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Thread: Rainer Maria Rilke: Poems

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    Rainer Maria Rilke: Poems


    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

    Last edited by Moody; Wednesday, January 31st, 2007 at 02:54 PM. Reason: merged consecutive posts
    And all my youth passed by sad-hearted,
    the joy of Spring was never mine;
    Autumn blows through me dread of parting,
    and my heart dreams and longs to die.

    - Nikolaus Lenau (1802-1850)

    Real misanthropes are not found in solitude, but in the world; since it is experience of life, and not philosophy, which produces real hatred of mankind.

    - Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837)

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    ' 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!
    Why are there beings at all, & why not rather nothing?

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    Post Rainer Maria Rilke

    • 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. You can also find a poem that Guntram wrote himself HERE.

    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.
    And all my youth passed by sad-hearted,
    the joy of Spring was never mine;
    Autumn blows through me dread of parting,
    and my heart dreams and longs to die.

    - Nikolaus Lenau (1802-1850)

    Real misanthropes are not found in solitude, but in the world; since it is experience of life, and not philosophy, which produces real hatred of mankind.

    - Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837)

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    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.
    Last edited by Moody; Wednesday, January 31st, 2007 at 02:54 PM. Reason: merged consecutive posts

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