Rilke or Not?

A friend writes that she remembers working with an interactive system called «Примус» [Primus] back in the ’80s that when you started it up displayed the following greeting:

«И он уже не тот, что был в начале
Чужие судьбы, став его судьбой,
Признав, его уводят за собой.»

Райнер Мария Рильке

Which might be Englished something like this:

And he is no longer that which he was in the beginning
Others’ fates, having become his fate,
Having recognized/acknowledged, take him away after/behind them.

Rainer Maria Rilke

I figured if it were genuine I should be able to google it in English and/or German, but I came up empty; on the other hand, it might be a loose translation, so I thought I’d check with the Varied Reader. Anybody recognize it, or is it one of those pseudo-quotes that infest the internet?

Update.
It turns out to be from the last stanza of this poem, “Читатель” [The reader] (1908), which means the original German must be this… but the German doesn’t have anything corresponding to the Russian, as far as I can see!

Comments

  1. You only have do go the old-tie fav avva blog to discover that Rilke wrote plenty of poems in (somewhat halting, someone German-accented) Russian. And corresponded intensely with young Marina Tsvetaeva, too.

    Я так устал от тяжбы больных дней
    пустая ночь безветренных полей
    лежит над тишиной моих очей.
    Мой сердце начинал как соловей,
    но досказать не мог свой слова;
    теперь молчанье свое слышу я -
    оно растет как в ночи страх
    забытого умершего ребенка.

    So strictly speaking not all poetry of Rilke is google’able in German. But this quote? “Fremde” is Rilke’s favorite word, but…

  2. He also wrote poems in French: puisque tout passe, tout passe, faisons la musique passage\re.

  3. marie-lucie says:

    Some of his French poems were set to music by an English composer (whose name I don’t remember.) I used to belong to a choir that sang one of them a few years ago, Dirait-on. Rilke’s French is a little strange in places, and the English composer obviously was not familiar with French singing conventions or even with normal French pronunciation and intonation, so that the (otherwise pleasant) melody and the words did not always go together very well. An audience unfamiliar with French would enjoy the song more than would a French-speaking audience, who would be aware of the discrepancy.

    Bill W: faisons la musique passage\re : This structure feels foreign. I would say: faisons de la musique passagère.

  4. ML you should see how peculiar / foreign feeling is his Russian! Stressed syllables in wrong places and mismatched genders too. But at least one of his poems is put to music by my beloved Psoy Korolenko, the great master of musical collage based on weird poetry. I probably mentioned Psoy Koroleko a few times on these pages, and I have a feeling that irks our host every single time, so I apologize in advance, Language! Psoy is a renegade linguistics professor of sorts, collating all sorts of both high-brow and substandard literary heritage snippets from many languages into his poignant yet absurdist musical performances, and it certainly rubs the wrong way many people who expect deeper respect to the classics. But I think many also agree that the unsmiling weirdness of Russian Rilke makes for a perfect Psoy materiel.

  5. Mélodies passagères was composed by Samuel Barber, who was American.

  6. Dirait-on by Morten Lauridsen, another American.

  7. Mélodies passagères with extracts.

  8. Psoy Korolenko, “Russian Heritage” vol. 1: Rilke’s “Morning”
    И помнишь ты, как розы молоды,
    когда их видишь утром раньше всех,
    все наше близко, дали голубые,
    и никому не нужно грех.

    Вот первый день, и мы вставали
    из руки Божья, где мы спали -
    как долго – не могу сказать,
    и то что было очень мало, -
    и мы теперь должны начать.

    Что будет? Ты не беспокойся,
    да от погибели небойся,
    ведь даже смерть только предлог;
    что еще хочешь за ответа?
    да будут ночи, полны света
    и дни сияющего света
    и будем мы и будет бог

  9. I don’t know Russian at all, but I put the last two lines of the German into Google Translate, and for the penultimate line’s “geordnet” or “sorted” it spat out “Начиная”. Which seems to be related to the “beginning” term in your Russian.

    So I guess the quote might be a kind of fantasy translation of the last two lines, with some confusion b/c a crucial word apparently means both “geordnet” and “beginning” in Russian?

