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Old 08-01-2018, 09:45 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Default Rilke, Eve

Eve
by Rainer Maria Rilke

She’s standing, artless, on the vast ascent
of the cathedral, near the window-rose,
holding the apple in the apple-pose,
now and forever guilty-innocent

of all the growing that she brought to birth
since from the circle of eternity,
loving, she left to face adversity
and make her way, like a young year, through earth.

Ah, gladly she’d have lingered in that land
a little while, to pay attention to
the beasts’ intelligence and harmony.

But since she found the man had set his mind
on leaving, she went with him, willingly
sought death. And God, as yet, she hardly knew.

Revisions:
S2L2-4 was "since from the cycle of eternities, / loving, she left and faced adversities / to forge, like a young year, her way through earth."
S2L3-4 was "loving, she went forth, faced adversity, /and, like a young year, forged her way through earth." and then it was "loving, she left and faced adversity, / making her way, like a young year, through earth."
S4L4 was "sought death, and God, as yet, she hardly knew."


Eva

Einfach steht sie an der Kathedrale
großem Aufstieg, nah der Fensterrose,
mit dem Apfel in der Apfelpose,
schuldlos-schuldig ein für alle Male

an dem Wachsenden, das sie gebar,
seit sie aus dem Kreis der Ewigkeiten
liebend fortging, um sich durchzustreiten
durch die Erde, wie ein junges Jahr.

Ach, sie hätte gern in jenem Land
noch ein wenig weilen mögen, achtend
auf der Tiere Eintracht und Verstand.

Doch da sie den Mann entschlossen fand,
ging sie mit ihm, nach dem Tode trachtend,
und sie hatte Gott noch kaum gekannt.


Literal translation:
Eve

Artless, she stands on the cathedral’s
great ascent, near the rose window,
with the apple in the apple-pose,
guiltless-guilty once and for all

of the growing that she gave birth to,
since from the cycle of eternities,
loving, she departed to struggle
through the earth, like a young year.

Ah, she could willingly have stayed
a little longer still, paying attention
to the understanding and harmony of the animals.

But since she found the man to be resolved,
she went with him, aspiring after death,
and she had as yet hardly known God.

Last edited by Susan McLean; 08-26-2018 at 12:23 PM.
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  #2  
Old 08-01-2018, 11:15 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Susan,

I think this is a fine rendering. In the line:

to forge, like a young year, her way through earth.

I think you could invert clauses 1 and 2 if you like. Also at the end, I think the English has ended up a bit more ambiguous than the German, and wonder if for "and God" you might try "while God."

Cheers,
John
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  #3  
Old 08-02-2018, 12:39 AM
Julie Steiner's Avatar
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Ooh, I like this Biblical re-imagining! I'm not sure I like the implications of saying that the deadly choice that Eve made was actually her decision to be passively obedient to her beloved's desire to leave Eden, rather than to be actively disobedient to God's command; but I really like the way Rilke's version makes me examine the story in a completely new light.

The first quatrain is my favorite. I can see the apple and the apple-pose.

I know that you are generally reluctant to close off possible meanings, or to steer the reader in a particular direction that might not be the one Rilke intended, but I think you might provide a bit more guidance to the reader (okay, to me--maybe everyone else gets it) in the second quatrain.

I don't understand what L5 means, except that "the growing" that Eve is both guilty and innocent of having brought to birth seems to have more to do with population growth than with vegetation. Do you think Rilke means that Eve is both innocent and guilty of the evil that later generations of humanity have committed as they have spread across the earth? Does he mean that the sexual nature of human reproduction inherently sinful? Or what? Perhaps a word other than "growing," which has agricultural connotations that might be misleading, could be helpful.

I think "the circle of eternity" might better convey stasis than "the cycle of eternities," because "cycle" implies a series of changes; even if it repeats, it's still changing. "Circle" implies no beginning and no end. And the plural of eternities prompts distracting questions, too. (Is there an infinite number of eternities?) The singular of both "eternity" and "adversity" would make me happier.

