Over the threshold with Rilke

Eingang, Rainer Maria Rilke
Entrance, translated by Denise DeVries

Whoever you may also be: in the evening
come out from your room
where you know everything, your house
lying just at the distant future,
whoever you too may be.
With your sleepy eyes, barely
freeing themselves from
the exhausted threshold, lifted
slowly by a black tree rising
before heaven: slender, alone.
And you have created the world. And it’s huge
and like a word that just splits the silence.
And as your will grasps its meaning,
your eyes gently release themselves.

Original:
Wer du auch seist: am Abend tritt hinaus
aus deiner Stube, drin du alles weißt;
als letztes vor der Ferne liegt dein Haus:
wer du auch seist.
Mit deinen Augen, welche müde kaum
von der verbrauchten Schwelle sich befrein,
hebst du ganz langsam einen schwarzen Baum
und stellst ihn vor den Himmel: schlank, allein.
Und hast die Welt gemacht. Und sie ist groß
und wie ein Wort, das noch im Schweigen reift.
Und wie dein Wille ihren Sinn begreift,
lassen sie deine Augen zärtlich los …

See an alternate translation.

All day yesterday, I wanted to write about the dark. I immediately thought of Rilke’s poem “Ich liebe meines Wesens Dunkelstunden, and was already planning to listen to a Rilke presentation on poetscorner.org. This is where I heard the above poem. I read several translations, and all of them excluded the awkward words “auch” (also) and “noch” (still, just, again) that Rilke put in the original. Surely they were there for a reason. Just an extra syllable? But why did he use “auch” twice? I tried to include them in my translation. I also took a different approach to translating “Ferne” and the final line, which I think gives the poem a more metaphysical, metaphorical sense.

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