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Unread 03-13-2022, 08:20 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Default Rilke, Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes

Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes.
by Rainer Maria Rilke

That was the awe-inspiring mine of souls.
Like silent silver ore they made their way
as veins do through its dark. Between the roots,
the blood arose, which issues forth to humans,
and looked as heavy as porphyry in the dark.
Nothing else was red.

Cliffs were there
and spectral forests. Bridges over voids
and that unseeing pool, immense and gray,
that hung above the distant ground beneath it
like a rainy sky above a landscape.
Between the meadows, gentle and forbearing,
appeared the paler strip of the one path
laid down like a long track of bleaching cloth.

And on this single path they came along.

In front, the slender man in the blue cloak,
who, silent and impatient, looked before him.
His stride ate up the pathway in huge bites
without stopping to chew; his hands hung down,
clenched and heavy, from the fall of the folds,
no longer conscious of the lightweight lyre,
which had become entwined with his left hand,
like rose tendrils around an olive bough.
His senses were as if divided: while
his gaze ran on before him like a dog,
turned round, came back and went away again,
and stood awaiting him at the next turn,
his hearing, like a smell, lingered behind.
Sometimes it seemed to him as though it reached
back to the walking of those other two,
who should be following for this whole climb.
Then once more just the echo of his climbing
and the rustle of his mantle were behind him.
And yet he told himself, they still would come—
said it aloud and heard it fade away.
They still would come, only the two were walking
with terrifying softness. If he might
turn around once (if looking back were not
the ruination of this whole endeavor,
which still was being performed) he’d have to see them,
the two hushed ones who follow him in silence:

The god of passage and the distant message,
his broad-brimmed travel hat above bright eyes,
bearing the slender staff before his body
and having wings that fluttered at his ankles,
and into his left hand committed: her.

The one so loved that from one lyre came more
laments than ever came from keening women;
so that a world grew from lament, in which
all things once more were present: wood and valley
and road and village, field and flock and river;
so that around this world of lamentation,
just as around the other Earth, a sun
and a more silent starry heaven turned,
a heaven of lament with mangled stars—
this one so loved.

She, however, walked at that god’s hand,
her steps constricted by long winding sheets,
uncertain, gentle, and without impatience.
She’d drawn within, like one with higher hopes,
not thinking of the man who went before,
nor of the path ascending into life.
She’d drawn within her. And her being dead
filled her like abundance.
Like a fruit filled with sweetness and the dark,
so she was full of her enormous death,
which was so new she comprehended nothing.

She had come into a new maidenhood
and was untouchable; her sex had closed
like a young blossom as the evening neared,
and her hands had grown so unaccustomed to
the marriage now that even the gentle god’s
immeasurably gentle guiding touch
pained her, as being much too intimate.

She wasn’t any longer that blonde woman
who sometimes echoed in the poet’s songs,
the broad bed’s island and its scent no longer,
and not that man’s possession anymore.

She was already loosened like long hair
and handed over like the fallen rain
and doled out like a hundredfold supply.

She was already root.

And when, all of a sudden,
the god abruptly stopped her, with a cry
of sorrow, saying, He has turned around—
she didn’t grasp it, and said softly: Who?

But far off, dark before the light-filled exit,
some unknown person stood, whose countenance
could not be recognized. He stood and saw
how on the pale strip of a meadow path,
with a mournful glance, the god of messages
turned silently to go behind the figure
who went already down that selfsame track,
her steps constricted by long winding sheets,
uncertain, gentle, and without impatience.

Revisions:
S1L4 was "the blood sprang up, which issues forth toward men,"
S1L5 "heavy" was "hard"
S2L1 "Cliffs" were "Rocks"
S8L7 "pained" was "disturbed"; "as being" was "feeling"


Orpheus. Eurydike. Hermes.

Das war der Seelen wunderliches Bergwerk.
Wie stille Silbererze gingen sie
als Adern durch sein Dunkel. Zwischen Wurzeln
entsprang das Blut, das fortgeht zu den Menschen,
und schwer wie Porphyr sah es aus im Dunkel.
Sonst war nichts Rotes.

Felsen waren da
und wesenlose Wälder. Brücken über Leeres
und jener große graue blinde Teich,
der über seinem fernen Grunde hing
wie Regenhimmel über einer Landschaft.
Und zwischen Wiesen, sanft und voller Langmut,
erschien des einen Weges blasser Streifen,
wie eine lange Bleiche hingelegt.

Und dieses einen Weges kamen sie.

