"Nächtlicher Gang" - Need English translation/inte

Von den frühen Prager Gedichten über Cornet, Neue Gedichte, Sonette und Elegien bis zum lyrischen Grabspruch

Moderatoren: Thilo, stilz

Rilke Fan
Beiträge: 187
Registriert: 8. Apr 2003, 18:56
Wohnort: Texas, USA

Beitrag von Rilke Fan » 19. Nov 2004, 06:39

Hi Paula,

Thank you so very much for sharing your thoughts! :lol: I really liked your interpretation. In fact, as I read it, I could almost picture myself lying in some meadow at night, just as you described, and floating up to the stars and becoming a part of them. What a marvelous thought -- leaving all of the cares of everyday life behind to become a part of something far greater, even if only for a moment. You can almost get lost in such thoughts!

What do you think about the very last line? "Wie drängen sie."

"How they (the stars) urge us" to do what?

:?: Join them and become a part of them? That seems to make sense to me after your interpretation.

Perhaps that is part of what Rilke was trying to say in the line: "Wer widerstrebt dem wird nicht Welt." Maybe he's not saying, "Whoever tries to resist will have no world" but rather, "whoever tries to resist will not become a part of the world." Of course, that would be more than just translation. That would be interpretation as well!

Ingrid, I didn't have much time today, but I promise to get back to you tomorrow with comments regarding your last posting.

Liebe Grüße!


Beiträge: 239
Registriert: 29. Feb 2004, 11:01

Beitrag von Paula » 19. Nov 2004, 17:38

Hi Linda,

"wie drängen sie." : I agree with your interpretation.

Meanwhile I have a further idea what it could mean:

the stars push themselves at the galaxy / comet / sternenzelt or something ... : sie drängen sich selbst ... just an idea more ...

if you say urgent , I would like to say they do invite us to become part of the galaxy , the invitation is urgent . think about people, who destroied the earth, smog or something - you can`t see any star . It could mean , people are responsible for the creature - so we have to join . it could mean, the stars push themselves together to show us the urgency ;-) ?

what do you think, about this ?

a further question: Rilke often use the word or theme "Nacht" - what does it means in other poems of him ?

Paula :lol:

Rilke Fan
Beiträge: 187
Registriert: 8. Apr 2003, 18:56
Wohnort: Texas, USA

Beitrag von Rilke Fan » 21. Nov 2004, 01:33

Hi Ingrid, Paula, and everyone else!

I’m back with a few more thoughts. First I wanted to say, Ingrid, that I forgot to mention something last time. With your second idea for the translation of the first line, we would need to change the word order just a little. Instead of:

“Not anything there is we can compare,” we would have to say: “There’s not anything we can compare.”

However, now that we have established the interpretation of this first line, I think I would prefer to keep the more literal word, “nothing,” rather than using “not anything.” And meanwhile, I have thought of several other possible translations, although I’m still not sure which one would be the best. At any rate, I don’t know why I didn’t think of this first one sooner.

Nothing is to be compared.

(In other words, we are NOT to compare “Nothing,”or we SHOULD not compare “Nothing,” but of course you can’t say that in English because it would be a double negative. Instead, you would have to substitute the word “anything” for “nothing,” so I used the above translation instead.)

And of course, adding the words “there is” would also make things clearer as it would remove the ambiguity of the sentence.

There’s nothing we can compare.

However, since Rilke obviously intended to make this line ambiguous, I hesitate to change it. Another alternative would be:

Nothing that exists can be compared.

What do you think? As you have probably noticed, I’m not very good at making decisions!

“Denn was ist nicht ganz mit sich allein...”

Your translation “What is not totally alone with itself” would work. I also like your interpretation of “Is there anything that is not totally alone by itself,” so much so, that I’m tempted to use it instead.

However, when you think about it, what exactly does it mean to say that something is “ganz mit sich allein?” Wouldn’t that mean that it is “complete” in itself? And if not, how would you say that in German?

“und was je auszusagen”

First, let me ask, would “je” be translated as “ever” here? And if so, wouldn’t this be translated something like:

and what could ever be said (about it?) OR

and what could you ever say (about it) (depending on which tense you wanted to use)

The word “express,” which I originally chose can be used in several different ways, one of which would be “to state thoughts or feelings” which sounds pretty close to your definition of “aussagen,” which was “to make a statement about something.” It can also be used to convey the meaning of something else or to give evidence to something (als Zeuge), and that is why I thought it might work in this case.

Also, the word “say” or “said” sounds better that using the word “state” in this case, although I can’t explain why.

What do you think about saying the following:

For what is there that is not totally alone
in itself and what can be said about it?

“Wir nennen nichts.” (We name nothing.) - So, is this saying that we do NOT give a name to (the word) “nothing?”

