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Susan McLean 12-19-2021 07:53 AM

Rilke, The Adventurer, II
The Adventurer


In those days—(no, there were no days then) when
the flood contended with him for his cell ,
the deepest, as if it were not his own,
and, rising, bumped him on the stones
that formed the vaulted arch he knew so well,

there suddenly occurred to him a name,
one that he bore in ages long ago.
And once again he realized: lives came
when called by him; as if they flew,

they came to him, the perished lives, still warm,
and he, impatiently, more riskily,
kept living in the midst of them;
or lives not lived to full capacity,
and he knew how to raise them up to where
the lives were meaningful once more.

Often no place around him was secure,
and he was shivering: I am—
yet in the instant after, he became
just like a queen’s beloved paramour.

Time after time, existence could be had:
the fates of boys who barely had begun,
which, as if out of fear of where they led,
had been abandoned, broken off, he’d seize,
taking them up and grabbing them as his,
for he just needed to walk through the tomb
of such relinquished lives a single time
and fragrance of their possibilities
was wafting in the air again.


In den Tagen - (nein, es waren keine),
da die Flut sein unterstes Verlies
ihm bestritt, als wär es nicht das seine,
und ihn, steigend, an die Steine
der daran gewöhnten Wölbung stieß,

fiel ihm plötzlich einer von den Namen
wieder ein, die er vor Zeiten trug.
Und er wusste wieder: Leben kamen,
wenn er lockte; wie im Flug

kamen sie noch warme Leben Toter,
die er, ungeduldiger, bedrohter,
weiterlebte mitten drin;
oder die nicht ausgelebten Leben,
und er wusste sie hinaufzuheben,
und sie hatten wieder Sinn.

Oft war keine Stelle an ihm sicher,
und er zitterte: Ich bin - - -
doch im nächsten Augenblicke glich er
dem Geliebten einer Königin.

Immer wieder war ein Sein zu haben:
die Geschicke angefangner Knaben,
die, als hätte man sie nicht gewagt,
abgebrochen waren, abgesagt,
nahm er auf und riss sie in sich hin;
denn er musste einmal nur die Gruft
solcher Aufgegebener durchschreiten,
und die Düfte ihrer Möglichkeiten
lagen wieder in der Luft.

Literal translation:
The Adventurer


In those days—(no, there were none)
when the flood contested him
for his deepest dungeon, as if it were not his own,
and, rising, knocked him on the stones
of his accustomed vault,

suddenly there occurred to him again one of the names
that he bore in times before.
And he realized again: lives came
when he beckoned; as if in flight,

they came still warm, the dead lives,
which he, more impatiently, more threatened,
went on living in the midst of;
or the lives not fully lived out,
and he knew how to raise them up,
and they had meaning again.

Often there was no place secure around him,
and he trembled: I am—
yet in the next instant he was like
the lover of a queen.

Over and over, an existence was to be had:
the fates of boys who had just begun,
which, as if they had not dared [to live them],
had been abandoned, broken off,
he took up and snatched into himself,
because he had to walk through the tomb
of such surrendered [lives] only once
and the scents of their possibilities
lay in the air again.

Julie Steiner 12-21-2021 12:42 AM

Hard to see the connection between this and Part I. Maybe the protagonist in Part II is the same, but he was only imagining the glittering life in Part I? Or maybe it was part of his past?

Susan McLean 12-21-2021 07:09 AM

Julie, I am guessing that both parts are disguised versions of Rilke himself. He lived among the wealthy aristocrats as their pet poet, yet he probably saw himself at the same time as living within the dungeon of his own mind and existence, trying to escape by imagining other lives.


Julie Steiner 12-21-2021 11:22 PM

That makes a lot of sense. Especially if what the prisoner does to revive the fragrant memories/possibilities of people he encountered is similar to what Rilke the poet does with them. Thanks.

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