from The Fifth Elegy
sometimes, during a brief pause, a tender look
edges forward to bridge the chasm
… but it gets lost on your body …
Angel! O take it, pluck it, that small-petaled herb of healing!
Create a vase, preserve it! Place it among those joys
not yet open to us; in a delicate urn
let an ornate inscription praise it: Subrisio saltat!
… Angel! Suppose there’s a place we don’t know of, and there,
on an indescribable carpet, lovers announced
those feats that they never mastered here — the bold, high
figures of their heartleaps through space,
their towers of pure pleasure, their two ladders
that stand, leaning only against each other,
with no ground underneath, trembling — and then performed them,
before the circle of onlookers, the innumerable silent dead:
would not those dead throw their last coins
of happiness — hoarded through a lifetime,
kept hidden through a lifetime, unknown to us, eternally
valid — onto the blissful carpet before a pair
now truly smiling at last?
from The Sixth Elegy
O fig tree, how long I’ve pondered you —
the way you almost skip flowering completely
and release, unheralded, your pure secret
into the sprigs of fruit already poised to ripen.
Like a fountain’s pipe, your bent boughs drive the sap
downward and up: and it leaps from sleep, almost
without waking, into the joy of its sweetest achievement.
Look: like the god into the swan.
… But we, for our part, linger …
But suddenly I’m pierced
by his darkened music, borne swiftly by the rush of air.
Then how gladly I would hide from that longing! If only,
oh if only …
from The Seventh Elegy
… as she listened, a reply would slowly wake and grow warm —
the kindled complement of your own ardent feeling.
O, and Spring would understand — , annunciation
would echo everywhere …
it’s already reaching, secretly, into the invisible world.
Rainer Maria Rilke
trans. Edward Snow