“Closing-piece,” Rainer Maria Rilke

Closing-piece
Rainer Maria Rilke (trans. me)

Death is great.
We are His
laughing mouths.
If we mean ourselves in the middle of life,
he dares to cry out
in the middle of us.

Notes:

1. “His” is how I am translating Seinen, which is capitalized in the German. “Wir sind die Seinen / lachenden Munds.” I don’t know if the capitalization is relevant, but I’m not going to guess at what that specifically means just yet.

2. “We mean ourselves” – yes, this is as literal as I can be. “Wenn wir uns mitten im Leben meinen.” I have placed “meinen” between “wir” and “uns” in the translation, as the fact “wir” and “uns” are next to each other in the literal text seems to beg for a verb to separate them, and that parallel structure with the end of the poem is maintained by placing “in the middle of life” at the end of the sentence. Feel free to disagree with my work; this is entirely preliminary.

2 Comments

  1. Death is great.
    We belong to him
    While our mouths are laughing.
    While we think
    we are in the middle of life,
    Death dares to cry
    Right in our middle

    (Translated by my German husband)

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