Autumn Day

Lord: it is time. The summer was immense.
Lay your shadow on the sundials
and let loose the wind in the fields.

Bid the last fruits to be full;
give them another two more southerly days,
press them to ripeness, and chase
the last sweetness into the heavy wine.

Whoever has no house now will not build one
anymore.
Whoever is alone now will remain so for a long
time,
will stay up, read, write long letters,
and wander the avenues, up and down,
restlessly, while the leaves are blowing.

by Rainer Maria Rilke

Comments (5)

What. a. great. poem.
Rainer Maria Rilke Harvest-tide (Herbsttag) Lord: it is time. The summer's breadth was vast. Repose Thy shadow over sundial faces, Let the gales race the plains, released at last. Charge now the laggard fruit to fill full shape; Grant two more days of southerliness, pleasing, Urging to wholesomeness, give chase uneasing To top up sweetness in the burdened grape. Who has no house as yet, shall always lack. Who is alone, more solitary owing, Will gaze, and read, composing letters growing, And pacing avenues hark forth and back, Restlessly wander, while the leaves are blowing. (vzjp)
Here's what I think to be a much better translation by Walter Arndt Lord: it is time. Great was the summer's feast. Now lay upon the sun-dials your shadow And on the meadows have the winds released Command the last fruits to round their shapes; Grant two more days of south for vines to carry, to their perfection thrust them on, and harry the final sweetness into heavy grapes. Who has not built his house, will not start now. Who is now by himself will long be so, Be wakeful, read, write lengthy letters, go In vague disquiet pacing up and down Denuded lanes, with leaves adrift below.
This fine poem is redolent of the slow, easy movements of Autumn, far better conveyed in the original language (thank you, Jo Bennett) than in the translation. For instance, ‘Befiehl den letzten fruchten voll zu sein’ suggests the slow unfolding of time needed for the fruit to ripen entirely missing from the abrupt’bid the last fruits to be full.’ This reminds me of the definition of poetry as that which gets left out in translation.
Herbsttag Herr, es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr groß. Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren, und auf den Fluren laß die Winde los. Befiehl 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. Rainer Maria Rilke Aus 'Das Buch der Bilder'