Archive for the ‘Rainer Maria Rilke’ Category

This poem is from Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God.
It is written that Rilke received these poems in what he called
“inner dictations”.  Anita Barrows describes it as: “words that
came to him mornings and evenings and that struck him with
their force and persistence.”  Yet the publication of these
poems was delayed and for a few years they were read only
by the woman to whom they were dedicated.  Rilke considered
them to be as private and sacred as prayers.  How grateful I
am that he has shared their sacredness with the rest of the
world as he asks the great questions below: who is it, that
lives this life?

And yet, though we strain
against the deadening grip
of daily necessity,
I sense there is this mystery:

All life is being lived.

Who is living it, then?
Is it the thing themselves,
or something waiting inside them,
like an unplayed melody in a flute?

Is it the winds blowing over the waters?
Is it the branches that signal to each other?

Is it flowers
interweaving their fragrances,
or streets, as they wind through time?

Is it the animals, warmly moving,
or the birds, that suddenly rise up?

Who lives it then? God, are you the one
who is living life?

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Breathing: you invisible poem! Complete
interchange of our own
essence with world-space. You counterweight
in which I rhythmically happen.

Single wave-motion whose
gradual sea I am;
you, most inclusive of all our possible seas —
space grown warm.

How many regions in space have already been
inside me. There are winds that seem like
my wandering son.

Do you recognize me, air, full of places I once absorbed?
You who were the smooth bark,
roundness, and leaf of my words.

~Rainer Maria Rilke

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World was in the face of the beloved –,
but suddenly it poured out and was gone:
world is outside, world can not be grasped.

Why didn’t I, from the full, beloved face
as I raised it to my lips, why didn’t I drink
world, so near that I could almost taste it?

Ah, I drank.  Insatiably I drank.
But I was filled up also, with too much
world, and drinking, I myself ran over.

~Rainer Maria Rilke
Ahead of All Parting: The Selected Poetry
and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke
Edited and Translated by Stephen Mitchell

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Dear Ones,

Each time that I read Rainer Maria Rilke I am touched.  Sometimes there are tears of joy, sometimes tears of knowing.  Always I feel as if we are peering through the same window of Life and he has put what my heart feels onto paper.  When I find music that I like, I will listen to it over and over but with Rilke, I read a page at a time, savoring the rest for some other day and thankful for each reading.  I read his words often aloud to myself, as if I’m doing my own personal poetry reading.  And today I have chosen:

Only as a child am I awake
and able to trust
that after every fear and every night
I will behold you again.

However often I get lost,
however far my thinking strays,
I know you will be here, right here,
time trembling around you.

To me it is as if I were at once
infant, boy, man and more.
I feel that only as it circles
is abundance found.

I thank you, deep power
that works me ever more lightly
in ways I can’t make out.
The day’s labor grows simple now,
and like a holy face
held in my dark hands.

Excerpted from Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God
translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

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You, darkness, of whom I am born —

I love you more than the flame
that limits the world
to the circle it illumines
and excludes all the rest.

But the darkness embarces everything:
shapes and shadows, creatures and me,
people, nations–just as they are.

It lets me imagine
a great presence stirring beside me.

I believe in the night.

Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God

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No one lives his life.

Disguised since childhood,
haphazardly assembled
from voices and fears and little pleasures,
we come of age as masks.

Our true face never speaks.

Somewhere there must be storehouses
where all these lives are laid away
like suits of armor or old carriages
or clothes hanging limply on the walls.

Maybe all paths lead there,
to the repository of unlived things.

excerpted from Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God

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Nobody can advise and help you, nobody.
There is only one single means.
Go inside yourself.
Discover the motive that bids you write;
examine whether it sends its roots down
to the deepest places of your heart,
confess to yourself whether you would have to die
if writing were denied you.
This before all:
ask yourself in the quietest hour of the night:
must I write?
Dig down into yourself for a deep answer.
And if this should be in the affirmative,
if you may meet this solemn question
with a strong and simple
“I must”,
then build your life according to this necessity…

Excerpted from Letters to a Young Poet – Rainer Maria Rilke

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Sonnets to Orpheus, Part Two, XXIX

Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell.  As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~

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Sonnets to Orpheus, Part One, IV

You who let yourselves feel: enter the breathing
that is more than your own.
Let it brush your cheeks
as it divides and rejoins beside you.

Blessed ones, whole ones,
you where the heart begins:
You are the bow that shoots the arrows
and you are the target.

Fear not the pain.  Let its weight fall back
into the earth;
for heavy are the mountains, heavy the seas.

The trees you planted in childhood have grown
too heavy.  You cannot bring them along.
Give yourselves to the air, to what you cannot hold.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~

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