Rainer Maria Rilke – Duino Elegies – The First Elegy

Rilke
Rainer Maria Rilke

Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the Angelic
Orders? And even if one were to suddenly
take me to its heart, I would vanish into its
stronger existence. For beauty is nothing but
the beginning of terror, that we are still able to bear,
and we revere it so, because it calmly disdains
to destroy us. Every Angel is terror.
And so I hold myself back and swallow the cry
of a darkened sobbing. Ah, who then can
we make use of? Not Angels: not men,
and the resourceful creatures see clearly
that we are not really at home
in the interpreted world. Perhaps there remains
some tree on a slope, that we can see
again each day: there remains to us yesterday’s street,
and the thinned-out loyalty of a habit
that liked us, and so stayed, and never departed.
Oh, and the night, the night, when the wind full of space
wears out our faces – whom would she not stay for,
the longed-for, gentle, disappointing one, whom the solitary heart
with difficulty stands before. Is she less heavy for lovers?
Ah, they only hide their fate between themselves.
Do you not know yet? Throw the emptiness out of your arms
to add to the spaces we breathe; maybe the birds
will feel the expansion of air, in more intimate flight.

Yes, the Spring-times needed you deeply. Many a star
must have been there for you so you might feel it. A wave
lifted towards you out of the past, or, as you walked
past an open window, a violin
gave of itself. All this was their mission.
But could you handle it? Were you not always,
still, distracted by expectation, as if all you experienced,
like a Beloved, came near to you? (Where could you contain her,
with all the vast strange thoughts in you
going in and out, and often staying the night.)
But if you are yearning, then sing the lovers: for long
their notorious feelings have not been immortal enough.
Those, you almost envied them, the forsaken, that you
found as loving as those who were satisfied. Begin,
always as new, the unattainable praising:
think: the hero prolongs himself, even his falling
was only a pretext for being, his latest rebirth.
But lovers are taken back by exhausted Nature
into herself, as if there were not the power
to make them again. Have you remembered
Gastara Stampa sufficiently yet, that any girl,
whose lover has gone, might feel from that
intenser example of love: ‘Could I only become like her?’
Should not these ancient sufferings be finally
fruitful for us? Isn’t it time that, loving,
we freed ourselves from the beloved, and, trembling, endured
as the arrow endures the bow, so as to be, in its flight,
something more than itself? For staying is nowhere.

Voices, voices. Hear then, my heart, as only
saints have heard: so that the mighty call
raised them from the earth: they, though, knelt on
impossibly and paid no attention:
such was their listening. Not that you could withstand
God’s voice: far from it. But listen to the breath,
the unbroken message that creates itself from the silence.
It rushes towards you now, from those youthfully dead.
Whenever you entered, didn’t their fate speak to you,
quietly, in churches in Naples or Rome?
Or else an inscription exaltedly impressed itself on you,
as lately the tablet in Santa Maria Formosa.
What do they will of me? That I should gently remove
the semblance of injustice, that slightly, at times,
hinders their spirits from a pure moving-on.

It is truly strange to no longer inhabit the earth,
to no longer practice customs barely acquired,
not to give a meaning of human futurity
to roses, and other expressly promising things:
no longer to be what one was in endlessly anxious hands,
and to set aside even one’s own
proper name like a broken plaything.
Strange: not to go on wishing one’s wishes. Strange
to see all that was once in place, floating
so loosely in space. And it’s hard being dead,
and full of retrieval, before one gradually feels
a little eternity. Though the living
all make the error of drawing too sharp a distinction.
Angels (they say) would often not know whether
they moved among living or dead. The eternal current
sweeps all the ages, within it, through both the spheres,
forever, and resounds above them in both.

Finally they have no more need of us, the early-departed,
weaned gently from earthly things, as one outgrows
the mother’s mild breast. But we, needing
such great secrets, for whom sadness is often
the source of a blessed progress, could we exist without them?
Is it a meaningless story how once, in the grieving for Linos,
first music ventured to penetrate arid rigidity,
so that, in startled space, which an almost godlike youth
suddenly left forever, the emptiness first felt
the quivering that now enraptures us, and comforts, and helps.

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Rainer Maria Rilke – Duino Elegies – The Fourth Elegy

Rilke
Rainer Maria Rilke

O trees of life, O when are you wintering?
We are not unified. We have no instincts
like those of migratory birds. Useless, and late,
we force ourselves, suddenly, onto the wind,
and fall down to an indifferent lake.
We realise flowering and fading together.
And somewhere lions still roam. Never knowing,
as long as they have their splendour, of any weakness.

We, though, while we are intent on one thing, wholly,
feel the loss of some other. Enmity
is our neighbour. Aren’t lovers
always arriving at boundaries, each of the other,
who promised distance, hunting, and home?
And when, for the sketch of a moment,
a contrasting background is carefully prepared
so that we can see it: then this is clear
to us. We do not know the contours
of feeling, only what forms it from outside.
Who has not sat, scared, before his heart’s curtain?
It drew itself up: the scenery was of Departure.
Easy to comprehend. The familiar garden
swaying a little: then the dancer appeared.
Not him. Enough! However lightly he moves
he is in costume, and turns into a citizen,
and goes through the kitchen into his house.
I don’t want these half-completed masks,
rather the Doll. That is complete. I will
suffer its shell, its wire, its face
of mere appearance. Here. I am waiting.
Even if the lights go out, even if someone
says to me: ‘No more’ – , even if emptiness
reaches me as a grey draught of air from the stage,
even if none of my silent forefathers
sits by me any more, not one woman,
not even the boy with the brown, squinting, eyes.
I’ll still be here. One can always watch.

