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(4 December 1875 – 29 December 1926 / Prague / Czech Republic)

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Autumn Day

Lord: it is time. The summer was immense.
Lay your shadow on the sundials
and let loose the wind in the fields.

Bid the last fruits to be full;
give them another two more southerly days,
press them to ripeness, and chase
the last sweetness into the heavy wine.

Whoever has no house now will not build one
anymore.
Whoever is alone now will remain so for a long
time,
will stay up, read, write long letters,
and wander the avenues, up and down,
restlessly, while the leaves are blowing.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003


Read poems about / on: summer, house, wind, alone, autumn, time

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  • Václav Z J Pinkava (10/24/2013 2:17:00 PM)

    Rainer Maria Rilke
    Harvest-tide (Herbsttag)

    Lord: it is time. The summer's breadth was vast.
    Repose Thy shadow over sundial faces,
    Let the gales race the plains, released at last.

    Charge now the laggard fruit to fill full shape;
    Grant two more days of southerliness, pleasing,
    Urging to wholesomeness, give chase uneasing
    To top up sweetness in the burdened grape.

    Who has no house as yet, shall always lack.
    Who is alone, more solitary owing,
    Will gaze, and read, composing letters growing,
    And pacing avenues hark forth and back,
    Restlessly wander, while the leaves are blowing.

    (vzjp)

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  • Jacques Van Damme (2/12/2010 11:33:00 AM)

    Here's what I think to be a much better translation by Walter Arndt

    Lord: it is time. Great was the summer's feast.
    Now lay upon the sun-dials your shadow
    And on the meadows have the winds released

    Command the last fruits to round their shapes;
    Grant two more days of south for vines to carry,
    to their perfection thrust them on, and harry
    the final sweetness into heavy grapes.

    Who has not built his house, will not start now.
    Who is now by himself will long be so,
    Be wakeful, read, write lengthy letters, go
    In vague disquiet pacing up and down
    Denuded lanes, with leaves adrift below.

  • Andrew Hoellering (1/13/2010 7:32:00 AM)

    This fine poem is redolent of the slow, easy movements of Autumn, far better conveyed in the original language (thank you, Jo Bennett) than in the translation.
    For instance, ‘Befiehl den letzten fruchten voll zu sein’ suggests the slow unfolding of time needed for the fruit to ripen entirely missing from the abrupt’bid the last fruits to be full.’
    This reminds me of the definition of poetry as that which gets left out in translation.

  • Jo Bennett (3/24/2006 11:58:00 AM)

    Herbsttag

    Herr, es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr groß.
    Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren,
    und auf den Fluren laß die Winde los.

    Befiehl den letzten Früchten voll zu sein;
    gib ihnen noch zwei südlichere Tage,
    dränge sie zur Vollendung hin und jage
    die letzte Süße in den schweren Wein.

    Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr.
    Wer jetzt allein ist, wird es lange bleiben,
    wird wachen, lesen, lange Briefe schreiben
    und wird in den Alleen hin und her
    unruhig wandern, wenn die Blätter treiben.

    Rainer Maria Rilke

    Aus 'Das Buch der Bilder'

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