Saturday, April 04, 2020

Rainer Maria Rilke: Archaïscher Torso Apollos / Archaic Torso of Apollo (a poem, 1908)

Dugald Stewart Walker: title-page illustration in Rainer Maria Rilke: Poems (1918). Processed with IrfanView, gray-scaled; contrast heightened by 50; gamma correction of 2.5. Source: From: Wikisource.

The poem collection is dedicated to Rodin. Rilke had been Rodin's secretary and biographer. French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) in his Paris studio in 1905. Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864-1952). This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division. Photo, caption and data: Wikipedia.

A possible inspiration for Rilke. Unknown: Male torso. Statue. Between 480 and 470 BC. Parian marble. 132 cm. Louvre Museum. Antiquités grecques, room 3: Epoque du style sévère, 480 - 450 avant J.-C.. Denon, Entresol. Accession number Ma 2792. Object history: 1873: discovered by Olivier Rayet and Albert Thomas (Miletus). 1873: given to Louvre Museum by Salomon and Gustave de Rothschild. References: Musée du Louvre, Atlas database: entry 5482. Authority control: wikidata: Q20018546: Q20018546. Atlas: 5482. Data and photo: Wikipedia.

Wir kannten nicht sein unerhörtes Haupt,
darin die Augenäpfel reiften. Aber
sein Torso glüht noch wie ein Kandelaber,
in dem sein Schauen, nur zurückgeschraubt,

sich hält und glänzt. Sonst könnte nicht der Bug
der Brust dich blenden, und im leisen Drehen
der Lenden könnte nicht ein Lächeln gehen
zu jener Mitte, die die Zeugung trug.

Sonst stünde dieser Stein entstellt und kurz
unter der Schultern durchsichtigem Sturz
und flimmerte nicht so wie Raubtierfelle;

und bräche nicht aus allen seinen Rändern
aus wie ein Stern: denn da ist keine Stelle,
die dich nicht sieht. Du mußt dein Leben ändern.

Rainer Maria Rilke: Der neuen Gedichte: Anderer Teil. À mon grand ami Auguste Rodin. Leipzig, im Insel-Verlag, 1908.

Archaic Torso of Apollo

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast's fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

From Ahead of All Parting: Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Stephen Mitchell and published by Modern Library. © 1995 by Stephen Mitchell.

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