In the past I’ve bought this book two times. Last week I bought it again, for the third and last time. I lent the other two, but for the life of me I cannot remember to whom they went. The one I’ve just bought won’t leave home…
Every time I read this book (I’ve read it several times) I always come back to Rilke (no surprise there…). But more than coming back to Rilke, I always wonder what Poesy does for me that Prose doesn’t. What does it represent, i.e., what kind of world does it depict, and what kind of operational forms does it use to transform our everyday experience into something esthetic pleasing, and so forth. I’ve looked for the answer everywhere (and I mean really everywhere: poets, in the poesy itself, interviews with poets, etc.) After this “quest”, I came back to Rilke, i.e., I decided to drop anchor. I’ve re-read Rilke several times, in several languages (in German most and foremost, but also in English, and in Portuguese). Reading Rilke, Trakl, Heine fell into disuse. Not to me. They’re not “fast food” poesy-wise. Their digestion is difficult and they don’t leave us at rest with the world. When I read them I’m not exactly looking for Daseinsfreude, the joy of the days to come. What I find in Rilke is a poet who traverses the ruins and debris to find the sublime greatness of the human soul. They are the poets of misery, sadness, impotence, terror, anguish, and darkness. We all have a few of those within ourselves…
In Portugal Rilke has always been a major influence: Sophia de Mello Breyner e Andresen, António Ramos Rosa, Herberto Helder, Fiama Hasse Pais Brandão, and Fernando Guimarães to name just a few. For a People worshipping Fado, that’s to be expected.
In the Elegies we have those ethereal beings we call angels. In our western tradition they represent the redemption of Man. They save us, they pick up our debris and what's left of us. And yet, these angels, who are the mediators between life and death, the invisible (transcendence) and the visible (Earth), are also terrible beings because they carry within themselves an intrinsic darkness. Rilke's angels celebrate existence and language through the only way available to them: the singing ("Gesang ist Dasein"). In Rilke Singing and Being are merged. This merging is what allows me to find a door into Rilke's poesy. The language of Poesy should be nothing but mystic in its essence. Why? We can only be "saved" through the use of poetic language, aiming at the wholesomeness of our nature, i.e., at an absolute and redeeming utterance-ness of being.
Hatherly was able to produce echoes of Rilke in Portuguese in a way I haven’t seen done before. In a very Rilkean way, she uses the beginnings of the 10 Elegies to sort of deviate, but not really doing it in the end.
Rilke’s 10 line beginnings that Hatherly uses to “deviate from/recreate” his poesy:
- Wer, wenn ich schriee (I)
- Jeder Engel ist schrecklich (II)
- Eines ist, die Geliebte zu singen
- O Bäume lebens
- Wer aber sind sie, sag mir, die Fahrenden
- Feigebaum, seit wir lange schon ists mir bedeutend
- Werbung nicht mehr, nicht Werbung, entwachsene Stimme
- Mit alle Augen sieht die Kreatur das Offene
- Warum, wenn es angeht, also die Frist des Daseins
- Dass ich dereinst, an dem Ausgang der grimmigen Einsicht
She also translates into Portuguese “Die Engel/The Angels/Os Anjos” (from the book “Das Buch der Bilde/o Livro das Imagens”):
Todos têm uma boca lassa
E as claras almas sem limites.
E em seus sonhos por vezes perpassa
Uma saudade (talvez de pecado).
Quase todos parecidos uns com os outros
Nos jardins de Deus estão calados
Como se fossem inúmeros intervalos
Em sua força e sua melodia.
Mas quando desdobram suas asas
Despertam uma tal vibração
Como se Deus com sua vasta criadora mão
Folheasse o obscuro Livro do Início.
The original written by Rilke is much prettier:
Sie haben alle müde Münde
und helle Seelen ohne Saum.
Und eine Sehnsucht (wie nach Sünde)
geht ihnen manchmal durch den Traum.
Fast gleichen sie einander alle;
in Gottes Gärten schweigen sie,
wie viele, viele Intervalle
in seiner Macht und Melodie.
Nur wenn sie ihre Flügel breiten,
sind sie die Wecker eines Winds:
als ginge Gott mit seinen weiten
Bildhauerhänden durch die Seiten
im dunklen Buch des Anbeginns.
My attempt at translating directly from German into English for the benefit of my English-speaking friends:
They all have tired mouths
And bright, boundless souls.
And a longing (as if for sin)
Sometimes goes through their dream.
They all nearly look alike;
In God’s Garden they are quiet,
Like many, many intervals
In his strength and melody.
Only when they spread their wings
Are they wind awakeners:
As if God with his wide sculptor’s hands
were browsing through the pages
of the dark book of beginnings.