Posts Tagged ‘Rilke’


I see you, rose, half-open book
filled with so many pages
of that detailed happiness
we will never read. Magus-book,

opened by the wind and read
with our eyes closed …
butterflies fly out of you, stunned
for having had the same idea.


Friend of hours when no one remains,
when all’s refused to the bitter heart;
comforter whose presence attests
to such caresses floating in the air.

If we refuse to live, if we renounce
what was and what may happen still,
we never think enough of this tenacious friend
who’s next to us, at work on miracles.


Let’s not speak of you. Ineffable.
That is your nature.
Other flowers decorate the table
you transfigure.

We put you in a simple vase —
everything is mutable;
perhaps it’s the same phrase,
but now sung by an angel.

Rainer Maria Rilke
trans. A. Poulin, Jr.


St. Peter’s Chapel, Mare Island

(photo by Jane Beal)

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from The Ninth Elegy

The pain, then. Above all, the hard labor of living,
the long experience of love, — all the purely
unsayable things. But later on,
among the stars, what then:  there the unsayable reigns.

… Between the hammers our heart
lives on, as the tongue,
even between the teeth, remains
unceasing in its praise.

… Earth, isn’t that what you want: to arise
in us invisibly? Isn’t it your dream
to be invisible someday? Earth! Invisible!
What, if not transformation, is your urgent charge?
Earth, my darling, I will! Believe me, you need
no more of your springtimes to win me — , one,
just a single one, is already too much for my blood.
Nameless now, I am betrothed to you forever.
You’ve always been right, and your most sacred tenet
is Death the intimate Friend.

Look, I am living. On what? Neither childhood nor future
lessens … Superabundant existence
wells within my heart.

from The Tenth Elegy

May the tears that stream down my face
make me more radiant:  may my hidden weeping

Rainer Maria Rilke
Duino Elegies

trans. Edward Snow

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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
Duino Elegies

trans. Edward Snow

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Paris in the Fall

“Autumn Day” by Rainer Maria Rilke

Lord: it is time.
The summer was immense.

Lay your shadow on the sundials
and let loose the wind in the fields.

Bid the last fruits to be full;
give them another two more southerly days,
press them to ripeness, and chase
the last sweetness into the heavy wine.

Whoever has no house now will not build one

Whoever is alone now will remain so for a long time,
will stay up, read, write long letters,
and wander the avenues, up and down,
restlessly, while the leaves are blowing.

Translated by Galway Kinnell and Hannah Liebmann,
“The Essential Rilke” (Ecco)

Original German


Herr: es ist Zeit.
Der Sommer war sehr gross.

Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren,
und auf den Fluren lass die Winde los.

Befiehl den letzten Fruchten voll zu sein;
gieb innen noch zwei sudlichere Tage,
drange sie zur Vollendung hin und jage
die letzte Susse in den schweren Wein.

Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr.
Wer jetzt allein ist, wird es lange bleiben,
wird wachen, lesen, lange Briefe schreiben
und wird in den Alleen hin und her
unruhig wandern, wenn die Blatter treiben.

Rainer Maria Rilke
Paris, Sept. 21, 1902

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“Isn’t it time that these most ancient sorrows of ours
grew fruitful? Time that we tenderly loosed ourselves
from the loved one, and, unsteadily, survived:
the way the arrow, suddenly all vector, survives the string
to be more than itself.”

Rainer Maria Rilke
(trans. Richard Snow)
Duino Elegies


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