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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Autumn in Budapest


(Autumn fire in the leaves as we walk through the Pest side of the Danube on our first morning in Budapest.)

Being in Europe during October brought back my memories of reading the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke when I was in College, in particular his early work from the Book of Pictures. Here is his poem "Herbst." (Autumn)


Herbst

Rainer Maria Rilke

Die Blätter fallen, fallen wie von weit,
als welkten in den Himmeln ferne Gärten;
sie fallen mit verneinender Gebärde.

Und in den Nächten fällt die schwere Erde
aus allen Sternen in die Einsamkeit.

Wir alle fallen. Diese Hand da fällt.
Und sieh die andre an: es ist in allen.

Und doch ist Einer, welcher dieses Fallen
unendlich sanft in seinen Händen hält.


AUTUMN

trans. Bertram Kottmann

The leaves are falling, falling as from far,
as if distant gardens withered in the skies;
they are falling with a denying gesture.

And in the nights the heavy earth falls
from all the stars into solitude.

All of us fall. This hand here falls.
And look at the other: it is in all.

And yet there is one, who holds this falling
immensely gently in his hands.

AUTUMN DAY

(Thanks to John C. Holcome's website,http://www.textetc.com/workshop/wt-rilke-1.html)

A lofty summer! Lord, it's time to lay
encroaching shadows on the sundials now
and let in meadowlands the winds have sway.

Command the fruits to fullness and consign
another two more days of southern heat
to bring them to perfection and secrete
the last of sweetness in the bodied wine.

He who has no house will not rebuild,
and he who is alone will long stay so,
and wake to read, write endlessly, and go
up and down through avenues now filled
with leaves and restlessness, blown to and fro.


Herbsttag

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

Befiel 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.






(Trees near the Citadella, on the hill overlooking the city, where we climbed to see the famous statue of the woman holding the palm wreath, erected after WWII. )

Autumn has stirred my imagination as no other season does. Here is my poem "Alma" from WILDWOOD FLOWER.

ALMA

Two dead leaves
on the table and ice

floats on milk like the ashes
of leaves. Oak
twigs kindle
and fire leaps like a prayer, “Give us

breath.” When I open
the door and breathe deeply
the cold air inflames me.
The fire seizes log after log.
In the garden my husband burns
dead stalks of squash and potatoes.
I sweep my dust into the coals
and our smoke mingles over the orchard.

In autumn I sweep the floor gladly.
I gather the crumbs from the cupboard,
and the rinds of the apples.
When my dustbin grows heavy,
I give what it holds to the fire
and the fire sings its song:

raise your dead
from the earth, make a fire
of their bones,
set them free

to be sky,
to be nothing at all.



(October in the Blue Ridge Mountains)

If you have a favorite autumn poem, why not share it with us on this blog. Or write your own!

8 comments:

Debbie McGill said...

Thanks for this invitation, Kay. One of my favorites is this, by the Irish poet Gerard Manley Hopkins:

Spring and Fall
to a young child


MÁRGARÉT, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves, líke the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Áh! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

I love the way Hopkins packs grief and hope into the line, "It is the blight man was born for." And the poem's music ("worlds of wanwood leafmeal") gives me goosebumps.

Nicole said...

Ms. Byer, I am an English teacher at Green Hope High School in Cary, NC. My English Department chair sent me your blog link. I have plans to move to Hungary this summer for at least a year to teach English, so I was thrilled to find your postings (it's so beautiful!). Anyway, I wrote a fall poem that I thought appropriate:

fall

this fall
I am not falling in love
Nor am I technically falling
anywhere
I have no desire
to make imprints of leaves
copy their patterns
die like they do
I will
wear brown
wear orange
eat pumpkin, eat sweet potatoes
enjoy bonfires
apple bob
dress up for halloween (I was a tree)
listen to sufjan
embrace change
and feel the ache
in my stomache
for the turning
of winter
and warmer clothes
than I've ever worn.

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Nicole, thanks so much for the poem. I like it a lot and it is most definitely appropriate. I hope you've gone to my other blog where I have in progress my photos/narrative from our Hungary trip. I'm truly envious that you'll spend a year in Hungary! I left the country thinking I'd like to find a way to come back for a longer period of time.

BKottmann said...

Finding my translation in this blog surprises me. I wonder if you are interested in a prosodic version:

Autumn

The leaves are falling, falling as from far,
as though celestial gardens withered earthward;
their fall is a denying silent motion
and in the nights out of the starry ocean
the heavy earth falls far from every star.

Falling unseeing? Look, this hand descends
and see the other hands: it's in their being.
And yet there's One who holds our fall, foreseeing,
entirely gently in His loving hands.

Bertram Kottmann©2008

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Dear Mr. Kottman, thank you for your translation. I appreciate your sharing it with us. This is one of my favorite Rilke poems. I am glad that you have added your copyright information. If you have any other translations of Rilke that you would like to share, that would be lovely.
Kathryn Byer

Anonymous said...

Dear Ms. Byer,

Rainer Maria Rilke is a master in finding words and metaphors that every generation and mind has got different associations with. His language hovers, so to speak. Hanging it at poise, too, is a translator's mission.

In his Stunden-Buch Rilke writes about death:

O Lord, grant everyone a proper end,
a passing that arises from a life
that full of love and sense and need was spent.

O Herr, gib jedem seinen eignen Tod.
Das Sterben, das aus jenem Leben geht,
darin er Liebe hatte, Sinn und Not.

Best regards from an late-autumnal Germany.

Bertram Kottmann

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Mr. Kottmann, thank you very much for this comment. I plan to do another post on Rilke, as my "Autumn in Budapest" did not come close to expressing how important his work has been to me. I keep a much worn collection nearby always. Might I do a post on some of your translations? Including the comment you just left, so that readers will see it more easily?
Kathryn

BKottmann said...

Dear Ms. Byer,

you are welcome.
Hopefully RMR will forgive me.

Bertram