  10. I think Hindemith set Mélodies passagères, too.

    And I misremembered the words:

    Puisque tout passe, faisons
    la mélodie passagère ;
    celle qui nous désaltère,
    aura de nous raison.

    Chantons ce qui nous quitte
    avec amour et art ;
    soyons plus vite
    que le rapide départ.

  11. Perhaps appropriately, my favorite line of Rilke is a translation, which the original can’t match:

    “We cannot know his antique head / with eyes like ripening fruit”

    from Archaic Torso of Apollo. Too lazy to look up the English translator at the moment, but the line has been etched in my memory.

  12. Sorry for spamming comments, but I misspoke earlier and feel I must correct myself. My favorite lines from Rilke are of course from the original Herbsttag.

    There are only 3 or 4 poems I can’t read without nearly breaking into tears, and Herbsttag is one of them, up there with Yeats’ Inisfree, Keats’ Nightingale, and whatever that Old English one is with “hreran mid hondom hrimcalde sae”

    http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbsttag

  13. I probably mentioned Psoy Koroleko a few times on these pages, and I have a feeling that irks our host every single time, so I apologize in advance, Language!

    Not at all, and I don’t know where you got that impression — no need to apologize!

    Sorry for spamming comments

    Nonsense — the more comments, the better!

  14. the English translator

    Stephen Mitchell. Almost. For , “legendary.”

  15. Oops. I wanted for unerhörtes.

  16. Trond Engen says:

    AG: Sorry for spamming comments.

    Was that you, in all those years?

  17. I think Hindemith set Mélodies passagères, too.

    Hindemith wrote ‘Six chansons’, which consists of six choral settings of French Rilke poems; Barber wrote ‘Mélodies passagères’, which consists of five settings of French Rilke poems for solo voice and piano. Two poems are in both sets: ‘Puisque tout passe’ and ‘Un cygne’.

    The Hindemith settings are some of my favorite choral pieces ever. Here’s a good recording.

  18. but the German doesn’t have anything corresponding to the Russian, as far as I can see!

    This is why: http://avva.livejournal.com/14143.html . Toporov is sort of famous, or infamous, for “taking liberties” with the original.

  19. hilding: The words “police”, “policy”, Полиция, Polizei etc must have interesting semantic histories. The current German word for “policy” is (die) Police [three syllables].

  20. I should add: Police is an insurance policy. For “political policy” in general, or specific kind of policies, say economic policy, one uses various expressions based on forms of “Politik2.

  21. John Cowan says:

    I remember seeing an machine-translation anecdote from the 1980s in which the French version of a home-insurance policy ended with the admonishment that jewels and such were not covered, and that people with valuables in their homes should consider purchasing a police spéciale. Unfortunately, the English translation recommended the purchase of a police special instead!

  22. Sir JCass says:

    I’m sure we must have memtioned the teenage Goethe’s attempts at writing English verse on this blog before, but – just in case we haven’t – here’s his “A Song Over the Unconfidence Towards Myself”:

    Thou knowst how heappily they Friend
    Walks upon florid Ways;
    Thou knowst how heavens bounteous hand
    Leads him to golden days.

    But hah! a cruel enemy
    Destroies all that Bless;
    In Moments of Melancholy
    Flies all my Happiness.

    Then fogs of doubt do fill my mind
    With deep obscurity;
    I search myself, and cannot find
    A spark of Worth in me.

    When tender friends to, tender kiss,
    Run up with open arms;
    I think I merit not that bliss
    That like a kiss me warmeth.

    Hah! when my child, I love thee, sayd,
    And gave the kiss I sought;
    Then I – forgive me tender maid-
    She is a false one, thought.

    She cannot love a peevish boy,
    She with her godlike face.
    O could I, friend, that thought destroy.
    It leads the golden days.

    And other thought is misfortune
    Is death and night to me:
    I hum no supportable tune,
    I can no poet be.

    When to the Altar of the Nine
    A triste incense I bring,
    I beg let Poetry be mine
    O Sistres let me sing.

    But when they then my prayer not hear
    I break my wispring lyre;
    Then from my eyes runns down a tear,
    Extinguish th’incensed fire.

