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Thursday, November 21, 2019

The Rose Within (translation of a poem by Rilke)

The Rose Within

Where lies the interior
Of this outward display?
Over what ache spreads
Such a fine linen?
And what skies gleam
Above the inner seas
As the petals open,
So carefree, if you’ll
But look and see:
Looseness is the solution
In which they lie,
Yet unshakeable
By a trembling hand.
By dint of what effort
Holding themselves erect;
So much overflowing
And pouring out from
Daylight’s interior,
Always fuller and fuller
To their fullest extent,
Until the whole summer
Enfolds within a room
A room within a dream

Reply to Rilke

If a rose unfolding
Is a sign of the soul
There’s no inner withholding
That any true flower knows
It’s all in the baring as 
Each blossom grows
And the effortless giving of
What transparently shows

After a certain point, it's not quite enough to translate a poem; rather I find myself drawn into dialog.  For me this is particularly true with Rilke, whose ardency as a poet I greatly admire, but find myself not always completely aligned with in spirit.  As a bonus, I want to share with you a translation of a poem by Bai Juyi, one of my favorite Tang poets, on a similar theme:

Flower Without Flower

Flower without flower
Mist without mist
At midnight arriving
As Heaven's light dims

Dream of springtime fresh
But how long will it remain
A cloud lingers until dawn
Then disperses without a trace


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