Autumn and Rilke, Keats usw.

René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke

 

 

Rilke’s poem seems apt for the time of the year, although the recent summer might be difficult to describe exactly as  groß.

Herbsttag

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

Befiehl den letzten Früchten voll zu sein;
gieb 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.

One translation may be found at http://picture-poems.com/rilke/images.html#Herbsttag

The phrase “picture-poems” is suggestive of imagism and Pound and Wyndham Lewis somehow seem to be current in the zeitgeist with the excellent production of Parade’s End on BBC2 adapted by Tom Stoppard in currently much in vogue. There are certainly lines which capture the visual imagination such as,” auf den Fluren laß die Winde los.” Although time and season are obviously central to the poem. This dynamic is reinforced in the second stanza with,” Befiehl den letzten Früchten voll zu sein;
gieb ihnen noch zwei südlichere Tage,
dränge sie zur Vollendung hin…..” Befiehlen here probably being an invocation so as to arrange, allow or ordain matters so that the fruits attain full ripeness.

The wind, frequently and beautifully referred to in Shakespeare’s sonnets, also connected with time for example Sonnet 54 as wanton, (” As the perfumed tincture of the roses,

Hang on such thorns, and play as wantonly

When summer’s breath their masked buds discloses:”) adds to the unruly, random, dégringole quality and to the sadness, possibly of the poet himself, in the final stanza.

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.

Of course, most English readers will immediately be reminded in this poem of Keats’s Ode to Autumn.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’erbrimmed their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, –
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing, and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Keats wrote in 1819, ‘How beautiful the season is now–How fine the air. A temperate sharpness about it. Really, without joking, chaste weather–Dian skies–I never liked stubble-fields so much as now.”

John Keats

For an insightful and a radical and political reading of Keats’s poem, it is worth looking at A Poetry Primer, The Secret Life of Poems by Tom Paulin (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Secret-Life-Poems-Poetry-Primer/dp/057127871X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1346952035&sr=1-1)

in which the poppies are associated with the repressive/reactionary use of the Redcoats of the British Army and the grim reaper’s sickle with the cavalryman’s sword. If Rilke knew of Keats’s Ode as one imagines he did, he is unlikely to have been aware of such associations.

There is an entertaining discussion of Rilke in Clive James’s splendid collection, Cultural Amnesia: Notes in the Margin of My Time.

There is a detailed website in German at http://www.rilke.de/

Another discussion of Keats’s Ode is at http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/mar/23/john-keats-autumnal-idealist-social-commentator

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s