    Then curse I, Freind, the fated sky,
    And from th’altar I fly;
    And to my Freinds aloud I cry
    Be happier than I.

  23. Sir JCass says:

    Teenage Goethe does French:

    Le Véritable Ami

    Va te sévrer des baisers de ta belle,
    Me dit un jour l’ami; par son air séduisant,
    Ses yeux perçans, par son teint éclatant,
    Sa taille mince, son langage amusant,
    Elle te pourroit bien déranger la cervelle;
    Fuis de cette beauté le dangereux amour!
    Mais pour te faire voir à quel degré je t’aime,
    Je veux t’ôter tout espoir du retour,
    En m’en faisant aimer moi-même.

  24. David Marjanović says:

    Fascinating. I’m not surprised Goethe tried French, but English?

  25. Then there’s the teenage Keats, who didn’t even have the excuse of writing in an L2:

    Light feet, dark violet eyes, and parted hair;
    Soft dimpled hands, white neck, and creamy breast,
    Are things on which the dazzled senses rest
    Till the fond, fixed eyes, forget they stare.
    From such fine pictures, heavens! I cannot dare
    To turn my admiration, though unpossess’d
    They be of what is worthy,—though not drest
    In lovely modesty, and virtues rare.
    Yet these I leave as thoughtless as a lark;
    These lures I straight forget—e’en ere I dine,
    Or thrice my palate moisten: but when I mark
    Such charms with mild intelligences shine,
    My ear is open like a greedy shark,
    To catch the tunings of a voice divine.

    That’s only the middle stanza of three, but the crashing bathos of the final two lines has made it famous in a small way.

  26. Sir JCass says:

    Here’s the major Italian Romantic poet Ugo Foscolo writing in English. Foscolo was almost Keats in reverse; he travelled to England to die young of tuberculosis.

    TO CALLIRHOE

    I twine far distant from my Tuscan grove,
    The lily chaste, the rose that breathes of love,
    The myrtle leaf, and Laura’s hallow’d bay,
    The deathless flowers that bloom o’er Sappho’s clay;

    For thee, Callirhoe! yet by love and years,
    I learn how fancy wakes from joy to tears;
    How memory, pensive, ’reft of hope, attends
    The exile’s path, and bids him fear new friends.

    Long may the garland blend its varying hue
    With thy bright tresses, and bud ever new
    With all spring’s odours; with spring’s light be drest,
    Inhale pure fragrance from thy virgin breast!

    And when thou find’st that youth and beauty fly,
    As heavenly meteors from our dazzled eye,
    Still may the garland shed perfume, and shine,
    While Laura’s mind and Sappho’s heart are thine.

    I think the poem is competent but unmemorable. It’s no different from reams of album verse written at the time. Had the poet not given a hint in the first line, I don’t think you would have guessed he was Italian.

  27. I certainly wouldn’t have.

  28. P'i-kou says:

    Then there’s T.S. Eliot’s French

    ILS ont vu les Pays-Bas, ils rentrent à Terre Haute;
    Mais une nuit d’été, les voici à Ravenne,
    A l’aise entre deux draps, chez deux centaines de punaises;
    La sueur aestivale, et une forte odeur de chienne.

    And Borges’ English…

  29. Fascinating. I’m not surprised Goethe tried French, but English?
    Well, he was a big fan of Schäkespear , and one can see plays like Götz von Berlichingen as an attempt to create a Shakespearian Drama using German material.

  30. Rodger C says:

    Well, Borges was a native speaker of English, though strongly accented.

  31. Why do you say that? I’ve never heard it. (As it happens, I met Borges when I was living in Buenos Aires, and he was the speaker at my high school graduation. That’s irrelevant information, but I can’t resist sharing it.) A little googling produces this quote: “The interviews were conducted in English,which Borges wielded more gracefully than most native speakers.” I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I’m curious what you’re basing that on.

