You see, I want a lot

You see, I want a lot.
Perhaps I want everything:
the darkness that comes with every infinite fall
and the shivering blaze of every step up.

So many live on and want nothing,
and are raised to the rank of prince
by the slippery ease of their light judgments.

But what you love to see are faces
that do work and feel thirst.

You love most of all those who need you
as they need a crowbar or a hoe.

You have not grown old, and it is not too late
to dive into your increasing depths
where life calmly gives out its own secret.

Rainer Maria Rilke / The Book of the Hours
(translated by Robert Bly)

German Original:

Du siehst, ich will viel

Du siehst, ich will viel.
Vielleicht will ich Alles:
das Dunkel jedes unendlichen Falles
und jedes Steigens lichtzitterndes Spiel.

Es leben so viele und wollen nichts,
und sind durch ihres leichten Gerichts
glatte Gefühle gefürstet.

Aber du freust dich jedes Gesichts,
das dient und dürstet.

Du freust dich Aller, die dich gebrauchen
wie ein Gerät.

Noch bist du nicht kalt, und es ist nicht zu spät,
in deine werdenden Tiefen zu tauchen,
wo sich das Leben ruhig verrät.

Rainer Maria Rilke, 22.9.1899, Berlin-Schmargendorf
Das Stundenbuch ( Das Buch vom Mönchischen Leben)


About Michaela

I am a wanderer and a wonderer, like you are. I love our journey and to walk in the company of friends – to learn, experience, share, laugh, cry and above all I simply love this marvelous, magical, mysterious life. I have no plan (cannot believe I am saying this) and my only intention is to be truthful to myself and others.
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18 Responses to You see, I want a lot

  1. Aralan says:

    So beautiful. Rilke is so beautiful.

  2. Michaela says:

    Yes, and really quite impossible to translate…..

    There is such depth in the German original, that is often lost in the translation.

  3. Aralan says:

    Yes, that makes sense to me.
    I have often marveled/wondered how translation sometimes happens at all. Even a single language itself, for all its shortcomings is a true miracle let alone translating something across languages.

  4. Echo says:

    It made me cry… Overwhelmingly beautiful!
    I wish I could appreciate it in German as well…I agree, translation is always second best…

  5. how does this translation compare?

    You see, I want a lot,
    Maybe I want it all:
    the darkness of each endless fall,
    the shimmering light of each ascent.

    So many are alive who don’t seem to care.
    Casual, easy, they move in the world
    as though untouched.

    But you take pleasure in the faces
    of those who know they thirst.
    You cherish those
    who grip you for survival.

    You are not dead yet, it’s not too late
    to open your depths by plunging into them
    and drink in the life
    that reveals itself quietly there.

    translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

  6. A dear friend who has won awards for his translations, particularly of Paul Celan, has spoken to me of the extreme difficulty of translation. Personally can’t imagine. Though I do enjoy Bly, I rather like this translation better, even though I can’t read German. Perhaps the next life. Rilke in any form is my absolute favorite poet.

    • Michaela says:

      Yes, same here. Learning about translation myself. Translating mystic poetry seems to be an impossible task actually…English has more words, but it’s monosyllabic.

  7. fatima says:

    Everybody says that translation has a lack. You can well imagine that I have been hearing and thinking that for years. It leaves an ….”Oh if only….then..” hanging in the air.

    I don’t believe that any more. The poet speaks from consciousness. You simply choose the translation that speaks most clearly to you, call it the one you prefer, and his meaning comes through as clear as a bell.

    There is no lack.

  8. fatima says:

    Though I stand by what I said above because my life situation has been moved and affected so long, for it’s ever, by translations that I read and translations that I make as I read, I give you this.

    You decide.

    What connects us is One, its in the explanations that seem to differ.

    Ekhart Tolle’s school for translators, the Sacred Now.

  9. Dreamfable says:

    Words are translations by definition.
    To know… One has to taste.

    Love that site Fatima.

