From “The Ninth Elegy”

POETRY FORMAT, 18 Jan 2021

Rainer Maria Rilke – TRANSCEND Media Service

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.

[…]

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.

____________________________________________________

René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke, better known as Rainer Maria Rilke, was a Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist considered the greatest lyric poet of modern Germany. Born in Prague on Dec. 4, 1875, he grew up in a middle-class milieu he called “petit bourgeois,” of which he later felt ashamed; died on Dec. 29, 1926. Rilke is widely recognized as one of the most lyrically intense German-language poets. His work is marked by a mystical sense of God and death. He wrote both verse and highly lyrical prose.


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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 18 Jan 2021.

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