Friday, November 18, 2011

Rilke again: "I love the dark hours of my being" / "Ich liebe meines Wesens Dunkelstunden"

In line with the earlier excerpt from Rilke's Das Stundenbuch / The Book of Hours, there is a piece hinting at darkness and silence and depth that I would like to share with you.

I might actually be more fond of the first seven stanzas than the five that conclude this poem. More of that later.

I love the dark hours of my being
in which my senses drop into the deep.
I have found in them, as in old letters,
my private life, that is already lived through,
and become wide and powerful now, like legends.
Then I know that there is room in me
for a second huge and timeless life.

But sometimes I am like the tree that stands
over a grave, a leafy tree, fully grown,
who has lived out that particular dream, that the dead boy
(around whom its warm roots are pressing)
lost through his sad moods and his poems.


Ich liebe meines Wesens Dunkelstunden,
in welchen meine Sinne sich vertiefen;
in ihnen hab ich, wie in alten Briefen,
mein täglich Leben schon gelebt gefunden
und wie Legende weit und uberwunden.
Aus ihnen kommt mir Wissen, dass ich Raum
zu einem zweiten zeitlos breiten Leben habe.

Und manchmal bin ich wie der Baum,
der, reif und rauschend, über einem Grabe
den Traum erfüllt, den der vergangne Knabe
(um den sich seine warmen Wurzeln drängen)
verlor in Traurigkeiten und Gesängen.


Again I am seduced by the tangible singing blackness of Rilke's. My senses drop into the deep as I read his lines. I see that Bly, the translator, has made a choice in translating "vertiefen" into "drop into the deep". This is not a direct translation, which I don't think possible with this Germanic word (we have the same, "fortape", in Norwegian). However the interpretation Bly makes here I think gains the reading of the poem. "Drop into the deep" fits very well with the tone of the poem and where it comes from.

Through the dark hours of his being, Rilke has found endless room in himself, "for a second huge and timeless life". This I understand well. It is perhaps nothing I could explain very well, but this notion of a huge and timeless life, depersonalised, speaks its blackly glimmering language in my ears.

The ending I to some degree find a little pity-me, a kind of melancholy feeling sorry for himself. A hard judgment perhaps, but the concluding line "lost through his sad moods and his poems" doesn't ring well with me. On the other side, Rilke is pointing to something very human and understandable. He sometimes feels like he is in another depersonalised form, that of a a vast and upright tree looking down on the boy (himself) who got lost in his sad moods an poems/songs. Actually this is just another way of saying what he said in the first part of the poem. The tree-boy is purely that vital and timeless part of him that the moody and broody poetry writing boy doesn't get to experience.

With the seasonal darkness pressing in on the windows from around 4 pm everyday, the darkness is quite tangible here. Still I can conclude with the opening line: I love the dark hours of my being.


Junia said...

I never liked poetry, but your blog is seriously causing me to reconsider. I am working right now but I'll come back later. :)

Thekla said...

Well, I definitely take that as a compliment. Welcome back when you have the time!