Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Duino Elegies: The Seventh Elegy

Woo no more, no wooing, outgrowing voice,
be your natural cry; your cry pure as the bird
when the heightening seasons lift him up, almost forgetting
that he is a pitiable animal and not just a single heart
they fling into brightness, into the ardent sky.  You plead
as wholly as he does, no less - for the yet invisible
friend to arrive within you, in whose silence an answer
slowly awakes and warms itself over listening, -
your venturing touch which kindles feeling.

O and spring comprehends - , there is no place
which doesn’t carry the note of prophecy.  First each little
inquiring sound, which with the gathering stillness
expansively hushes a purely assenting day.
Then the steps upward, the call-steps up to the dreamt
temple of futurity - ; then to the trill, the fountain
whose urgent jet already grasps its collapse
in a play of promise ... And before this, the summer.
Not only all of the summer mornings - not only
how they change themselves into day and shine of beginning.
Not only the days, so soft around flowers, and above
so strong and forceful about the forming trees.
Not only the prayer of these unfolding powers,
not only the paths, not only the fields of evening,
not only, after late storm, the breathing clarities,
not only approaching sleep, and a prescience, evening ...
but the nights!  But the high
summer nights, but the stars, the stars of the earth. 
O once to be dead and endlessly know them,
all the stars:  for how, how, how to forget them!

See, there I called for the lover.  But not only
she came ... Out of their fragile graves
girls came and stood ...  How then could I confine,
how, this continually calling call?  The sunken still
constantly want the earth. -  You children, here it means as much
to wholly feel one thing, as a thousand.
Don’t think that fate is more than the gift of childhood;
how often you overtake the beloved, panting,
panting, after the blissful flow, to nothing, to free air.
Being here is magnificent.  You knew it, girls, you also,
sunk in your seeming lack - in evil
city alleys suppurating with open rubbish.
For each there was an hour, maybe not
even an hour, one measure of time barely 
measurable between two whiles: there she had
being.  All.  The vein-full being.
But we forget so easily what the laughing neighbour
neither confirms nor envies.  We want to possess
the visible, although the most visible joy 
first gave itself to perception when we transformed it within.

Beloved, world can be nowhere but within.  Our lives,
changing, arrive there.  And always the outward
meanly contracts.  Where once was a durable house,
an abstract structure, wholly imagined, 
stamps itself in the brain.
The zeitgeist forges huge silos of power, extracted 
out of everything, formless as the excited throng.
It knows the temple no more.  Of all the heart’s extravagance
secretly we spare this one.  Yes, where only one endures,
one once petitioned thing, once served, once knelt before -
holding itself, just as it is, already there in invisibility ...
Many see it no more, missing their chance
of building it now within, with pillars and statues, greater!

Each dulled return of the world has such disinherited,
neither the dawns nor the nights belong to them. 
For nearness is also far from mankind.  This must not
confuse us; the proof within us is strong
of this yet perceptible form.  It once stood beneath us,
in the midst of destiny, in annihilation, it stood
in not-knowing-where, as it was, and bent
stars to itself out of the steady sky.  Angel,
I’ll show you, there!  In your aspect
it stands, rescued at last, now finally upright.
Columns, pylons, the Sphinx, the shoring buttresses
of domes, grey in the strange, vanishing city.
Wasn’t it miraculous?  O Angel, be amazed, because we are,
o great one, tell how we desired so much, my breath 
cannot encompass such praise.  So after all we haven’t
neglected the spaces, these vouchsafed, these,
our spaces.  (How terrifyingly vast they must be
if they’re not swamped by millennia of feelings).
But a tower was great, surely?  O Angel, it was, -
great, even next to you?  Chartres was great - and music
reached still further and overstepped us.  But even only
a lover, o alone at the nightly window ....
didn’t she reach to your knee - ?
     Don’t believe that I beg.
Angel, I even beseech you!  You don’t come.  For my call 
is always full of away; against so strong
a current you cannot advance.  Like an outstretched
arm is my call.  And its hand opening
to the grasp above remains against you
open, as defence and warning,
Ungraspable, further on.

Rainer Maria Rilke, transated by Alison Croggon

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