered to the glory
of some incandescent heart,
my own faint flame of being
would fail for the glare.
Beauty is as close to terror
as we can well endure.
Angels would not condescend
to damn our meagre souls.
That is why they awe
and why they terrify us so.
Every angel is terrible!
And so I constrain myself and
swallow the deep, dark music
of my own impassioned plea.
Oh, to whom can we turn
in the hour of need?
Neither angel nor man.
Even animals know that we
are not at home here.
We see so little of what
is clearly visible to them.
For us there is only
a tree on a hillside,
which we can memorize, or
yesterday's sidewalks, or
a habit which discovered us,
found us comfortable and moved in.
O and night...the night!
Wind of the infinite
blowing away all faces.
Within our solitude appears
a nearly lovely god
or goddess, all the
heart is ever apt to meet.
Lovers fare no better,
concealing, by their love,
each other's destiny.
Do you still not understand?
Pour your emptiness
into the breeze-
the birds may soar
more swiftly for it.

Yes, springtime needed you!
The very stars, row on row,
sparkled for your attention.
From bygone days a wave rolled
or a violin yielded itself as you
wandered by some open window.
These were your instructions.
But what could you do-
distracted, as you were,
by all of that significance?-
as though each signpost
pointed on beyond itself
towards something higher yet:
a mere prelude to The Beloved!
(Where would you find room to
keep such a one, in amongst
those vast, weird thoughts,
always coming and going,
often spending the night?)
Sing, in your lovelorn
longing, of the losers.
Make their dark fame glisten.
Sing of those whom you are
nearly moved to envy in the
purity of their despair:
hearts more loving in their pain
than many never broken.
Sing again-and yet again-
your altogether insufficient
praise of them.
The hero lives!
His ruin is but a pretext
to be born again.
Depleted Nature calls her lovers
back into her bosom, as though
she had not strength to fashion them anew.
Have you yet sung the bold grief
of Gaspara Stampa so poignently
that another girl, likewise spurned in love,
might be moved to similar transcending passion?
Is it not time these ancient seeds of pain
put forth a flower?...time that, lovingly,
we free ourselves from lovers?...
time we fit ourselves, quivering
like an arrow to its bowstring,
enduring tension with the prospect
of flight exceeding the limits of
the feathered shaft, the string,
the very bow which looses it?
Nowhere may we remain.

Voices, Voices!
Hear, my heart,
as only the holy hear,
lifted from Earth by
celestial command but
taking no notice, so
perfect is their listening.
You could not bear to hear
the voice of God.
Not that, no...
but perhaps attend
the ceaseless murmer of
silence: the vespers
of the untimely dead,
borne upon the wind...
the whispers of the
children who haunted
that cathedral in Naples-
the church in Rome...
the injunction discovered
on a tombstone last year at
Santa Maria Formosa.
All they ask:
"Weep no more for us!
Your tears muddy the
path of our ascent."

Strange to be no more of Earth.
To quit half learned habits.
To view roses and their kind
no more in human terms.
To be no more a babe in arms
that ever fear to drop you.
To leave the name you are
known by like a child leaves
a broken toy.
Strange to desire nothing.
Strange to watch the
known world dissolve.
Death is very difficult.
Lost time is painfully
reconstructed until the
struggle yields some
slight glimmer of eternity.
The living are mistaken
in their distinctions-
angels often do not know
whether they walk among
the quick or the dead.
So 'tis said.
The storm of eternity roars;
all voices drown in its thunder.

Children who have gone do not require us.
Weaned, they need no mother's breast.
Our joys and sorrows don't concern them.
But we, for whom the mysteries are golden,
still unsolved, our very sustenance-
can we exist without them?
Grief is our spirit's fodder.
Remember the Lament for Linos: how
the first shaft of song shot through
barren air carving a sudden vacuum
in the astonished space where
godlike youth forever vanished,
leaving only a melody, which is
our sole comfort and enchantment.

translated by Robert Hunter

Thursday, October 2nd, 2003, 05:44 PM
' The angel orders? '

One thinks here of those massed ranks of angels in Medieval paintings; all golden-haired youths, gracefully playing lutes and harps and cymbals.

'Angels would not condescend
to damn our meagre souls'.

Is there not a parallel between these angels and the Valkyries of Norse fable?

'Every angel is terrible!'

As Yeats wrote, 'a terrible beauty is born!'

'to whom can we turn
in the hour of need?'

Ah, the loneliness of a modern man, even if he doth impeach angels!

...'Neither angel nor man'.

And 'man please not me, nor woman neither'!

'Within our solitude appears
a nearly lovely god
or goddess, all the
heart is ever apt to meet'.

But our modern loneliness is not 'solitude' - if only it were that, then we could endure it and grow within its arbour.

'The hero lives!
His ruin is but a pretext
to be born again'.

And we await the rebirth of the Hero - the National Hero.

'Is it not time these ancient seeds of pain
put forth a flower?...

