The Ninth Elegy from the Duino Elegies (1912 – 1922)
Why, when this span of life might be passed
as a laurel, slightly darker than everything else
green, with tiny waves on the edges
of each leaf (like the wind’s smile) – why then
have to be human – and, fleeing destiny,
long for destiny?
Oh, not for some dream of happiness,
that premature profit of an imminent loss.
Not out of curiosity, not to give practice to the heart,
which would also pulse with laurel..
But because life here compels us, and because everything here
seems to need us, all this fleetingness
that strangely entreats us. Us, the most fleeting...
Once for each thing, only once. Once and no more. And, we, too,
only once. Never again. But to have been
once, even though only once:
this having been earthly seems lasting, beyond repeal.
And so we press on and try to achieve it,
try to contain it in our simple hands,
in our brimming eyes, our voiceless heart.
Try to become it. Try to give it – to whom? Best of all,
to hold on to it forever...Ah, but what can one carry across
into that other relation? Not the art of seeing,
learned so slowly here, and no event that transpired here. Not one.
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.
The traveler doesn’t bring from the mountain slope
into the valley some handful of sod, around which all stand mute,
but a word he’s gained, a pure word, the yellow and blue
gentian. What if we’re here just for saying: house,
bridge, fountain, gate, jug, fruit tree, window, -
at most: column, tower...but for saying, understand,
oh for such saying as the things themselves
never hoped so intensely to be. Isn’t this the sly purpose
of the taciturn earth, when it urges lovers on:
that in their passion each single thing should find ecstacy?
O Threshold: what must it mean for two lovers
to have their own older threshold and be wearing down so lightly
the ancient sill – they too, after the many before,
before the many to come..
Here is the time for the sayable, here is its home.
Speak and attest: More than ever
The things we can live with are falling away,
and ousting them, filling their palce: a will with no image.
will beneath crusts which readily crack
whenever the act inside swells and seeks new borders.
Between the hammers our heart
lives on, as the tongue,
even between the teeth, remains
unceasing in praise.
Praise the world to the Angel, not what’s unsayable.
You can’t impress him with lofty emotions; in the cosmos
that shapes his feelings, you’re a mere novice. Therefore show him
some simple object, formed from generation to generation
until it’s truly your own, dwelling near our hands and in our eyes.
Tell him of things. He’ll stand more amazed; as you stood
Beside the ropemaker in Rome or by the potter along the Nile.
Show him how happy a thing can be, how innocent and ours,
how even sorrow’s lament resolves upon form,
serves as a thing or dies into a thing – and in that blissful beyond
is unmoved even by the violin. And these things
that keep alive on departure know that you praise them; transient,
they look to us, the most transient, to be their rescue.
They want us to change them completely, in our invisible hearts,
Into – O enlessly – us! Whomever, finally, we may be.
Earth, isn’t this 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
Wells in my heart.
Composed by: Rainer Maria Rilke
Copied and pasted in awsome wonder by:
Homeless with a Laptop, That is my Name