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Unread 12-24-2018, 09:12 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Default Rilke, The Death of the Poet

The Death of the Poet
by Rainer Maria Rilke

He lay. His propped-up countenance was wan
and unaccepting on the pillows’ stack,
now that the world and knowledge of it, torn
out of his grasp, had fallen back
into the year’s oblivious unconcern.

Those who saw him living didn’t know
how thoroughly at one with all of this
he was, for these—these valleys lying low,
these meadows, and these waters were his face.

Oh, his face was this entire domain,
which yearns still for him and would woo him in.
His mask, that now has perished full of fear,
is soft and open like the flesh within
a fruit, exposed and spoiling in the air.

Revisions:
S2L1 was "Those who saw him, living, didn’t know"
S3L2 a period instead of a comma
S3L3 "and" removed at the beginning of the line
S3L5 was "a fruit, which is decaying in the air."


Der Tod des Dichters

Er lag. Sein aufgestelltes Antlitz war
bleich und verweigernd in den steilen Kissen,
seitdem die Welt und dieses von-ihr-Wissen,
von seinen Sinnen abgerissen,
zurückfiel an das teilnahmslose Jahr.

Die, so ihn leben sahen, wußten nicht,
wie sehr er eines war mit allem diesen,
denn dieses: diese Tiefen, diese Wiesen
und diese Wasser waren sein Gesicht.

O sein Gesicht war diese ganze Weite,
die jetzt noch zu ihm will und um ihn wirbt;
und seine Maske, die nun bang verstirbt,
ist zart und offen wie die Innenseite
von einer Frucht, die an der Luft verdirbt.


Literal translation:
The Death of the Poet

He lay. His raised-up face was
pale and refusing in the steep pillows,
now that the world and this knowledge of it,
torn from his senses,
had fallen back into the indifferent year.

Those who saw him while he lived did not know
how much at one with all of this he was,
because these—these lowlands, these meadows,
and these waters were his face.

Oh, his face was this entire expanse,
which now still yearns toward him and woos him,
and his mask, which now fearfully is dead,
is tender and open like the inside
of a fruit, which is spoiling in the air.

Last edited by Susan McLean; 12-25-2018 at 09:13 AM.
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  #2  
Unread 12-25-2018, 06:54 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Susan,

What a very German poem! As usual, you seem to have struck to the heart of it. Two nits: I'd love if you could lose that extra syllable in the antepenultimate line, and the word decaying seems wrong to me for what verdirbt is describing. I picture the fruit browning in air more than the slow process of decay.

Happy Christmas,
John
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  #3  
Unread 12-25-2018, 09:18 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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John, I have taken your suggestions. I think that "exposed" in the last line, though not in the original, is implied by the context, and I needed some extra syllables to fill out the meter of the last line once I removed "decaying." I always liked "spoiling" better in that line.

Susan
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Unread 12-25-2018, 10:39 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Susan,

I like spoiling.

Merry Xmas,
John
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  #5  
Unread 12-27-2018, 05:23 PM
Michael F's Avatar
Michael F Michael F is offline
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Autobiographical -- or better said, what Rilke would say about himself.

It’s all there in this one: the oneness with the world, the unity of life and death, the identity of the poet with God, the anxiety and longing, the ripening, the willfulness. Wonderful.

M
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Unread 01-01-2019, 05:16 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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Susan,

I wanted to say that I like very much what you are doing with these Rilke poems. I'm enjoying reading them. In this one, I wonder about "oblivious unconcern" in L5. I like the sounds but the meanings and connotations of the two words catch me. Maybe there is a more physical word that can replace "oblivious?" "Listless" may be more specific. You lose a foot but "oblivious unconcern" catches me because if one is oblivious then concern is not possible. Of course, you are not concerned. You're clueless. To me, "unconcern" suggests a decision has been made to not be concerned.

I hope I'm making sense. I wouldn't speak up if it didn't impress me so strongly. I do think teilnahmslos can be translated as "listless" or some other word that suggests apathy or exhaustion.

Thanks for translating these poems and posting them for us to read.

John
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