Thursday, October 24, 2019

October Day

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.


Elephant's Child said...

What an absolutely glorious scene, season and poem.
Many thanks.

David M. Gascoigne, said...

Sometimes I read prose in translation and I am not happy with it. What is usually lost is nuance, subtle aspects of a language that are extremely difficult to interpret in a way that imparts the original intent. I can only imagine that poetry must be more complex on a scale of magnitude far greater. I remember the phrase "La Terre des hommes" used for Expo 67 in Montréal, whose English equivalent was "Man and his world." The French expression imparts a sweep of grandeur somehow, whereas the English one comes across almost mechanistically. I am very happy not to be a translator. I would fail on a monumental scale.

Karen Lakis said...

I can imagine that translating poetry would be very difficult not only to get the words correct, but poetry is also about cadence and rhythm and sometimes rhymes and alliteration which would not translate at all. This is a beautiful poem, though, even in the translation so I can only imagine how beautiful it would be in its original language. I love the “allee” in fall - I’m not quite sure we have the right word for that, note really a sidewalk. Hmmm. Beautiful photos!

Jeanie said...

I don't know this poem but it is perfect -- especially with your glorious images!

My name is Erika. said...

That top photo looks like a beautiful place to be. I'm with you about autumn. It is the perfect time of year. Hugs-Erika

Red Rose Alley said...

These are lovely Autumn photos, Carola. They should be in a magazine, really. And I'm a bit partial to them, as Autumn is my favorite season and I'm enjoying it so much. I can just see you walking through here and sitting on the bench reading, and taking unique pictures with your trusted camera. And what wonderful pictures they are. Enjoy the season, Carola. : )


Magic Love Crow said...

Such beautiful pictures and such a beautiful poem! I hope you are ok, with the fires! Big Hugs!

Michelle said...

Beautiful pictures and poem! LOVE it!

Lowcarb team member said...

Wonderful images and words.
The Autumn colour is fantastic.

All the best Jan

David M. Gascoigne, said...

Just a quick note, Carola, to say that I hope you are safe. I watched a little coverage of the wildfires in California and some seem to be very close to your corner of the world. It is becoming a terrible annual event.