Autumn Day

This Summer, I came across some of Rilke’s poetry. I’d been looking for poems to set to music. I’ve been getting up early most days for the last few weeks and it has often been the case that the first few hours after dawn have been the best part of the day. The further August has progressed, the later and later sunrise -and, consequently, breakfast- has become and the more I’ve found myself coming back to this one. It’s the shadow on the sundial that does it for me. I can just about ask the way to a railway station in German but that’s all – I’m lost without a parallel translation. I’ve provided one that I hope conveys the gist of the poem below it:


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

Befiel den letzten Früchten voll zu sein;
gib 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 Alleen hin und her

Rainer Maria Rilke

Autumn Day

Lord: it is time. The summer was stupendous.
Let your shadow fall across the sundials,
and let the wind blow on the meadows!

Let the last fruits ripen to the full;
give them another two more southerly days
urge them on to fulfillment and drive
the last sweetness into the heavy wine.

Who has no house now, will not build.
Who is alone now, will remain so for a long time,
watching, reading, writing long letters
and wandering the avenues restlessly,
to and fro, while the leaves are blowing.


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