Monday, October 31, 2005


Lord: it is time. The huge summer has gone by.
Now overlap the sundials with your shadows,
and on the meadows let the wind go free.

Command the fruits to swell on tree and vine;
grant them a few more warm transparent days,
urge them on to fulfillment then, and press
the final sweetness into the heavy wine.

Whoever has no house now, will never have one.
Whoever is alone will stay alone,
will sit, read, write long letters through the evening,
and wander on the boulevards, up and down,
restlessly, while the dry leaves are blowing.

- Rainer Maria Rilke (trans: Stephen Mitchell)

This has to be one of the best things Rilke ever wrote. What I love about this poem (and about Mitchell's translation of it - for alternate translations, see here) is the bluntness, the uncomprising air of a stated fact. Rilke's autumn is no season of mist and mellow fruitfulness, it is the beginning of an end from which there is no appeal. The very abruptness of the lines here ("Herr: es ist Zeit."; "Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr. / Wer jetzt allein ist, wird es lange bleiben") makes this is a tough, almost brutal poem, a poem of barrenness, a premonition of the coming winter.


Cheshire Cat said...

Odd. It is the human being commanding the Lord here, seeking poetic solace in the sureness of his fate. And while summer is presented as drowsy, inertial, the fall is marked by loneliness and restlessness - perhaps a more conducive state of being for the writer...

Falstaff said...

Cat: Not quite a command, I would think, more an insistent request - kind of like the whole "Batter my heart, three-personed god" thing.

Oh, and while I agree with Fall being lonely and restless, I'm not sure about the summer being drowsy - calm and unfrenzied certainly, but drowsy? I don't know.

Cheshire Cat said...

Ah, so this is a drowsy Cat, easily confused. Summer's catnap to me.

Excuse me now, I'm feeling restless...

Mrudula said...

Early Spring

Harshness vanished. A sudden softness
has replaced the meadows' wintry grey.
Little rivulets of water changed
their singing accents. Tendernesses,

hesitantly, reach toward the earth
from space, and country lanes are showing
these unexpected subtle risings
that find expression in the empty trees.

Translated by Albert Ernest Flemming

sa re ga ma said...

Hast du das Link die originale Gedichte auf Deutsch?

Anonymous said...

That's a great story. Waiting for more. »