  10. Dreamfable says:

    By the way… I’ve been reading these examples of different translations again..
    I still find them shocking to read…

    • fatima says:


      What do you mean when you say its shocking to read?

      I could take a guess related to meeting an outer situation.

      I could take a guess related to meeting an inner situation.

      I am curious as to what you meant when you wrote…”I still find them…..etc”.

      : )

  11. Dreamfable says:

    S.a. Fatima,

    Imagine the I like crab. I like it because there is a debt in its flavor that can only be compared with very little other food.

    In the Netherlands one can buy something that looks like crab but when you read the package well you learn that it’s not crab but whiting with a (chemical) crab flavor. It still tastes quiet well… but the truth is that it is not crab. (When I look at some of these translations/versions of Rumi I wonder if they even cared to add the chemical flavor of crab.)

    Now… I happen to like whiting as well… but when I want to eat crab and someone sells me whiting, telling me that it is like crab… I would feel mislead. I am not shocked about the charlatans who try to sell me whiting though. I am more shocked (amazed is probably a better word) about the millions of people who do not seem to care. Some even claim to love crab while in fact they only tasted whiting.

    On the other hand… We life in a MacDonald world. I should be amazed about it.


  12. fatima says:

    laughing a.s. Raoef. I love your story. Its a Sufi vehicle that your personal vehicle seems to take to naturally.

    I went back to read my friend Ibrahim’s link…… the one that I posted.

    “What was I thinking.?” I thought as I felt the pressure building between my ears and across the top of my head that signals resistance to . ideas devoid of meaning (for me). : ) That is because, for one thing I am acutely aware that each of his ‘examples’ is out of context….not so much of text but full meaning.

    I rather more enjoy reading his blog where he and others engage each other over meanings of actual passages…which are unbelievably nuanced in Rumi’s perfect form, almost like catching water in a sieve, combining often multiple paradoxes in the flow the narrative.. which can have the effect of hypnotizing logical reason until inear ‘thinking’ can give up in despair…. or until it crystallizes into an ‘insight’. An insight can be the end of inquiry or if lightly held can move back in to the paradox of human reality and Being. The true mystic holds both.

    ….actually I kind of know what I was thinking with that post and it had to do with a point I was trying to make about translation in general……..i.e. that Michaela is no doubt right that Rilke in German is infinitely more beautifully profound but that THat doesn’t matter a whit . If a translation of Rilke touches me, it is not what may be lost that is important….but what is found. Same for the Masnawi.

    As to crab and whitefish….lol…we have the same situation at our “seafood” counters…salads are particularly suspect. Such a good example!

    Buyer beware! Of course…the informed buyer is…..aware.

    The writings of Rumi are not scripture….something that some people I know tend to forget.

    The point is that those ‘versions’, are not for muslims per se. They are for the general public, humans who are formed by a language and culture and, often, lack of or rejection of religion of any kind. The universal truths of a teacher like Rumi and even others speak across cultural and religious lines .

    I guess I feel like Rumi for a Muslim is like Rilke for a German (Austrian). It may speak more wholly and profoundly to the different aspects……… human and being…..if the reader is versed in the same cultural background and language. Nevertheless they speak.

    In the end it is never through words that ‘real understanding’ occurs. Words are explanations…pointers….guidelines…

    always open to misinterpretation.

    fi amani Allah


  13. Dreamfable says:

    There was a time that I would like to be called a Sufi. 🙂 I kind a lost that wanting I guess. In the end they are nothing more then labels. Only like Allah to be pleased with us oghti.

    I must admit that sometimes I find it difficult to understand what you are writing. I have no problem with reading English novels and in most occasions I believe I am able to understand more intellectual books, but there is a limit to my understanding. 🙂 (Tried to read works of James Joyce but after a few pages I was kind of disappointingly wonder what I he was talking about. )

    Anyway… what I wanted to say is; Please forgive me if I misunderstood you or missed something.