The rebirth will be our long-awaited flowering when the forces of Darkness are swept aside by the bright Sun of Nobility,

"Weep no more for us!
Your tears muddy the
path of our ascent."

We must be hard now, and not flinch at the cruel realities which now face us.

'The storm of eternity roars;
all voices drown in its thunder'.

And everything recurs eternally - even this moment of wretchedness; and so too doth the Golden Age of Atlantean Greatness recur too.

'we, for whom the mysteries are golden',

Yea - we are The Children of the Sun - and this is our inheritance!

Sunday, June 27th, 2004, 12:38 AM
Der Panther

Im Jardin des Plantes, Paris

Sein Blick ist vom Vorübergehen der Stäbe
so müd geworden, daß er nichts mehr hält.
Ihm ist, als ob es tausend Stäbe gäbe
und hinter tausend Stäben keine Welt.

Der weiche Gang geschmeidig starker Schritte,
der sich im allerkleinsten Kreise dreht,
ist wie ein Tanz von Kraft um eine Mitte,
in der betäubt ein großer Wille steht.

Nur manchmal schiebt der Vorhang der Pupille
sich lautlos auf—. Dann geht ein Bild hinein,
geht durch der Glieder angespannte Stille—
und hört im Herzen auf zu sein.

The Panther

In the Jardin des Plantes, Paris

His gaze is from the passing of bars
so exhausted, that it doesn't hold a thing anymore.
For him, it's as if there were thousands of bars
and behind the thousands of bars no world.

The sure stride of lithe, powerful steps,
that around the smallest of circles turns,
is like a dance of pure energy about a center,
in which a great will stands numbed.

Only occasionally, without a sound, do the covers
of the eyes slide open —. An image rushes in,
goes through the tensed silence of the frame—
only to vanish, forever, in the heart.

The Panther

His tired gaze -from passing endless bars-
has turned into a vacant stare which nothing holds.
To him there seem to be a thousand bars,
and out beyond these bars exists no world.

His supple gait, the smoothness of strong strides
that gently turn in ever smaller circles
perform a dance of strength, centered deep within
a will, stunned, but untamed, indomitable.

But sometimes the curtains of his eyelids part,
the pupils of his eyes dilate as images
of past encounters enter while through his limbs
a tension strains in silence
only to cease to be, to die within his heart.

Translated by Albert Ernest Flemming

The following translation is by Guntram Deichsel:

The Panther

His eyes became from passing bars
so weary, that they hold no sight.
He feels there were a thousand bars,
behind the thousand bars no light.

The soft gait of the lithe strong pace
in cramped circles on a narrow spot
is like a dance of force around a place
in which a dazed great will does moan its lot.

At times, the curtain of his vision
Silently slides aside -. An image enters then,
goes through the members' quiet tension,
ceasing existence deep in his heart's den.

English ©: Guntram Deichsel, Biberach on the Riss, Germany
Nov1997 / re-done Mar 1999

Guntram is a mathematician and physicsist by education with a Ph.D. in informatics. He had been lecturing biomathematics in the academic setting until he became a biometrician in the pharmaceutical industry where he is involved in the clinical development of new drugs, presently in cancer research. Guntram translates poems as a way to hone his skills in writing technical reports in English. You can find his translation of Rilke's Autumn Day HERE (http://www.thebeckoning.com/poetry/rilke/rilke4.html). You can also find a poem that Guntram wrote himself HERE (http://www.thebeckoning.com/poetry/other-poets/gdeichsel1.html).

The following translation is by Bart Odom:

From going through the bars, his gaze has become so exhausted
that it holds nothing anymore.
To him it is as if there are a thousand bars,
and beyond the thousand bars, no world.

The easy swinging of that lithe, potent stride,
which turns in on itself in ever-smaller circles,
is like a dance of power around a center
in which a great will stands benumbed.

Only at times the curtain of the pupils
rises silently--then an image goes in,
goes though the tightened stillness of the limbs,
enters the heart and is no more.

The following translation is by Stephen Mitchell:

The Panther

His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold anything else.
It seems to him there are a thousand bars;
and behind the bars, no world.

As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
the movement of his powerful soft strides
is like a ritual dance around a center
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.

Only at times, the curtain of the pupils lifts, quietly--.
An image enters in,
rushes down through the tensed, arrested muscles,
plunges into the heart and is gone.

The following translation is by Tatyana Dali:

The Panther

A thousand bars surround and charm him there,
Flash on, obscure, and hide the world beyond.
His gaze grown worn to just a bare stare,
So weary, it no longer holds a bond.

Soft paws, strong stride, his muscles svelte and supple,
the circles tighten, taut steps like a drill.
At center cage - a dance of strength. Uncoupled,
as in a trance, there stands a mighty will.

Sometimes, eye curtain lifts, the eye is willing,
the pupil dilates and an image rushes in.
It travels throughout the taunted body's stillness
to thrill the heart and die within.

The following translation is by Walter Arndt:

The Panther

His gaze has been so worn by the procession
Of bars that it no longer makes a bond.
Around, a thousand bars seem to be flashing,
And in their flashing show no world beyond.

