September: Violence, Suffering and the Tree of  Joy
(click on image to enlarge photo)
calyx with bracts "And the miraculous comes so close
to the ruined, dirty houses—
something not known to anyone at all,
but wild in our breast for centuries."

from a poem by
Anna Akhmatova

This week, an image called
Calyx with bracts . . .
Also: two new translations
from the German, and a
special guest feature by the Russian
poet, Anna Akhmatova, in the
Kunitz translation.

Violence, Suffering and the Tree of Joy

Rilke left a large body of uncollected work which includes some 500 poems.
The second piece presented here, so powerfully expressive in character, gives
voice to the profound sense of despair and loss Rilke felt as he witnessed the
Europe which he loved and knew so well divide against itself in all-out conflict.
It concludes with an image of a tree breaking apart, what he calls
his "
Tree of Joy." It is an image which gives one pause. It calls forth the presence
of something like a magnificent European stone pine, one so old and gnarled that
it would have already seemed ancient to a Mozart or Goethe, now being mindlessly
axed to the ground. Creation is always—evidently even for the Earth itself—hard,
slow work; Destruction, on the other hand—as we know better now than ever—
can happen to us—even an entire culture—in an instant.

As a complement to the two Rilke pieces, I've included the magnificent Kunitz
translation of a poem by the great Russian poet, Anna Akhmatova. She was
a woman who knew firsthand the suffering which comes with war. As an histroical
note, Akhmatova was a close friend of Marina Tsvetaeva, who was in turn one
of Rilke's closest friends towards the end of his life.

clip of calyx

| poster | pdf |

| listen to a recording of Cliff Crego reading
three translations

of poems by Anna Akhmatova |
Everything is plundered, betrayed, sold,
Death's great black wing scrapes the air,
Misery gnaws to the bone.
Why then do we not despair?

By day, from the surrounding woods,
cherries blow summer into town;
at night the deep transparent skies
glitter with new galaxies.

And the miraculous comes so close
to the ruined, dirty houses—
something not known to anyone at all,
but wild in our breast for centuries.

Anna Akhmatova

(tr. by Stanley Kunitz with Max Hayward)


Wem willst du klagen, Herz? Immer /
ringt sich dein Weg durch die unbegreiflichen
Menschen. Mehr noch vergebens vielleicht,
da er die Richtung behält,
Richtung zur Zukunft behält,
zu der verlorenen.

Früher. Klagtest? Was wars? Eine gefallene
Beere des Jubels, unreife.
Jetzt aber bricht mir mein Jubel-Baum,
bricht mir im Sturme mein langsamer
Schönster in meiner unsichtbaren
Landschaft, der du mich kenntlicher
machtest Engeln, unsichtbaren.

Rainer Maria Rilke
(Paris July, 1914)

To whom shall you complain, heart? Ever more /
your way wrestles through the impenetrable
people. The more to no avail perhaps,
because it holds to the direction,
holds to the direction of the future,
to what's lost.

In the past. You complained? What was it? A fallen
berry of Joy, unripe.
But now my whole Tree of Joy is breaking,
in the storm my slowly grown Tree of Joy
is breaking.
Most beautiful thing in my invisible
landscape, you who made me more knowable
to angels, invisible ones.

   (tr. Cliff Crego)

clip of complaint

| poster | pdf |

| listen to Complaint in 
German / Enlgish
one recording # |

Ernste Stunde

Wer jetzt weint irgendwo in der Welt,
ohne Grund weint in der Welt,
weint über mich.

Wer jetzt lacht irgendwo in der Nacht,
ohne Grund lacht in der Nacht,
lacht mich aus.

Wer jetzt geht irgendwo in der Welt,
ohne Grund geht in de Welt,
geht zu mir.

Wer jetzt stirbt irgendwo in der Welt,
ohne Grund stirbt in der Welt:
sieht mich an.

Rainer Maria Rilke (c. 1905)
Solemn Hour

Whoever cries now somewhere in the world,
without reason cries in the world,
cries about me.

Whoever laughs now somewhere in the night,
without reason laughs in the night,
laughs at me.

Whoever goes now somewhere in the world,
without reason goes in the world,
comes to me.

Whoever dies now somewhere in the world,
without reason dies in the world:
looks at me.

   (tr. Cliff Crego)

| view / print Picture/Poem Poster: Solemn Hour (86 K) | pdf |


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

| 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

| # listen to other recordings in English and German of eight poems from
The Book of Images
at The Rilke Download Page (# Includes instructions)
| back to r2c | back to Picture/Poems: Central Display |
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Photograph/Texts of Translations © 2001 Cliff Crego