Greek fragment imageArchaischer Torso Apollos, by Rainer Maria Rilke

Wir kannten nicht sein unerhörtes Haupt,

darin die Augenäpfel reiften. Aber

sein Torso glüht noch wie ein Kandelaber,

in dem sein Schauen, nur zurückgeschraubt,


sich hält und glänzt. Sonst könnte nicht der Bug

der Brust dich blenden, und im leisen Drehen

der Lenden könnte nicht ein Lächeln gehen

zu jener Mitte, die die Zeugung trug.


Sonst stünde dieser Stein enstellt und kurz

unter der Shultern durchsichtigem Sturz

und flimmerte nicht so wie Raubtierfelle;


und brächte nicht aus allen seinen Rändern

aus wie ein Stern: denn da ist keine Stelle,

die dich nicht sieht. Du mußt dein Leben ändern.



Greek fragment imageArchaic Torso of Apollo (translations)

We never knew his fantastic head,

where eyes like apples ripened. Yet

his torso, like a lamp, still glows

with his gaze which, although turned down low,


lingers and shines. Else the prow of his breast

couldn't dazzle you, nor in the slight twist

of his loins could a smile run free

through that center which held fertility.


Else this stone would stand defaced and squat

under the shoulders' diaphanous dive

and not glisten like a predator's coat;


and not from every edge explode

like starlight: for there's not one spot

that doesn't see you. You must change your life.


Translated by H. Landman,



Greek fragment imageNever will we know his fabulous head

where the eyes' apples slowly ripened. Yet

his torso glows: a candelabrum set

before his gaze which is pushed back and hid,


restrained and shining. Else the curving breast

could not thus blind you, nor through the soft turn

of the loins could this smile easily have passed

into the bright groins where the genitals burned.


Else stood this stone a fragment and defaced,

with lucent body from the shoulders falling,

too short, not gleaming like a lion's fell;


nor would this star have shaken the shackles off,

bursting with light, until there is no place

that does not see you. You must change your life.


Translated by C F MacIntyre



Greek fragment imageWe cannot know his legendary head

with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso

is still suffused with brilliance from inside,

like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,


gleams in all its power. Otherwise

the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could

a smile run through the placid hips and thighs

to that dark center where procreation flared.


Otherwise this stone would seem defaced

beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders

and would not glisten like a wild beast's fur:


would not, from all the borders of itself,

burst like a star: for here there is no place

that does not see you. You must change your life.


Translated by Stephen Mitchell (amongst others)



Greek fragment imageYou'll never know that terrific head,

or feel those eyeballs ripen on you--

yet something here keeps you in view,

as if his look had sunk inside


and still blazed on. Or the double axe

of the breast couldn't blind you, nor that grin

flash along the crease fo the loins

down to the low centre of his sex.


Or else he'd sit, headless and halved,

his shoulders falling to thin air--

not shiver like the pelt of a wolf


or burst from his angles like a star:

for there is nowhere to hide, nothing here

that does not see you. Now change your life.


Translated by Don Paterson