But it was a worthwhile attempt at trying to use Rilke on stage, if it was only to become a hamfisted one.
Below is my translation of the poem. Not the entire thing, and I take a few liberties with words, such as using 'dummy' for 'spielteug'.
Duino Elegy IV
O living trees, when is your winter?
We are not in tune with the migrating bird.
Overslept and overtaken
we drag ourselves up into the wind
and drop onto an icy pond.
Birth and death weld in our minds.
And the lion power-prowls majestic,
alien to the meak.
But we, as our minds fix on one thing,
feel the tug of another thing. Combat
is our neighbour. Lovers always tresspass
on eachother’s space – despite the promise
of a sprawling hunting-ground called Home.
We don’t know the actual contours of our feelings,
Only what crafts them from the outside.
Who has not quivered before the curtain in his heart?
As it opens onto a parting scene, the familiar
garden swaying softly then…enter, the first dancer.
No, not him! Enough of this. However light
His moves; beneath this mask is a man who
scuttles into his home through the kitchen.
I won’t tolerate these half-filled masks.
I want the Puppet. The puppet is full. I will
bear its bulge, its wires, its wooden face.
Here. I wait.
Even if the lamps go out and a voice from the dark
Says to me: “That’s all” – even when the stage
Drifts emptiness in a grey draft towards me, even if
my silent ancestors do not sit with me, nor women neither,
or the squinting boy with brown eyes.
I’ll still sit here. You can always watch.
Is it too much to ask
to sit before a puppet stage and stare
so intently, that, to realign my sight
an angel is forced to ignite these stuffed actors
Angel and Puppet. At last, a true theatre.
Where the things we divide by being here
Come together. Then, from our lives
Will arise the entire cycle of transformation.
Above and beyond us
The angel plays.
Must know that all we do is a lie, where everything
Is forbidden to be itself –
O, hours of childhood,
When more than the past glowed behind every shape,
And what was formed before us, was not the future.
We felt our bodies grow and already yearned to be
Bigger, half for the sake of those with nothing more
Than their bigness. But even then, we were in love,
When playing alone, with things that endure. We stood
In the corridor between World and Dummy,
In a space which, from the first beginning,
Had been established as a pure event.
Who displays a child as he is? Who moulds
His death out of clay, or leaves it on the shore
For the water…Murderers are easy to understand.
But this? That death, the entirety of death, before
Their life has even begun, can be
Embraced so gently, without the fear of being,