Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"Archaic Torso of Apollo"

Rainer Maria Rilke
My translation, with help from versions by Stephen Mitchell and Galway Kinnell

<A poem of fierce magical power!>
~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~

We cannot know his unprecedented head

with eyes ripening like apples. And yet his torso

still glows like a candelabra

in which his gaze, though burning low,

holds on and shines. Otherwise, the prow

of the breast could not blind you, and in the soft turn of the loins

a smile could not run down

to that center that held the procreating power.

Otherwise, this stone would stand disfigured, cut short

under the transparent plunge of the shoulders

and would not shimmer like a predator’s fur;

and would not burst out from all its sides

exploding like a star: for there is no place here

that does not see you. You must change your life.

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