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Susan McLean 06-14-2019 09:23 AM

Rilke, Buddha in Glory
Buddha in the Mandorla

Center of all centers, core of cores,
almond self-enclosed and ever-sweetening—
all of this, from here to all the stars,
is your fruit’s flesh: we bid you greeting.

Look, you feel how nothing any longer
clings to you; your shell is infinite,
and the strong juice extends there, pressing it.
A radiance from outside makes it stronger,

for up above, ablaze and full, your suns
have turned around to face you. Yet
in you already something that
endures beyond them has begun.

Title was "Buddha in Glory" and then "Buddha in a Mandorla"
S2L3 was "and there the strong juice reaches, pressing it."

Buddha in der Glorie

Mitte aller Mitten, Kern der Kerne,
Mandel, die sich einschließt und versüßt, -
dieses Alles bis an alle Sterne
ist dein Fruchtfleisch: Sei gegrüßt.

Sieh, du fühlst, wie nichts mehr an dir hängt;
im Unendlichen ist deine Schale,
und dort steht der starke Saft und drängt.
Und von außen hilft ihm ein Gestrahle,

denn ganz oben werden deine Sonnen
voll und glühend umgedreht.
Doch in dir ist schon begonnen,
was die Sonnen übersteht.

Literal translation:
Buddha in Glory (Buddha in the Halo)

Center of all centers, core of cores,
almond that encloses itself and sweetens—
all this out to all the stars
is your fruit-flesh: greetings to you.

See, you feel as if nothing clings to you anymore;
your shell is in infinity,
and the strong juice extends and presses there.
And from outside a radiance helps it,

because high above your suns have become
full and blazing and turned around.
Yet in you already has begun
what lasts beyond the suns.

Note: The image of Buddha is sometimes portrayed circled by an almond-shaped halo or mandorla.

Julie Steiner 06-14-2019 10:50 AM

The interiority of this reminds me of two lines in one of Rilke's poems in French, which he talks about the center of a rose: "C'est ton interieur qui sans cesse / se caresse, dirait-on." ("It's your interior that ceaselessly embraces itself, one might say.")

Okay, on second thought, maybe it's not actually as relevant as I thought. But Morten Lauridsen's musical setting of that poem came bubbling up in my mind, anyway.

I love the way you've handled the last two lines in particular. Very nice.

I would prefer to see this titled "Buddha in the Mandorla," since that image explains so much in the poem that follows. "Buddha in Glory" is too vague and requires a note, I think.

Susan McLean 06-15-2019 08:13 AM

Julie, I hesitated to make the title more specific than it is in German, but you are right that unless readers picture the mandorla, they will have no idea of why the almond is being mentioned in the poem. I also was not sure how many readers would know what a mandorla is, but poetry often uses technical vocabulary that readers need to look up if they want to understand the poem completely. Anyway, for now I have changed the title.


John Isbell 06-15-2019 11:10 AM

Hi Susan,

Yup, I think you've about got it. Nicely done. Your off-rhymes remind me a bit of Brodsky, who seems fond of them. Your English reads pretty fluently, except, to my ear, this line - "and there the strong juice reaches, pressing it" - which might have room to be tinkered with, though the German there is a tad awkward as well, it seems to me.
I might say "the Mandorla" instead of "a," since for each holy figure in a mandorla, it's not a random one, it is intimately associated with them. I'm not 100% sure though, I just found "in a Mandorla" a bit random, like "in a Chevy Malibu."


Susan McLean 06-15-2019 01:03 PM

Thanks, John. I have taken your suggestions to revise the title and S2L3.


John Isbell 06-15-2019 04:09 PM

Glad to be of help!


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