“Wir dürfen nur ertragen” - You asked why I don’t want to use the more literal word “may” for “dürfen?” This is difficult to explain, but there are some cases in English when the words “can” and “may” can be used interchangeably. I guess I didn’t really think of the word “may” in the sense of “allowed” or “permitted,” but rather as “might,” “could,” “possibly will,” or “may well,” but perhaps that sounds more like your word “mögen.” At any rate, it sounds somewhat strange in English to say “may” rather than “can” in this instance. I do see your point though. Saying: “All we can do is endure” is more like saying in German “Wir können nur ertragen.”

Perhaps it would be better to translate it as: we are only allowed to endure.....

“uns so gestreift” - I think you are right. “Brushed against us” works very well.

“Zuweilen” - I am very unfamiliar with this word in German, but according to my dictionary, it could be translated as the following, and it is probably all a matter of preference:

“Every once in a while” (ab und zu [mal] or hin und wieder)
“Every now and then,”
“Now and then”
“From time to time” (von Zeit zu Zeit)
“at times” (manchmal)

Perhaps “Every once in a while” would work better since “while” sounds a bit more like “zuweilen!” What do you think?

“Große Nächte” - I haven’t been able to figure out a better word for “groß,” but I think that Rilke may have chosen it because it can have so many different meanings, and perhaps he meant it in more than one sense. Perhaps he meant the great, long, huge, wonderful nights!!!

“Wie drängen sie” - I think this should simply be translated as “How they urge,” leaving the rest to our imagination and interpretation, as to whether he means to urge “us” or “themselves.” But after all of our discussion, personally, I think it means that the stars themselves are urging us to:

allow ourselves to be “distributed in equal, almost weightless parts among them [the stars]”
(“uns erlauben in gleichen leichten Teilen aus den Sternen ausgeteilt zu werden!”)

Well, that’s it for now!

Paula, I am compiling a list of my favorite Rilke poems concerning the stars and night, along with what he says about them, which I will share very soon. And I am sure we will find poems in this list that we will want to discuss (and translate)!

Liebe Grüße,


Beiträge: 200
Registriert: 8. Mär 2003, 12:39
Wohnort: Freie Hansestadt Bremen

My turn.

Beitrag von Volker » 25. Nov 2004, 02:59

Hallo Stilz, gute Arbeit!
Hallo Linda,
es ist wirklich nicht einfach, dies Gedicht zu verstehen.
Noch schwieriger also ist es zu übersetzen!
Hier kommt meine Variante.

NICHTS ist vergleichbar. Denn was ist nicht ganz
mit sich allein und was je auszusagen;
wir nennen nichts, wir dürfen nur ertragen
und uns verständigen, daß da ein Glanz
und dort ein Blick vielleicht uns so gestreift
als wäre grade das darin gelebt
was unser Leben ist. Wer widerstrebt
dem wird nicht Welt. Und wer zuviel begreift
dem geht das Ewige vorbei. Zuweilen
in solchen großen Nächten sind wir wie
außer Gefahr, in gleichen leichten Teilen
den Sternen ausgeteilt. Wie drängen sie.
Nightly walk.
NAUGHT is comparable. For what is not
all on its own and what can be expressed?
Nothing we name. We only can endure
and come to terms that here a shine
and there a glance perhaps has touched us so
as if just that has lived in it what marks our life.
He who opposes will miss world's revelation.
And who conceives too much will miss eternal things.
At times, in such great nights, we are like out of risk,
surrendered to the stars in equal, gentle parts.
O how they urge.


30.11.04 - Nachtrag: Korrektur folgender Zeile:
Correction of fwlg line:
als wäre grade das darin gelebt
was unser Leben ist.
was translated as:
as if just that has lived in it what marks our life.

That is not quite correct:
Rilke said: "als wäre grade das darin gelebt"
(not: "hätte grade das darin gelebt" - as I translated with "had..."!)
That seems to be a minor difference, but it is an important one, I believe. It's difficult for me to explain in English. I'm afraid I can't deliver the correct grammatical explanation.
"als hätte" would mean, something had lived in it.
However, "als wäre" means, somebody has lived in a certain way in it, or better: has made a difference by living in a certain way. The difference is like what you mean when you say, somebody has lived (was simply living) in contrast to somebody has given his life a certain quality (was living to certain standards, for example).
In fact, "als wäre .... das .... gelebt" is passive verb of "to live".
I don't know if that is possible in English. In German, it is.
Sorry, I have to say I can't give a proper translation of this line.

Hi Linda, I hope things have not become too complicated now. :?
Zuletzt geändert von Volker am 30. Nov 2004, 18:17, insgesamt 1-mal geändert.
Ich hab' auch Verstand.©
gez. Volker

Rilke Fan
Beiträge: 187
Registriert: 8. Apr 2003, 18:56
Wohnort: Texas, USA

Beitrag von Rilke Fan » 27. Nov 2004, 21:02

Hi Volker and everyone else!

