Week 221: Die Erblindende, by Rainer Maria Rilke

Another of my favourite poems by the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, a small masterpiece of delicate, compassionate observation. The translation that follows is my own.

Die Erblindende

Sie saß so wie die anderen beim Tee.
Mir war zuerst, als ob sie ihre Tasse
ein wenig anders als die andern fasse.
Sie lächelte einmal. Es tat fast weh.

Und als man schließlich sich erhob und sprach
und langsam und wie es der Zufall brachte
durch viele Zimmer ging (man sprach und lachte),
da sah ich sie. Sie ging den andern nach,

verhalten, so wie eine, welche gleich
wird singen müssen und vor vielen Leuten;
auf ihren hellen Augen die sich freuten war
Licht von außen wie auf einem Teich.

Sie folgte langsam und sie brauchte lang
als wäre etwas noch nicht überstiegen;
und doch: als ob, nach einem Übergang,
sie nich mehr gehen würde, sondern fliegen.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Going Blind

She sat just like the rest of them at tea.
What struck me first was how she held her cup
Not quite the same as others in the group.
She sometimes smiled. It almost hurt to see.

And when the others rose at last and went
From room to room, taking their random way,
Laughing and talking, with so much to say,
I saw her. She was following, intent

On some thought of her own, like one aware
She soon would have to sing for many people,
While light on her bright eyes, as on a pool,
Gleamed from beyond, reflecting gladness there.

She followed slowly, so long passing by
As if there were still something to surmount;
And yet, once she had mastered that ascent,
She would no more be walking, but would fly.

2 thoughts on “Week 221: Die Erblindende, by Rainer Maria Rilke

  1. how beautiful. I love this particular poem by Rilke. we read this at school when I was about thirteen. and the poem stayed with me. needless to say, that I love Der Panther as well. ein tanz von kraft um eine mitte, in der betäubt ein großer wille steht….I can literally feel these words.
    die erblindende. ….nach einem übergang, sie nicht mehr gehen würde, sondern fliegen. this are my favoutite lines. and I like your translation a lot….. she mastered that ascent, she would no more be walking, but would fly.
    I would like to thank you. Heike

    • Thank you, Heike – I am very gratified to have my translation effort approved by a German reader. I agree about ‘Der Panther’ and there are many more Rilke poems I love so your reaction encourages me to have a go at another one soon.

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