Love Poem: Rainer Maria Rilke Translation: Love Song
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Written by: Michael Burch

Rainer Maria Rilke Translation: Love Song

Liebes-Lied (“Love Song”)
by Rainer Maria Rilke
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

How can I withhold my soul so that it doesn’t touch yours?
How can I lift mine gently to higher things, alone?
Oh, I would gladly find something lost in the dark
in that inert space that fails to resonate until you vibrate. 
There everything that moves us, draws us together like a bow
enticing two taut strings to sing together with a simultaneous voice.
Whose instrument are we becoming together?
Whose, the hands that excite us?
Ah, sweet song!


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 Geiger hat uns in der Hand?
O süßes Lied.

Du im Voraus (“You who never arrived”)
by Rainer Maria Rilke
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You who never arrived in my arms, my Belovéd, 
lost before we began...

How can I possibly know which songs might please you?

I have given up trying to envision you
in portentous moments before the next wave impacts...
when all the vastness and immenseness within me,
all the far-off undiscovered lands and landscapes,
all the cities, towers and bridges, 
all the unanticipated twists and turns in the road,
and all those terrible terrains once traversed by strange gods—
engender new meaning in me:
your meaning, my enigmatic darling...

You, who continually elude me.

You, my Belovéd,
who are every garden I ever gazed upon,
longingly, through some country manor’s open window,
so that you almost stepped out, pensively, to meet me;
who are every sidestreet I ever chanced upon,			
even though you’d just traipsed tantalizingly away, and vanished,
while the disconcerted shopkeepers’ mirrors
still dizzily reflected your image, flashing you back at me,
startled by my unwarranted image!

Who knows, but perhaps the same songbird’s cry
echoed through us both,
yesterday, separate as we were, that evening?

Keywords/Tags: German, translation, Rainer Maria Rilke, love, song, muse, music, soul, soulmate, vibrate, vibration, dark, space, dark, darkness, instrument, bow, strings, hands, voice