by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 - 1926)
Translation © by Knut W. Barde

O ihr Zärtlichen, tretet zuweilen
Language: German (Deutsch) 
Available translation(s): ENG FRE
O ihr Zärtlichen, tretet zuweilen
in den Atem, der euch nicht meint,
laßt ihn an eueren Wangen sich teilen,
hinter euch zittert er, wieder vereint.

O ihr Seligen, o ihr Heilen,
die ihr der Anfang der Herzen scheint.
Bogen der Pfeile und Ziele von Pfeilen,
ewiger glänzt euer Lächeln verweint.

Fürchtet euch nicht zu leiden, die Schwere,
gebt sie zurück an der Erde Gewicht:
schwer sind die Berge. Schwer sind die Meere.

Selbst die als Kinder ihr pflanztet, die Bäume, 
wurden zu schwer längst; ihr trüget sie nicht.
Aber die Lüfte... aber die Räume...

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Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • ENG English (Knut W. Barde) , "Sonnet to Orpheus", copyright ©, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • FRE French (Français) (Pierre Mathé) , copyright © 2010, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

This text was added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Line count: 14
Word count: 94

Sonnet to Orpheus
Language: English  after the German (Deutsch) 
Oh you gentle ones, every once in a while step
into the breath that is indifferent to you,
let it be parted on your cheeks,
behind you it trembles, reunited.

Oh you blessed ones, oh you whole ones,
you who seem to be the beginning of the hearts.
Bow of arrows and target of arrows,
your smile beams eternally with tears.

Do not fear to suffer the heaviness,
give it back to earth's weight:
heavy are the mountains. Heavy are the oceans.

Even what you planted as children, the trees, 
have long become too heavy; you could not carry them.
But the breezes... but the spaces...


  • Translation from German (Deutsch) to English copyright © by Knut W. Barde, (re)printed on this website with kind permission. To reprint and distribute this author's work for concert programs, CD booklets, etc., you may ask the copyright-holder(s) directly or ask us; we are authorized to grant permission on their behalf. Please provide the translator's name when contacting us.

Based on


This text was added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Line count: 14
Word count: 106