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Susan McLean 08-16-2019 08:25 AM

Rilke, The Elopement
The Elopement

Often, as a child, she’d run
from her serving women to see the night
and the wind outside, as they began,
(they are so different from inside),

but surely no stormy night had yet
so ripped the enormous park to bits
as now her conscience shredded it,

when he took her from the silken ladder
and carried her further, further, further . . .

until the carriage was all there was.

She smelled it, the dark carriage, as
pursuit and danger loomed around—
tense, restrained.
She found the coach was lined with cold,
and the dark, cold thing was in her, too.
She crept inside her mantle’s hood,
touched her hair, as though it were to stay,
and, strangely, heard a stranger say:

S5L1 "dark" for "black"
S5L5 was "and the black and cold were in her, too."
S5L6 added comma after "hood" and substituted "crept" for "crouched"
S5L9 added quotation marks, then changed them to italics.

Die Entführung

Oft war sie als Kind ihren Dienerinnen
entwichen, um die Nacht und den Wind
(weil sie drinnen so anders sind)
draußen zu sehn an ihrem Beginnen;

doch keine Sturmnacht hatte gewiss
den riesigen Park so in Stücke gerissen,
wie ihn jetzt ihr Gewissen zerriss,

da er sie nahm von der seidenen Leiter
und sie weitertrug, weiter, weiter...:

bis der Wagen alles war.

Und sie roch ihn, den schwarzen Wagen,
um den verhalten das Jagen stand
und die Gefahr.
Und sie fand ihn mit Kaltem ausgeschlagen;
und das Schwarze und Kalte war auch in ihr.
Sie kroch in ihren Mantelkragen
und befühlte ihr Haar, als bliebe es hier,
und hörte fremd einen Fremden sagen:

Literal translation:
The Elopement

Often as a child she would escape
from her serving women to the night and the wind
(because they are so different inside)
to see them outdoors at their beginnings;

but certainly no stormy night had
so ripped the enormous park into bits
as her conscience now tore it apart,

when he took her from the silk ladder
and carried her away, further, further . . .

until the carriage was all there was.

And she smelled it, the black carriage,
around which, held back, were pursuit
and danger.
And she found it lined with cold,
and the black and cold were also in her.
She crept into her mantle’s collar
and touched her hair, as if it were to remain here,
and heard—strangely—a stranger say:

John Isbell 08-17-2019 02:23 AM

Hi Susan,

More fine work. Three small nits: I’d say what’s black and cold, since it’s Kalte not Kaelte; I’d maybe use crept for kroch; and I’d put a comma after hood. That’s it on first read.


Susan McLean 08-17-2019 10:44 AM

John, I took your suggestions and made a few other small changes. I decided that "black" might suggest the color of the carriage, whereas I think it refers to the darkness inside it.


Julie Steiner 08-24-2019 10:23 AM

(Continuing the discussion from your "The Angel" thread....)

Actually, I don't see "The Elopement" as an elopement at all, even if the protagonist climbed down the silken ladder willingly. "The Kidnapping" might be a better title, given the "As a child" flashback with which the poem begins, and her disillusionment now as she realizes that this cold, cold new reality does not match her romantic daydreams.

But I'm pretty sure that the "stranger's" voice is "strange" because it is inhuman, or why would Rilke squishitalltogetherlikethis? I think there's more to that unorthodox presentation of the words than just haste. (And that's what the voice of God--or the figment of my imagination that I associate with the voice of God--has always sounded like to me, on the handful of occasions that I have "heard" it: words that are perfectly intelligible, but inaudible.)

Standard caveat that I generally have only the vaguest idea of what Rilke is up to.

Susan McLean 08-24-2019 11:45 AM

Julie, there are several reasons that I think this poem is describing an elopement, not a kidnapping. The woman's innocent attraction to danger and violence as a child is contrasted to what she is doing now, and her conscience is described as doing violence to her home, tearing the grounds to bits. I think this symbolizes her feelings that she can't go home again, but also that she is hurting those she leaves behind. Pursuit is equated to danger, whereas pursuit would mean rescue if she were going unwillingly. I suspect that she is having second thoughts now that it is too late. The running together of the stranger's words just emphasizes how alien he has become to her, as if he is speaking a different language (when I hear a language I don't know, it is hard to tell where one word ends and another begins). These are just the assumptions that I made as I read the poem, so I don't know whether they are what Rilke meant to suggest. Every translation is a working hypothesis.


Julie Steiner 08-24-2019 12:44 PM

Okay, I can accept that. Thanks, Susan.

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