translation of a poem by
Rainer Maria Rilke

The leaves are falling falling from afar,
as though from distant gardens in the sky
whose trees begin to wither, fade, and die.

The heavy earth falls, long throughout the nights,
into a loneliness beyond the stars.

We fall.
This hand cannot endure.
And look around—it is in everyone.

This falling, though, is ever held by One
in measurelessly gentle hands, secure.



the poem in the original German


Die Blätter fallen, fallen wie von weit,
als welkten in den Himmeln ferne Gärten;
sie fallen mit verneinender Gebärde.

Und in den Nächten fällt die schwere Erde
aus allen Sternen in die Einsamkeit.

Wir alle fallen. Diese Hand da fällt.
Und sieh dir andre an: es ist in allen.

Und doch ist Einer, welcher dieses Fallen
unendlich sanft in seinen Händen hält.


6 thoughts on “Fall”

  1. I didn’t know you spoke German. What a renaissance woman!

    The poem reminds me of an old hymn:

    I don’t know about tomorrow;
    I just live from day to day.
    I don’t borrow from its sunshine
    For its skies may turn to grey.

    I don’t worry o’er the future,
    For I know what Jesus said.
    And today I’ll walk beside Him,
    For He knows what is ahead.

    Many things about tomorrow
    I don’t seem to understand
    But I know who holds tomorrow
    And I know who holds my hand.

    • Ah, yes, that is a good hymn. I haven’t sung that one in a long time, but it used to be frequently requested in the church I grew up in!

      I learned German in high school and used to be fluent enough to serve as a translator on occasion. In both high school and college I loved interpreting poetry, trying to find just the right English word to convey all the shades of meaning of the German word, while keeping the rhyme and rhythm intact. This poem is one that I worked on in college.

  2. Fall is one of my favorite times of the year, and just today I was enjoying the changes in the trees as I drove back home from Springfield. Although the changes in the season always remind me of God’s faithfulness, now I have a new point of reference to remind me of His grace. Thanks!

    • I was outside today too, walking my dogs on the nature path we have on Living Springs’ grounds. The sun was bright, the air was chilled, and the path was covered with crisp leaves—beautiful!

      I love the last line of the poem, that even our falling—our dying, our uncertainty, our gracelessness—is held in His hands. Even when we feel out of control, His hands are bigger than that.

      I love, too, that our English word “fall” has a dual meaning. I don’t think that’s true of the German word for the season, “Herbst.”

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