My Inner Life Imitates, Drinking In Silence

Rainer Maria Rilke, 1900 My inner life imitates, drinking in silenceThis is another literary experiment. There are already two perfectly good English translations of the poem “Ich habe viele Brüder in Soutanen” from The Book of Hours by Rainer Maria Rilke. One translation is by Robert Bly, and another translation is by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy. Here is the original German:

Ich habe viele Brüder in Soutanen
im Süden, wo in Klöstern Lorbeer steht.
Ich weiß, wie menschlich sie Madonnen planen
und träume oft von jungen Tizianen,
durch die der Gott in Gluten geht.

Doch wie ich mich auch in mich selber neige:
Mein Gott ist dunkel und wie ein Gewebe
von hundert Wurzeln, welche schweigsam trinken.
Nur, dass ich mich aus seiner Wärme hebe,
mehr weiß ich nicht, weil alle meine Zweige
tief unten ruhn und nur im Winde winken.

My inner life imitates, drinking in silence

Barrows and Macy suggest that the Madonnas Rilke is talking about in this poem are the Madonnas of Sandro Botticelli, like this one:

Madonna and Child by Sandro Botticelli. My inner life imitates, drinking in silenceand this one:

Madonna of the Magnificat by Sandro Botticelli. My inner life imitates, drinking in silenceI read the existing translations, and I think to myself “I know that’s what he said, but that’s not what I think he meant.” And since I’ve already railed against complaining, I have to do something about it instead. So I did. It’s definitely not an exact translation, but it says what I think he meant.

I have many brothers, in holy brown robes
In the south, laurels in monastery gardens.
The way they imagine the Madonna – so human
As I often dream of Titians
Through whom God walks as fire.

Though I dig into the rich, dark earth of myself,
My God is still deeper
My inner life imitates, drinking in silence

The life you see springs from his abundance,
More than that is a mystery to me.

I am pleased with myself for following in Robert Bly’s footsteps, stealing a grain of sugar from the castle of sugar which is the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke.

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