  32. Quoth Wikipedia: “Borges’s father, Jorge Guillermo Borges Haslam [...] whose mother was English, grew up speaking English at home and took his own family frequently to Europe. England and English pervaded the family home. [...] At nine, Jorge Luis Borges translated Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince into Spanish. [...] Borges was taught at home until the age of 11, was bilingual in Spanish and English, reading Shakespeare in the latter at the age of twelve.” It sounds like his case was similar to Nabokov’s. In addition, the original di Giovanni translations are in several places described as collaborations, implying that Borges had substantial input into their texts.

  33. It sounds like his case was similar to Nabokov’s.

    Right, and Nabokov wasn’t a native speaker either (by my definition). Both got early and substantial exposure but spoke with noticeable accents.

  34. It’s possible to be an L1 speaker of X with a Y accent, if you grow up surrounded by L1 speakers of Y who speak X as an L2 to you. This is probably all the easier if you are homeschooled, which isolates you from your Y-speaking peer group. Indeed, if this happens on a large enough scale, it becomes a new native accent of X, as has happened in Wales and Ireland.

  35. marie-lucie says:

    JC, It’s possible to be an L1 speaker of X with a Y accent, if you grow up surrounded by L1 speakers of Y who speak X as an L2 to you. …. Indeed, if this happens on a large enough scale, it becomes a new native accent of X, as has happened in Wales and Ireland.

    This is what has happened in many places where an indigenous language or regional dialect has been supplanted by a local version of the dominant language, especially if the switch happened in times when the majority of the indigenous speakers had little exposure to the spoken version of the dominant language (ie before radio, TV, etc). Thus Southern French is very obviously influenced by Occitan phonology and phonotactics, even among people who have hardly ever heard it but whose grandparents were Occitan speakers who learned French in school (usually from teachers who were themselves bilingual). The English speech of North American natives, especially the older ones, is also strongly influenced by the phonology of the native languages, even if those languages are now extinct.

  36. gwenllian says:

    Indeed, if this happens on a large enough scale, it becomes a new native accent of X, as has happened in Wales and Ireland.

    And everywhere in the world, multiple times. We just don’t know as much about most such processes as we do about the recent Welsh and Irish ones.

  37. gwenllian says:

    The English speech of North American natives, especially the older ones, is also strongly influenced by the phonology of the native languages, even if those languages are now extinct.

    From movies and TV shows it always seems like Native American English varieties share many similarities across the continent and across Native American language families. Is there any truth to that, or is it just Hollywood? I’d love to read about Native American English and the influence of Native American languages, if anyone has any recommendations.

  38. I am myself something of a poster child for this: I grew up in an English-speaking household with an L2 mother and a D2 father (his native variety was the now-extinct 19C variety of Hiberno-English spoken in the Irish ghetto of Philadelphia). Both were highly educated, and though I wasn’t homeschooled, peer groups have never been my friends. Consequently, though I have a local accent, my native dialect is Standard English, which is what my parents spoke to one another.

  39. gwenllian, the only major work on it I know of is William Leap’s Native American English, which is more sociolinguistic than descriptive. From my meager experience I can tell you that this variety (also “Reservation English”) is alive and well, and not only among older generations.
    I think some of the characters in the movie Smoke Signals might speak Indian English, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen it. Certainly many in Sherman Alexie’s written work speak it.

  40. A mere $500 at Amazon, and no hits at BookFinder. Brrrrrr!

  41. David Marjanović says:

    From movies and TV shows it always seems like Native American English varieties share many similarities across the continent and across Native American language families. Is there any truth to that, or is it just Hollywood?

    I’m sure there’s some; such features as voiced obstruents are rare across the continent, and the grammars are very often polysynthetic.

  42. Etienne says:

    David: err, Gwenllian’s question related to Native American ENGLISH varieties, not Native American languages. Y: while Leap’s book is indeed chiefly sociolinguistic in scope, it contains a great many references to more properly linguistic studies on various such varieties and on connections between them. I might add that fellow hatter Marie-Lucie has produced one of the VERY few such studies in existence on a variety spoken in Canada.

  43. marie-lucie says:

    Merci Etienne, this (very small) study was my first comment on a language I was starting to study and on the variety of Native Canadian English spoken by community members, It happened so far back (perhaps 1982) that I was not sure if Leap was indeed the name of the book’s editor. My comment was in part a response to a paper also included in the book, by Jean Mulder who was studying a related language or dialect and encouraged me to send something to Leap. She made a comment on a feature of local English which turned out to be common to both communities, but our interpretations of its origin differed.