    A few notes from you reaction;

    “If a translation of Rilke touches me, it is not what may be lost that is important….but what is found. Same for the Masnawi.”
    This is exactly what is bothering me. What did you (or anyone else) find? And what did Rumi really wanted to express?

    “The point is that those ‘versions’, are not for muslims per se. They are for the general public.”
    Interesting point. In the beginning Islam was considered to be for Arabs only because they believed that other peoples already had their books. By the time that Rumi came in to being however they already accepted a more universal view. I do not belief that I was as intolerant as some live Islam now I am afraid.

    Nevertheless… Could one really translate a book that is written out of an Islamic view and context into a “version” for people who might even not believe in the existence of Allah? Is it not like explaining the life and world of a Crab to people who do not believe in water?

    On the other hand…
    I ones attended a small course with my wife. It was called; “the fiqh of love”. While sitting in the lounge I noticed a young woman who was dressed in a very sexy red and short dress. All the other woman where dressed more traditionally so I noticed that the others where looking at here. After a first feeling of disapproval I said to myself that in spite of the fact that here clothes where not very Islamic, it was still positive that she was there.

    Anyway. I know the teacher who gave this course quite well so I decided ask him about this incident. Although I considered him to be quite conservative (He studied fiqh in Pakastan and Medina) he answered me that he never saw it as his task to judge up on the people who come to follow his courses. In a free translation he said; I only teach, only Allah knows what people really learn and when.

    So maybe… Even is a version is totally out of meaning and context… in some way that only Allah knows… people do learn and He is pleased about it.

    “In the end it is never through words that ‘real understanding’ occurs. Words are explanations…pointers….guidelines…”
    It’s a gift. If Allah wills it.. What words are needed?

    Enough words I guess.. 🙂

    May Allah forgive all.


  14. fatima says:

    Selamu aleykum dear friend Raoef,

    Don’t worry about not understanding me. You are not unique in that respect and I often don’t even understand myself. : ))

    You brought up many points (that translates into: lots of comments arose in my head- in the form of nuanced affirmations). By the way….I had exactly the same response to trying to read James Joyce on my own. How funny is that?

    “What did you (or anyone else) find? And what did Rumi really wanted to express?”

    Ah Rumi.
    Those who know say that the Masnawi in its entirety is a commentary (tafsir?) on the Quran.

    Rumi was an ecstatic mystic and if you can find the story that is told of his first meeting with Shamsi Tabriz, I found that somehow very revealing. Exactly how I can’t say because I don’t have it anymore and I never thought I would call upon my self to say, or even wonder, why or what I thought was so significant in that story. Just saying…if it interests you.

    I, on the other hand, am neither ecstatic nor a mystic. What I find when I read Rumi (I will introject here that I mainly read the Masnawi – now for the 4th time and each time it is as if I never read it before) I find myself in a state of intense presence and….it feels like or I experience:

    ” ..almost like catching water in a sieve,” as he combines, often multiple, paradoxes in the flow of the narrative.. which has the effect of hypnotizing my logic and reason until my brain almost gives up in despair (maybe sometimes it actually does) in its effort to contain the immensity of where he is leading me, or, until something crystallizes into an ‘insight’. An insight can be the end of inquiry if I think I “know” something, but that is not so usual. I think that is part of the beauty of Rumi’s teaching for me. More usual is that, with the insight lightly held, I move back in to the paradox of my human reality and Being with a more nuanced understanding of ‘things’, “me”/my nafs, as I really am – i.e.essentially un balanced on the side of nafs. would be one way to put it.

    There is a very practical side to the teaching of the Masnawi, as there is to the Quran, r/t to the human condition and that is what I find resonates most in me.

    I hope this was a clearer explanation.

    “In a free translation he said; I only teach, only Allah knows what people really learn and when.”
    and speaking on “the fiqh of love”? I would listen to such a man speak on any topic, I am sure he is in there when you count your blessings. ; ) Hamza Yusuf is very conservative also and I admire that and thank God for muslims like them.
    Enough for now,
    fi amani Allah my friend,

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