Rilke’s ‘Roman Fountain’


Here is my new translation of Rainer Maria Rilke’s ‘Römische Fontäne, one of the poems in his 1907 collection entitled ‘Neue Gedichte’ (‘New Poems’). It is followed by Rilke’s original as it appears in that volume.

Borghese

Two basins, one ascending from the other
from an old round edge of marble disc,
and from the one above, water softly leaning
down to water standing waiting there below,

greeting its gentle speech in turn with silence,
and secretly, as if in empty hand,
showing it heaven behind the green and darkness
as if it were an object yet unknown

itself peacefully in its lovely shell
spreading without longing, sphere on sphere,
just sometimes dreamily, and drop on drop,

descending solely down the mossy hangings
to the final mirror, which softly, from below,
makes its basin smile as it overflows.

Borghese

Zwei Becken, eins das andre übersteigend
aus einem alten runden Marmorrand,
und aus dem oberen Wasser leis sich neigend
zum Wasser, welches unten wartend stand,

dem leise redenden entgegenschweigend
und heimlich, gleichsam in der hohlen Hand,
ihm Himmel hinter Grün und Dunkel zeigend
wie einen unbekannten Gegenstand;

sich selber ruhig in der schönen Schale
verbreitend ohne Heimweh, Kreis aus Kreis,
nur manchmal träumerisch und tropfenweis

sich niederlassend an den Moosbehängen
zum letzten Spiegel, der sein Becken leis
von unten lächeln macht mit Ṻbergängen.

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