Jeremiah : Rainer Maria Rilke

The end of this poem is fairly confounding and each translation I’ve seen is different, but here’s my rendering:


Once I was as tender as young wheat,
but you, O Wild One, were able to
rouse the heart held out to you,
so now it’s boiling like a lion’s heart.

What a mouth commanded you in me;
at that time, I was hardly a boy:
it was a wound: now it bleeds
year by year disastrously.

Each day I rang with new needs
which you devised, Ravener,
but they could not deaden my mouth;
see to it, how you will quench it

when we, who grind and wreck,
are lost and scattered far
and are passed by danger:
for then amidst the ruin
finally I’ll hear my voice again
which from the beginning was a roar.

by Rainer Maria Rilke
translated by Remy Wilkins

For comparison, here’s Edward Snow’s translation:

Once I was as tender as young wheat,
yet you, you raging one, were able
to inflame the heart held out to you
so that now it boils like a lion’s.

What a mouth you demanded of me,
back then when I was almost a boy;
it became a wound; out of it now
bleeds year after doom-pronounced year.

Each day I sounded with new afflictions
which you, insatiate one, devised,
and none of them could kill my mouth;
consider now how you will quiet it

when those we devastate and crush
are finally lost and driven far away
and have perished in the danger:
for I want then amidst the rubble-heaps
finally to hear my own voice again —
which from its first moments was a howling.

And for good measure a third version.

Here’s the original German.

My other translations of Rilke:
Lady on a Balcony
Autumn Day
The Beggars

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