“Poets help us by discovering and uncovering the world-its history, culture, arifacts, and ecology, as well as our identities and relationships.” ~Wallace Stevens
Again the woods are odorous, the lark
Lifts on upsoaring wings the heaven gray
That hung above the tree-tops, veiled and dark,
Where branches bare disclosed the empty day.
After long rainy afternoons an hour
Comes with its shafts of golden light and flings
Them at the windows in a radiant shower,
And rain drops beat the panes like timorous wings.
Then all is still. The stones are crooned to sleep
By the soft sound of rain that slowly dies;
And cradled in the branches, hidden deep
In each bright bud, a slumbering silence lies.
Again the woods smell sweet.
The soaring larks lift up with them
the sky, which weighed so heavily on our shoulders;
through bare branches one still saw the day standing empty â€”
but after long rain-filled afternoons
come the golden sun-drenched
before which, on distant housefronts,
all the wounded
windows flee fearful with beating wings.
Then it goes still. Even the rain runs softer
over the stonesâ€™ quietly darkening glow.
All noises slip entirely away
into the brushwoodâ€™s glimmering buds.
Poems are notoriously difficult to translate. Poetry depends so much on the sound and meaning of a particular language, in this case German. I don’t speak or read German, so I can’t read Rilke’s poems in their original form. I like pieces of each of these translations: “The woods smell sweet” is better than “odorous”. However, I like the shafts of light flinging themselves at the windows and the raindrops beating the “panes like timorous wings.” “The rain runs softer”, but “the stones are crooned to sleep.” “And cradled in the branches, hidden deep in each bright bud, a slumbering silence lies.”
Beautiful imagery, but I can’t help but think I might be better able to capture the essence of the poem if I could read German.