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Unread 04-11-2021, 11:28 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Iowa City, IA, USA
Posts: 8,963
Default Rilke, The Temptation

The Temptation
by Rainer Maria Rilke

No, it didn’t help him that he thrust
sharp thorns into his lustful flesh, for all
his pregnant senses, laboring, produced,
among convulsive shrieks and squalls,

abortive births: distorted, squinty-eyed
creeping and flying faces, things that weren’t,
whose spite was bent on him alone, who joined
together and tormented him for sport.

His senses’ offspring now had children, too,
for the pack was fertile overnight, and bore—
in ever gaudier, more motley hues—
half-finished creatures by the hundreds more.
The whole of it was made into a potion:
his hands grasped just the handles, and the shades
then thrust themselves toward him like thighs that open,
warm and waking up for an embrace—.

He cried out, crying for the angel then:
and the angel in its glory came to him
and was at hand, pursuing them
right back inside the holy saint again,

to keep him wrestling, as he had for years,
with beasts and demons in him, so that God,
who after so much time was still not clear,
might be distilled from turmoil deep inside.

S5L3 was "might be distilled from the unrest inside"

Die Versuchung

Nein, es half nicht, dass er sich die scharfen
Stacheln einhieb in das geile Fleisch;
alle seine trächtigen Sinne warfen
unter kreißendem Gekreisch

Frühgeburten: schiefe, hingeschielte
kriechende und fliegende Gesichte,
Nichte, deren nur auf ihn erpichte
Bosheit sich verband und mit ihm spielte.

Und schon hatten seine Sinne Enkel;
denn das Pack war fruchtbar in der Nacht
und in immer bunterem Gesprenkel
hingehudelt und verhundertfacht.
Aus dem Ganzen ward ein Trank gemacht:
seine Hände griffen lauter Henkel,
und der Schatten schob sich auf wie Schenkel
warm und zu Umarmungen erwacht -.

Und da schrie er nach dem Engel, schrie:
Und der Engel kam in seinem Schein
und war da: und jagte sie
wieder in den Heiligen hinein,

dass er mit Geteufel und Getier
in sich weiterringe wie seit Jahren
und sich Gott, den lange noch nicht klaren,
innen aus dem Jäsen destillier.

Literal translation:
The Temptation

No, it didn’t help that he thrust sharp
thorns into his lustful flesh;
all of his pregnant senses cast forth,
among shrieks of labor,

premature births: lopsided, squint-eyed
creeping and flying faces, not-things,
whose malice, bent only on him,
joined together and toyed with him.

And already his senses had grandchildren,
for the pack was fruitful in the night
and in ever more colorful sprinklings
churned them out and multiplied them a hundredfold.
From the whole of it, a potion was made:
his hands gripped just the handles,
and the shadows pressed toward him like thighs,
warm and wakened for an embrace—.

And then he cried out, cried out for the angel:
And the angel in his glory came
and was present there, and chased them
back inside the saint again,

so that he might keep wrestling inside himself
with devils and beasts, as he had for years,
and God, who after a long time was still not clear,
might distill himself inside from the ferment.

Last edited by Susan McLean; 04-11-2021 at 03:50 PM.
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Unread 04-11-2021, 01:51 PM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: San Diego, CA, USA
Posts: 7,150

In the last line, it would be nice if you could find a way to keep both the images of distillation and of the bubbling of fermentation. "unrest" fits the meter, but it loses some of the connection to alcohol, and that seems appropriate after the hallucinatory descriptions.
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Unread 04-11-2021, 03:52 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Iowa City, IA, USA
Posts: 8,963

Julie, I have tried a slight rewording of the last line. I am not sure that alcohol is being referenced. I would guess that alchemy is closer to what Rilke is evoking. His poem "The Alchemist" certainly used that imagery.

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Unread 04-13-2021, 12:09 AM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: San Diego, CA, USA
Posts: 7,150

The word "ferment" is derived from the Latin verb fervere, which means to boil. It is thought to have been first used in the late 14th century in alchemy, but only in a broad sense. It was not used in the modern scientific sense until around 1600.
Dang. I was sure you were wrong.
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