And then there's that baffling "like a young year" traveling through the earth. Huh? What? I keep misreading it as "like a young bear," which makes a lot more sense to me. What exactly is a young year, and how does one travel through the earth? Is this a reference to seasonal changes, like the seasons of a person's life as he or she matures and ages? If so, what are the implications of Eve's having skipped childhood? Does the phrase "young year" refer to springtime? If so, how would Eve travel through the earth like springtime? Is the similarity more the fact that both pass through the earth, rather than the way in which they do so? Genesis says that Eve lived hundreds of years; how slowly did she age? And Rilke doesn't have any obligation to stick to the story in all of its particulars, but didn't she spend a century or two WITHOUT Adam, before they settled down and had kids? Isn't that incompatible with Rilke's emphasis on the "she did it for love" angle? Do any of my musings have anything to do with what Rilke meant? Again, I would appreciate a bit more guidance toward a particular interpretation.

The treatment of rhyme in the original sestet seems much more emphatic than yours, as I'm sure you're fully aware. I'm not complaining, just observing. But I think some punctuation changes might help to make things more emphatic there:

But since she found the man had set his mind
on leaving, she went with him: willingly
sought death. And God, as yet, she hardly knew.

I hope some of these thoughts are useful.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 08-02-2018 at 12:47 AM.
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Old 08-02-2018, 02:34 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Susan,

Julie's punctuation will of course also solve my small God problem here. :-)

Cheers,
John
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Old 08-02-2018, 08:20 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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John and Julie, thanks for the suggestions. I have made some revisions in response to them. I have taken Julie's suggestion to make "eternities" singular, even though Rilke makes it plural. I don't know why he makes it plural, except perhaps to intensify the sense of something unending. I have also taken your suggestion to change "cycle" to "circle" in order to suggest a closed system. I suspect that "growing" is mainly supposed to suggest that growth=change, and that until Eve made her move, nothing changed. You cannot grow if you cannot change. Not all change is for the better: some is and some isn't. So Eve is both guilty and innocent of the results of the changes that she instigates. The year is young because it is also going to age. When change does not happen, a year is timeless. So Eve, like the year, is progressing through the earth and changing as she goes. I also took your suggestion to separate out the clause about God in the last sentence.

Susan
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Old 08-05-2018, 05:21 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Hey, Susan!

I like the changes, and your thoughts expressed above.

I wonder (sincerely--I don't know) what you would think of transposing "loving" and "she went forth" in L7, and of tinkering with the punctuation to make those lines a little less breathless.

Current:

since from the circle of eternity,
loving, she went forth, faced adversity,
and, like a young year, forged her way through earth.

Proposed:

since from the circle of eternity
she went forth, loving; faced adversity;
and, like a young year, forged her way through earth.
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Old 08-12-2018, 02:16 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Julie, I have been traveling for the past two weeks, so I couldn't make changes immediately, but I was thinking about them. I think I want "loving" to precede "she left," because the loving is the reason she leaves, not simply a description of her as she leaves. I have tried some rewording in that line and the following one, and I would appreciate hearing from readers about whether the changes are improvements or not.

Susan
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Old 08-26-2018, 01:24 AM
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Martin Rocek Martin Rocek is offline
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Susan,
I like this a great deal, but have a few questions. Why in S2L3 do you have
"loving, she left and faced adversity,"
when
"loving, she left to face adversity,"
seems closer to the original and makes more sense?
The next line seems a bit padded--how about something like
"and like a young year, struggle through the earth"
(assuming you accept my previous suggestion).
Again, that seems closer to the original--and actually closer to what you had originally.
For the last line I would suggest:
"seeking death. God, as yet, she hardly knew."
Changing the tense makes the sentence flow much more smoothly IMO.
I know that the "and" is in the original, but I think dropping it just makes a stronger poem.

I hope that these comments are some use.

Martin
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Old 08-26-2018, 12:29 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Martin, I made some changes to S2L3-4 in response to your suggestions. I have expanded the idea of "struggling" into two parts, facing adversity and traveling across the earth. Though they are both happening simultaneously, I though the latter part helped to introduce the image of the progress of the young year.

I was not fond of the meter, though, in your proposed change to S4L3, so I left it as it was, even though "seeking" does seem preferable to "sought."

Susan
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Old 08-26-2018, 12:40 PM
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Martin Rocek Martin Rocek is offline
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Hi Susan,
Another option for the last line:
"to seek death. God, as yet, she hardly knew."
Is that OK metrically--is "seek" a strong enough stress that "death" can be weakened?

Martin
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