Thursday, August 9, 2012

still far from that future pose



So the tender prelude of your life has ended here.
The unavowed, absent ones put your heart on display!
They avoid your name like the name of some fear,
instead of calling you after studies to the sunlit day.

They avoid your name that marble proclaims its own,
for the voices of those who remember are weighted
by the event that confers our names to stone,
strayed hands seeking a confession on the forehead.

Thus it is to this, to this music’s perfection,
lover and sister, that all in you gave consent.
The earth sings you; we feel its head‘s elation,
but its mouth is turned from us and distant.


Again, again I go, and I bow
before the slow life of your tomb.
To the periwinkle and the haw,
you surrender this plot‘s calm.

So much living green covers your stone
between us, this young summer.
And you offer me pale foxglove, where one
must humble oneself to enter.

The avid hornet dives
to find a way into the cavern gleam
of hanging flowers; one must rise
from below to share their dream.

Still far from that future pose,
we others, we living, are too high.
Even the bed lifts us -- we dare not lie
as you lie, Friend, in tired repose.

Rainer Maria Rilke
(my translation)


  1. Tombeaux

    C'est donc à cela que ta vie fut un tendre prélude,
    les inavoués, les absents se montrent ton coeur!
    Au lieu de t'appeler au soleil à la fin des études,
    on évite ton nom comme le nom d'une peur.

    Ou évite ton nom que la pierre proclame sienne,
    car l'événement qui aux pierres confère nos noms
    pèse sur les voix des êtres qui se souviennent
    cherchant de leur main égarée un aveu de leur front.

    C'est donc à cela, à cette musique parfaite
    que tout en toi consentait, amante et soeur.
    La terre te chante; on sent l'élan de sa tête,
    mais sa bouche est tournée ailleurs.

    Encor, encor je vais et je m'incline
    devant la lente vie de ton tombeau,
    à la pervenche et à l'aubépine
    tu as cédé la paix de ton enclos.

    Un jeune été a recouvert la dalle.
    Tant de verdure vivant entre nous!
    Et tu me tends la pâle digitale
    où l'on n'accède que par en dessous.

    Il faut que le frelon avide plonge
    avant d'entrer dans l'antre transparent
    des fleurs penchées; pour être de leur songe
    on doit venir d'en bas ressurgissant.

    Sommes-nous hauts, nous autres, les vivants,
    et trop loin de la prochaine pose!
    Le lit même nous soulève et l'on n'ose
    te ressembler, Amie, en s'endormant....


  2. What a wonderful surprise! Not only to see another blogger who translates poetry, but a masterful translation of a poem I’m not familiar with (though those in the know swear by Rilke’s French). You’ve magically captured the sound and sense of the original, yet make it concrete in English (something Rilke makes very difficult), not to mention professionally rhymed.

    I especially like “elation” for “elan”, and for translating “cherchant de leur main égarée un aveu de leur front” as “strayed hands seeking a confession on the forehead.” Brilliant!

    For the last stanza, I’d offer an alternative (not better!) version to tease out even more of the implications:

    Are we, the living, at a higher steep
    Too far from that subsequent pose?
    The bed lifts us up – we dare not repose
    Like you, Friend, as you’ve fallen asleep.

    Thank you so much !!!

  3. Was für ein wundervoller und berührender Post und ich liebe deine sensible und einfühlsame Übersetzung des so schönen Rilke Gedichtes.

    ich umarme dich innigst - isabella

  4. Gorgeous, especially the second part. I admire how your rhymes don't at all intrude on the poem, I admire and appreciate your translations especially since I can't read Rilke in the original!

  5. A poetic image deserves poetic words.
    Have a beautiful weekend James. :)