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 Review, The Dark Horse, Agenda, The Hopkins Review, Commonweal, 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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