Und hast die Welt gemacht.....

11:44 AM Posted by James Owens


Wer du auch seist: Am Abend tritt hinaus
aus deiner Stube, drin du alles weißt;
als letztes vor der Ferne liegt dein Haus:
Wer du auch seist.
Mit deinen Augen, welche müde kaum
von der verbrauchten Schwelle sich befrein,
hebst du ganz langsam einen schwarzen Baum
und stellst ihn vor den Himmel: schlank, allein.
Und hast die Welt gemacht. Und sie ist groß
und wie ein Wort, das noch im Schwiegen reift.
Und wie dein Wille ihren Sinn begreift,
lassen sie deine Augen zärtlich los. . .

Ranier Maria Rilke


Whoever you are, go out into the evening,
leaving your room, of which you know each bit;
your house is the last before the infinite,
whoever you are.
Then with your eyes that wearily
scarce lift themselves from the worn-out door-stone
slowly you raise a shadowy black tree
and fix it on the sky: slender, alone.
And you have made the world (and it shall grow
and ripen as a word, unspoken, still).
When you have grasped its meaning with your will,
then tenderly your eyes will let it go. . .

Trans. C.F. MacIntyre


In limine

Godi se il vento ch'entra nel pomario
vi rimena l'ondata della vita:
qui dove affonda un morto
viluppo di memorie,
orto non era, ma reliquiario.

Il frullo che tu senti non è un volo,
ma il commuoversi dell'eterno grembo;
vedi che si trasforma questo lembo
di terra solitario in un crogiuolo.

Un rovello è di qua dall'erto muro.
Se procedi t'imbatti
tu forse nel fantasma che ti salva:
si compongono qui le storie, gli atti
scancellati pel giuoco del futuro.

Cerca una maglia rotta nella rete
che ci stringe, tu balza fuori, fuggi!
Va, per te l'ho pregato,- ora la sete
mi sarà lieve, meno acre la ruggine…

Eugenio Montale

On the Threshold

Be happy if the wind inside the orchard
carries back the tidal surge of life:
here, where a dead web
of memories sinks under,
was no garden, but a reliquary.

The whir you’re hearing isn’t flight,
but the stirring of the eternal womb;
see this solitary strip of land
transform into a crucible.

There’s fury over the sheer wall.
If you move forward you may meet
the phantom who will save you:
histories are shaped here, deeds
the endgame of the future will dismantle.

Look for a flaw in the net that binds us
tight, burst through, break free!
Go, I’ve prayed for this for you—now my thirst
will be easy, my rancor less bitter….

Trans. Jonathan Galassi


The house and the orchard are -- here and everywhere -- versions of the clearing in the woods, the open, lighted space in the thicket of Being (and we won’t forget that this is probably also the original meaning of the temple, so we will translate “temple” as “Lichtung”). The threshold (whose etymology in English is difficult) is perhaps not so much a place as a state, the mode of communication between humans and the earth, the moment where eternity enters into time or time into eternity.



Sorlil said...

Wombs seem to be popping up everywhere :)

The bottom paragraph seems to me to be a description of childhood when one, at times, lived in what you call a liminal state.

James Owens said...

Yes, childhood, you are exactly right, I think. I've always been easy to persuade that we come into the world trailing clouds of glory, and that everything after is a slow forgetting. That's worth the words, isn't it?

Sorlil said...

I've always been attracted to Plato's idea that all learning is recollection and that it is up to us to 'remember' these higher order notions.

Roxana said...

"the world trailing clouds of glory, and that everything after is a slow forgetting" - how beautifully you put it, James, this should belong to the post itself...

have I told you that the name 'Craiova', the city where I live, comes from the slave 'krai' which means 'border', 'end of'?

James Owens said...

Roxana: I have to admit that the bit about clouds of glory and slow forgetting is actually stolen from a poem by William Wordsworth, "Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood." (Stolen, yes: Eliot says, "Minor poets borrow from other poets; major poets steal.") I think you would like this poem, if you haven't seen it.

Craiova. "The place at the border," "the liminal city"? And in light of our recent discussions here.... Isn't it forever amazing how language seems to make patterns without our conscious participation? Things seem to connect at some deep level.... (Though maybe we make the patterns, then project them back onto things, I know....)

This reminds me. I love the word "nemarginire," from a recent post on your blog. "Boundlessness, that which is without margins" etc. I know that, etymologically, English "infinity" works the same way --- but they don't really mean the same thing, do they? And "nemarginire" seems so expressive and useful for critical theory and poetry ... though I have no idea if it would seem that way to a Romanian, or only to some naive person like me who has newly fallen in love with the language....

James Owens said...

And the city where I live is La Porte....

Roxana said...

oh, wordsworth :-) I haven't liked anything by him until now, but maybe it will change.

but the ancient name of Craiova was Pelendava, this is a Dacian word: from indoeuropean* peled- „moist, to flow" (the Jiu river is here) and the Dacian word for 'settlement/village', dava.

La Porte is beautiful too...

you are right, 'nemarginire' is a marvellous word, so poetical. we have 'infinit; and 'infinitate' too. you can use the noun 'nemarginit' too, from the negative past participle of the verb 'margini' (to limit). it is our old word for the newer 'nelimitat', borrowed from french. and we have 'necuprins' as noun too, which is even more beautiful. what does your dictionray say for it? for ex., 'necuprinsul sufletului' - would be something like the 'unencompassable of the soul', but I don't know if it makes sense. it is boundless and deep and mysterious, and as such not encompassable by the mind.

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