It’s so very nice to hear from you again, Volker, after so long! I like your title, “My turn,” and as always, your translation is excellent! Below are a few comments and questions:

Naught” is a most excellent choice! It’s an older word not used much today, but it fits perfectly to the time period during which Rilke wrote!!

Nothing we name.” FINALLY, after reading your translation, I now realize that this line is referring back to the previous line, and that Rilke is saying” “Nothing we name can be expressed."

My grammar is too rusty to explain why you probably wouldn’t use the word “shine” for Glanz in this instance. Although “shine” can be either a verb or a noun, it is most often used as a verb, and for reasons I can’t explain, it sounds strange used as a noun in this line, and thus, something like “sparkle,” “gleam,” "glimmer," or maybe “shining brilliance” would sound better. Perhaps you have an even better alternative than these.

If you use the words “come to terms,” you would have to add the word “with” (which would also require an object), and thus you would have say something like: “come to terms with the fact that...” It might be simpler just to say “accept that,” which would mean about the same thing, but I think I prefer your come to terms (with the fact).

so as if just that has lived in it what marks our life.” - I think I understand this line better with your translation, but it still seems to need a little work or fine tuning.

so” - “in such manner” or “in such a way” sounds a little better in English in this case, even though they are longer than what one would like.

I like your choice of the word “marks” (which helps clarify things), but still the words “that,” “it,” and “what” are so vague, that you almost become lost in this line and forget what they are referring back to, especially the word “it.” Even though we know that the “it” refers back to the “Glanz” or the “Blick,” it gets somewhat confusing.

I think we would at least have to use the word “which” rather than “what” and say:

as if exactly that has lived in it which marks our life” (probably more literal)


as if exactly that which has lived in it marks our life.”

Also, if you use the word “just,” it is unclear whether you mean “exactly” or “only,” since it could be taken either way in English. That’s why I chose the word“precisely,” but “exactly” would also work, and perhaps other words I haven’t thought of.

Even after reading this many times in both the German and the English, it is difficult to translate ,because I’m still not completely sure that I understand what Rilke is trying to say here. Would you mind giving me your own personal interpretation of this line or trying to put it all together in a more understandable sentence?

Would the following be a proper interpretation?

“Here a sparkle and there a glance has touched us in such a way as if exactly “the same thing” has lived in them which lives in us (or is our life)? If this is accurate, how might we re-word it in the poem?

Also, as far as interpretation goes, if “the same thing” is a proper interpretation, what might that “same thing” be? Could it be related to the stars in his later lines? Does the same thing live in the stars? And if so, what is it, and how is it related to us?

I like your choice of “world’s revelation,” even though it is a bit interpretive. I know that is sometimes necessary is order to make things more understandable.

I also like your choice of “eternal things” better than just “the eternal.”

At times, in such great nights, “we are like out of risk,” - This would have to be re-worded just a little.

The English language is funny. It’s strange that you can say “out of danger” but not “out of risk.” If you wanted to use “risk” instead of “danger,” you would have to say “without risk.”

It’s also strange that you can say,

It’s like” we are (without risk)” but not ”we are like” (without risk).

It sounds even better to say “it seems like” (or possibly “feels like”) we are without risk.

surrendered to the stars in equal, gentle parts.” I really like your choice of “surrendered” - but what exactly does this mean? Would you care to give your opinion as to the interpretation of this line and also to the last line? (O how they urge.)

(Urge what? Us? And to do what? To surrender ourselves to the stars? How do you do that?

Could it mean to accept death and to live life (afterwards) in a different way - the same way that the “Glanz” or the “Blink” or the “stars” do? But what would be meant by this? How do they live?

Or perhaps (most likely) it has nothing to do with death at all. Perhaps he is speaking of living your life (now) in this way?

Thanks so much, Volker. :lol: Your translation really did give me lots of ideas and made things a lot clearer than they were before.

Liebe Grüße!


Rilke Fan
Beiträge: 187
Registriert: 8. Apr 2003, 18:56
Wohnort: Texas, USA

Beitrag von Rilke Fan » 28. Nov 2004, 05:37

Hi Volker (and everyone else),

I forgot to mention in my earlier comment (above) that I liked your title, “Nightly walk.” Would that be a more literal translation than something like “Walk at Night” or “Walking at Night”?

“Nightly” sort of implies that it is something you do every night. For example, if you were to say: “I like to take a nightly walk” or “It’s time for my nightly walk,” it would imply that you walk every night. Do you have that same sort of implication with the title in German?