Am I not right? You, to whom life tasted
so bitter, father, tasting mine,
that first clouded infusion of my necessities,
you kept on tasting, as I grew,
and preoccupied by the after-taste
of such a strange future, searched my misted gaze –
you, my father, who since you were dead, have often
been anxious within my innermost hopes,
and giving up calm, the kingdoms of calm
the dead own, for my bit of fate,
am I not right? And you women, am I not right,
who would love me for that small beginning
of love, for you, that I always turned away from,
because the space of your faces changed,
as I loved, into cosmic space,
where you no longer existed……When I feel
like waiting in front of the puppet theatre, no,
rather gazing at it, so intently, that at last,
to balance my gaze, an Angel must come
and take part, dragging the puppets on high.
Angel and Doll: then there’s a play at last.
Then what we endlessly separate,
merely by being, comes together. Then at last
from our seasons here, the orbit
of all change emerges. Over and above us,
then, the Angel plays. See the dying
must realise that what we do here
is nothing, how full of pretext it all is,
nothing in itself. O hours of childhood,
when, behind the images, there was more
than the past, and in front of us was not the future.
We were growing, it’s true, and sometimes urged that
we soon grew up, half for the sake
of those others who had nothing but their grown-up-ness.
And were, yet, on our own, happy
with Timelessness, and stood there,
in the space between world and plaything,
at a point that from first beginnings
had been marked out for pure event.

Who shows a child, just as they are? Who sets it
in its constellation, and gives the measure
of distance into its hand? Who makes a child’s death
out of grey bread, that hardens, – or leaves it
inside its round mouth like the core
of a shining apple? Killers are
easy to grasp. But this: death,
the whole of death, before life,
to hold it so softly, and not live in anger,
cannot be expressed.

Rainer Maria Rilke – Duino Elegies – The Eighth Elegy

Rilke
Rainer Maria Rilke

The creature gazes into openness with all
its eyes. But our eyes are
as if they were reversed, and surround it,
everywhere, like barriers against its free passage.
We know what is outside us from the animal’s
face alone: since we already turn
the young child round and make it look
backwards at what is settled, not that openness
that is so deep in the animal’s vision. Free from death.
We alone see that: the free creature
has its progress always behind it,
and God before it, and when it moves, it moves
in eternity, as streams do.
We never have pure space in front of us,
not for a single day, such as flowers open
endlessly into. Always there is world,
and never the Nowhere without the Not: the pure,
unwatched-over, that one breathes and
endlessly knows, without craving. As a child
loses itself sometimes, one with the stillness, and
is jolted back. Or someone dies and is it.
Since near to death one no longer sees death,
and stares ahead, perhaps with the large gaze of the creature.
Lovers are close to it, in wonder, if
the other were not always there closing off the view…..
As if through an oversight it opens out
behind the other……But there is no
way past it, and it turns to world again.
Always turned towards creation, we see
only a mirroring of freedom
dimmed by us. Or that an animal
mutely, calmly is looking through and through us.
This is what fate means: to be opposite,
and to be that and nothing else, opposite, forever.

If there was consciousness like ours
in the sure creature, that moves towards us
on a different track – it would drag us
round in its wake. But its own being
is boundless, unfathomable, and without a view
of its condition, pure as its outward gaze.
And where we see future it sees everything,
and itself in everything, and is healed for ever.

And yet in the warm waking creature
is the care and burden of a great sadness.
Since it too always has within it what often
overwhelms us – a memory,
as if what one is pursuing now was once
nearer, truer, and joined to us
with infinite tenderness. Here all is distance,
there it was breath. Compared to that first home
the second one seems ambiguous and uncertain.

O bliss of little creatures
that stay in the womb that carried them forever:
O joy of the midge that can still leap within,
even when it is wed: since womb is all.
And see the half-assurance of the bird,
almost aware of both from its inception,
as if it were the soul of an Etruscan,
born of a dead man in a space
with his reclining figure as the lid.
And how dismayed anything is that has to fly,
and leave the womb. As if it were
terrified of itself, zig-zagging through the air, as a crack
runs through a cup. As the track
of a bat rends the porcelain of evening.

And we: onlookers, always, everywhere,
always looking into, never out of, everything.
It fills us. We arrange it. It collapses.
We arrange it again, and collapse ourselves.

Who has turned us round like this, so that,
whatever we do, we always have the aspect
of one who leaves? Just as they
will turn, stop, linger, for one last time,
on the last hill, that shows them all their valley – ,
so we live, and are always taking leave.

