If only there were stillness, full, complete.

If only there were stillness, full, complete.
If all the random and approximate
were muted, with neighbors’ laughter, for your sake,
and if the clamor that my senses make
did not confound the vigil I would keep —

Then in a thousandfold thought I could think
you out, even to your utmost brink,
and (while a smile endures) possess you, giving
you away, as though I were but giving thanks,
to all the living.

— Rainer Maria Rilke, Poems from the Book of Hours

4 thoughts on “If only there were stillness, full, complete.

  1. I’m not convinced that this translation is particularly true to Rilke’s original. Not sure if this was on purpose, but there are some major changes in meaning taking place. Here’s an alternate English one from Annemarie Kidder that is closer:

    If only it were absolutely quiet here at times.
    If averageness and happenstance grew silent
    and the neighbor’s laugh,
    the noise my high-strung senses make
    would not prevent my staying awake–

    I could in one millenial thought
    conceive you in your farthest reach
    and could possess you (like a fleeting smile)
    and dole you out as gifts with gratitude
    to all of life.

    • They were trying best to keep the original rhyming scheme of the German. It’s hard to do, and altogether, I find unimportant if able to read the original side-by-side.

  2. Your translation above, is better in my opinion than the Floating Library one. I feel more touched by it. What else would one like from poetry?
    Thank you.

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