Liebe Grüße,


Beiträge: 200
Registriert: 8. Mär 2003, 12:39
Wohnort: Freie Hansestadt Bremen

Nightly Reply.

Beitrag von Volker » 29. Nov 2004, 02:01

Hi Linda,

Let's go through your comments one by one, starting with the word nightly.

Actually, I thought nightly had the same meaning as the German "naechtlich", namely something you do at night, not necessarily every night, although possible. (In contrast to "daily = taeglich" of course).
So "nightly" isn't meant as "every night".

Then, shine (like moonshine). This word came to my mind for "Glanz" quite automatically. Of course there might be better words. What about "sheen" - or is that too pathetic?

Yes, I do know that come to terms would require "with". But in this case I just replaced it with "that" :? , obviously not allowed... :cry:
The meaning of "verstaendigen" is indeed something what you can come to terms with, in connection with other people. "Understand" or "accept" have different meanings.

... so
as if just that has lived in it ...

First of all, "so" in the sense of "in such a way" just fits better in the line. Perhaps I was influenced by Coleridge:
Why look'st thou so?" - "With my cross-bow
I shot the Albatross."
just that has the meaning of "gerade das", not in the sense of "only", but in the sense of "precisely".
just that refers to what is in the glance (or shine) and what marks the "essence of our life".
in it refers to "darin", namely the same thing.

You asked me why I used "surrendered" to the stars. Well, I can't explain, I just felt like saying it. I didn't like "delivered" because that makes me think of a parcel service.
And then what about "How they urge!"?
Well, the last two lines of the poem are the most difficult to understand for me as well. Perhaps Rilke has felt in a similar way what Goethe said in his "Symbolum":
... Stille ruhn
oben die Sterne und unten die Graeber.
Doch rufen von drueben
die Stimmen der Geister
die Stimmen der Meister:
Versaeumt nicht zu ueben
die Kraefte des Guten
Quietly resting
are the stars above, and the graves below.
Yet, from beyond
voices of spirits
voices of masters
(are calling)
Don't miss to practise
the power of the good.

(Written down by heart, maybe not 100% correct)
Isn't that something everybody can feel when he/she is outside in a clear night, overwhelmed by the view of the glorious sky - full of stars?

Finally, thanks a lot, Linda, for your hints with regard to the "funny" things in the English language. (About what you can say and what you can't say!) I presume, it must be funny for you sometimes, reading the poor translation attempts of us German native speakers. :lol: :lol: :lol:
Ich hab' auch Verstand.©
gez. Volker

Beiträge: 1192
Registriert: 26. Okt 2004, 10:25
Wohnort: Klosterneuburg

Beitrag von stilz » 30. Nov 2004, 22:34

Hallo Linda, Volker...

Oh, Volker, DANKE für Deine Übersetzung!

Und Du machst mich aufmerksam auf dieses Passiv "als wäre ... gelebt", das hab ich doch wirklich einfach übersehen.

Es ist ein sehr schöner Gedanke, daß es eine Spur hinterläßt, wenn etwas ... "gelebt wird"...

Leider hab ich grad ganz, ganz wenig Zeit, ich wollte nur kurz zeigen, daß ich noch da bin.

Liebe Grüße!


Beiträge: 1192
Registriert: 26. Okt 2004, 10:25
Wohnort: Klosterneuburg

Beitrag von stilz » 30. Nov 2004, 22:39


Noch ein kleiner Nachtrag zu "funny, those languages"...

Ich habe keine Ahnung, wieso, aber Volker, dieses kleine "O" ändert für mich eine ganze Menge, plötzlich ist in dieser letzten Zeile ganz genau das drin, was ich auch bei Rilke spüre:

Wie drängen sie.

O how they urge.

Und das Schönste --- es bedarf dazu eigentlich gar keiner ganz genauen Interpretation, schließlich läßt Rilke das ja eben offen, wohin oder wozu diese Sterne uns drängen...


Beitrag von Gast » 1. Dez 2004, 18:21

Hallo Linda, Volker, Paula und alle anderen!

Linda, thank you for your many comments.
And Volker, for your translation that has brought so many new possibilities!
So I had to put together a new attempt:

Nightly Walk

NAUGHT is comparable. For what is not
all on its own, and what can be expressed;
Nothing we name, we’re just permitted to endure
and realize that here a glow and there a glimpse
maybe has brushed against us in a way
as though just that might have been lived in it
that is our life. To him who tries resisting
world won’t be. And who conceives too much
will be passed by eternal things. At times
in spacious nights like this it seems
we're out of danger, in equal gentle parts
shed to the stars. O how they urge.

“Nightly walk” – ja, Volker, das ist viel besser und auch schlichter als mein “Wandering at night”! (Still, if it feels like "every night" to you, Linda, we might have to find something else?)

