Rainer Maria Rilke

Late Autumn in Venice

By now the town no longer drifts like bait
That catches every rising day.
The palaces of glass ring in more brittle tones
Against your looks. And from its gardens

Summer is hanging, a heap of marionettes,
Head over heels, worn out and done to death.
But from the ground, out of old forest skeletons
A will is mounting up, as if just over night

The general of the seas had doubled
The galleys in his awakened Arsenal
To tar next morning’s air

With an armada that is jostling,
and suddenly, dawning with all its flags,
Gathered a great wind, fatal and glorious.


San Marco, Venice

In this interior, as if it’s hollowed out,
Curving nd turning in its golden enamel work,
With bevelled edge and smooth, exquisitely
Anointed, the darkness of this state is kept

And secretly piled up, a counterweight
To light, which does in all its things
Proliferate so much, they almost pass away –
And suddenly you doubt: do they not pass?

Push back against the solid gallery
That closely hangs, an adit in a mine,
Under the shining vault, and take in the unbroken

Brightness of the view: but somehow sad,
Compare the measure of its tired years
To the nearby quadriga’s lasting.

Translated from the German by Wilf Deckner.

Wilf Deckner was born in 1952 in Northern Germany and came to this country over 40 years ago. He was educated at Manchester and Oxford, and for the past twenty-odd years he worked in the Somerset Library Service and now works as an assistant at the Somerset Heritage Centre.