Something pure and fresh

Enzian, Gentian flower

As the wanderer descends from the mountains and brings not a handful of earth, and nothing is spoken, but a new word, pure like the yellow and blue trumpet-shaped Alpen flower.

Are we, perhaps here only to say: house, bridge, spring, gate, jug, fruit tree, window, – at most: column, tower…. But to say, to understand, oh to say so, as things themselves never meant to be said. Is this secretive list not our concealed earth, when lovers are forced, that thus in the word’s expression, each and every one is thrilled?


Translation, as my teacher says, is the conversion of the image to the word three times. First, from the writer’s imagination to the written word, second into a new language, and third, by the reader who sounds the words anew.

It is not an easy task. It is fraught with false steps.

Is our protagonist a traveler or wanderer? Do we know the Enzian as the bright blue flower? Does the place, Hange des Bergrands matter? Are the words pressed upon the lovers or do the lovers in their passion press for understanding? Nouns, verbs, and adjectives all take on a meaning that is not always entirely clear.

Still we must try, and, I suppose as Rainer Maria Rilke does here in his
The Ninth Elegy come up with something pure and fresh as a mountain flower.


Bringt doch der Wanderer auch vom Hange des Bergrands nicht eine Hand voll Erde ins Tal, die Allen unsägliche, sondern ein erworbenes Wort, reines, den gelben und blaun Enzian. Sind wir vielleicht hier, um zu sagen: Haus, Brücke, Brunnen, Tor, Krug, Obstbaum, Fenster, – höchstens: Säule, Turm…. aber zu sagen, verstehs, oh zu sagen so, wie selber die Dinge niemals innig meinten zu sein. Ist nicht die heimliche List dieser verschwiegenen Erde, wenn sie die Liebenden drängt, daß sich in ihrem Gefühl jedes und jedes entzückt?


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