Rainer Maria Rilke: Autumn Day (From German)

Autumn Day
By Rainer Maria Rilke
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Lord: It is time. The summer days were grand.
Now set Thy shadows out across the sun-dials
And set the winds loose on the meadowland.

Bid the last fruits grow full upon the vine,
do them the good of two more southern days
then thrust them on to their fulfillment, chase
the final sweetness into bodied wine.

Whoever has no house yet will build none,
Whoever is alone will stay alone
And stay up, write long letters out, and go
Through avenues to wander on his own
Uneasily when leaves begin to blow.

The Original:


Herr: Es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr groß.
Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren,
und auf den Fluren laß die Winde los.

Befiehl den letzten Früchten voll zu sein;
gieb ihnen noch zwei südlichere Tage,
dränge sie zur Vollendung hin und jage
die letzte Süße in den schweren Wein.

Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr.
Wer jetzt allein ist, wird es lange bleiben,
wird wachen, lesen, lange Briefe schreiben
und wird in den Aleen hin und her
unruhig wandern, wenn die Blätter treiben


  1. This is a great translation! This blog is very interesting and enjoyable.

  2. Tolle Übersetzung!

    You got the flow there really good.

  3. It's tricky,isn't it. Not so happy with secrete for jagen. Aleen are grander than alleys. But overall a worthy effort to stay close to the poetics of Rilke.

  4. Excellent translation indeed.

    I find the last line even better than the original, as it spreads out the unease to both the wandering AND the leaves.

    Agree with Alan above, on the jage. I'd suggest 'drive' instead of 'chase'.

    Really like the 'on his own'. However (and almost sadly), that's not in the original. Hence, would suggest 'all around' instead. Still, on second thought: miss the Lesen after staying up! How about:
    Stay up, and read, and write long letters out
    and go through avenues to wander 'round

  5. Oops, cut back to the chase, and the rest as well... I sort of missed the rhyming

  6. I really like this translation except for one quibble - I don't think we speak about "bodied wine". "Full-bodied wine", sure. But I can't see how to work in that extra syllable with screwing up the rest of the line!

    Otherwise, excellent.