Monday morning poem: Lord: it is time.

After a week of travel, I am home, and I find that autumn has met me here.  I traditionally post this poem, “Herbsttag”, by Rainer Maria Rilke, when the moment seems right – it’s a very famous one, the subject of many dozens of English translations.

C. John Holcombe has an extended online essay on the considerations that go into translating such a soft, vivid, metered-and-rhymed poem, which I think is wonderfully worth reading.  Translation is a humbling enterprise, and the shifting colors of the poem are lovely and intriguing to see in variation.

I was really introduced to Rilke through the translations of Stephen Mitchell, who prefers blank verse.  Here is his version.

Autumn Day.

End of Summer

Lord: it is time. The huge summer has gone by.
Now overlap the sundials with your shadows,
and on the meadows let the wind go free.

Command the fruits to swell on tree and vine;
grant them a few more warm transparent days,
urge them on to fulfillment then, and press
the final sweetness into the heavy wine.

Whoever has no house now, will never have one.
Whoever is alone will stay alone,
will sit, read, write long letters through the evening,
and wander the boulevards, up and down,
restlessly, while the dry leaves are blowing.

Trans. Stephen Mitchell
Photo by Jim Wallace

—-

German original:

Herr: es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr groß.
Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren,
und auf den Fluren laß die Winde los.

Befiel den letzten Früchten voll zu sein;
gib ihnen noch zwei südlichere Tage,
dränge sie zur Vollendung hin und jage
die letzte Süße in den schweren Wein.

Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr.
Wer jetzt allein ist, wird Es lange bleiben,
wird wachen, lesen, lange Briefe schreiben
und wird in den Alleen hin und her
unruhig wandern, wenn die Blätter treiben.

Rainer Maria Rilke