Thursday, 14 April 2016

Rilke's French Rose Poems in Translation - XVI and XVII

Photo by Clarissa Aykroyd - Red Cross Garden, London, 2015

I'm finally back to translating Rainer Maria Rilke's Roses poems from French. It's been over a year and a half since the last translations, so apologies are due to all my French translation fans. (I know you're out there.)

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


Let's not speak of you. You are ineffable
by your very nature.
Other flowers adorn the table
that you transfigure.

We put you in a simple vase
and everything changes:
it might be the same phrase,
but now an angel sings.


It's you who prepare within yourself,
more than yourself, your quintessence.
That which comes from you, that unsettling rush,
is your dance.

Each petal consents
and in the wind
takes a few fragrant steps

O music of eyes,
by them enclosed,
you become mysterious



Ne parlons pas de toi. Tu es ineffable
selon ta nature.
D'autres fleurs ornent la table
que tu transfigures.

On te met dans un simple vase - ,
voici que tout change:
c'est peut-être la même phrase,
mais chantée par un ange.


C'est toi qui prépares en toi
plus que toi, ton ultime essence.
Ce qui sort de toi, ce troublant émoi,
c'est ta danse.

Chaque pétale consent
et fait dans le vent
quelques pas odorants

O musique des yeux,
toute entourée d'eux,
tu deviens au milieu

Translations  © Clarissa Aykroyd, 2016


  1. Very good work, Clarissa! I think you've gotten Rilke's tone and the music of these poems admirably. "[T]hat unsettling rush" is an especially good invention for "ce troublant émoi," though there are other lovely things, too. I'm glad to see you translating Rilke again:-) You must have done most of this series by now, and I want to see them in a book!

    1. Thanks for coming back to read these, James :) I've tried to keep these as very "straight" and restrained, but still poetic versions. I think they could easily go straight over the top without restraint...

      I certainly would like to publish them in some non-blog form. We'll see. I still have about ten in this series to go. I really need to not procrastinate any more...!

  2. As a non-scholar I comment, such a beautiful and moving poem. And a little sexy, with the petals consent of course. I need to spend more time reading poetry

    1. Thank you! I've done the previous poems in this sequence as well - you can find them if you click on the 'Rainer Maria Rilke' tag. I had thought when I started translating the sequence that they might get a bit samey but they are actually all quite different and pose their own translation challenges.