The Lord’s Supper

They’re gathered round, astonished, full of dread,
round him who like a wise man must decide,
and who leaves those with whom he’s broken bread,
and who comes like a stranger from outside.
Old solitude haunts him, Gethsemane,
though once it bound him to astounding acts;
now he will walk through every olive tree,
and those who love him turn away their backs.

He’s called them to the table, past the stoves,
and (like birds woken by shots from the groves)
he humbles their hands from among the loaves
with his own words: and toward him they fly,
flawed, fluttering; and yet with all their power,
they look for ways out, since the time is nigh,
but he is everywhere, like twilight hour.

Translated by Leo Yankevich from the German of Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 –1926).

Das Abendmahl

Sie sind versammelt, staunende Verstörte,
um ihn, der wie ein Weiser sich beschließt,
und der sich fortnimmt, denen er gehörte,
und der an ihnen fremd vorüberfließt.
Die alte Einsamkeit kommt über ihn,
die ihn erzog zu seinem tiefen Handeln;
nun wird er wieder durch den Ölwald wandeln,
und die ihn lieben, werden vor ihm fliehn.

Er hat sie zu dem letzten Tisch entboten
und (wie ein Schuß die Vögel aus den Schoten
scheucht) scheucht er ihre Hände aus den Broten
mit seinem Wort: sie fliegen zu ihm her;
sie flattern bange durch die Tafelrunde
und suchen einen Ausgang. Aber er
ist überall wie eine Dämmerstunde.



They all have mouths that tire,
bright souls that have no seams.
And longing (for sin’s mire)
passes through their dreams.

Almost alike they stride,
silent beneath the Tree,
like intervals inside
great God’s grand symphony.

But when one of them rages,
spread wings set tempests spinning,
as if God, sculpting ages,
huge-handed, leafed through pages,
the dark book of beginning.

Translated by Leo Yankevich from the German of Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)

Die Engel 

Sie haben alle müde Münde
und helle Seelen ohne Saum.
Und eine Sehnsucht (wie nach Sünde)
geht ihnen manchmal durch den Traum.

Fast gleichen sie einander alle;
in Gottes Gärten schweigen sie,
wie viele, viele Intervalle
in seiner Macht und Melodie.

Nur wenn sie ihre Flügel breiten,
sind sie die Wecker eines Winds:
als ginge Gott mit seinen weiten
Bildhauerhänden durch die Seiten
im dunklen Buch des Anbeginns.


Leo Yankevich’s latest books are The Last Silesian (The Mandrake Press, 2005) Tikkun Olam & Other Poems (Second Expanded Edition), (Counter-Currents Publishing, 2012), Journey Late at Night: Poems & Translations (Counter-Currents Publishing, 2013) & The Hypocrisies of Heaven: Poems New & Old (Counter-Currents Publishing, 2016).  More of his work can be found at Leo

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8 Responses

  1. Rob Mezey

    These are great, masterful poems in themselves; both are simply sublime. Bravo!

  2. Leo Yankevich

    I have changed the title of the second poem to “Angels,” which works better in English. Mr Mantyk, if you could change it too, I’d be grateful.

    Thank you, Rob and Joe, for your comments.

  3. Troy A. Xavier

    I love Rilke, one of my favorite German poets. Good work!

  4. Joseph S. Salemi

    Leo Yankevich is a highly accomplished translator not only from German, but also from Polish, Russian, and other Slavic tongues. These renderings of Rilke are absolutely top-notch.

  5. David Watt

    Your translations have brought forth a great deal of praise, and rightly so. Excellent work!


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