Voran der schlanke Mann im blauen Mantel,
der stumm und ungeduldig vor sich aussah.
Ohne zu kauen fraß sein Schritt den Weg
in großen Bissen; seine Hände hingen
schwer und verschlossen aus dem Fall der Falten
und wussten nicht mehr von der leichten Leier,
die in die Linke eingewachsen war
wie Rosenranken in den Ast des Ölbaums.
Und seine Sinne waren wie entzweit:
indes der Blick ihm wie ein Hund vorauslief,
umkehrte, kam und immer wieder weit
und wartend an der nächsten Wendung stand, -
blieb sein Gehör wie ein Geruch zurück.
Manchmal erschien es ihm als reichte es
bis an das Gehen jener beiden andern,
die folgen sollten diesen ganzen Aufstieg.
Dann wieder wars nur seines Steigens Nachklang
und seines Mantels Wind was hinter ihm war.
Er aber sagte sich, sie kämen doch;
sagte es laut und hörte sich verhallen.
Sie kämen doch, nur wärens zwei
die furchtbar leise gingen. Dürfte er
sich einmal wenden (wäre das Zurückschaun
nicht die Zersetzung dieses ganzen Werkes,
das erst vollbracht wird), müsste er sie sehen,
die beiden Leisen, die ihm schweigend nachgehn:

Den Gott des Ganges und der weiten Botschaft,
die Reisehaube über hellen Augen,
den schlanken Stab hertragend vor dem Leibe
und flügelschlagend an den Fußgelenken;
und seiner linken Hand gegeben: sie.

Die So-geliebte, dass aus einer Leier
mehr Klage kam als je aus Klagefrauen;
dass eine Welt aus Klage ward, in der
alles noch einmal da war: Wald und Tal
und Weg und Ortschaft, Feld und Fluss und Tier;
und dass um diese Klage-Welt, ganz so
wie um die andre Erde, eine Sonne
und ein gestirnter stiller Himmel ging,
ein Klage-Himmel mit entstellten Sternen - :
Diese So-geliebte.

Sie aber ging an jenes Gottes Hand,
den Schrittbeschränkt von langen Leichenbändern,
unsicher, sanft und ohne Ungeduld.
Sie war in sich, wie Eine hoher Hoffnung,
und dachte nicht des Mannes, der voranging,
und nicht des Weges, der ins Leben aufstieg.
Sie war in sich. Und ihr Gestorbensein
erfüllte sie wie Fülle.
Wie eine Frucht von Süßigkeit und Dunkel,
so war sie voll von ihrem großen Tode,
der also neu war, dass sie nichts begriff.

Sie war in einem neuen Mädchentum
und unberührbar; ihr Geschlecht war zu
wie eine junge Blume gegen Abend,
und ihre Hände waren der Vermählung
so sehr entwöhnt, dass selbst des leichten Gottes
unendlich leise, leitende Berührung
sie kränkte wie zu sehr Vertraulichkeit.

Sie war schon nicht mehr diese blonde Frau,
die in des Dichters Liedern manchmal anklang,
nicht mehr des breiten Bettes Duft und Eiland
und jenes Mannes Eigentum nicht mehr.

Sie war schon aufgelöst wie langes Haar
und hingegeben wie gefallner Regen
und ausgeteilt wie hundertfacher Vorrat.

Sie war schon Wurzel.

Und als plötzlich jäh
der Gott sie anhielt und mit Schmerz im Ausruf
die Worte sprach: Er hat sich umgewendet -,
begriff sie nichts und sagte leise: Wer?

Fern aber, dunkel vor dem klaren Ausgang,
stand irgend jemand, dessen Angesicht
nicht zu erkennen war. Er stand und sah,
wie auf dem Streifen eines Wiesenpfades
mit trauervollem Blick der Gott der Botschaft
sich schweigend wandte, der Gestalt zu folgen,
die schon zurückging dieses selben Weges,
den Schritt beschränkt von langen Leichenbändern,
unsicher, sanft und ohne Ungeduld.


Literal translation:
Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes.

That was the wondrous mine of souls.
Like silent silver ores they went
as veins do through its darkness. Between roots
arose the blood that departs towards men,
and it looked as hard as porphyry in the dark.
Nothing else was red.

Rocks were there
and unreal forests. Bridges over voids
and that huge gray unseeing pond,
which hung above its distant base
like a rainy sky above a landscape.
And between meadows, gentle and full of forbearance,
appeared the paler strip of one path,
laid out like one long bleaching.

And along this one path they came.

