Wednesday, May 23, 2012

the onset of summer, with a little praise for rilke

B E F O R E   S U M M E R   R A I N
Rainer Maria Rilke

Suddenly, from all the green around you,
something—you don't know what—has disappeared;
you feel it creeping closer to the window,
in total silence. From the nearby wood

you hear the urgent whistling of a plover,
reminding you of someone's Saint Jerome:
so much solitude and passion come
from that one voice, whose fierce request the downpour

will grant. The walls, with their ancient portraits, glide
away from us, cautiously, as though
they weren't supposed to hear what we are saying.

And reflected on the faded tapestries now;
the chill, uncertain sunlight of those long
childhood hours when you were so afraid.

From New Poems, 1907-1908
translated by Stephen Mitchell

•      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •      •

It is summer, suddenly, the way that happens in New York City. When you wake one morning and spring is over, a blue-green haze hangs over the river and even the taxis' honking seems muffled after fighting through the humidity. There is a soft sensation of weight against your skin as you move.

Things are good. Genevieve is healing, and I notice she can hear better after the surgery. All that worry behind me, and the summer months nudging us forward. 

The poem above is one of my favorites by Rilke. I think I've posted it previously, but it bears reposting. Its four short stanzas paint as beautiful a description of the moments before a summer downpour as are written in English, and obviously German as well. What moves me most, though, is Rilke's understanding of how experience colors perception. It takes little imagination to see how a rain shower encompasses both solitude and passion. But here it also falls over the misunderstandings of generations in gracious, if not restrained, space—even grandiosity—, and reflects the way time slows in childhood, allowing fears to swell and settle upon a landscape.

 { more poetry wednesday }


Julia said...

This is going to sound childish but: I wish I could think and write like Rilke.

I'm so glad that things are good and G is hearing better. What a relief. Summer in New York City is definitely in a category by itself.

We really want to come visit you guys before we move, if we can.

Kate T. said...

Funnily enough, we had a downpour yesterday and it terrified the baby......bang on, RMR!