Thursday, June 27, 2019

Rilke & Unicorns (2nd instalment)

Here is another Rilke unicorn poem, following on from yesterday's. Traditional sonnet rhyme scheme has been dropped (much as I used a completely different rhyme scheme for yesterday's translation) in the interest of minimising distortion.

Rainer Maria Rilke 
The Sonnets to Orpheus, Book Two (IV)

This is the creature that does not exist.
Unaware of that, in any case, they loved
its every trait – its posture, how it moved,
its neck, the light of each mute glance it cast.
No such thing. That through their love became
a pure creature. Always allowed space.
And in the space left blank, clear and precise,
it gently raised its head, needed hardly
to exist. It was nourished on no grain,
only upon the chance that it should be.
And this gave such substance to the creature
it put forth a horn that was a unique-horn
from inside. To a maiden whitely came
and was in the silvered mirror and in her.

                                                       [trans. Tracy Ryan]

Don Paterson has a fabulous version (pun semi-intended) in his Orpheus: a version of Rilke's Die Sonette an Orpheus (Faber & Faber, 2006), better than any other version I've read. The notes he's provided on his version in the appendix are also worth a read.

Josias Murer II (Swiss, 1564 - 1630), Orpheus Charming the Animals

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