September: Clear Water
(click on image to enlarge)
Sringwater Fountain, the Alps (b/w) "O fountain mouth, giver, you, mouth, which
speaks inexhaustibly of that one, pure thing,—
you, mask of marble placed before
the water's flowing face..."

from Sonnet XV (SECOND PART),
from Sonnets to Orpheus
by Rainer Maria Rilke 

This week, an image called
Clear Water.
Also: a new translation
from the German.

| click here to view the Clear Water
page in full color version |

The guest poemfor this week is a new English translation from the work of the German
language poet,
Rainer Maria Rilke (from the Rilke website, a concise hyperlinked biography).

The Sonnets to Orpheus

Rilke wrote the Sonnets to Orpheus * at his modest chateau in Muzot, Switzerland, during a period
of intense activity in February of 1922. It was to be his last published work. The sequence of 55
poems, all sharing the same basic form and divided into two parts, is characterized by a marvelously
light and quick energy. Indeed, they seem filled with the exuberance of the mountains in which they
were composed, where everything seems larger than life, colors brighter and more radiant, and
streams faster and more clear.

This then is a poetry of praise, of the air I breathe, the meadow through which I walk, the beauty
of a single windflower opening to receive the morning sun, and yes, of praise itself:


O Brunnen-Mund, du gebender, du Mund,
der unerschöpflich Eines, Reines, spricht,—
du, vor des Wassers fließendem Gesicht,
marmorne Maske. Und im Hintergrund

der Aquädukte Herkunft. Weither an
Gräbern vorbei, vom Hang des Apennins
tragen sie dir dein Sagen zu, das dann
am schwarzen Altern deines Kinns

vorüberfällt in das Gefäß davor.
Dies ist das schlafend hingelegte Ohr,
das Marmorohr, in das du immer sprichst.

Ein Ohr der Erde. Nur mit sich allein
redet sie also. Schiebt ein Krug sich ein,
so scheint es ihr, daß du sie unterbrichst.

   Rainer Maria Rilke

O fountain mouth, giver, you, mouth, which
speaks inexhaustibly of that one, pure thing,—
you, mask of marble placed before
the water's flowing face. In the background

the aqueducts' source. Further, beyond
all the graves, on the slopes of the Apennines,
they bring you your stories, that then,
upon the black aging of your chin,

pour over into the vessel below.
This is the ear that sleeps, laid down,
the ear of marble, into which you always speak.

An ear of the Earth. Only with herself
alone does she thus converse. Insert a jug,
and it seems to her that you interrupt.

   (tr. Cliff Crego)

clip clearwater

| view / print Picture/Poem Poster: Clear Water (Sonnet XV [2] (86 K) | or download as PDF |

| Selected Sonnets to Orpheus twenty-two poems in the order they have been featured (text only) | PDF of Six Sonnets |
* Orpheus is the musician of musicians of classical Greek mythology. He is the one
whose magical art of the lyre has the power to charm the whole of Nature—the trees,
rivers, stones and even the wild animals, into the silence of listening. Son of Calliope,
the muse of epic poetry, and a Thracian river-god (in some versions of the story Apollo),
Orpheus married the nymph Eurydice who was fated to die of a serpent bite on her heel.
In his profound grief, Orpheus follows his beloved into the underworld, and with the
sound of his lyre enchants the resident deities into consenting to her release. The one
condition which Orpheus has to meet during the ascent back to the upperworld is that
he is not to look back at Eurydice. In a brief moment of weakness, he does, however,
look back, whereby Eurydice vanishes forever without a trace.

Rejecting all women in his sadness afterwards, Orpheus is later ripped to pieces by the
Maenads. This then is the source of the famous image of Orpheus' lyre and singing head,
floating off through empty space to the island of Lesbos.

| see also the Rilke Posters |

| listen to other recordings in English and German of twelve poems from
The Book of Images
at The Rilke Download Page
(# Includes instructions) |
See other recent additions of new English translations of
Rilke's poetry, together with
featured photographs at:
((38) August: Mountains of the Heart . . .

(37) August: Moving Up into Mountain Time


See also a selection of recent Picture/Poem "Rilke in translation" features at the Rilke Archive.

See also another website
by Cliff Crego:
The Poetry of
Rainer Maria Rilke
a presentation of 80 of the
best poems of Rilke in
both German and
new English translations
biography, links, posters


"Straight roads,
Slow rivers,
Deep clay."
A collection of contemporary Dutch poetry
in English translation, with commentary
and photographs
by Cliff Crego

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Photograph/Texts of Translations © 1999 - 2002 Cliff Crego

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