The Island of the Sirens by Rainer Maria Rilke

translated by Len Krisak (June 2014)

When their long day was done and it was late,

his genial hosts would gather round to plead:

“Seafaring! Dangers!” Softly, he’d relate                                                    

it all. What startling phrases would he need


to make them see inside that island-sea?

What words would grip them hard enough to hold

them? There in azure calm lay isles of gold,

the slightest glimpse of which could suddenly


make every peril turn itself around.

For danger’s not what raging seas can do

in fury. Now, it’s not where it was found

before, but steals up softly on the crew,


which knows that out there on those island shores

of gold, sometimes a singing sounded.

Then blindly, sailors lean into their oars,

as though surrounded.



Len Krisak has published in The London Magazine, The Oxonian Review, PN Review, Standpoint, Agni, The Antioch Review, The Sewanee Review, The Hudson ReviewThe Dark Horse, Agenda, The Hopkins ReviewCommonweal, Literary Imagination, The Oxford Book of Poems on Classical Mythology, and others. His latest book is Virgil’s Eclogues, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010. Forthcoming: The Carmina of Catullus, Carcanet Press, 2015, Afterimage, Measure Press, 2014, Rilke: New Poems, Boydell & Brewer, 2015 and Ovid: The Amores and The Ars Amatoria, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014.



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