 

Rainer Maria Rilke – Duino Elegies – The Ninth Elegy

Rilke
Rainer Maria Rilke

Why, if it could begin as laurel, and be spent so,
this space of Being, a little darker than all
the surrounding green, with little waves at the edge
of every leaf (like a breeze’s smile) – : why then
have to be human – and shunning destiny
long for destiny?….
                                 Oh, not because happiness exists,
that over-hasty profit from imminent loss,
not out of curiosity, or to practice the heart,
which could exist in the laurel……
But because being here is much, and because all
that’s here seems to need us, the ephemeral, that
strangely concerns us. We: the most ephemeral. Once,
for each thing, only once. Once, and no more. And we too,
once. Never again. But this
once, to have been, though only once,
to have been an earthly thing – seems irrevocable.

And so we keep pushing on, and trying to achieve it,
trying to contain it in our simple hands,
in the overflowing gaze and the speechless heart.
Trying to become it. Whom to give it to? We would
hold on to it for ever….Ah, what, alas, do we
take into that other dimension? Not the gazing which we
slowly learned here, and nothing that happened. Nothing.
Suffering then. Above all, then, the difficulty,
the long experience of love, then – what is
wholly unsayable. But later,
among the stars, what use is it: it is better unsayable.
Since the traveller does not bring a handful of earth
from mountain-slope to valley, unsayable to others, but only
a word that was won, pure, a yellow and blue
gentian. Are we here, perhaps, for saying: house,
bridge, fountain, gate, jug, fruit-tree, window –
at most: column, tower……but for saying, realise,
oh, for a saying such as the things themselves would never
have profoundly said. Is not the secret intent
of this discreet Earth to draw lovers on,
so that each and every thing is delight within their feeling?
Threshold: what is it for two
lovers to be wearing their own threshold of the ancient door
a little, they too, after the many before them,
and before those to come……., simple.

Here is the age of the sayable: here is its home.
Speak, and be witness. More than ever
the things of experience are falling away, since
what ousts and replaces them is an act with no image.
An act, under a crust that will split, as soon as
the business within outgrows it, and limit itself differently.
Between the hammers, our heart
lives on, as the tongue
between the teeth, that
in spite of them, keeps praising.

Praise the world to the Angel, not the unsayable: you
can’t impress him with glories of feeling: in the universe,
where he feels more deeply, you are a novice. So show
him a simple thing, fashioned in age after age,
that lives close to hand and in sight.
Tell him things. He’ll be more amazed: as you were,
beside the rope-maker in Rome, or the potter beside the Nile.
Show him how happy things can be, how guiltless and ours,
how even the cry of grief decides on pure form,
serves as a thing, or dies into a thing: transient,
they look to us for deliverance, we, the most transient of all.
Will us to change them completely, in our invisible hearts,
into – oh, endlessly, into us! Whoever, in the end, we are.

Earth, is it not this that you want: to rise
invisibly in us? – Is that not your dream,
to be invisible, one day? – Earth! Invisible!
What is your urgent command if not transformation?
Earth, beloved, I will. O, believe me, you need
no more Spring-times to win me: only one,
ah, one, is already more than my blood can stand.
Namelessly, I have been truly yours, from the first.
You were always right, and your most sacred inspiration
is that familiar Death.
See I live. On what? Neither childhood nor future
grows less……Excess of being
wells up in my heart.

Cristopher Walken reads The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door-
Only this, and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;- vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow- sorrow for the lost Lenore-
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore-
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me- filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
“‘Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door-
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;-
This it is, and nothing more.”

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”- here I opened wide the door;-
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore!”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”-
Merely this, and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice:
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore-
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;-
‘Tis the wind and nothing more.”

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door-
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door-
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore.
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore-
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning- little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blest with seeing bird above his chamber door-
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as “Nevermore.”

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered- not a feather then he fluttered-
Till I scarcely more than muttered, “other friends have flown before-
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.”
Then the bird said, “Nevermore.”

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore-
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of ‘Never- nevermore’.”

But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and
door; Then upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore-
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamplight gloated o’er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamplight gloating o’er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then methought the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose footfalls tinkled on the tufted floor.
“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee- by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite- respite and nepenthe, from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!- prophet still, if bird or devil!-
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted-
On this home by horror haunted- tell me truly, I implore-
Is there- is there balm in Gilead?- tell me- tell me, I implore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil- prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us- by that God we both adore-
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore –
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

“By that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting –
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!- quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamplight o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted- nevermore!

Lee Remick reads This Is my letter to the world by Emily Dickinson

Two poems by Emily Dickinson:

This is my letter to the world

This is my letter to the World
That never wrote to Me —
The simple News that Nature told —
With tender Majesty

Her Message is committed
To Hands I cannot see —
For love of Her — Sweet — countrymen —
Judge tenderly — of Me

Dying

I heard a fly buzz when I died;
The stillness round my form
Was like the stillness in the air
Between the heaves of storm.

The eyes beside had wrung them dry,
And breaths were gathering sure
For that last onset, when the king
Be witnessed in his power.

I willed my keepsakes, signed away
What portion of me I
Could make assignable, —and then
There interposed a fly,

With blue, uncertain, stumbling buzz,
Between the light and me;
And then the windows failed, and then
could not see to see.