Sunday, December 09, 2007

images of God, death and angels in the poetry of Rilke



Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) is considered the greatest lyric poet of modern Germany. His work is marked by a mystical sense of God, death and poetic beauty. Angels are gate-keepers, translators and terrifying intermediators between this world and the luminous other.




The First Elegy


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.

2 comments:

A.Decker said...

Thank you, Princess. That's just what I needed. Maybe I can get to sleep now. Night.

brow of calm said...

wow, thanks for this introduction to yet another great poet.
Do men like this still walk the earth? I wonder on reading such grace and mystery.

"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."