Day in Autumn
by Rainer Maria Rilke
After the summer's yield, Lord, it is time
to let your shadow lengthen on the sundials
and in the pastures let the rough winds fly.
As for the final fruits, coax them to roundness.
Direct on them two days of warmer light
to hale them golden toward their term, and harry
the last few drops of sweetness through the wine.
Whoever's homeless now, will build no shelter;
who lives alone will live indefinitely so,
waking up to read a little, draft long letters,
and, along the city's avenues,
fitfully wander, when the wild leaves loosen.
(translated by Mary Kinzie)
excerpt from the translator's note:
For all its stylistic recoiling from abundance, the poem's second part is also about something that reaches fruition, which is large, complex, almost joyous—the poet's consciousness of a deeper vein whose threshold is deprivation. In the lyric it is not a paradox to speak of the flowering of loss, of the ripening of diminishment into husk and hull. And looking back from this mysterious anti-plenty to the first half of the poem, its fruit so late ripening was already drying up, too, concentrating its sugars before detaching itself from the stem. For those reasons I brought the long u sounds of the wind-swept pastures (Fluren) and shade-draped sundials (Sonnenuhren) down into the final rhyme.
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