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This poem is taken from PN Review 230, Volume 42 Number 6, July - August 2016.

Rilke’s Orchards Paul Batchelor
EVERYONE KNOWS THAT IN 1922 Rilke, after more or less a decade of waiting, completed the Duino Elegies within a matter of weeks, simultaneously producing a second masterpiece: the Sonnets to Orpheus. It is less well-known that after this, in the four years he had left to live, Rilke wrote nearly four hundred poems in French – as well as continuing to write many in German. Since late 2009 I’ve been working on translations of some of his French poems. Part of the challenge I set myself was to match the number of lines per stanza and per poem, and to rhyme (though I use consonantal half-rhyme), since Rilke rhymes in almost all of his French poems, and it seems to have been essential to his exploration of the language. The translations published here are from a sequence called Vergers (Orchards), most of which was written at the château at Muzot where the poet lived from February 1921 until his death in 1926: this was the closest Rilke ever had to a home, and many of his poems from this period are descriptions or addresses to household objects or nearby flora and fauna. – P. B.


XVI

Porcelain figurine,
O my recording angel, mark this down:
that someone, at the height of summer, deemed it necessary
to crown you with a raspberry.

How frivolous
to gift you that red bonnet!
Since then – so much has shaken loose,
yet it endures, your delicate hat.

Memories wither
and embalm us
as, wrapped in its ghostly wreath, your
little brow remembers.



XXIII

According to the doctrine of contrast,
it is the Pope – so solemn, so careful
...


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