Les Chansons des Roses

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Les Chansons des Roses

Post by Edward »

Les Chansons des Roses (The Songs of the Roses) is a cycle of poetry by the Poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926), popular since its first publication but put back into vogue by their musical setting by Morten Laurisen. Roses were always Rilke's favorite theme, and these poems are considered by many to demonstrate the gorgeous beauty of his craft at the height of his poetic powers. As rich in expression as they are dense in meaning, the are some of my favorite examples of the exquisite refinement of the French language and its ability to convey the most beautiful ideas with equally beautiful sounds and words. The translations are by Susannah Howe, which I are the best I have found so far. Still they are far from perfect, and I feel that with poetry, a direct translation is sometimes safer than an attempt to recreate the poetic sense by the translator's own literary interpretation. Where I have consequently altered the translation to better match the actual text, I have used italics:

En une seule fleur
C’est pourtant nous qui t’avons proposé
de remplir ton calice.
Enchantée de cet artifice,
ton abondance l’avait osé.

Tu étais assez riche, pour devenir cent fois toi même
en une seule fleur;
c’est l’état de celui qui aime …
Mais tu n’a pas pensé ailleurs.

Contre qui, rose
Contre qui, rose,
avez-vous adopté ces épines?
Votre joie trop fine
vous a-t-elle forcée
de devenir cette chose armée?

Mais de qui vous protège
cette arme exagérée?
Combien d’ennemis vous ai-je enlevés
qui ne la craignent point!
Au contraire, d’été en automne
vous blessez les soins
qu’on vous donne.

De ton rêve trop plein
De ton rêve trop plein,
fleur en dedans nombreuse,
mouillée comme une pleureuse,
tu te penches sur le matin.

Tes douces forces qui dorment,
dans un désir incertain,
développent ces tendres formes
entre joues et seins.

La rose complète
J’ai une telle conscience de ton
être, rose complète,
que mon consentement te confond
avec mon coeur en fête.

Je te respire comme si tu étais,
rose, toute la vie,
et je me sens l’ami parfait
d’une telle amie.

Abandon entouré d’abandon,
tendresse touchant aux tendresses…
C’est ton intérieur qui sans cesse
se caresse, dirait-on;

se caresse en soi-même,
par son prope reflet éclairé.
Ainsi tu inventes le thème
du Narcisse exaucé.
Last edited by Edward on Tue Oct 06, 2015 11:50 pm, edited 4 times in total.
"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us"
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Posts: 1516
Joined: Sat Jun 03, 2006 10:48 pm
Location: The Lands of Aman

Re: Les Chansons des Roses

Post by Edward »

In a single flower
Yet it was because we had proposed
to refill your chalice.
Enchanted by such artifice,
your abundance had agreed.

You were rich enough to become a hundred
times yourself
in a single flower;
this is the condition of ones who loves
But your thoughts were not on such things.

Against whom, rose
Against whom, rose,
have you adopted these thorns?
Is your joy so far refined,
that it has forced you
to become this armed thing?

But you, from whom do these
exaggerated arms
How many enemies have I lifted from you
who fear them not at all?
On the contrary, from summer into autumn,
you wound the very cares
that are given you.

From your overflowing dreams
From your overflowing dreams,
Flower of many petals,
moist as a mourner’s face,
you incline towards the morning.

Your gentle strength that sleeps,
in uncertain desire,
develops these tender forms
between cheek and bosom.

The perfect rose
I am so conscious of your
being, perfect rose,
that my consent mistakes you
for my own rejoicing heart.

I breathe you in as if you were,
rose, all life,
and I feel myself the *perfectly loved
of such a beloved.

*These last lines are difficult to translate as the words are simple but dense in meaning. He uses for 'loved' and 'beloved' the words ami and amie, using this word for lover or beloved in its masculine and feminine forms, respectively; it naturally suggests a romantic sentiment through the subtle play on the words' genders. To this end, I suppose I could also have translated it correctly to 'the perfect boyfriend of such a girlfriend,' but while it may have clarified that point, it would also then lose any hope of dignity in tone or expression.

So they say
Abandon surrounding abandon,
tenderness touching tenderness …
Your oneness endlessly caresses itself, so they say.

in its own clear reflection.
Thus you invent the theme
of Narcissus fulfilled.
"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us"
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