THE SAINT

 

(translated from the German of Rainer Maria Rilke

by William Ruleman)

 

The people thirsted—save one girl alone,

Who ventured forth on ground of barren stone

Beseeching water for an entire folk.

And yet the rod of willow gave no sign,

And she grew weary with all her endless going

Till she thought of one in clear decline:

A sickly boy whose languid eyes would shine

At her at night with looks prophetic, knowing.

 

And then the rod of youthful willow bent

Just like a thirsting beast within her grasp . . .

And rising in flower above her find, she went,

Her racing blood so loud it made her gasp.

 

 

DIE HEILIGE

(Rainer Maria Rilke)

 

Das Volk war durstig; also ging das eine
durstlose Mädchen, ging die Steine
um Wasser flehen für ein ganzes Volk.
Doch ohne Zeichen blieb der Zweig der Weide,
und sie ermattete am langen Gehn
und dachte endlich nur, daß einer leide,
(ein kranker Knabe, und sie hatten beide
sich einmal abends ahnend angesehn).
Da neigte sich die junge Weidenrute
in ihren Händen dürstend wie ein Tier:
jetzt ging sie blühend über ihrem Blute,
und rauschend ging ihr Blut tief unter ihr.

 

 

NERO

 

(translated from the German of Alfons Petzold

by William Ruleman)

 

I’m God himself—not just some show that He

Dreamed up for a lark—and all my glorious days

Are celebrations of my divinity

As I’m borne through my halls in bursts of praise.

 

My palace is the world. I cut to size

All who present themselves with high intent.

My gown’s dismissive hem, my scornful eyes

Sneer at each prim and grandiose event.

 

Bring me kings!  No, leave them to their meat and drink:

They pluck their brains from their wine cups when they’ve dined;

In their own homes, they’re gods, or so they think:

They shake before the venom of my kind.

 

I wish to be alone! And I will show

New suns, moons, stars that I have made. My fame’s—.

Slave, what do you want? “My lord, the sky’s aglow.

The peasants cry: ‘Rome’s going up in flames!’”

 

NERO

(Alfons Petzold)

Gott bin ich selbst und nicht nur seiner Geste
Gebornes Spiel, und meine hohen Tage
Sind meiner Gottheit wundervolle Feste,
Wo ich mich selbst durch meinen Tempel trage.

Der ist die Welt und diese, die dem Sehen
So groß sich zeigt, wird mir zum kleinen Raum
Und alles fromme, mächtige Geschehen
Streif ich verächtlich mit dem Mantelsaum.

Könige her! Doch nein, laßt sie beim Schmause,
Sie klauben ihre Klugheit aus dem Glase,
Sie dünken Götter sich in ihrem Hause
Und zittern vor dem Gifte meiner Base.

Ich will allein sein! Will mir Sonne, Sterne
Und Monde schaffen mit der eignen Hand –
Sklave, was gibt’s! “Cäsar, es glüht die Ferne

Und Bauern künden: Roma steht im Brand!”

 

About the Poets:

William Ruleman devotes his time to writing, painting, translating, and—when possible—travel. His newest collections of poetry include Black Forest Poems and A Strange and Sweet Unrest, while his latest collection of translations is Songs for the Seasons: Poems of Rilke and His Age. More about him can be found at www.williamruleman.com.

 

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) is well known as being one of the greatest German-language poets of the twentieth century.

 

Alfons Petzold (1882-1923) was born into a working-class family in what is now Vienna and, because of poor living conditions, was forced to begin work early despite a weak constitution. After his efforts to learn a trade were unsuccessful, he wandered from job to job; but his experiences gave him valuable material for his prose and poems, for which he won renown. While he is chiefly known as a poet of the people, his verse is also imbued with a deeply mystical tendency, and he wrote ardently in favor of world peace.