Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Last Sweetness

A sea nymph blackjack dealer tries to get a winning hand 
in the California Delta region for Lady Salmonin 
"The Gold Fish", an environmental drama 
by Water Underground production,
performed at the Crocker Art Museum 
for Water Day, Oct 16.
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Rainer Maria Rilke

Lord: it is time. The summer was immense.
Stretch out your shadow on the sundial's face,
and on the meadows let the winds go loose.

Command the last fruits to be full in time;
grant them even two more southerly days,
press them toward fulfillment soon and chase
the last sweetness into the heavy wine.

Whoever has no house now, will build none.
Who is alone now, will stay long alone,
will lie awake, read, get long letters written,
and through the streets that follow up and down
will wander restless, when the leaves are driven.

(trans. from the German by John Felsteiner)


—Rainer Maria Rilke

We never knew his head and all the light
that ripened in his fabled eyes. But
his torso still glows like a candelabra,
in which his gazing, turned down low,

holds fast and shines. Otherwise the surge
of the breast could not blind you, nor a smile
run through the slight twist of the loins
toward that center where procreation thrived.

Otherwise this stone would stand deformed and curt
under the shoulders' invisible plunge
and not glisten just like wild beasts' fur;

and not burst forth from all its contours 
like a star; for there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

(trans. from the German by Edward Snow)


—Rainer Maria Rilke

(Im Jardin des Plantes, Paris)

Always passing bars has dulled
His sight so, it will hold no more.
For him, there are a thousand bars;
Behind the thousand bars, no world.

The soft walk of his strong, lithe strides
Turns in the smallest of all orbits
Like the dance of force around an axis
Where a great will stands stupefied.

Only sometimes, the curtain of his eye
Lifts, noiselessly—an image enters,
That runs through his tense, arrested members
In the heart, to die.

(trans. from the German by W.D. Snodgrass)

—Rainer Maria Rilke

All at once something 
from the green world's gone;
something . . . the park comes right up
to the window—without a sound.

A plover whistles in the wood,
grave and urgent, like Jerome,
desert saint poised to translate
out of whiteness, skulls and bones,

whose effort the rain will echo.
The chateau walls, as if oppressed
by the brooding paintings in their frames,
recede; reluctant to hear our words betray us.

And the worn tapestries are strewn 
with the off light of childhood
afternoons you feared would never end.

(trans. from the German by Mark Rudman)


—Rainer Maria Rilke

Spring has returned. The earth is
like a child who knows poems.
Many, many . . . She gets the prize
from the hardship of extensive learning.

Her teacher was strict.
We like the white in the old man's beard.
Now, as to what the blue is, the green,
we can ask her: She knows, she knows.

Earth, off from work, lucky one, play now
with us children. We want to catch you,
jubilant earth. The most joyouse succeeds.

Ah, what the old man taught her—the manifold
and what is written in roots and in long,
difficult stems: She sings it. She sings.

(trans. from the German by Charles Haseloff)


Today's LittleNip: 

—Philip Larkin

What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.

They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.



Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove