Monday, November 3, 2014
To Hölderlin by Rilke
We are not permitted to linger, even with what is most
intimate. From images that are full, the spirit
plunges on to others that suddenly must be filled;
there are no lakes till eternity. Here,
falling is best. To fall from the mastered emotion
into the guessed-at, and onward.
To you, O majestic poet, to you the compelling image,
O caster of spells, was a life, entire; when you uttered it
a line snapped shut like fate, there was a death
even in the mildest, and you walked straight into it; but
the god who preceded you led you out and beyond it.
O wandering spirit, most wandering of all! How snugly
the others live in their heated poems and stay,
content, in their narrow smiles. Taking part. Only you
move like the moon. And underneath brightens and darkens
the nocturnal landscape, the holy, the terrified landscape,
which you feel in departures. No one
gave it away more sublimely, gave it back
more fully to the universe, without any need to hold on.
Thus for years that you no longer counted, holy, you played
with infinite joy, as though it were not inside you,
but lay, belonging to no one, all around
on the gentle lawns of the earth, where the godlike children had left it.
Ah, what the greatest have longed for: you built it, free of desire,
stone upon stone, till it stood. And when it collapsed,
even then you weren't bewildered.
Why, after such an eternal life, do we still
mistrust the earthly? Instead of patiently learning from transience
the emotions for what future
slopes of the heart, in pure space?
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
from Uncollected Poems
translated by Stephen Mitchell