The Rainer Maria Rilke Archive

Poetry, Quotations, & Writings

By Title E-G

Early Spring

Harshness vanished. A sudden softness
has replaced the meadows’ wintry grey.
Little rivulets of water changed
their singing accents. Tendernesses,

hesitantly, reach toward the earth
from space, and country lanes are showing
these unexpected subtle risings
that find expression in the empty trees.

~Translated by Albert Ernest Flemming

Encounter in the Chestnut Avenue

He felt the entrance’s green darkness
wrapped cooly round him like a silken cloak
that he was still accepting and arranging;
when at the opposite transparent end, far off,

through green sunlight, as through green window panes,
whitely a solitary shape
flared up, long remaining distant
and then finally, the downdriving light
boiling over it at every step,

bearing on itself a bright pulsation,
which in the blond ran shyly to the back.
But suddenly the shade was deep,
and nearby eyes lay gazing

from a clear new unselfconscious face,
which, as in a portrait, lived intensely
in the instant things split off again:
first there forever, and then not at all.

~Translated by Edward Snow

Eve

Look how she stands, high on the steep facade
of the cathedral, near the window-rose,
simply, holding in her hand the apple,
judged for all time as the guiltless-guilty

for the growing fruit her body held
which she gave birth to after parting from
the circle of eternities. She left
to face the strange New Earth, so young in years.

Oh, how she would have loved to stay a little
longer in that enchanted garden, where
the peaceful gentle beasts grazed side by side.

But Adam was resolved to leave, to go
out into this New Earth, and facing death
she followed him. God she had hardly known.

~Translated by Albert Ernest Flemming

Evening Love Song

Ornamental clouds
compose an evening love song;
a road leaves evasively.
The new moon begins

a new chapter of our nights,
of those frail nights
we stretch out and which mingle
with these black horizontals.

~Translated by A. Poulin

[Exposed on the cliffs of the heart]

Exposed on the cliffs of the heart. Look, how tiny down
there,
look: the last village of words and, higher,
(but how tiny) still one last
farmhouse of feeling. Can you see it?
Exposed on the cliffs of the heart. Stoneground
under your hands. Even here, though,
something can bloom; on a silent cliff-edge
an unknowing plant blooms, singing, into the air.
But the one who knows? Ah, he began to know
and is quiet now, exposed on the cliffs of the heart.
While, with their full awareness,
many sure-footed mountain animals pass
or linger. And the great sheltered birds flies, slowly
circling, around the peak’s pure denial.-But
without a shelter, here on the cliffs of the heart…

~Translated by Stephen Mitchell

Extinguish Thou My Eyes

Extinguish Thou my eyes:I still can see Thee,
deprive my ears of sound:I still can hear Thee,
and without feet I still can come to Thee,
and without voice I still can call to Thee.

Sever my arms from me, I still will hold Thee
with all my heart as with a single hand,
arrest my heart, my brain will keep on beating,
and Should Thy fire at last my brain consume,
the flowing of my blood will carry Thee.

~Translated by Albert Ernest Flemming

Falling Stars

Do you remember still the falling stars
that like swift horses through the heavens raced
and suddenly leaped across the hurdles
of our wishes–do you recall? And we
did make so many! For there were countless numbers
of stars: each time we looked above we were
astounded by the swiftness of their daring play,
while in our hearts we felt safe and secure
watching these brilliant bodies disintegrate,
knowing somehow we had survived their fall.

~Translated by Albert Ernest Flemming

Fire’s Reflection

Perhaps it’s no more than the fire’s reflection
on some piece of gleaming furniture
that the child remembers so much later
like a revelation.

And if in his later life, one day
wounds him like so many others,
it’s because he mistook some risk
or other for a promise.

Let’s not forget the music, either,
that soon had hauled him
toward absence complicated
by an overflowing heart….

~Translated by A. Poulin

For Hans Carossa

Losing too is still ours; and even forgetting
still has a shape in the kindgdom of transformation.
When something’s let go of, it circles; and though we are
rarely the center
of the circle, it draws around us its unbroken, marvelous
curve.

~Translated by Stephen Mitchell

The Future

The future: time’s excuse
to frighten us; too vast
a project, too large a morsel
for the heart’s mouth.

Future, who won’t wait for you?
Everyone is going there.
It suffices you to deepen
the absence that we are.

~Translated by A. Poulin

Girl’s Lament

In the years when we were
all children, this inclining
to be alone so much was gentle;
others’ time passed fighting,
and one had one’s faction,
one’s near, one’s far-off place,
a path, an animal, a picture.

And I still imagined, that life
would always keep providing
for one to dwell on things within,
Am I within myself not in what’s greatest?
Shall what’s mine no longer soothe
and understand me as a child?

Suddenly I’m as if cast out,
and this solitude surrounds me
as something vast and unbounded,
when my feeling, standing on the hills
of my breasts, cries out for wings
or for an end.

~Translated by Edward Snow

Going Blind

She sat just like the others at the table.
But on second glance, she seemed to hold her cup
a little differently as she picked it up.
She smiled once. It was almost painful.

And when they finished and it was time to stand
and slowly, as chance selected them, they left
and moved through many rooms (they talked and laughed),
I saw her. She was moving far behind

the others, absorbed, like someone who will soon
have to sing before a large assembly;
upon her eyes, which were radiant with joy,
light played as on the surface of a pool.

She followed slowly, taking a long time,
as though there were some obstacle in the way;
and yet: as though, once it was overcome,
she would be beyond all walking, and would fly.

~Translated by Stephen Mitchell

Growing Old

In some summers there is so much fruit,
the peasants decide not to reap any more.
Not having reaped you, oh my days,
my nights, have I let the slow flames
of your lovely produce fall into ashes?

My nights, my days, you have borne so much!
All your branches have retained the gesture
of that long labor you are rising from:
my days, my nights. Oh my rustic friends!

I look for what was so good for you.
Oh my lovely, half-dead trees,
could some equal sweetness still
stroke your leaves, open your calyx?

Ah, no more fruit! But one last time
bloom in fruitless blossoming
without planning, without reckoning,
as useless as the powers of millenia.

~Translated by A. Poulin

Greek Love-Talk

What I have already learned as a lover,
I see you, beloved, learning angrily;
then for you it distantly departed,
now your destiny stands in all the stars.

Over your breasts we will together contend:
since as glowingly shining they’ve ripened,
so also your hands desire to touch them
and their own pleasure superintend.

~Translated by John J.L. Mood

The Grown-Up

All this stood upon her and was the world
and stood upon her with all its fear and grace
as trees stand, growing straight up, imageless
yet wholly image, like the Ark of God,
and solemn, as if imposed upon a race.

As she endured it all: bore up under
the swift-as-flight, the fleeting, the far-gone,
the inconceivably vast, the still-to-learn,
serenely as a woman carrying water
moves with a full jug. Till in the midst of play,
transfiguring and preparing for the future,
the first white veil descended, gliding softly

over her opened face, almost opaque there,
never to be lifted off again, and somehow
giving to all her questions just one answer:
In you, who were a child once-in you.

~Translated by Stephen Mitchell

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