Die Engel

Translated from Rilke

Sie haben all müde Münde
und helle Seelen ohne Saum.
Und eine Sehnsucht (wie nach Sünde)
geht ihnen manchmal durch den Traum.

Fast gleichen sie einander alle;
in Gottes Gärten schweigen sie,
wie viele, viele Intervalle
in seiner Macht und Melodie.

Nur wenn sie ihre Flügel breiten,
sind sie die Wecker eines Winds:
als ginge Gott mit seinen weiten
Bildhauerhänden durch die Seiten
im dunklen Buch des Anbeginns.

The Angels

They every one have weary mouths
and their bright souls are without seams.
And sometimes yearning (as for sin)
finds its own passage through their dreams.

Each one looks almost like the next;
in God’s high gardens they stand mute
like many and many a long-held rest
in his great melody and might.

Only when they spread their wings
are they the stirrers of a wind:
As if God, with his sculptor’s fingers,
broad-handed riffled through dark leaves
of the book in which all things begin.

Translator Donald Williams is a retired newspaper writer-editor and also a former professor. His Rilke translations have run in Metamorphoses, Measure, and Blue Unicorn; his original poems in more than forty journals and also in his book Wolfe and Other Poems. His pastoral novel The Sparrow and the Hall is set in seventh-century Northumberland.