4 December 1875 - birthday of Rainer Maria Rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke (full name René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke) was born on the 4th December 1875 in Prague, Bohemia, at the time part of the Austrian Empire. He was a  poet and novelist who wrote in German and also French and whose literature has been translated into several languages. He died on the 29th December 1926 in Montreux, Switzerland after getting ill with leukaemia.

The website Rainer Maria Rilke has a vast amount of his poems and novels and you can find websites with the English translations. There are also many of his poems on YouTube, often read out beautifully with music. I found three which I loved listening to, but have also added the text  for you to read as you listen, and the English version.

Herbsttag

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

Befiehl 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.

Lord, it is time. This was a very big summer.
Lay your shadows over the sundial,
and let the winds loose on the fields.

Command the last fruits to be full;
give them two more sunny days,
urge them on to fulfillment and throw
the last sweetness into the heavy wine.

Who has no house now, will never build one.
Whoever is alone now, will long remain so,
Will watch, read, write long letters
and will wander in the streets, here and there
restlessly, when the leaves blow.

Einsamkeit

Die Einsamkeit ist wie ein Regen.
Sie steigt vom Meer den Abenden entgegen:
von Ebenen, die fern sind und entlegen,
geht sie zum Himmel, der sie immer hat.
Und erst vom Himmel fällt sie auf die Stadt.

Regnet hernieder in den Zwitterstunden,
wenn sich nach Morgen wenden alle Gassen
und wenn die Leiber, welche nichts gefunden,
enttäuscht und traurig von einander lassen;
und wenn die Menschen, die einander hassen,
in einem Bett zusammen schlafen müssen:

dann geht die Einsamkeit mit den Flüssen …

Loneliness

Being apart and lonely is like rain.
It climbs toward evening from the ocean plains;
from flat places, rolling and remote, it climbs
to heaven, which is its old abode.
And only when leaving heaven drops upon the city.

It rains down on us in those twittering
hours when the streets turn their faces to the dawn,
and when two bodies who have found nothing,
dissapointed and depressed, roll over;
and when two people who despise eachother
have to sleep together in one bed-

that is when loneliness receives the rivers…

Ich finde dich in allen diesen Dingen,
denen ich gut und wie ein Bruder bin;
als Samen sonnst du dich in den geringen
und in den großen giebst du groß dich hin.

Das ist das wundersame Spiel der Kräfte,
dass sie so dienend durch die Dinge gehn:
in Wurzeln wachsend, schwindend in die Schäfte
und in den Wipfeln wie ein Auferstehn.

I find you, Lord, in all Things and in all
my fellow creatures, pulsing with your life;
as a tiny seed you sleep in what is small
and in the vast you vastly yield yourself.

The wondrous game that power plays with Things
is to move in such submission through the world:
groping in roots and growing thick in trunks
and in treetops like a rising from the dead.

 

Do you have any favourite Rilke poems?

 

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