Part Two, Sonnet XXVII
Does Time, as it passes, really destroy?
It may rip the fortress from its rock;
but can this heart, that belongs to God,
be torn from Him by circumstance?
Are we as fearfully fragile
as fate would have us believe?
Can we ever be severed
from childhood's deep promise?
Ah, the knowledge of impermanence
that haunts our days
is their very fragrance.
We in our striving think we should last forever,
but could we be used by the Divine
if we were not ephemeral?
Part Two, Sonnet XXIX
Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,
what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.
In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.
And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent Earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.
Part One, Sonnet V
Erect no gravestone. Just let the rose
bloom every year for him.
For this is Orpheus: metamorphosis
into one thing, then another.
We need not search for other names.
It is Orpheus in the singing, once and for all time.
He comes and goes. Is it not enough
that sometimes he outlasts a bowl of roses?
Oh, if you could understand -- he has no choice but to disappear,
even should he long to stay. As his song
exceeds the present moment,
so he is already gone where we cannot follow.
The lyre's strings do not constrain his hands.
It is in moving farther on that he obeys.
9th Duino Elegy
Why, if it's possible to come into existence
as laurel, say, a little darker green
than other trees, with ripples edging each
leaf (like a wind, smiling): why then
do we have to be human, and keep running from the fate
we are made for and long for?
Oh, not because of Happiness --
that fleeting gift before the loss begins.
Not from curiosity, or to exercise the heart,
which the laurel could do too....
But because simply to be here is so much
and because what is here seems to need us,
this vanishing world that concerns us strangely --
us, the most vanishing of all. Once
for each, only once. Once and no more.
And we, too: just once. Never again. But
to have lived this once, even if only this once,
to have been of earth -- that cannot be taken from us.
Part One, Sonnet IV
You who let yourselves feel: enter the breathing
that is more than your own.
Let it brush your cheeks
as it divides and rejoins behind you.
Blessed ones, whole ones,
you where the heart begins:
You are the bow that shoots the arrows
and you are the target.
Fear not the pain. Let its weight fall back
into the earth;
for heavy are the mountains, heavy the seas.
The trees you planted in childhood have grown
too heavy. You cannot bring them along.
Give yourselves to the air, to what you cannot hold.
Part Two, Sonnet X
The Machine endangers all we have made.
We allow it to rule instead of obey.
To build a house, cut the stone sharp and fast:
the carver's hand takes too long to feel its way.
The Machine never hesitates, or we might escape
and its factories subside into silence.
It thinks it's alive and does everything better.
With equal resolve it creates and destroys.
But life holds mystery for us yet. In a hundred places
we can still sense the source: a play of pure powers
that -- when you feel it -- brings you to your knees.
There are yet words that come near the unsayable,
and, from crumbling stones, a new music
to make a sacred dwelling in a place we cannot own.
Part Two, Sonnet XIII
Be ahead of all parting, as if it had already happened.
like winter, which even now is passing.
For beneath the winter is a winter so endless
that to survive it at all is a triumph of the heart.
Be forever dead in Eurydice, and climb back singing.
Climb praying as you return to connection.
Here among the disappearing, in the realm of the transient,
be a ringing glass that shatters as it rings.
Be. And, at the same time, know what it is not to be.
The non-being inside you allows you to vibrate
in full resonance with your world. Use it for once.
To all that has run its course, and to the vast unsayable
numbers of beings abounding in Nature,
add yourself gladly, and cancel the cost.
8th Duino Elegy - Rainer Maria Rilke
With their whole gaze the creatures behold what is. Only our eyes
are as though reversed, and set like traps around themselves,
keeping us inside. That there is something out there
we know only from the animals' countenance,
for we turn even the young child, forcing her
to look backwards at the shapes we make,
not outwards into the open, which is reflected
in the animals' eyes.
Free from death. We alone see that.
For the animals, their death is, as it were, completed.
What's ahead is God. And when they move,
they move in timelessness, as fountains do.
Never, not for a single day, do we let
the space before us be so unbounded
that the blooming of one flower is forever.
We are always making it into a world
and never letting it be nothing: the pure,
the unconstructed, which we breathe
and endlessly know, and need not crave.