In front, the slender man in a blue cloak,
who, silent and impatient, looked before him.
His stride ate up the path without chewing,
in huge bites; his hands hung,
heavy and clenched, from the fall of the folds,
and no longer were aware of the light lyre,
which was intertwined with the left hand
like rose tendrils around the branch of an olive tree.
And his senses were as if divided:
while the gaze, like a dog, ran ahead of him,
came and went away again and again,
and stood waiting at the next turning—
his hearing lingered behind like a smell.
Sometimes it seemed to him that it reached back
all the way to the walking of those two others,
who should be following for this whole ascent.
Then once more there was only the echo of his climbing
and the breeze of his cloak that was behind him.
But he said to himself, they still would come,
said it aloud and heard it fade away.
They still would come, only the two were
walking with terrible softness. If he might
turn once (if looking back would not be
the destruction of this entire work,
which was yet to be accomplished), he must see them,
the two quiet ones who silently follow him:

the god of passage and the far-off message,
the travel hat above bright eyes,
bearing the slender staff before his body
and wings flapping at his ankles;
and committed to his left hand: her.

The one so loved that from one lyre
more lamentation came than ever from lamenting women;
so that a world came from lament, in which
everything once again was there: forest and valley
and path and village, field and river and animal;
and so that around this lament-world, just as
around the other Earth, a sun
and a starry, more silent heaven went,
a lament-heaven with disfigured stars--
this one so loved.

But she walked at that god’s hand,
her steps constricted by long winding sheets,
uncertain, gentle, and without impatience.
She was within herself, like one with higher hopes,
and did not think of the man, who went before,
and not of the path, which ascended into life.
She was within herself. And her being dead
filled her like abundance.
Like a fruit [full] of sweetness and darkness,
so she was full of her immense death,
which was so new that she understood nothing of it.

She was in a new maidenhood
and untouchable; her sex had closed
like a young blossom toward evening,
and her hands were so unaccustomed
to the marriage that even the gentle god’s
endlessly gentle guiding touch
afflicted her as too great an intimacy.

She was already no longer that blonde woman
who echoed sometimes in the poet’s songs,
no longer the wide bed’s fragrance and island,
and that man’s possession no longer.

She was already loosened like long hair
and relinquished like fallen rain
and handed out like a hundredfold supply.

She was already root.

And when suddenly at once
the god stopped her, and with sorrow in his cry
spoke the words: He has turned around—
she understood nothing and said softly: Who?

But far off, dark before the light-filled exit,
stood someone or other, whose face
could not be recognized. He stood and saw
how along the strip of a meadow path,
with a sorrowful glance, the god of messages
turned silently to follow the figure
who already went back along this same path,
her steps constricted by long winding sheets,
uncertain, gentle, and without impatience.

Last edited by Susan McLean; 03-17-2022 at 08:01 PM.
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  #2  
Unread 03-13-2022, 10:34 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Susan,

This to my mind is a really remarkable version of one of my favorite poems ever - not just by Rilke, by anybody. Thank you. I have just read the English and the German side by side, and I have really only three places where I might imagine a different English: schwer and Felsen in the opening I tend to see as heavy and cliffs, and then later, "feeling much too intimate" to my mind normalizes this superb, weird line: "sie kränkte wie zu sehr Vertraulichkeit," pained her like excessive intimacy. The bulk of this long poem I think is superb.

Cheers,
John
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  #3  
Unread 03-14-2022, 08:17 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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John, I am grateful for your suggestions and have made two changes. I did not change "hard" to "heavy" for two reasons. Porphyry was known in the ancient world as the hardest of stones, not the heaviest, and I didn't see how something could look heavy, but something that was glossy could look hard. Porphyry is purple, so the similarity to blood would be obvious. I changed "rocks" to "cliffs" and I did change "disturbed" to "pained," but the rhythm of the lines was one of the things I was trying hard to get right, and ending on "intimacy" gave the wrong rhythm to the line.

Susan
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Unread 03-14-2022, 09:42 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Susan,

How about “pained her like something much too intimate”? Feeling talk tends to sound modern and American to my ear.
Hard sounds fine to me - it’s not the German, but I suspect Rilke would have liked your argument.

Cheers,
John

Last edited by John Isbell; 03-14-2022 at 09:43 AM. Reason: Feeling
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Unread 03-14-2022, 10:39 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Location: Iowa City, IA, USA
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John, I have reconsidered on "heavy" instead of "hard." I want the translation to be accurate, and I think Rilke expects readers to picture porphyry, so they would be thinking of the heavy, glossy stone they would be likely to have seen in museums. I have tried changing "feeling" to "as being." Does that work better?

Susan
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  #6  
Unread 03-14-2022, 12:02 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Susan,

Ah, being! hard to find a more German word than that. I think you've got it. And heavy will reassure the persnickety, besides the fact that I think it works now as you have it.

Cheers,
John
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