Rilke’s Requiem for a friend

Denn das ist Schuld, wenn irgendeines Schuld ist:
die Freiheit eines Lieben nicht vermehren
um alle Freiheit, die man in sich aufbringt.

Fragment from Rilke’s Requiem for a friend. For Paula Modersohn-Becker 1876-1907. Two translations.

Whatever is deleted comes in the original poem, however I deleted those tiny sections because of personal reasons/preferences. Fundamentally, it would only not be accurate in terms of the reasons I am citing/quoting it in my blog, but certainly would express quite the opposite of what really is happening here.

For this suffering has lasted far too long; none of us can bear it; it is too heavy — this tangled suffering of spurious love which, building on convention like a habit, calls itself just, and fattens on injustice. Show me a man with a right to his possession. Who can posses what cannot hold its own self, but only, now and then, will blissfully catch itself, then quickly throw itself away, like a child playing with a ball. As little as a captain can hold the carved Nike facing outward from his ship’s prow when the lightness of her godhead suddenly lifts her up, into the bright sea-wind: so little can one of us call back the woman who, now no longer seeing us, walks on along the narrow strip of her existence as though by miracle, in perfect safety — unless, that is, he wishes to do wrong. For this is wrong, if anything is wrong: not to enlarge the freedom of a love with all the inner freedom one can summon. We need, in love, to practice only this: letting each other go. For holding on comes easily; we do not need to learn it.

Are you still here ? Are you standing in some corner ? You knew so much of all this, you were able to do so much; you passed through life so open to all things, like an early morning.

Trad. Stephen Mitchell

Because this suffering’s lasted far too long,
and no one can bear it: it’s too heavy for us,
this confused suffering of false love,
that builds on imitation, like a custom,
calls itself right and makes profit out of wrong.
Where is the man who has the right of possession?
Who can possess what cannot hold its own self,
what only from time to time catches itself happily,
and throws itself down again, as a child does a ball.
No more than the captain of the ship can grasp
the Nike jutting outwards from the prow
when the secret lightness of her divinity
lifts her suddenly into the bright ocean-wind:
no more can one of us call back the woman
who walks on, no longer seeing us,
along a small strip of her being
as if by a miracle, without disaster:
unless his desire and trade is in crime.
For this is a crime, if anything’s a crime:
not to increase the freedom of a Love
with all the freedom we can summon in ourselves.
We have, indeed, when we love, only this one thing:
to loose one another: because holding on to ourselves
comes easily to us, and does not first have to be learned.

Are you still there? Are you in some corner? –
You understood all of this so well
and used it so well, as you passed through
open to everything, like the dawn of a day.

Trad. Tony Kline.

Last but not least, two Spanish translations of that tiny part that brought me back to this beautiful poem.

Sólo existe una culpa: el no multiplicar la libertad de lo amado
por toda la libertad de la que uno es capaz.

Trad. Oswaldo Barreto Miliani

Porque la culpa es eso, si es que de algún modo la culpa existe:
no acrecentar la libertad del ser al que se ama
por la libertad que de uno mismo surge

Trad. Isaías Garde

Original German text.

Denn dieses Leiden dauert schon zu lang,
und keiner kanns; es ist zu schwer für uns,
das wirre Leiden von der falschen Liebe,
die, bauend auf Verjährung wie Gewohnheit,
ein Recht sich nennt und wuchert aus dem Unrecht.
Wo ist ein Mann, der Recht hat auf Besitz?
Wer kann besitzen, was sich selbst nicht hält,
was sich von Zeit zu Zeit nur selig auffängt
und wieder hinwirft wie ein Kind den Ball.
Sowenig wie der Feldherr eine Nike
festhalten kann am Vorderbug des Schiffes,
wenn das geheime Leichtsein ihrer Gottheit
sie plötzlich weghebt in den hellen Meerwind:
so wenig kann einer von uns die Frau
anrufen, die uns nicht mehr sieht und die
auf einem schmalen Streifen ihres Daseins
wie durch ein Wunder fortgeht, ohne Unfall:
er hätte denn Beruf und Lust zur Schuld.

Denn das ist Schuld, wenn irgendeines Schuld ist:
die Freiheit eines Lieben nicht vermehren
um alle Freiheit, die man in sich aufbringt.
Wir haben, wo wir lieben, ja nur dies:
einander lassen; denn dass wir uns halten,
das fallt uns leicht und ist nicht erst zu lernen.

Bist du noch da? In welcher Ecke bist du? –
Du hast so viel gewusst von alledem
und hast so viel gekonnt, da du so hingingst
für alles offen, wie ein Tag, der anbricht.


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