  44. David Marjanović says:

    David: err, Gwenllian’s question related to Native American ENGLISH varieties, not Native American languages.

    Yes; those languages lead to such things as absence of plosive voicing in the English varieties.

  45. gwenllian says:

    Thanks for the recommendation, Y! I’m interested in the sociolinguistic aspect as well. I’m sure I’m missing something very obvious here, but how come the paperback is $500 and the hardcover $70?

  46. Etienne says:

    David: actually, Leap’s book makes it very clear that the relationship between the phonologies/structures of various Native American languages and of American Indian Englishes is quite complex, and not reducible to a mere transfer from the former to the latter. He gives a nice example: The English of the Cheyenne (variably) replaces the English voiced and voiceless interdental fricatives with the dental stops /d/ and /t/, respectively. Since interdental fricatives do not exist in Cheyenne (but dental stops do) this might seem to be a straightforward case of substrate interference…except for the fact that Cheyenne consonants make no use of voicing as a distinctive feature. Despite this, Cheyenne English exhibits NO neutralization whatsoever of English voicing contrasts.

    So: why is phonemic voicing of consonants present in Cheyenne English, but not interdental fricatives? Nobody knows (INSERT FRINGE OR X-FILES THEME MUSIC AT THIS POINT).

    Reading Leap’s book, indeed, strengthened my own conviction (which fellow hatters have probably noticed) that as a general rule the importance/role of substrate languages in explaining language change is quite grotesquely over-rated.

  47. marie-lucie says:

    gwenlliam: how come the paperback is $500 and the hardcover $70?

    I dont know, but the price of the paperback is ridiculous. I did not even know that there was a hardcover edition, having only seen (but never owned) the paperback. If you have access to a library that does interlibrary loans (or better, that has the book), that would be the way to read it.

  48. @ Etienne: Does voicing exist as an allophonic feature in Cheyenne? That might explain why it is possible for Cheyenne Speakers to reproduce the voicing distinction, even if they don’t reproduce the interdental fricatives.

  49. David Marjanović says:

    500? Is that a typo for 50?

    as a general rule the importance/role of substrate languages in explaining language change is quite grotesquely over-rated

    I agree on this.

    It can be hard to figure out what substrate effects to expect, too. I sometimes find it hard to tell if a sound I’ve recognized as /b/, /d/ or /g/ was voiced or not – but [z] stands out like a sore thumb for no discernible reason.

  50. David Marjanović says:

    Does voicing exist as an allophonic feature in Cheyenne?

    Wikipedia doesn’t tell, even though it spends a lot of space on allophonic devoicing of the vowels.

  51. Amazon is now showing the prices of the three available copies as $499.99 (used), $1173.12 (new), and $1979.95 (used). Out of print books have to be one of the most illiquid and opaque markets in existence, as they suffer from a reverse calculation problem in Austrian terms: you don’t know the worth of a book’s content until you’ve bought it. Eric Raymond (before he went off the rails) explained this sort of market failure, speaking of patches to open-source software:

    [...] the putative market value of small patches to a common source base is hard to capture. Supposing I write a fix for an irritating bug, and suppose many people realize the fix has money value; how do I collect from all those people? Conventional payment systems have high enough overheads to make this a real problem for the sorts of micropayments that would usually be appropriate.

    It may be more to the point that this value is not merely hard to capture, in the general case it’s hard to even assign. As a thought experiment let us suppose that the Internet came equipped with the theoretically ideal micropayment system — secure, universally accessible, zero-overhead. Now let’s say you have written a patch labeled “Miscellaneous Fixes to the Linux Kernel”. How do you know what price to ask? How would a potential buyer, not having seen the patch yet, know what is reasonable to pay for it?

    What we have here is almost like a funhouse-mirror image of F.A. Hayek’s `calculation problem’ — it would take a superbeing, both able to evaluate the functional worth of patches and trusted to set prices accordingly, to lubricate trade.

    Unfortunately, there’s a serious superbeing shortage [...].

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