“Not anything there is”
Linda, you say that you want to change the word order to “There’s not anything” ---
I feel that would not be the same.
“There’s not anything” to me means “Es gibt nichts”, meaning I cannot find anything when looking around… whereas with “Not anything (that) there is” I wanted to say “Nicht ein einziges Ding, das es gibt”, “not anything existing”.

However, Volker, Dein “NAUGHT” ist noch viel besser und klingt irgendwie auch viel entschiedener als „nothing“ oder „not anything“, bravo!

“is to be compared”
really would work very well! I like it because ist is so short, and I wouldn’t want to translate Rilke’s three words into a whole long sentence…
However, again Volker: At first I objected to “comparable” because of the possibility “unvergleichlich” --- but with NAUGHT as a subject I feel this problem doesn’t arise any more (I don’t exactly know why, funny!).

“Denn was ist nicht ganz mit sich allein...”
Oh, Linda, finally I realize your difficulty with „ganz“.
For “totally complete in itself” I would say in German something like “ganz und gar vollständig in sich selbst” …
“ganz” can mean either “complete” or “totally”, and I am pretty sure Rilke means “totally alone” when he says “ganz allein”, if he meant “complete in itself” he would have said something like “ein Ganzes” …
Though I still like my own “utterly”, Volker, Dein einfaches “all on its own” trifft es viel besser!

“Nothing we name.” FINALLY, after reading your translation, I now realize that this line is referring back to the previous line, and that Rilke is saying” “Nothing we name can be expressed."
I don’t think Rilke meant “Nothing we name can be expressed."
I feel he wanted to say “We could never find the right name for any existing thing; for there is not anyhing like any other thing or like anything we ever could think, all our “categories” are vain…”

With your explanation, Linda, “express” works very well, so well that even Volker used it.

I still feel there should be a difference between “we can” and “wir dürfen”, so I tried “we’re permitted”…

And I want to ask if there is anything wrong with “realize”?
”wir dürfen uns verständigen” I think means something like “we are permitted to go and get information”.
“come to terms” würde ich mehr in Richtung “wir finden uns damit ab” übersetzen, das sehe ich aber bei Rilke noch nicht so klar, denn dann könnte es doch später kein “Widerstreben” geben?

It is a pity we mustn’t use “shine”, I would have liked that best!
I think “sheen” also would be beautiful, but I don’t really know this word, so I tried “glow” which I feel is better than my first “sparkle”, as it is more calm.
Still, I like “glimpse” better than “glance”, for I think „glance“ ist ein flüchtiger Blick, den ich jemandem zuwerfe (oder jemand mir), mit „glimpse“ verbinde ich mehr das, was ich sehe, wenn ich einen flüchtigen Blick irgendwo hineintu, und das ist es wohl, was hier gemeint ist.

For “als wäre grade das darin gelebt was unser Leben ist” I came up with a more literal and passive translation (and I realize that my first attempt indeed was passive, though I thought I had overlooked that!)
I know that “to be lived” is not a real English expression, aber “gelebt werden” ist auch sehr ungewöhnlich im Deutschen!

For “widerstreben” I still like “try to resist”, because of the “streben”… to me it means that we all finally won’t be able to really resist, but some still try, and to them “world’s revelation” won’t come.

Ich finde Deine “revelation” sehr schön, Volker… aber ich finde, Rilkes “dem wird nicht Welt” ist ein so besonderer Ausdruck, den würde ich sehr gern so wörtlich wie möglich übernehmen.
Aber „eternal things“ gefällt mir trotzdem besser als „the Eternal“, ist das sehr unlogisch? Aber ich habe diese ewigen Dinge aktiv gelassen und daher „will be passed by“, also ein Passiv, verwendet – schon wieder paradox!

„Spacious“ I chose mainly beause of the „music“.

„Out of risk“ fände ich zwar schöner, aber wenn man das nicht sagen kann, bleibt es wohl bei „danger“.

And Linda, is there anything wrong with „shed to the stars?“ I don’t know why, but I still like it best!

Und dann natürlich noch Dein “O”, Volker --- "O how they urge…"

Euch allen einen schönen Advent!

Liebe Grüße


Beiträge: 1192
Registriert: 26. Okt 2004, 10:25
Wohnort: Klosterneuburg

Beitrag von stilz » 1. Dez 2004, 18:23


na, Ihr habt ja sicher erkannt, daß ich das war, auch wenn ich's Einloggen vergessen habe!

