Autumn Day

By Johna Till Johnson and Vladimir Brezina

DSC_0049 cropped small 2.


Blame it on Rilke… Or his translators, actually.

On a recent late-fall evening, Vlad was chuckling over the varied translations of the poem “Autumn Day” by Rainer Maria Rilke:


Herr: es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr groß.
Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren,
und auf den Fluren laß die Winde los.

Befiel den letzten Früchten voll zu sein;
gib ihnen noch zwei südlichere Tage,
dränge sie zur Vollendung hin und jage
die letzte Süße in den schweren Wein.

Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr.
Wer jetzt allein ist, wird es lange bleiben,
wird wachen, lesen, lange Briefe schreiben
und wird in den Alleen hin und her
unruhig wandern, wenn die Blätter treiben.

The translations are here.

And even if—like Johna—you don’t read German, it’s rather obvious they’re rather, ahem, divergent when it comes to cadence, connotation, and tone.  Different from each other and from the original meaning.

Johna read them over Vlad’s shoulder and burst out laughing. “‘Summer was awesome?’ We could do better than that!”  Well, maybe not better… but different. If it’s acceptable to say “summer was awesome”—well then, that opens up a whole host of possibilities!

So here you go.  “Autumn Day” loosely translated for the modern era:

Autumn Day

By Rainer Maria Rilke (sort of)

Dude, it’s time! Summer rocked, but
It’s over. Sucks.
The sun slants low now.
The autumn wind sweeps through abandoned
Bodega stalls. Across the last bruised fruit,
Fermenting fast.
At least you’ll have some awesome vino.

No place to crash? Tough.
Too late. You’re solo now.
Time to stay out long
And ride the board
Up and down darkening alleys
Where the trash swirls.

28 responses to “Autumn Day

  1. Sweet as a Picture

    *smiling* I like your translation .


  2. Sounds about right!



  3. I like the photo you have posted.


  4. That photo is beautiful, all those lovely textures behind the golden light.


  5. Loved it!


  6. Love the photo!
    The “translation” reminds me of similar translations of lieder, French & Italian art songs, which I translate word-for-word as part of the learning process. Many times the English is so bad. Lol!


  7. your words are fresh and full of life, Rilke would be smiling too :)


  8. Wow. Rilke. Blast from the past. College. I have thought about Rilke in almost 50 years. Wow.


  9. I love the modern translation the best. I can imagine it being recited by a beat poet in a coffeehouse.


  10. Very cool. I went to translation school in Brazil and just yesterday I was remembering that one of my final papers was to compare two completely different translations that were made for the poem Annabelle Lee, by Edgar Allan Poe. Then today I found this post in your blog. Needless to say I loved it!


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