From the German and Russian
Rainer Maria Rilke
Wind from the moon,
Suddenly shaken trees,
And a fallen leaf.
Between the intervals
Of faint lanterns
Moves the distant black landscape
In the irresolute city.
All flags were raised higher.
Hugo von Hofmannsthal
Do You See the City?
Do you see the city as it rests there,
Quietly snuggling in the clothes of the night?
From the moon pours down upon it
A silversilk flood in magical splendor.
The mild night wind blows her breath here,
So ghostly, issuing a faint sound:
She cries in the dream, she breathes deep and hard,
She lisps, mysteriously, temptingly anxious.
The dark cry, it sleeps in my heart
With brilliance and fire, with painfully colorful magnificence:
Yet its reflection hovers flatteringly around you,
Subdued to a whisper, gliding through the night.
Unending shoe strap – on
The ghosts chew –
Binds two bloody toes together
In an oath of companionship.
In the Path through the Crack in the Shadows…
In the path through the crack in the shadows
Out of the four-finger-furrow
I rummage through the
Love Song (1892)
Betty, pretty waitress,
Do not laugh so mean!
You ought to be a demon less
And come and be my queen.
Ah, you don’t know how I regret it,
When with gestures and words,
You refuse to extend my credit
In front of the customers!
If today you don’t respond,
But act even stricter and still less sunny,
Know that you must carry on
Without your friend and without your money!
I Had Asked You Why
I had asked you why your eyes
Like to rest in mine,
Like a star refined
In a dark-flooded sky.
For a long time you had
Looked at me as one gazes at a child,
And then said with a smile:
I am good to you because you are so sad.
How the Days are…
How the days are filled with misery!
No fires to warm me have been left,
No sun to smile at me,
Everything is empty,
Everything is cold and merciless,
Even the lovely clear stars
Are as desolate as I,
Since I discovered that in the heart
Love can die.
I Love Women…
I love women who for a thousand years
Were beloved of poets and praised to all ears.
I love cities whose empty walled rings
Are entrusted to the ancient lineages of kings.
I love cities that will one day be bought
When those living today fill their graveyard plots.
I love women – slender, without peer,
Those unborn who rest in the lap of years.
They will some day with their pale starry gleam
Compare to the beauty of my dreams.
When you give me your little hand
That conveys so much you never say,
Have I ever asked in any way
If you love me, if you can?
I don’t desire love from thee,
Only that I know you’re near
And that once in a while dear
You softly and silently give your hand to me.
Softly as the Gondolas…
Down the clear canals, shining in the morning light,
The gondolas glide in delicate flight,
As our love in perfect balance sways
Upon the blue sea of day,
As the hours flow through our hands
Easily and without end:
One that sparkles from the delight of laughter,
One that darkens in the dusk thereafter,
One that overflows with song,
One that bleeds in sweetened calm.
We fall silent and behold the horizon,
Its beautiful setting and rising,
Drops from the oar wiped off our hands,
Our fingers entwined in a sisterly band,
Rarely can just one kiss repeat
This hushed bestowal and receipt…
And so the hours through our hands
Flow easily past us without end.
Look, I understand your swearing;
But the world will remain as you see it there,
Your hatred will not change a hair.
Man is a spoiled brute,
But are you yourself good – are you such ripe fruit?
I would attempt it through love and caring.
Often I felt tired and in decline,
Now my full youth again blazes strong
And foams upward like younger, sweeter wine
And laughs and pursues and sings love songs.
In yearning I go about my daily chores
And greet every passing cloud in the blue
And in the evenings climb alone up the mountain towards
That distant house to look upon you.
How can you sleep when outside your window
The spring wind blows so heavy and calm
And my love songs below
And my trembling love asking for alms.
Always was I on my feet,
Always a pilgrim,
Little did I save to eat,
Fortune and pain together grew slim.
Unknown was the logic and aim
Of my travels,
A thousand times I fell down lame
And raised myself from the gravel.
