Rilke: Love Song (From German)

Love Song
By Rainer Maria Rilke
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original German

How shall I hold my soul and yet not touch
It with your own? How shall I ever place
It clear of you on anything beyond?
Oh gladly I would stow it next to such
Things in the darkness as are never found
Down in an alien and silent space
That does not resonate when you resound.
But everything that touches me and you
Takes us together like a bow on two
Taut strings to stroke them to the voice of one.
What instrument have we been lain along?
Whose are the hands that play our unison?
Oh sweet song!

The Original:


Wie soll ich meine Seele halten, daß
sie nicht an deine rührt? Wie soll ich sie
hinheben über dich zu andern Dingen?
Ach gerne möcht ich sie bei irgendwas
Verlorenem im Dunkel unterbringen
an einer fremden stillen Stelle, die
nicht weiterschwingt, wenn deine Tiefen schwingen.
Doch alles, was uns anrührt, dich und mich,
nimmt uns zusammen wie ein Bogenstrich,
der aus zwei Saiten eine Stimme zieht.
Auf welches Instrument sind wir gespannt?
Und welcher Spieler hat uns in der Hand?
O süßes Lied!


  1. i am highly impressed that you managed to make it rhyme!
    Currently i am in the process of doing the same with Liebes-Lied, and i must say, so much of the beauty and meaning gets lost when i attempt to translate it and make it rhyme!

  2. A very beautiful and impressive achievement. I've been looking around online for a good rhyming translation, including published material at Google Books, and this remains one of my favourites.

  3. A very impressive achievement. This translation is true to the original (I am German) and yet a work of art on its own. I hope someone shall publish your poetry!

  4. This really is a beautiful translation. You've managed to keep the sound and flow that is so key to the orignal one and found element that express these deep matters Rilke is talking about. I love the English language for it's simplicity and ture meaning. But when I come along a matter like that, that particular poem, I am glad that I know German. Cause in the end, although your version might be the best translation out there, there's just no way to really translate this masterpiece and make everything work just as the master intended.