The leaves are falling, falling as from far,
As if far gardens in the skies were dying;
They fall, and never seem to be denying.
And in the night the earth, a heavy ball,
Into a starless solitude must fall.
We all are falling.
My own hand no less
Than all things else; behold, it is in all.
Yet there is One who, utter gentleness,
Holds all this falling in
His hands to bless.
Below is the original German text for those of you who can understand it, and for those of you (like me) who can’t, but who would like to read it to catch a glimmer of Rilke’s original music.
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 allen fallen.
Diese Hand da fällt.
Und sieh dir andre an: es ist in allen.
Und doch ist einer, welcher dieses
Fallen undendlich sanft
in seinen Händen hält.
This poem is full of such beautiful, melancholic and autumnal images. I particularly love the line in the first verse, “As if far gardens in the skies were dying”. This image strikes me as so uniquely brilliant, and makes me eager to read more of Rilke’s work.
Autumn, uses the notion of “falling” throughout, mirroring, of course, the falling of the leaves and the dying of the year. The season of Autumn is often attached to a state or tone of melancholy, as it inevitably reminds us of the the seasons of our own lives winding down. This notion is expressed in a line so memorable here that I am sure I will be unable to forget it: “And in the night the earth, a heavy ball,/ Into a starless solitude must fall.” The idea of the earth being a heavy ball promotes the feeling that none of us are immune to the melancholy of the passing of time, and the “starless solitude” is just a perfect coupling to create a vision of the bleakness of the state of mind being described.
In his final lines, Rilke introduces hope to the poem – religious hope: “Yet there is One who… holds all this falling in his hands to bless.”
Reviewed by Emily Ardagh