Ah, it was the star of love
That I left to seek,
That hung in the heavens above,
A divine and distant streak.
As long as I kept that goal in sight,
I traveled with ease,
I lusted after great heights,
I was easy to please.
Now I hardly know the star,
It has reached too late an hour
It has since migrated far
Away, blown by with the morning showers.
The colorful world now bids farewell
That I loved with all my soul.
If I missed the point, then tell
Them the journey was nonetheless bold.
Love Song (1920)
I am the stag and you are the doe,
You the bird and I the tree,
You the sun and I the snow,
You are the day and I am the dream.
At night, out of my sleeping mouth
Flies a golden bird to you, true south.
Colorful are his wings, his voice strong,
He sings to you the song of love,
He sings to you my song.
Arrogant, sublime and mysterious,
Mouth full of scorn, forehead full of pride,
Glance scintillatingly serious –
And your heavy golden locks
Hanging at your side.
I’ve seen you happy and without a care,
I’ve seen you rise in the nighttime
From your humid bed with your tousled hair,
I’ve seen you a hundred times before, but this time
Arrogant, mysterious and sublime.
On a Chinese Singer
Down the quiet river in the evening we sailed,
Rosily glistened the acacia tree,
Rosily beamed the clouds. But you did I hardly see,
I saw only the plum blossoms in your hair.
You sat smiling in the fore of the dirty boat,
Holding the sound in your practiced hand,
You sang the song of the holy Fatherland,
While in your eyes youth shimmered afloat.
I stood at the mast and made a silent demand
For these glowing eyes to be condemned
To listen in blessed torment, in eternity hemmed,
In the happy play of your blooming, tender hands.
Butterfly in the Wine
A butterfly has flown into my cup of wine,
Drunkenly he surrenders to his sweet demise,
Rowing weakly and willing to die;
Finally my finger pulls him from the brine.
Such is my heart, your eyes blind to its dire straits,
Fatally sunk in the scented cup of love,
Willing to die, drunk with the wine of your magic grove,
When a mere movement of your hand could decide my fate.
Love Song (1921/22)
Where would my home like to be?
My home is tiny,
Takes along my heart in captivity,
Makes me joyful, makes me blue;
My home is you.
Like the Wind Moaning
Like the wind moaning through the night
My desire storms for thee,
Every yearning wakes in fright—
O you who is my blight,
What you know of me!
I extinguish my late light without a trace
And stay feverishly awake for hours after,
And the night has your face,
And the wind, which speaks of love in its howling bass,
Has your unforgettable laughter!
Another leaf falls from my tree,
Another petal withers from my flowers,
Oddly, at uncertain hours
My life’s confused dream is revealed to me.
All around the void gazes at me darkly,
But in the center of the vault, all through the night,
A constellation laughs with consoling delight,
Drawing its path more and more starkly.
My good star, that sweetens the night along,
That pulls my destiny nearer and nearer,
Do you feel how my heart waits wearier
And greets you with muted song?
You see, my glance is still filled with solitude,
Only slowly am I allowed to wake to you,
Allowed to cry again, laugh again too
And put my faith in your certitude.
from Dances of Death
Night. Avenue. Street lamp. Drugstore.
The light dim and deranged.
Even if you live 25 years more
All will be the same, nothing changed.
If I die today – I’ll begin once more
And repeat everything, like before:
Night, icy ripples on the canal floor,
Street lamp. Avenue. Drugstore.
By my window
With silver snow
On the downy branch
A snowy border
With fringes of pearl
And the birch stands
In silent repose
As the snowflakes burn
In a flame of gold
And the afterglow lazily
Sprinkling the twigs
With new silver gowns.
Untitled (Oh heavens…)
Oh heavens, heavens, I will dream about you later
It can’t be that you’ve gone blind as a bat,
Who once burned in the day like a white sheet of paper
A little smoke and a little ash!