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Old 10-17-2017, 05:19 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Default The Sonnets to Orpheus

I am re-reading the Sonnets to Orpheus after a number of years and Rilke just keeps on kicking me where it counts, poem after poem. The Sonnets are way more powerful than the Duino Elegies. Check this sh#% out:

Sieh, die Maschine:
wie sie sich waltz und racht
und uns enstellt und schwacht.

Hat sie aus uns auch Kraft,
sie, ohne Leidenschaft,
treibe und diene.

Behold the Machine:
how it rolls and wreaks vengeance
and drains and deforms us.

Yet since it receives strength from us,
let it without vehemence
drive and serve.

Sonnet I.18.9-14

. . . . .

Nicht sind die Leiden erkannt,
nicht ist die Liebe gelernt,
und was im Tod uns entfernt,

ist nicht entshleiert.
Einzig das Lied uberm Land
heiligt und feiert.

Pain has not been understood,
love has not been learned,
and what in death removes us

remains undisclosed.
Alone over the land
song hallows and heals.

Sonnet I.19.9-14

(Translations by Edward Snow)

This afternoon’s reading has vaulted Rilke, in my estimation, to the apex of the Modern Lyric Pantheon (he gets to hang out there with Yeats).
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Old 10-17-2017, 05:57 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
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Location: TX
Posts: 3,456

Rilke and Yeats are forever tied in my imagination. The Sonnette an Orpheus are wonderful and sustained, but the Neue Gedichte are also worth a look. Here is "Das Karussell":

Mit einem Dach und seinem Schatten dreht
sich eine kleine Weile der Bestand
von bunten Pferden, alle aus dem Land,
das lange zögert, eh es untergeht.
Zwar manche sind an Wagen angespannt,
doch alle haben Mut in ihren Mienen;
ein böser roter Löwe geht mit ihnen
und dann und wann ein weißer Elefant.

Sogar ein Hirsch ist da, ganz wie im Wald,
nur dass er einen Sattel trägt und drüber
ein kleines blaues Mädchen aufgeschnallt.

Und auf dem Löwen reitet weiß ein Junge
und hält sich mit der kleinen heißen Hand
dieweil der Löwe Zähne zeigt und Zunge.

Und dann und wann ein weißer Elefant.

Und auf den Pferden kommen sie vorüber,
auch Mädchen, helle, diesem Pferdesprunge
fast schon entwachsen; mitten in dem Schwunge
schauen sie auf, irgendwohin, herüber –.

Und dann und wann ein weißer Elefant.

Und das geht hin und eilt sich, dass es endet,
und kreist und dreht sich nur und hat kein Ziel.
Ein Rot, ein Grün, ein Grau vorbeigesendet,
ein kleines kaum begonnenes Profil –.
Und manchesmal ein Lächeln, hergewendet,
ein seliges, das blendet und verschwendet
an dieses atemlose blinde Spiel.

Beneath a roof and with its shadow spins
for just a little while the stock
of painted horses—all are from the land
that lingers on before it vanishes.
Though some are hitched to carriages,
they all show fierceness in their faces;
a frightening red lion walks among them
and now and then there's a white elephant.

Even a stag is there, like in the woods,
except he bears a saddle and above it
a little blue girl, firmly fastened.

And on the lion rides a boy in white,
who holds on with a small hot hand;
meanwhile the lion shows his teeth and tongue.

And now and then there's a white elephant.

And on the horses they come passing by,
girls also, luminous, almost too grown up
to join this horse ride; in mid-swing
they look up, somewhere, this way -.

And now and then there's a white elephant.

And so it goes and hurries up to finish,
and turns and circles only without aim.
A red, a green, a gray sent gliding by,
a little profile, barely seen and gone -.
And every now and then a smile, turned hither,
enchanted, ravishing, and lavishing
upon this blind and breathless game.

Translation by Ulrich Flemming,
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Old 10-17-2017, 09:50 PM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
Join Date: May 2016
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 1,439


Thanks for sharing these and reminding me I need to go back and re-read Rilke. It has been a while. (Incidentally, given my translation board posts, Hölderlin was a pretty big influence on Rilke).

Some writers you come across at just the right time and moment for them to have an impact. Cummings in high school, and then Keats and Rilke were it for me in college. I've come back to Cummings occasionally and he doesn't really do it for me in the same way. Keats and Rilke, though I've only dipped my toe in occasionally since, still take the top of my head off.
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Old 10-17-2017, 10:05 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 3,456

Andrew: "Keats and Rilke ... still take the top of my head off." Emily Dickinson's definition of poetry!
And I agree, Hoelderlin was a big influence on Rilke, as say Goethe, Brentano, Eichendorff, and Heine were not. But I'm just quoting my Cambridge German professor...
Rilke is great, isn't he? The Emperor Charles V said "... I speak German to my horse." Well, the horse could have heard some great poetry.

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