Poet Lore/Volume 27/Number 6/Three Songs from "Buch der Lieder"

For other English-language translations of this work, see Glimpse of a Childhood.

THREE SONGS FROM “BUCH DER LIEDER

 

By Rainer Maria Rilke

 

Translated from the German by Sarah T. Barrows

 

THE ANGELS.

Their languid lips are wanly smiling,
Their shining souls are without seam:
A longing as for sin’s beguiling
Is ever flitting through their dream.

Each one is very like his brother;
In God’s fair fields they’re silent all,
Like intervals, one and another
That in His might and music fall.

Save when, their gauzy wings unfolding,
They gently wake the sleeping wind:
As if God’s broad and deftly moulding
Hand turned the leaves that He is holding
In the dark book of origin.

 

A GRAVE HOUR

 

Who now weeps anywhere in the world,
Without cause weeps in the world,
Weeps over me.

Who now laughs anywhere in the night,
Without cause laughs in the night,
Laughs at me.

Who now goes anywhere in the world,
Without cause goes in the world,
Goes to me.

Who now dies anywhere in the world,
Without cause dies in the world,
Looks at me.

 

PRESENTIMENT

 

I’m like a silken streamer in solitude flying.
I presage the winds that are coming, and share their sighing,
While on the earth below there’s nothing stirring;
The doors close gently as yet and no fitful gusts in the chimneys;
No windows tremble as yet, and from dust the air’s free.

But I feel the coming wind, and am disturbed as the sea.
And spread myself out and roll myself to a cone,
And flutter and flap and am all alone
In the mighty storm.

 

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1925.


The author died in 1926, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.