Thursday, 10 August 2006

On this day

This is the first poem of Rainer Maria Rilke that I read many years ago when life was a struggle.
He wrote it on this day, 10 August 1926.

No intellect, no ardour is redundant:
to make one through the other more abundant
is what we're for, and some are singled out
for purest victory in that contention:
no signal can escape their tried attention,
their hands are wieldy and their weapons stout.

No sound must be too soft for their detection
they must perceive that angle of deflection
to which the dial-pointer scarcely stirs,
and must, as might be with their eyelids, utter
reply to what the butterflies out-flutter
and learn to fathom what a flower infers.

No less than others they can be extinguished,
and yet the must (why else were they distinguished?)
feel even with catastrophe some kin,
and, while the rest are helplessly bewailing,
recapture in the strokes of each assailing
the rhythm of some stoniness within.

They must be stationed like a shepherd, keeping
his lonely watch: one might suppose him weeping,
till, coming close, one feels his piercing sight;
and, as for him the speech of stars is clear,
for them must be as intimately near
what climbs in still procession through the night.

In slumber also they continue seers:
from dream and being, from laughter and from tears
a meaning gathers ... which if they can seize,
and kneel to Life and Death in adoration,
another measure for the whole creation
is given us in those right-angled knees.

From 'Rilke Selected Poems'
Translated by J B Leishman
Penguin Modern European Poets


Blogger BloggingMone said...

I know that poem as well. It is a wonderful translation. It must be awfully difficult to translate poems, because there is a lot of playing with language. It must have been one of his last poems. As far as I know Rilke died in December 1926.

Friday, 11 August 2006 at 10:38:00 BST  

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