Poetry Wednesday

Poetry Wednesdays: Rainer Maria Rilke, “Love Song”

There are poems that you encounter at that right moment, saying in a few words what you can’t articulate yourself. For me, this was one of those.

Love Song
Rainer Maria Rilke
Trans. Stephen Mitchell

How can I keep my soul in me, so that
it doesn’t touch your soul? How can I raise
it high enough, past you, to other things?
I would like to shelter it, among remote
lost objects, in some dark and silent place
that doesn’t resonate when your depths resound.
Yet everything that touches us, me and you,
takes us together like a violin’s bow,
which draws one voice out of two separate strings.
Upon what instrument are we two spanned?
And what musician holds us in his hand?
Oh sweetest song.

Liebeslied

Wie soll ich meine Seele halten, daß
sie nicht an deine rührt? Wie soll ich sie
hinheben über dich zu andern Dingen?
Ach gerne möcht ich sie bei irgendwas
Verlorenem im Dunkel unterbringen
an einer fremden stillen Stelle, die
nicht weiterschwingt, wenn deine Tiefen schwingen.
Doch alles, was uns anrührt, dich und mich,
nimmt uns zusammen wie ein Bogenstrich,
der aus zwei Saiten eine Stimme zieht.
Auf welches Instrument sind wir gespannt?
Und welcher Spieler hat uns in der Hand?
O süßes Lied!

#

The first few weeks — months — were fun and passionate, but part of you remained closed, unreachable. You were silent, refusing to say out loud what you feel as you feared the rejection of your true self. Sometimes you deliberately stayed away. But how could you hide for long? He makes it so easy to draw you out.

#

One voice out of two separate strings”. This suggests to me that two separate, whole persons can create one beautiful relationship. I like the idea that one does not need to be incomplete or broken to find someone else; that a loving relationship is not just something I am part of, but something I create with another person in the sweetest way we can.

“Upon what instrument are we two spanned? / And what musician holds us in his hand?” I also like the uncertainty of how two people have remained together. Is it because of God? Fate? Coincidence? The couple themselves? The question hangs in the poem. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe the mystery makes the song sweet.

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