October is my favorite month, autumn my favorite season, and one of my favorite poets, Rainer Maria Rilke, wrote one of my favorite poems about fall (I know, this sentence has a lot of "favorites"!). I have written about it here before, but I never seem to find a translation that I really like. At my high school library I found the poem in a translation by Robert Bly which so far I like best, even though it is not always 100% accurate. I think translating poems in a different language is one of the most difficult things to do.
The poem is called "Herbsttag" in the original which translates to "Autumn Day", but I am fine with "October Day".
Oh Lord, it is time. It was a great summer.
Lay your shadow now on the sundials,
and on the open fields let the winds go!
Give the tardy fruits the hint to fill;
give them two more Mediterranean days,
drive them on into their greatness, and press
the final sweetness into the heavy wine.
Whoever has no house by now will not build.
Whoever is alone now will remain alone,
will wait up, read, write long letters,
and walk along sidewalks under large trees,
not going home, as the leaves fall and blow away.
I am not quite happy with the word "sidewalks" since Rilke was using the word "Alleen" which is very difficult to translate into English. But look at both the photos on top and at the bottom - that's a kind of Allee. Whenever I read this poem (I don't even have to read it since I know it by heart) I think of this place - the long island in the Neckar, the river that runs through Tübingen. How many times have I walked here, sat on a bench reading and came here with my old film camera (these photos are slides I took in the 80s and 90s with my trusted Nikon EM). Every season was wonderful here, but autumn was especially delightful.