Friday, December 10, 2010

Dancing With Rilke

My friend, Conal Boyce, shared with me by handwritten snail mail a poem by Ranier Maria Rilke called Immer Wieder. He said that I reminded him of this poem as he read one of my early posts. He gave me two translations, one by Robert Bly and one by Donald Prate. So that is what this posting is about. As I write I am playing Henryk Gorecki's Symphony Of Sorrowful Songs. I will give you first the German, Rilke's poem in German. Then Robert Bly's attempt follows and then Donald Prate's work. Last I shall give you the poem I wrote tonight to the translated thoughts of Rilke, supported by the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs.

Conal only used two special characters. I know how to find them in Word. I will trust that he is right and there are no more. I am a singer. I have sung German many times, Bach's Christmas Oratorio for one, so I am not completely at sea with German. I know what it sounds like when we sing it. Also, I am trusting my friend to have preserved Rilke's capitalization. I will pass the capitalization along that way since it was easy to look up "chasm" and I knew the others. I wonder why the translator's didn't. I think Ranier meant it.

Immer Wieder

Immer wieder, ob wir der Liebe Landschaft auch kennen
und den klienen Kirchhof mit seinen klagenden Namen
und die furchtbar verschweigende Schlucht, in wecher die andern
enden: immer weider gehn wir zu zweien hinaus
unter die alten Bäume, lagern uns immer wieder
zwischen die Blumen, gegenüber dem Himmel.
- Rilke, 1914

First, Bly's:

Again, Again!

Again, again, even if we know the Countryside of Love,
and the tiny Churchyard with it's Names mourning,
and the Chasm, more and more silent, terrifying, into which the others

dropped: we walk out together anyway
beneath the ancient trees, we lie down again,
again among the flowers, and face the sky.

Now Prate's:

Time And Again

however well we know the Landscape of Love,
and the little Churchyard with lamenting names,
and the frightfully silent Ravine wherein all the others
end: time and again we go out two together,
under the old trees, lie down again and again
between the flowers, face to face with the sky.

I read all three. Then I said it like this. The poem came quickly. Transcribing was much slower.

How We Love Again
(Dancing With Rilke)

Say it again, love.
Tell me the truth as if you
were before the cross
swearing, holiness
at your back. Look at the stones,
the upright curling
whispers of the stones.

Hear them ease out songs, true tales
of the old abyss
in the core of love
and how we love anyway,
again and again
standing as trees stand,
colorful flowers blazing
in the wind of fall
though we know snow comes,
though we know the weight, terror's
weight, moaning dry wind,
and still we lie down
together in sere gardens,

again and again
wedded in love's way,
you and me and all the rest,
again and again,
how we face the sky.

‎December ‎10, ‎2010 6:50 PM


  1. Why Christopher, you and Rilke could be the same person!

  2. excellent Christopher! and you came up with what I consider to be more thorough answers.

    I was talking with someone else who could see what I meant when I had once talked about preforming calculus with words and approaching limits.

    It was after reading Eliot and I was sort of blown away (which is why I get so excited sometimes and talk 'gibberish' but it seems whether you understand me or not you are doing it)

    And we talked about whether or not some of the old works that were published, whether or not the poets knew what they were doing or if some of the hidden meaning was intentional.

    Many days I honestly believe that some of the hidden meaning could not have been cloaked to be invisible (like it is) yet spell it out when viewed in specific patterns.

    anyway, I know that may not sound coherrent, but more words will just make it worse (as far as straight forward) so I guess I should leave it with these

  3. Lakeviewer, I understand what you are seeing, I think. But he was much much more classically educated than I am and also he suffered more serious depressions than I do. Thank you for saying such a thing.

  4. Who, speaking as a poet, many things come by serendipity. Perhaps that is the word. If you take many photos the chances rise that you will have some really quality shots from time to time. The same with poems...if you write one a day or more for a year not only will some great ones come by accident, but you will actually improve as well. At least the poets called to the work will improve. So you can't necessarily know whether a poet knows what he is saying, or else that he knows what you see him saying.

    I can tell you that sometimes people will rave about some poem of mine that only barely passed muster. They really like a poem I almost rejected. After they like it, I can't figure out why. Other times I really like a poem and no one seems to care for it. That's disconcerting, but it is one more piece of evidence that I march to a different drum.

    There are good reasons I was a drunken dope fiend. There are also good reasons I have been sober 28 years.

  5. Other times I really like a poem and no one seems to care for it.

    Which just goes to prove, a poet writes the words, but the readers decide the value of them...In the long run, does this really count? Isn't the important thing the fact that the words were written, and communictaion has taken place?

  6. Hey Jinsky...

    It certainly proves that writing a poem is not the same experience as reading a poem. As a practice, writing does not actually demand readers. No readers are present most times I write. While it used to be true that I relied on the idea that someone would read my work, these days I seem to just write. That has worked out better, by the way. I have more readers than I ever have. I think I am over the hump.

  7. After all three, I feel convinced. Of what, I can not name, however I am ready to succumb. No, not succumb. Something less violent.

    This in yours,

    Hear them ease out songs, true tales
    of the old abyss
    in the core of love
    and how we love anyway,
    again and again.


    I think too of a writer that I have just discovered, Elbert Hubbard, and how when his ship had been struck by enemy fire and he and his wife were about to go down, he was asked, 'What are you going to do?' and he just shook his head, while Mrs. Hubbard smiled and said, 'There does not seem to be anything to do.' They closed a door and calmly went to die together.


  8. "Say it again, love.
    Tell me the truth as if you
    were before the cross
    swearing, holiness
    at your back,"

    I love this but I wonder if any of us could actually do this, certainly not when we were young. I'm only just now learning the truth about myself.

    Lovely poems.

  9. :D If I am 65, why would I be writing about 25 year olds?

    Thank you for commenting.

  10. I read up a little on Elbert Hubbard after your comment, Erin. He went down on the Lusitania, and that sinking was the start of World War I for us if I remember my history right. The story you tell of him belongs to a man who told his son how his father died, that according to Wiki.

    I find it remarkable that you are reading Hubbard. How did you find his work?


The chicken crossed the road. That's poultry in motion.

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