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  #1  
Unread 10-25-2020, 08:55 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Default Rilke, Cretan Artemis

Cretan Artemis
by Rainer Maria Rilke

Wind of the foothills, did her brow not seem
a radiant thing? Smooth headwind of fleet beasts,
did you not shape her, molding to her form
her gown against unconscious breasts

like a presentiment of change to come?
While she, as if she comprehended all,
away into the farthest distance, cool
and with her garment kilted up, would storm

among her company of nymphs and hounds,
testing her hunting bow, and tightly bound
within the hard, high cincture’s girth;

only, at times, from far-off dwellings she
was cried to and compelled, irascibly,
by the loud screaming at a birth.


Note: Artemis was the virgin goddess of the hunt, and was also the goddess of childbirth.

Revisions:
S1L2 "radiant" was "brilliant"
S2L2 "she comprehended all" was "acquainted with it all"


Kretische Artemis

Wind der Vorgebirge: war nicht ihre
Stirne wie ein lichter Gegenstand?
Glatter Gegenwind der leichten Tiere,
formtest du sie: ihr Gewand

bildend an die unbewussten Brüste
wie ein wechselvolles Vorgefühl?
Während sie, als ob sie alles wüsste,
auf das Fernste zu, geschürzt und kühl,

stürmte mit den Nymphen und den Hunden,
ihren Bogen probend, eingebunden
in den harten hohen Gurt;

manchmal nur aus fremden Siedelungen
angerufen und erzürnt bezwungen
von dem Schreien um Geburt.


Literal translation:
Cretan Artemis

Wind of the foothills, was her forehead
not like some brighter object?
Smoother headwind of the light animals,
did you shape her, forming her gown

against the unconscious breasts
like a premonition full of change?
While she, as if she knew everything,
toward the farthest point, kilted up and cool,

stormed with the nymphs and the hounds,
testing her bow, bound up
within the hard, high belt;

only, at times, from foreign settlements
cried out to and angrily overcome
by the screaming at a birth.

Last edited by Susan McLean; 11-02-2020 at 01:56 PM.
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  #2  
Unread 10-31-2020, 06:44 PM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is online now
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Sorry to have been neglecting these, Susan, while working on election stuff, and indulging in fluffier areas of the Sphere that don't require so much time and thought as translations do.

Standard caveat that I'm probably missing the point in much of the poem. But you know that, and I know you'll take what value you can from my comments, no matter how stupid some of the stuff I say may be.

I assume that Rilke is describing a statue that depicts the wind blowing Artemis's clothing against her small, young breasts, as so many such depictions do. (To my sorrow, I failed to find one online that was Cretan or Minoan, but no matter.)

In L2, I think the comparative "a brighter object" might lead to more useful questions ("Like what brighter object? Oh, maybe he means the moon, since this is Artemis") than the current "a brilliant object," which only makes me ask, "Huh?" Although it's not Cretan, the Louvre's Artemis with a Doe shows her wearing a crescent-shaped headdress above her brow that might be relevant for making a moon connection. Or maybe I'm imposing something on the poem that's not there, since there's nothing Cretan about that statue, and Rilke probably wasn't thinking of it.

In the last line, "loud" seems an unnecessary descriptor for "screaming." I realize that it's probably there for the meter, but still.

I do like "hard, high cincture's girth," although "cincture's girth" is probably pleonastic, too.

"Far-off dwellings" seems a good solution to that tricky bit in the crib about "foreign dwellings." It nicely contrasts the wildness of the forest with civilization, which is a nice accompaniment to more unspoken contrast in the poem: between virginity and childbirth, and between chastity and clothing that does not leave one's breasts and legs entirely to the imagination.
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  #3  
Unread 10-31-2020, 10:42 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Julie, you raise some good points and I will see what I can do to respond to them. I do not know what the "Cretan" in the title refers to, whether it was a statue of Artemis found on Crete or whether we are supposed to imagine Artemis hunting on Crete. I do think a statue was probably the inspiration for this, since it comes right after Rilke's "Archaic Torso of Apollo." When I try to picture the statue that may have inspired it, I come up with images that look something like this:

https://www.slam.org/collection/objects/30922/

It has the high belt, windblown clothes, short skirt, and body revealed clearly by the thin clothes plastered against it. This is a very common type of representation of the goddess, so there would be many similar statues out there. Here is another image from the Louvre, which Rilke definitely visited.

https://it.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File...2 745206).jpg

You may be right that the "brighter thing" is supposed to evoke the moon. But the comparative may simply be suggesting "far brighter than one would expect," as if the brow itself is radiant.

Susan

Last edited by Susan McLean; 11-02-2020 at 10:39 AM.
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Unread 11-02-2020, 10:44 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Julie, I have tried "radiant" instead of "brilliant," since that word may more clearly evoke the doubleness of an image that may refer to the moon or just to the whiteness of Artemis's brow. You are right that I did need "loud" before "screaming" for the meter, but I can't figure out a replacement.

Susan
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  #5  
Unread 11-02-2020, 12:10 PM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is online now
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I like "radiant," Susan.

You might be able to play around more with the notion that this person of untouchability and autonomy is made subservient to others by her association with childbirth:

     within the hard, high cincture’s girthing;

     only, at times, from far-off dwellings she
     was cried to and compelled, irascibly,
     to serve, by screams of birthing.


I wonder if this might be strengthened:

     While she, as if acquainted with it all,

might be strengthened somehow; e.g.,

     While she, as if an expert in it all,

or

     While she, like someone comprehending all,

or similar. "Acquainted with it all" might be your best option, but it seems a little underwhelming. One can be acquainted with something without fully understanding it.
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Unread 11-02-2020, 02:00 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Thanks for the suggestions, Julie. I have tried a variation on S2L2. I don't think "girthing/birthing" sounds as natural as "girth/birth."

Susan
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  #7  
Unread 11-19-2020, 11:26 PM
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Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
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A Cretan statue could be the inspiration, but Crete was where Zeus was hidden in a cave as a screaming infant (I've been there but the descent was closed that day), and loud dancers performed outside the cavern to mask where he was hidden.

Last edited by Allen Tice; 11-19-2020 at 11:32 PM.
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