Monday, 13 August 2012

Rainer Maria Rilke's 'Autumn Day': "Lord, It Is Time"

I'm too tired after a busy weekend to write anything of much consequence, but I wanted to post something. It feels as though autumn is already drawing near and this famous poem by Rilke, 'Autumn Day', is all too appropriate. It also has something to say about certain qualities of solitude and loneliness.

As a side note, P K Page wrote a glosa based on the final stanza of the poem, called 'Autumn'. I think it was probably my first encounter with 'Autumn Day' and certainly one of my first with Rilke.

This translation is by A Z Foreman from his Poems Found In Translation blog. I've also included the original for anyone who reads German.

AUTUMN DAY (Rainer Maria Rilke, translated from German by A Z Foreman)

Lord: It is time. The summer days were grand.
Now set your shadows out across the sun-dials
And set the winds loose on the meadowland.

Bid the last fruits grow full upon the vine,
allow them two more days of southern heat,
thrust them to their fulfillment and secrete
the final sweetness into bodied wine.

Whoever has no house yet will have none,
Whoever is alone will stay alone,
Will stay up, write long letters out, and go
On aimless walks through alleys on his own
Uneasily when leaves begin to blow.


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;
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 Aleen hin und her
unruhig wandern, wenn die Blätter treiben.

Translation from German © A Z Foreman


  1. Very fine translation. Really moving. The photo is intense. I too feel the approach of autumn, though our San Francisco weather is often autumnal year round.

  2. A Z Foreman's blog is very impressive, if you haven't looked at it yet. He seems to have done translations from every language you can think of and he can always back up his rationale (not that I'd know, in most cases!). Plus he's happy to have his translations reproduced!

    We haven't had much of a summer here weather-wise so in that respect Rilke's poem is less appropriate. The approach of autumn is rather depressing. I am reminding myself of all the fun things I managed to do this summer despite not very summery weather. Having grown up on the West Coast, though farther north, I know how there can always be a chill in the air even on an apparently warm day - it's refreshing, but, well, chilly.

  3. Love this poem. I've been following A Z Foreman's blog for a while, too! His language abilities are amazing!

    1. It's probably my favourite of Rilke's poems so far, though I haven't read him quite extensively enough to really say. As for A Z Foreman, he seems like the type who learns a language for fun before breakfast. It's wonderful that he can turn it to poetic ends.

    2. Never before breakfast. I'm not much of a morning person.

      Salutations from Egypt.

    3. The translator stops in! Thanks again.