I like poetry.
I’ve heard that German poetry is really good. That there’s something about a cacophonous language with a bit of word order freedom that makes for unique verse.
That’s what people tell me anyway. Knowing about zero German, I read the words in translation. I love that translations of so many things are available these days, but the purist in me sort of wants to run out and learn German.
(I’ll put that one on the back burner.)
My fave German poem is by Rilke:
Spaziergang (A Walk)
Already my gaze is on the hill, that sunlit one,
Up ahead on the path I’ve scarcely started.
In the same way, what we couldn’t grasp grasps us:
blazingly visible, there in the distance -
and changes us, even if we don’t reach it,
into what we, scarcely sensing it, already are;
a gesture signals, answering our gesture…
But we feel only the opposing wind.
- Rainer Maria Rilke, Muzot, beginning of March 1924
There are lots of different translations out there for this poem. I don’t really know which is the most accurate, but I do like the rendering of this one.
To me, there’s a DIY element to any kind of lyricism – a poem rises to meet and fill out the particular parameters that each reader brings to table. The same set of seemingly rigid words flexes to convey different messages to everyone.
SO! For me, this poem conveys a concise message: hope, purpose. The physical imagery is of a person at the beginning of their path, with a not yet attained end in sight. I extrapolate, imagining the onset of a journey not on that physical path, but rather a path through life with a far-flung goal ahead of you. The distance between your first steps on the path and the hill – that’s the journey part, the game plan part.
It’s a poem of a win-win situation. Because even if you don’t grasp that goal, your plans and endeavors along the path change you.
For the better.
What do you think of the poem? Any other German lit favorites out there?