Nochmal liebe Grüße

Ingrid (stilz)

Beiträge: 200
Registriert: 8. Mär 2003, 12:39
Wohnort: Freie Hansestadt Bremen

Nächtlicher Gang und kein Ende. (Never ending nightly walk)

Beitrag von Volker » 2. Dez 2004, 02:54

Hallo stilz,
Hi Linda,

das wird ja hier eine ergiebige Diskussion!
Ich glaube, der Zusammenhang zwischen "was (ist) je auszusagen" und "Wir nennen nichts" bezieht sich auf "Nichts ist vergleichbar": Die Dinge der Welt, die eben von uns wahrgenommen aber letzten Endes nicht "definiert", nicht erklärt werden können. Wenigstens nicht mit Worten. Worte sind ja auch nur Hilfsmittel, mit denen Wahrheiten auszudrücken versucht wird. Und etwas zu verstehen oder zu erklären heißt ja auch immer, es mit etwas Bekanntem zu vergleichen - eine andere Möglichkeit haben wir Menschen ja nicht. (Aber: "NICHTS ist vergleichbar!")
Wir können uns nur darauf "verständigen", dass wir manchmal (in glücklichen Augenblicken) einen "Glanz", einen "Blick" wahrnehmen, die uns vielleicht erahnen lassen, was eigentlich unser Leben ausmacht, ja, vielleicht sogar, dass uns "Welt wird", d.h. dass wir die Welt verstehen.

Wer sich gegen diese Ahnungen wehrt, wer alles ganz genau erklären und verstehen will, "dem wird nicht Welt". Dem geht es wie Faust:
Geheimnisvoll am lichten Tag
Läßt sich Natur des Schleiers nicht berauben,
Und was sie deinem Geist nicht offenbaren mag,
Das zwingst du ihr nicht ab mit Hebeln und mit Schrauben.
Noch eine Kleinigkeit, stilz:
"spacious nights" würde ich nicht sagen. Wenn mich nicht alles täuscht, bedeutet "spacious" groß im Sinne von weiträumig.
Ich würde also bei "great nights" bleiben, weil great = groß im Sinne von großartig.

Nun soll's aber genug sein. Schließlich will ich ja keine Doktorarbeit über den "Nächtlichen Gang" schreiben.

Hi Linda, sorry for writing in German. I was trying to explain how I understand the first lines of the poem: The correlation between "Nichts ist vergleichbar", "was (ist) je auszusagen" and "Wir nennen nichts". - Man is trying to "explain" the world. He can do this only by comparing unknown things with known things, using known terms - with words that can be understood. The difficulty is that "naught is comparable", as Rilke said. So that is why we can't "name" anything, nothing "can be expressed" with words.
Only at times, in fortunate moments, we might catch a glimpse, spot a "gleam" (OK, not "shine"! :wink:) giving us -perhaps- an idea of what "marks" our life, what the world is all about.

Sorry, I realize that my English is not sufficient to say what I hardly can explain in German. :?
Bye for now.

PS: What about "out of peril" instead of "risk" or "danger"?
Ich hab' auch Verstand.©
gez. Volker

Rilke Fan
Beiträge: 187
Registriert: 8. Apr 2003, 18:56
Wohnort: Texas, USA

Beitrag von Rilke Fan » 2. Dez 2004, 11:14

Hi Volker and Ingrid,

Wow! This is all really great! (Even the comments in German I think I understood pretty well, except that I couldn't find "erahnen," but I assume it must be similar to "ahnen" (to foresee or have a premonition?)

This is just a quick note to say that I didn't have much time yesterday, but I should be finished with my response to this all later today! Until then....

Liebe Grüße!


Rilke Fan
Beiträge: 187
Registriert: 8. Apr 2003, 18:56
Wohnort: Texas, USA

Beitrag von Rilke Fan » 3. Dez 2004, 08:08

Hi Ingrid and Volker,

Unfortunately I didn’t have much time the past couple of days, and now I hardly know where to begin! (It’s always easier for me when I can answer right away while everything is still fresh on my mind). But let me begin by saying thanks to both of you once again for all your comments, as well as for your most recent translation, Ingrid. Above all, I’d like to mention that your explanations of the meaning of various words have been of tremendous help! And even if we never achieve the “perfect” translation, most importantly, you have both really helped me to understand Rilke’s words and have shed light on the meaning of this poem as well.

I will try to respond chronologically, so let me begin with Volker’s comments from Nov 29, regarding the word “nightly,” Although in certain instances “nightly” can probably mean something you do at night (but not necessarily every night), I can’t think of a single instance of this. Also, “nightly” is more often used as an adverb, in which case it always means “every” night (rather than as an adjective). Still I like the title “Nightly Walk,” and I think it works fine. However, in order to eliminate the possibility of this meaning “every” night, an alternative would be “Walk at night,” which indicates that the walk is taken at night but without the implication that it is done “every” night. Another possibility would be “Nocturnal Walk,” although this word is normally used to indicate that something occurs at night as opposed to during the day.

One other question – Is there any difference in meaning between “Gang” and “Spaziergang?”

