Friday, October 14, 2011

Poetry Friday: Rilke

Beautiful and harsh, lush and barren, this sonnet by Rainer Maria Rilke is gorgeously translated by Mary Kinzie:

Day in Autumn
by Rainer Maria Rilke

After the summer's yield, Lord, it is time
to let your shadow lengthen on the sundials
and in the pastures let the rough winds fly.

As for the final fruits, coax them to roundness.
Direct on them two days of warmer light ....


The final five lines of the poem take a jolting turn -- read the rest here, at The Poetry Foundation, because you really have to read the whole thing. You do.

Read the translator's notes here, and read more about Mary Kinzie, here.

And, if you should even for a millisecond believe that a translator of poetry need not be a poet herself, read various translations of the poem here.

The Poetry Friday round up is at Fomagrams.


Myra Garces-Bacsal from GatheringBooks said...

Ever since I read Rilke's: "If you can not find the answer within the pages, live the question" - I had been a huge fan. But this piece I have not read yet, thanks for sharing this.

tanita davis said...

The whole thing has a kind of "he that is filthy, let him be filthy still, he that is righteous, let him be righteous feel," to it, as if the autumn coming is this great eschatalogical inevitability, and What Will Be, Will Be.

Kind of scary, after the benign beginning!

jama said...

Like Myra, I hadn't seen this Rilke poem before. Still pondering that last stanza -- and Tanita's use of the word "eschatalogical." :)

Karen Edmisten said...

Oooh, Tanita, that is a chilling and interesting take. I read it a little differently, but I see what you mean, especially given the phrase, "final fruits." I read it as more of a lament on the things to which we are blind or callous -- the first part of the poem is hailing the beauty of autumn (something I often do myself, as I love this season), but then it moves into the starkness of something else ... nature is absent from the final lines, and suddenly we're in a cold, lonely city full of people for whom autumn doesn't mean coziness and crackling fires, but rather the coming of a season that is extreme and extremely hard to survive (physically and emotionally.) It's as if Rilke sort of wants to crush us for waxing sentimental over a season which is, in reality, a season of impending death -- and the God he appealed to in the first section of the poem is in reality just an unyielding force that will plow ahead, regardless of what comes (which circles back around to your "What will be will be" take.)

Jennifer said...

Karen! Here is a fascinating discussion this poem and its translations.
Follow up:

Ruth said...

I keep reading intriguing little snippets of Rilke. I really need to read more of his poetry.

Karen Edmisten said...

Jenn, thanks so much for the links! Interesting stuff. Ruth, hope you enjoy reading more of Rilke.