Friday, February 3, 2012

a new breathfield

Now let it be time that gods step forth
from dwelt-in things ...
Time they knock down every wall
in my house. New page. Only the wind
stirred by such a page turning
could shovel air as a spade turns earth:
a new breathfield. Oh gods, gods!
You who came so often, sleepers inside things,
who cheerfully arise -- who, by wells 
that we guess at, wash face and neck
and lightly add your repose
to that which seems full, our own life.
May it again be your morning, gods.
We repeat. You alone are source.
The world arises with you, and origin shines
on all the cracks in our failures ...

Rainer Maria Rilke, late untitled fragment
[mostly Edward Snow's translation from Uncollected Poems, with my own revisions to Snow's version]


  1. Jetzt wär es Zeit, daß Götter träten aus
    bewohnten Dingen...
    Und daß sie jede Wand in meinem Haus
    umschlügen. Neue Seite. Nur der Wind,
    den solches Blatt im Wenden würfe, reichte hin,
    die Luft, wie eine Scholle, umzuschaufeln:
    ein neues Atemfeld. Oh Götter, Götter!
    Ihr Oftgekommenen, Schläfer in den Dingen,
    die heiter aufstehn, die sich an den Brunnen,
    die wir vermuten, Hals und Antlitz waschen
    und die ihr Ausgeruhtsein leicht hinzutun
    zu dem, was voll scheint, unserm vollen Leben.
    Noch einmal sei es euer Morgen, Götter.
    Wir wiederholen. Ihr allein seid Ursprung.
    Die Welt steht auf mit euch, und Anfang glänzt
    an allen Bruchstelln unseres Mißlingens...

  2. I close my eyes and drift in the breathfields. Indeed a beautiful poem and picture

  3. oh my god

    this image!!!

    i am blown away

    and then the poem comes to put me together again, in a sacred new morning -

    if there is one image able to express hierophany, this is the one.

  4. james, something happens inside of this and i am not sure what it is. firstly there is the photograph, which would be enough, so enough that it would already be too much in its plenitude. but then the poem. the poem itself. and what does the poem say? but then the translation. and i can not help but ask how you do this, the manner of translation itself. and i don't mean to always ask the same questions of translation, but i think this underscores language and understanding itself, perhaps all poetry, perhaps all experience. you take a poem and translate the words? does the experience necessarily follow? it can not, can it? you become inserted. language is muscles creating form and you choose the language based upon rilke's initial choice of language. but then each of us in inserted as the reader, too.

    what i mean to say is that this post is no one thing. this is an infinitude of things, which causes me to wonder just how much life and meaning lies inside of every one small thing, just as life hums out beyond this photograph.

    (and still, this says nothing of the poem. you post the original here but i wonder on other translations, how they might differ, what this says to us. AND STILL this would say nothing of the poem!)


  5. Liz: thank you. i'm glad the post could take you somewhere good :-)

  6. Roxana: i am always humbled and grateful when such words come from you ...

    hierophany is everywhere and always, i suppose, but we can see it only sometimes and in some places ... there was certainly something holy about this feather caught in these twigs ... it was on a rocky little island, surrounded by ice, where the wind was tearing at everything ... you can't see any of that in the photo, of course, but it is all still there, somehow, i feel ...

  7. erin: but i think you should always ask these questions of translation, and i say yes to each of them -- translation has all of these complexities, and more

    the questions are fundamental, and they reach everywhere. all art is translation in some sense (all experience, perhaps? let me think on that for a while...). it is always one consciousness attempting to recreate experience inside another consciousness, experience transposed through a thousand variables, any of which can, and surely does, alter and skew ...

    translation from one language to another just adds another layer of complication, i.e., a few thousand more slippery variables :-) ... when we translate, what do we care about? the meaning of the words? the form of the poem? some hard to define "experience" of the gestalt (which might have little to do with the meaning of words, or might have everything to do with it...)?

    translation in practice is absolutely ad hoc -- to hell with theory -- this works for this poem -- when we move on to another, maybe we'll do that, instead ... this indeterminacy is one of the fascinations of translating ....

    this is a long and important conversation about meaning and value, isn't it? we will never reach the end, the conclusion, the truth (ha! truth!!) ... i'm glad we won't :-))


  8. ein sehr tief emotionaler und ausdrucksvoller Post, der tiefe Empfindungen auslöst ... es ist eine sehr gute Übersetzung .. und die Wahrheit, du hast Recht -. Ha!

    Küsse für dich mein Freund und ich bin gespannt, was du aus der städtischen Welt mitbringst ...

    ich umarme dich

  9. James: Thanks for writing on what questions should be asked about translations. I have a deep love for different cultures whether it's music, art, dance or language. Translation is at the heart of it all and I agree, it’s never ending