Concerning the word “Glanz,” when you read this word in German, what does it make you think of? What’s the first thing that pops into your mind (comes to mind)? Would it be something like a “ray of sunshine?” That’s what I think of when you say “shine.” But strangely enough, you couldn’t use the word “sunshine” by itself either. You’d have to say “a ray of sunshine,” and of course that is too long for the poem. I can’t explain why “shine” doesn’t work. It is really strange, because you could point to a car that you had just waxed and say: “Wow! Look at that shine!” and yet you can’t say: “Here a shine, there a ....” I’m sure if it hadn’t have been so long since I studied grammar, I could give you a better explanation!

Since “come to terms” doesn’t work well without the “with,” how about one of the following::

come to realize (that.....) - I think this would be my personal preference
come to accept
come to understand, or

“So” as if just that has lived in it - I can’t really explain the reason why this doesn’t sound right, even though it works in other cases, such as your quote from Coleridge (Why look’st thou so?) However, “so” would work without the “as if” that follows it. You could either say “as if” and leave off the “so,” or you could use the “so” and leave off the “as if.” I think it works best to just say: “in such a way as if” (or “as though”). The rest of this line is the really hard part to translate. (More about that later)
I really enjoyed your comparison of “How they urge” to Goethe’s “Symbolum,” and I think you are right. There seems to be the same urging in the last line: “Versaeumt nicht zu ueben die Kraefte des Guten.”

Regarding my comments about how strange the English language is, and how it is funny that you can’t say certain things, it is really no different with German. There are many things that simply cannot be translated literally in any language. The difficulty is in figuring out when something can’t be translated exactly. Actually, when I used the word “funny,” I didn’t really mean it as being something “lustig,” but rather as something “strange” or “odd.” And in all honesty, I never consider anyone’s attempt to translate to be a “poor” translation, but rather more of a learning process for all of us. Sometimes it takes a while to find the right word, but sooner or later we are bound to succeed!!

And now a few words for you, Ingrid, concerning your comments and translation. First, yes, you are completely right about the difference between saying “Not anything there is” and “There’s not anything.” I was simply looking for a similar substitution, because “Not anything there is” somehow doesn’t sound right in English. Given the option, one would probably choose “nothing,” rather than “not anything,” even though they mean about the same thing However, as you pointed out, Volker solved this problem for us by using “naught!”

Nothing we name” versus “We name nothing.” Well, at first I thought the same thing about this as you, Ingrid, namely “that we could never find the right name for any thing that exists.” However, after reading Volker’s translation, I seemed to see it as he explained it in his last posting. Now, I’m not sure. I guess I’ll wait and see if the two of your can come to an agreement on this before deciding!

Permitted” would work, but I think I would say: “We are only permitted to endure,” rather than “We’re just permitted.

Ingrid, you asked if there is anything wrong with using the word “realize” for “verständigen.” Actually, I think it is a very good choice. As I mentioned above in comments to Volker, I thought that perhaps a good compromise between “come to terms” and “realize,” might be to say “come to realize,” which I think has a similar meaning, although to “come to terms with” seems to convey the idea of not only realizing something, but of also having to accept it and live with it (deal with it).

“Wir dürfen uns verständigen” - I am very unfamiliar with the word “verständigen,” so I will have to wait and see what you think about Volker’s comment regarding this, Ingrid. What he says seems to make sense to me, and I thought it was a marvelous explanation, Surprisingly, I completely understood it even though it was in German! However, your idea about it meaning “we are permitted to go and get information” is also very interesting.

Glow”- Now that I know we are looking for a word that means “shine,” nothing else seems to be the perfect solution. Glow would work, I suppose, although it still doesn’t seem to be exactly the right word. I still feel that your first choice of “sparkle” was perhaps the best. “Brightness” or “radiance” are also close to the meaning of “shine,” but somehow they don’t really sound right either.

Glance” versus “Glimpse” - I think I prefer “glimpse,” because it can be used more abstractly. You can catch a glimpse of something that is not necessarily tangible. In addition to that, I also like the way it sounds better.

Resists” versus “opposes” - Resists seems like a more literal translation, and I think I prefer it.

“Dem wird nicht Welt” - I really like Volker’s “world’s revelation” as an interpretation, but I agree that it would perhaps be better to use a more literal word for translation. However, because this expression in German is so very unclear to me, I honestly don’t know how to translate it. Somehow “world won’t be” sounds unnatural to me. Does “be” mean the same thing as to “exist” here? If so, could we say, “world won’t exist?” Actually in English, you really need an article before world for it to sound right (i.e. “A world...” or “The world....)

“To him who” versus “he who” - I think either “he who” or “whoever” sounds best. If you choose “he who,”it would have to be repeated again in the next line. Rather than saying, “And who...”, you would once again say, “And he who...”

