September: The Staghorn Sumac and the Poetry of Listening
(click on photo to enlarge)
Staghorn Summac, Early Autumn "Words gently end at the edge /
    of the Unsayable . . .
And Music, ever new, out the most /
   trembling of stones,
builds in unusable space its /
   deified house."

from the Second Part
of the
Sonnets to Orpheus
by Rainer Maria Rilke 

This week, an image of Staghorn
 Also: new translations
from the German.

The guest poems for this week are new English translations from the work of the German language 
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:


Alles Erworbene bedroht die Maschine, solange
sie auch erdreistet, im Geist, statt im Gehorchen, zu sein.
Daß nicht der herrlichen Hand schöneres Zörgen mehr prange,
zu dem entschlossenern Bau schneidet sie steifer den Stein.

Nirgends bleibt sie zurück, daß wir ihr ein Mal entrönnen
und sie in stiller Fabrik ölend sich selbe gehört.
Sie ist das Leben,—sie meint es am besten zu können,
die mit dem gleichen Entschluß ordnet und schafft und zerstört.

Aber noch ist uns das Dasein verzaubert; an hundert
Stellen ist noch Ursprung. Ein Spielen von reinen
Kräften, die keiner berührt, die nicht kniet und bewundert.

Worte gehen noch zart am Unsäglichen aus . . .
Und die Musik, immer neu, aus den bebendsten Steinen,
baut im unbrauchbaren Raum ihr vergöttlichtes Haus.


All achievement is threatened by the machine, as long
as it dares to take its place in the mind, instead of obeying.
That the master's hand no longer shines forth in fine lingerings,
now it cuts to the determined design more rigidly the stone.

Nowhere does it remain behind, that for once we might escape
as it oils and abides by itself in the silent factories.
It has become Life,—it thinks it can do everything best
and with like determination orders and creates and destroys.

And yet for us Being is still enchanted; on a hundred
planes is still origin. A play of pure energies
touched by no one who has not knelt down and is amazed.

Words gently end at the edge of the Unsayable . . .
And Music, ever new, out the most trembling of stones,
builds in unusable space its deified house.

| view / print Picture/Poem Poster: Sonnets to Orpheu: X [SECOND PART] (86 K) | or download as PDF |

| 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:

(14) September: Fireweeds, Machines and the Poetry of Listening

(13) August: The Gentian and the Poetry of Light and Darkness

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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