Friday, April 14, 2006

A gift from Rilke

From The Book of Hours, Love Poems to God by Rainier Maria Rilke
Book II, The Book of Pilgramages, Number 10

And you inherit the grass
of vanished gardens
and the motionless blue of fallen skies,
dew of a thousand dawns, countless summers
the suns sang, and springtimes to break your heart
like a young woman's letters.

You inherit the autumns, folded like festive clothing
in the memories of poets; and all the winters,
like abandoned fields, bequeath you their quietness.
You inherit Venice, Kazan, and Rome.

Florence will be yours, and Pisa's cathedral.
Moscow with bells like memories,
and the Troiska convent, and that monastery
whose maze of tunnels lies swallowed under Kiev's gardens.

Sound will be yours, of string and brass and reed,
and sometimes the song will seem
to come from inside you.

For your sake poets sequester themselves,
gather images to churn the mind,
journey forth, ripening with metaphor,
and all their lives they are so alone...
And the painters paint their pictures only
that the world, so transient as you made it,
can be given back to you
to last forever.

All becomes eternal. See. In the Mona Lisa
some woman has long since ripened like wine,
and the enduring feminine is held there
through all the ages.

Those who create are like you.
They long for the eternal.
They say, Stone, be forever!
And that means: be yours.

And lovers also gather your inheritance.
They are the poets of one brief hour.
They kiss an expressionless mouth into a smile
as if creating it anew, more beautiful.

Awakening desire, the make a place
where pain can enter;
that's how growing happens.
They bring suffering along with their laughter,
and longings that had slept and now awaken
to weep in a stranger's arms.

They let the riddles pile up and they die
the way animals die, without making sense of it.
But maybe to those who come after,
their green life will ripen,
it's then that you will inherit the love
to which they gave themselves so blindly, as in a sleep.

Thus the overflow from things
pours into you.
Just as a fountain's higher basins
spill down like strands of loosened hair
into the lowest vessel,
so streams the fullness into you,
when things and thoughts cannot contain it.


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