When in doubt, quote a poem

    Why do you stay in prison
    when the door is so wide open?

    Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.
    Live in silence.

    Flow down and down in always
    widening rings of being.

Says Rumi in A Community of the spirit, to be found on p. 3 of The Essential Rumi, translations by Coleman Barks.

Or as Rainer Maria Rilke put it in his Stundenbuch,

    Ich lebe mein Leben in wachsenden Ringen,
    die sich

8 responses to “When in doubt, quote a poem

  1. My attempt (feeble) at a translation of that Rilke work:

    I live my life in developing rings
    that pull themselves over the things
    I shall never achieve the latter
    but I intend to (pursue the matter)

    I circle around God, the ancient tower
    circling a thousand years long
    and I do not yet know:
    am I a falcon, a thunder shower,
    or a giant song?

  2. mig

    You’re a braver man than I, Scotty, translating a poem. This is one of my favorites, it has been since I first read it when I was in college. I like the growing rings image. It seems like a good way to live.

    Here’s a translation, not so good: http://www.picture-poems.com/rilke/hours.html#Ich%20lebe

    Couldn’t find it here http://plagiarist.com/poetry/?aid=105 but i have to admit I didn’t click thru all 104 poems either.

    I was talking to Edward Seidensticker (the man who translated the Tale of Genji) and he mentioned that the goal of a translation was to be as “transparent as water”. There must be nothing tougher than translating a poem transparently.

    I’ve seen the line translated as “I live my life in growing rings, which move above the material objects, I may not complete the last one, but I will try.”

    And even as “decaying orbits” here: http://www.melicreview.com/archive/iss17/aptaylor.html (this is “after Rilke” rather than a translation…)

    Whatever. That’s it for me, though. A stone into a pond, or Basho’s frog http://plagiarist.com/poetry/?wid=3482

    The rings it makes, growing larger. The last one incomplete.

  3. Obviously my translation is far from poetic. I just thought your non german-speaking readers might like a little bit of a clue. My German isn’t really good enough to fully appreciate the poem, I’m sure.

    On an unrelated note, I have 2 friends coming to Vienna. Although I’ve lived there, I’m actively soliciting a couple little-known but very, very cool sites for them to check out. Any takers?

  4. mig

    Obviously I’m an asshole. I didn’t mean to criticize your translation, Scotty. Your German is plenty good enough.

    What sort of places would your friends be interested in seeing while in Vienna? We have several Starbucks now, one on the corner of the K

  5. Zizka

    Ja, Vienna needs them coffeshops of ours. We gotta teach them wieners how to enjoy life.

  6. mig

    I’m not a very good person to ask directions of, since I’m wandering most of the time, being aimless. You find the coolest stuff that way sometimes, although, being someone with a low threshhold of coolness (or the ability to perceive the cool in mundane things) maybe etc etc.

    I don’t tend to pay attention to what locales are currently popular with the in-crowd. When I lived in Seattle, I enjoyed sitting on the steps of the house we rented, eating cheese and drinking white wine and eating maybe a baguette; if you sat just right you could see the sunset on the Olympic mountains. It wasn’t until my sister moved to Seattle that I learned there were restaurants downtown serving deep-fried sage leaves as appetizers.

    It’s the same here. As a student, I used to frequent a place called the Wunderbar, because it was open until three or four in the morning. It may still be in operation, but I haven’t been there for twenty years. There was a restaurant in the center of town, in the first district, that I enjoyed last year because the food was ordinary and the waiter had a bad attitude. In the sixth district there is a coffeehouse I like, just off Mariahilferstrasse about halfway between the Ring and the G

  7. I like to recommend places that most tourists won’t get the tip off on. Vienna is so compact, dense and well-touristed, and, at first, the people are somewhat reserved. Therefore, it’s difficult to find the “sweet spots.” I tried to tell my friends this and that the best thing they could do was to get out of the Erste Bezirk a bit and sit with the locals. A good spot for this, in my experience, is Wiedenbrau. Almost every time I’ve been there, I end up palling around with some betrunken Vienese civil servants who are dodging their wives for the evening or whatever. I even got one guy so wasted that he encouraged me to ride the subway without a ticket! Obviously, for the far-younger, it’s good to hit Flex next to the Donau Canal, some stuff up in the 8th/9th near the Guertel, or whatever.

    I find it interesting that the Starbucks is full of AMericans, but not totally suprising. Typically, Europeans like to say that about their fast food installations as well. I remember that my school was next to a McDonald’s in the First District (Johannesgasse), and when I’d party with Wieners at the Tunnel or whatever, they’d always say some shitty thing about how Americans always ate McDonalds or whatever. However, I can tell you that Viennese people were sucking down “Cheeseburger Royale” like it was their job at that place. I know this because I passed it several times a day. One thing I hate about Starbucks, besides the fact that they burn their coffee in the roasting process, is that they’ve trained people to think they need a GIANT coffee.

    My friends are pretty “down,” so they’ll want to hit the real spots and enjoy it. They are going to be travelling with somebody from Budapest, so they may get some Dual Monarchy hookups. The unfortunate side factor is that one of them is a vegetarian. I told her to be prepared to trek long distances for food or develop a fondness for pickled vegetables and potatoes.

    And here’s a little secret that used to be true of Vienna, back in the early ’90s: there were a few Amsterdam-style hash bars. Obviously I cannot divulge their locations, but one sounded very near the Cafe you mentioned in your earlier post.

    No worries on the translation. I knew it wasn’t sweet, I’m just being honest: my German sucks. Although I’ve noticed that when I get back to a German-speaking country I can kick it in pretty strong after a short time. What I really need is somebody to speak German with me who will correct my conjucations and case errors subtly while I speak. YOu know, utter under his breath “den” when I say “der.” I said “mit scharfer senf” for 6 months before somebody finally corrected me.

  8. mig

    The son of friends of ours works at a head shop somewhere on the Mariahilferstrasse, so that might have something to do with the hash bars you mention – I had never heard of such a thing in Vienna before (hash bars).

    Here are some vegetarian restaurants in Vienna:
    I have only ever been to the Wrenkh, however, and although that used to have a good reputation, someone said something snarky about it recently, so not sure.