RILKE | June: The Poetry of Images of Movement
Dragonfly in Ice "Out of infinite longings rise
finite deeds like weak fountains,
falling back just in time and trembling.
And yet, what otherwise remains silent,
our happy energies—show themselves
in these dancing tears.

the Initial, from the beginning
of Book I, Part Two of
The Book
of Images
by Rainer Maria Rilke 

This week, an image of a dragonfly
frozen in ice
. Also: four new translations
from the German.

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The guest poems for this week are new English translations from the work of the German language 
Rainer Maria Rilke (from the Rilke website, a concise hyperlinked biography).

The Poetry of Images, Images of Movement . . .

The poems of the little quartet I've brought together here all have one feature in common: a striking gift for image, and, most especially, images of movement.

In the famous Initial which starts the set, some of our most profound feelings—those longings for which we have no names—are expressed in the tight, compact language of epigrams, comparing inner worlds to the flowing water of fountains: weak fountains,
falling back just in time and trembling...

At the Edge of Night takes us to the edge of our imagination, sensing out body for a moment as if it were a string stretched across a vast expanse of earth. The music with which the string resonates both ascends and descends to unknown heights and depths.

Autumn—in Europe, one of Rilke's most loved poems—begins with the classic image of falling leaves, and moves out from there to the whole earth falling through the deep darkness of outerspace.

And lastly, we come to The Merry-Go-Round: Here, it must be said, that much of the charm of the original German, written in revolving iambic pentameters or 10-step / 5-beat lines, is lost. But still, I hope to give the English reader something of an idea of the sound. And, of this wonderful poetry of images, images which so strikingly convey a sense of ourselves and the world around us as movement:


Aus unendlichen Sehnsüchten steigen
endliche Taten wie schwache Fontänen,
die sich zeitig und zitternd neigen.
Aber, die sich uns sonst verschweigen,
unsere fröhlichen kräfte—zeigen
sich in diesen tanzenden Tränen.

Out of infinite longings rise
finite deeds like weak fountains,
falling back just in time and trembling.
And yet, what otherwise remains silent,
our happy energies—show themselves
in these dancing tears.

Am Rande der Nacht

Meine Stube und diese Weite,
wach über nachtendem Land,—
ist Eines. Ich bin eine Saite,
über rauschende breite
Resonanzen gespannt.

Die Dinge sind Geigenleiber,
von murrendem Dunkel voll;
drin träumt das Weinen der Weiber,
drin rührt sich im Schlafe der Groll
ganzer Geschlechte . . .
Ich soll
silbern erzittern: dann wird
alles unter mir leben,
und was in den Dingen irrt,
wird nach dem Lichte streben,
das von meinem tanzenden Tone,
um welchen der Himmel wellt,
durch schmale, schmachtende Spalten
in die alten
Abgründe ohne
Ende fällt . . .
At the Edge of Night

My room and these distances,
awake over the darkening land,—
are one. I am a string,
stretched over rushing
wide resonances.

All things are the bodies of violins,
full of murrming darkness;
inside dreams the weeping of women,
inside stirs in sleep the resentment
of whole generations . . .
I shall
tremble silver: then everything
under me shall come to life,
and that which errors in things
shall strive towards the light
that from my dancing tone
welling up into the heavens,
through narrow, languishing crevasses
in the old
Abysses falls
without end . . .


Die Blätter fallen, fallen wie von weit,
als welkten in den Himmeln ferne Gärten;
sie fallen mit verneinender Gebärde.

Und in den Nächten fällt die schwere Erde
aus allen Sternen in die Einsamkeit.

Wir allen fallen. Diese Hand da fällt.
Und sieh dir andre an: es ist in allen.

Und doch ist einer, welcher dieses Fallen
undendlich sanft in seinen Händen hält.

The leaves are falling, falling as if from afar,
as if withered in the distant gardens of heaven;
with nay-saying gestures they fall .

And in the nights falls the heavy earth
from all the stars into loneliness.

We all are falling. This hand there falls.
And look at the other: it is in all of them.

And yet there is one, who holds all this
falling with infinite gentleness in his hands.

Das Karussell -
Jardin du Luxembourg

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 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, irgend wohin, 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 . . .

   Rainer Maria Rilke
The Merry-Go-Round -
Luxembourg Gardens

With a roof and its shadows dark turns
for a small moment the assembly
of colorful horses, all from that land
that hesitates long before it descends.
True, many are harnessed to the wagon,
yet still they all have courage in their faces;
a fierce, angry lion is one among them
and then and again a pure white elephant.

An elk is there, just like in the woods,
but now he wears a saddle on his back
and in it is tied a little girl in blue.

And on the lion rides dressed in white a boy
and a small, passionate hand himself does hold
while the lion roars and shows his tongue and teeth.

And then and again a pure white elephant.

And on the horses around again they come,
the girls, bright, all but grown too big
for such prancing; in the middle of the swing,
out they look, to somewhere, over there—

And then and again a pure white elephant.

And it goes on and hurries to its end,
and circles about itself and has no goal.
A red, a green, a gray is sent along,
an outline small and hardly yet begun—
And sometimes a laughing face will turn again,
a blessing, that dazzles and just as quickly fades,
in this blind, breathless play . . .

   (all tr. Cliff Crego)

for $49.95 + shipping or
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New English translations
from the German of 80
of Rainer Maria Rilke's
best poems, together
with 120 color prints
from the High Wallowas.
With introduction . . .

| preview opens in new window |



| view / print Picture/Poem Poster: Initial (86 K) | or download as PDF |

| To view a beautiful painting Albert Edelfeldt, made just nine years before The Merry-Go-Round
was written, go to Jardin du Luxembourg (1887) |

| see also the Rilke Posters |

| listen to other recordings in English and German of twelve poems from
The Book of Images
at The Rilke Download Page
(# Includes instructions) |
See other recent additions of new English translations of
Rilke's poetry, together with
featured photographs at:

(7) May: Sky Tracks—a 'Found-poem' Photo

(6) May: Wonders in the Form of a Flower

| see also a selection of recent Picture/Poem "Rilke in translation" features at the Rilke Archive.


"Straight roads,
Slow rivers,
Deep clay."
A collection of contemporary Dutch poetry
in English translation, with commentary
and photographs
by Cliff Crego

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