Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Neighbor

The world doesn't really need another English translation of Rilke's poem "The Neighbor." A couple of fine ones are here and here. But it's something I've been playing around with, and since mine's a little bit different, I figured I'd share it.

Der Nachbar

Fremde Geige, gehst du mir nach?
In wieviel fernen Städten schon sprach
deine einsame Nacht zu meiner?
Spielen dich hunderte? Spielt dich einer?

Gibt es in allen großen Städten
solche, die sich ohne dich
schon in den Flüßen verloren hätten?
Und warum trifft es immer mich?

Warum bin ich immer der Nachbar derer,
die dich bange zwingen zu singen
und zu sagen: Das Leben ist schwerer
als die Schwere von allen Dingen

The Neighbor

Strange violin, are you following me?
In how many distant cities has your lonely night
already spoken to mine?
Do a hundred play you? Does one?

In all the great cities
are there those who, without you,
would have long ago lost themselves in the rivers?
And why does it always concern me?

Why am I always a neighbor to those
who anxiously make you sing
and say: Life is heavier
than the heaviness of all things

Incidentally, I finished Appiah's Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers. Some good ideas, but I have to say I was troubled by the notion that the risk of a few broken bones might be a good reason not to save a falling person from a certain death. It's good to have a sense of the difference between what's irreversible and what's recoverable. (Recently watched Thirteen Conversations About One Thing for about the third or fourth time now. It holds up well.)

More incidentally, I'm thinking about putting Judith Ryan's The Vanishing Subject on my reading list.

posted by Fido the Yak at 3:27 PM.


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