Sunday, 30 June 2013

Rilke's Rose Poems In Translation, V

Rose photo © Yoshi Kosaki, 2013.

After a long hiatus, I am trying to get back to the translations I'd been working on of poems from Rilke's sequence of Roses poems in French.

I only have one to offer this time - V, which I'd skipped over last time. You can read I and II here, III and IV here, and VI here.

More soon, I hope.

THE ROSES (Rainer Maria Rilke, translated from French by Clarissa Aykroyd)


Abandon upon abandon,
tenderness upon tenderness...
Your hidden self unceasingly
turns inward, a caress;

caressing itself, in and of its own
reflection illuminated.
Thus you've invented the tale
of Narcissus sated.



Abandon entouré d'abandon,
tendresse touchant aux tendresses...
C'est ton intérieur qui sans cesse
se caresse, dirait-on;

se caresse en soi-même,
par son proper reflet éclairé.
Ainsi tu inventes le thème
du Narcisse exaucé.

Translation © Clarissa Aykroyd, 2013.


  1. There is a lot of internal alliteration going on in the original, in addition to the end rhymes, and I like the way you have reproduced that so deftly in your translation. The alliteration seems to perform an important function in moving the poem along and drawing the reader in--to that place where the illuminated introspection is taking place--and there is something really dynamic about it which I can't quite define for myself. I'm glad you've returned to these poems and, as it happens, at a time when I've recently been re-examining certain aspects of French literature myself. I guess we could place Rilke in that category here, though it's possible he'd disagree.

    1. Thank you! I like hearing how translators think I'm doing with these. The decisions to be made can be tricky even with short poems. I find that generally, when I am puzzling about a specific word, there comes a moment when there is a sort of intuitive leap and several lines may suddenly fall into place. However, I then need to go back and check the details of that intuitive leap!

      As for Rilke, I suppose he was a Bohemian (in all senses of the word) citizen of Europe so he might not object to claiming a place in the French literary canon. These poems will never be as famous as the German ones, though...