The lissom steps which round out and re-enter
That tightest circuit of their turning drill
Are like a dance of strength about a center
Wherein there stands benumbed a mighty will.

Only from time to time the pupil's shutter
Will draw apart: an image enters then,
To travel through the tautened body's utter
Stillness--and in the heart to end.

The following translation is by C.F. MacIntyre:

The Panther

His sight from ever gazing through the bars
has grown so blunt that it sees nothing more.
It seems to him that thousands of bars are
before him, and behind them nothing merely.

The easy motion of his supple stride,
which turns about the very smallest circle,
is like a dance of strength about a center
in which a mighty will stands stupefied.

Only sometimes when the pupil's film
soundlessly opens ....then one image fills
and glides through the quiet tension of the limbs
into the heart and ceases and is still.

Friday, March 4th, 2005, 05:08 PM
At the Edge of Night
Rainer Maria Rilke

My room and these distances,
awake over the darkening land,—
are one. I am a string,
stretched over rushing
wide resonances.

All things are the bodies of violins,
full of murmuring darkness;
inside dreams the weeping of women,
inside stirs in sleep the resentment
of whole generations . . .
I shall
tremble silver: then everything
under me shall come to life,
and that which errs in things
shall strive towards the light
that from my dancing tone,
welling up into the heavens,
through narrow, languishing crevasses
in the old
Abysses falls
without end . . .

Translated by Cliff Crego

Am Rande der Nacht
Rainer Maria Rilke

Meine Stube und diese Weite,
wach über nachtendem Land,—
ist Eines. Ich bin eine Saite,
über rauschende breite
Resonanzen gespannt.

Die Dinge sind Geigenleiber,
von murrendem Dunkel voll;
drin träumt das Weinen der Weiber,
drin rührt sich im Schlafe der Groll
ganzer Geschlechte . . .
Ich soll
silbern erzittern: dann wird
alles unter mir leben,
und was in den Dingen irrt,
wird nach dem Lichte streben,
das von meinem tanzenden Tone,
um welchen der Himmel wellt,
durch schmale, schmachtende Spalten
in die alten
Abgründe ohne
Ende fällt . . .

A Woman in Love
Rainer Maria Rilke

That is my window. I
just awoke so gently.
I thought, I'm floating.
How far does my life reach,
and where does the night begin?

I could think that everything
around me is me;
like the transparent depth of a crystal,
darkened and mute.

I think I could bring the stars
inside of me, so large
does my heart seem; so very much
does it want to let go of him

whom I have perhaps begun
to love, perhaps to hold.
So strange, so uncharted
does my fate appear.

Who am I who lies here
under this endless sky,
as the sweet scent of a meadow,
moving back and forth,

at once calling out and anxious,
that someone might hear my call,
destined to vanish
in another.

Translated by Cliff Crego

Die Liebende
Rainer Maria Rilke

Das ist mein Fenster. Eben
bin ich so sanft erwacht.
Ich dachte, ich würde schweben.
Bis wohin reicht mein Leben,
und wo beginnt die Nacht?

Ich könnte meinen, alles
wäre noch Ich ringsum;
durchsichtig wie eines Kristalles
Tiefe, verdunkelt, stumm.

Ich könnte auch noch die Sterne
fassen in mir; so groß
scheint mir mein Herz; so gerne
ließ es ihn wieder los

den ich vielleicht zu lieben,
vielleicht zu halten begann.
Fremd, wie niebeschrieben
sieht mich mein Schiksal an.

Was bin ich unter diese
Unendlichkeit gelegt,
duftend wie eine Wiese,
hin und her bewegt,

rufend zugleich und bange,
daß einer den Ruf vernimmt,
und zum Untergange
in einem Andern bestimmt.

Gorgeously radiant, even in translation:

Love Song
Rainer Maria Rilke

How shall I hold on to my soul, so that
it does not touch yours? How shall I gently
lift it up over you on to other things?
I would so very much like to tuck it away
among long lost objects in the dark,
in some quiet, unknown place, somewhere
which remains motionless when your depths resound.
And yet everything which touches us, you and me,
takes us together like a single bow,
drawing out from two strings but one voice.
On which instrument are we strung?
And which violinist holds us in his hand?
O sweetest of songs.

Translated by Cliff Crego

Rainer Maria Rilke

Wie soll ich meine Seele halten, daß
sie nicht an deine rührt? Wie soll ich sie
hinheben über dich zu andern Dingen?
Ach gerne möchte ich sie bei irgendetwas
Verlorenem im Dunkel unterbringen
an einer fremden stillen Stelle, die
nicht weiterschwingt, wenn deine Tiefen schwingen.
Doch alles, was uns anrührt, dich und mich,
nimmt uns zusammen wie ein Bogenstrich,
die aus zwei Saiten eine Stimme zieht.
Auf welches Instrument sind wir gespannt?
Und welcher Geiger hat uns in der Hand?
O süßes Lied.