Dem geht das Ewige vorbei” - Somehow I don’t like the passive voice for this line, but it is entirely a matter of preference I think.

Außer Gefahr” - “Out of danger” seems to me the best translation for this, unless you feel that Rilke means something closer to “Risko” or “Bedrohung” (threat). “Risk” and “threat” are not quite as intense as “danger.” “Danger” and “peril” are very similar in meaning, and it is mostly a matter of difference in the words you use with them. You wouldn’t say “out of risk” or out of peril. Instead, with “risk,” you would say either “We seem to be without risk,” or “There seems to be no risk.” If you use “peril,” you would have to say something like “We seem to be out of the reach of peril.” With “threat” you would say something like “There seems to be no threat.”

“shed” to the stars - I’m sorry, Ingrid, but I’m afraid “shed” doesn’t seem to fit here. Could you explain exactly what meaning you would give to the word shed used in this context? This word has several different meanings, but I can’t see how any of them could be used for “ausgeteilt.” Let’s see. You can shed tears. An animal can shed hair. A snake sheds its skin. You can shed a few pounds (abnehmen). Then there is also the idiom “to shed light on something,” which means to make something clear (or more easily understood) by explaining it well. Personally, I still think “distributed” seems to be the most understandable translation.

And now, back to you, Volker. Your interpretation for “Nichts ist vergleichbar” in both German and English was wonderful. Very helpful.

Gleam” - I think I like this! Perhaps it is just the word we have been looking for. It also goes well with “glimpse,” which as I mentioned earlier, I like just a little better than “glance.” I have to admit, though, no matter what words we choose, they all sound a bit strange. Somehow they are not words you would expect to use with “here and there!” Does “da ein Glanz und dort ein Blick” also sound strange in German?

Spacious nights” - I tend to agree with you, Volker. Spacious is used mostly to describe something like the size of a room or a car. If you say something is very spacious, it means it has lots of room. “Vast” might work better if you are looking for a word to describe the “size” of the night. (You can also say in the “vast” darkness.)

However, “great” seems to be a good choice, because it can mean so many different things, and it is sort of left up to your imagination to decide which one is meant. (Of course, I would very much like to know which one Rilke most likely meant, but unfortunately I don’t think we can ever be sure of this). At any rate, great could mean very good or terrific (großartig), outstanding (hervorragend), very large (sehr groß), huge or vast (riesig), long (as in length of time), to name but a few.

I think “outstanding” would also be a very nice choice of words, although it’s hard to know if that’s what Rilke meant or not.

marks our life” - When you say “mark,” do you mean “to characterize or distinguish [our life]”? (to set [our life] apart)? What German word would you use for “mark?” Although I like this for an interpretation, I think I might prefer Ingrid’s more literal choice: “is our life.”

“als wäre grade das darin gelebt was unser Leben ist.” - I just now discovered your added comments to your posting on Nov. 24, regarding this line. I will have to consult my German grammar book for the sein-passive to be sure, but how about the following?

as if precisely that within were living what our life is.”

Actually, I think “that which” sounds better than “what,” in which case we would say:

as if precisely that within were living that which is our life.”

Either way, this tense implies that whatever it is within (the Glanz or the Blitz), it is still living. By the way, I prefer the word “precisely,” because “just” could be confused with “only” (nur).

Another option might be: “were being lived” instead of “were living.”

And lastly, I really liked the quote from “Faust, and what a coincidence. I have just recently become very interested in Goethe, and I’m in the process of reading “Faust” now! How’s this for a translation?

Geheimnisvoll am lichten Tag (Mysterious in the light of day)
Läßt sich Natur des Schleiers nicht berauben, (Nature will not be robbed of her veil)
Und was sie deinem Geist nicht offenbaren mag, (and what she does not want to open to your soul)
Das zwingst du ihr nicht ab mit Hebeln und mit Schrauben. (You cannot force from her with levers and screws)

Hope I haven’t forgotten anything! I might try to put together another translation tomorrow using all of our ideas, but perhaps I should wait for a response to these comments first.

Liebe Grüße! Linda

Rilke Fan
Beiträge: 187
Registriert: 8. Apr 2003, 18:56
Wohnort: Texas, USA

Beitrag von Rilke Fan » 3. Dez 2004, 15:20

Hello again!

Just a quick addition.

as if precisely that within were living what our life is.” (or what is our life)


“as if precisely that within were living that which is our life.”

1. I'm not sure if "what our life is" or "what is our life" is best because I still don't fully understand what Rilke is saying.

2. Although I said that this tense implies that whatever it is within the [Glanz or the Blitz], it is still living, actually it is saying that it is "as if (als ob) it were living or being lived]. In other words, it only "seems like" it, but it is not in reality living or being lived."

Nochmal viele Grüße!