Thoughts and comparisons translating “Herbst” by Rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke: „Herbst”

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 dir andre an: es ist in allen.

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

Image result for Leaves by Egon Schiele

There are several translations of this interesting poem which appear to be copyrighted. In particular mit verneinender Gebärde seems not easy to render into English. Something like with a gesture of decline doesn’t quite measure up. Anyway the poem seems to make a parallel between the seasonal fall and the religious sense of falling form divine Grace. It put me in mind of the lines from a familiar hymn:-

To all life thou givest — to both great and small;
In all life thou livest, the true life of all;
We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
And wither and perish—but nought changeth thee.

This is a famous hymn by  Walter Chalmers Smith, “Immortal, Invisible, God only Wise”.

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessèd, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, thy great Name we praise.

Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
Nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might;
Thy justice like mountains high soaring above
Thy clouds which are fountains of goodness and love.

To all life thou givest — to both great and small;
In all life thou livest, the true life of all;
We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
And wither and perish—but nought changeth thee.

Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;
All laud we would render: O help us to see
’Tis only the splendour of light hideth thee.

or

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

 

 

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