personal favorites / poetry collections… Duino Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke / poems & video

Rainer Maria Rilke

Duino Elegies

from “The Fourth Elegy”
 

O Bäume Lebens, o wann winterlich?
Wir sind nicht einig. Sind nicht wie die Zug-
vögel verständigt. Überholt und spät,
so drängen wir uns plötzlich Winden auf
und fallen ein auf teilnahmslosen Teich.
Blühn und verdorrn ist uns zugleich bewußt.
Und irgendwo gehn Löwen noch und wissen,
solang sie herrlich sind, von keiner Ohnmacht.
 
~
 
O trees of life, when does your winter come?
We are not in harmony, our blood does not forewarn us
like migratory birds’. Late, overtaken,
we force ourselves abruptly onto the wind
and fall to earth at some iced-over lake.
Flowering and fading come to us both at once.
And somewhere lions still roam and never know,
in their majestic power, of any weakness.
 

 
&
 
 
 
 
from “The Tenth Elegy”
 
 
Aber erweckten sie uns, die unendlich Toten, ein Gleichnis,
siehe, sie zeigten vielleicht auf die Kätzchen der leeren
Hasel, die hängenden, oder
meinten den Regen, der fällt auf dunkles Erdreich im Frühjahr.

Und wir, die an steigendes Glück
denken, empfänden die Rührung,
die uns beinah bestürzt,
wenn ein Glückliches fällt.
 
~
 
But if the endlessly dead awakened a symbol in us,
perhaps they would point to the catkins hanging from the bare
branches of the hazel-trees, or
would evoke the raindrops that fall onto the dark earth in springtime.—

And we, who have always thought
of happiness as rising, would feel
the emotion that almost overwhelms us
whenever a happy thing falls.
 
       – Stephen Mitchell, trans.
 

Video: The Second Elegy

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~ by samofthetenthousandthings on May 3, 2012.

3 Responses to “personal favorites / poetry collections… Duino Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke / poems & video”

  1. So amazing. What a genius. I think the translation is about as good as it can be, but I can only imagine what it must be like in the true mother tongue. We compared different translations of Rilke at Omega last summer. What a difficult task to be able to really understand the poet and the work and the nuances of both languages. I really respect it.

  2. Translation is a fascinating process. I’m very attached to one tiny vol. in particular – 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei – by Eliot Weinberger and Octavio Paz. A close look – 19 looks actually – at translating one poem.

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