Sunday, October 02, 2011

Rilke: Fall Day

Summer in Seattle has grown lackadaisical this past half decade, arriving late after a listless don't-plant-tomatoes Spring, then coming on fast, staying sunnier and hotter than the slugs can stand, then lingering long. It didn't really leave here until this weekend, and that distinctive change of seasons feeling I've long associated with football, and is closely tethered to the sensation of lying down in a muddy or even flooded field and stretching, has arrived like a linebacker diving into a blocking dummy. It's in the joints and the bones, in the muscles and the glands, and these call up consciousness. They call up thoughts of tangy cider made from frost-sweetened apples, and gallons that need to come home.

By assumptive agreement or ancient reflex, or possibly the marital telepathy couples can develop, Lord Wife and I invited friends over for dinner for last night, then went shopping for lamb. It was lichen-fed Icelandic lamb and I got a whole leg of it, something that doesn't happen every day or year. Fit for a Viking feast cooked slow with salt and fennel, served with wine plundered from the south of France. Rilke, master of his craft, wrote about the compelling feeling of seasons lost and impending, and the available translations into English in no way conveyed his power nor maintained his rhyme and cadence. So I gave it a go:

Lord: it is time. The summer's gone, you know.
Send shadows long over the sundials,
and loose thy winds across the meadows.

Let each fruit swell full on tree and vine
and send us yet two more southerly days
for urging consummation, to chase
the last sweet drops into heavy wines.

He who has no house now builds no better.
He who is alone will long stay so,
will sit, and watch, and write long letters,
and in the lanes will pace to and fro,
restless, as the dry leaves blow.