Sometime, leaving this violent vision, I’ll sing up joy and glory to assenting angels. Let none of the clearstruck hammers of my heart fail against softening, uncertain or rent strings. Let my streaming face shine forth; let the plain weeping flower. O grieving night, then you become to me what love is. Why didn’t I kneel before you, inconsolable sisters, why not accept you, give my loosening within your loosened hair. We, spendthrifts of sorrows. How we look away to the sad duration beyond them to see if they end. Truly they are but our enduring winter leaf, our dark evergreen, one of the seasons of the secret year - , not only seasons, - are place, settlement, storehouse, ground, home. How strange, alas, are the streets of the city of pain, where in the falsity, uproar becomes a powerful silence, and out of the mould of the void outpours, bragging its gilded noise, this bursting monument. O, how an angel would trample their market of solace, and the fenced church, bought ready-made: clean and shut and disillusioned as the post on Sunday. But outside swirl the edges of carnival. Swings of freedom! Divers and jugglers of passion! And the embracing happiness of shooting galleries, where the trick shot hits the target, fidgeting off its tinplate. From applause to chance he staggers on; for booths enlist his every curiosity, drumming and yelling. Especially for adults: money’s anatomical reproduction! more than just amusement: the genitals of money - everything, the whole process - , worth seeing for instruction and fertility... Oh but just outside, over there, behind the final hoarding plastered with ads for “Deathless”, that bitter beer which seems so sweet to drinkers who always imbibe it with fresh dissipations, just at the back of the hoarding, just behind, it’s real. Children play and lovers hold one another, - aside, earnestly, in the shabby grass, dogs follow nature. It draws the youth further; perhaps he loves a young Lament. He comes up behind her in the meadows. She says: Far away. We live out there... Where? And the young man follows. Her posture moves him. The shoulder, the throat - , perhaps her origins are noble. But he leaves her, turns away, waves. What’s the use? She’s just a Lament. Only the young dead, in that first condition of timeless equanimity, that of weaning, follow her lovingly. Girls she awaits and befriends. Gently she shows them what she has on. Pearls of pain and the fine veils of endurance. - She goes with the young men silently. But where they live, in the valley, one of the older Laments grabs the youth when he questions her: - We were, she says, once a great family, we Lamentations. Our fathers worked the mines there in that huge range; among men sometimes you find a polished fragment of original pain or slaggy petrified rage from an old volcano. Yes, that came from here. Once we were rich. - And lightly she leads him through the wide landscape of Lament, shows him the temple columns or the ruins of towers, from where the Lament Lords wisely ruled the land. Shows him the high tear trees and fields of blossoming sadness, (the living know them only as gentle foliage); shows him the pastured beasts of mourning, - and sometimes a startled bird, flying straight through their upglance, writes the distant image of its solitary cry. - At evening she leads him on to the graves of the oldest Lamentations, the sibyls and omen masters. But night presses, so they walk more gently, and soon the moon lifts up the sepulchre that watches over everything. Twin to the one of the Nile, the lofty Sphinx - : the secret chambered countenance. And they are awed by the regal head, that forever silently places human vision on the scales of stars. His sight can’t take it, dizzied by early death. But her glance from behind the pschent frightens an owl. And its slow downstroke brushes along the cheek, the one with the ripest roundness, sketches softly in the new death-given hearing, over a doubly upflapped page, the indescribable outline. And higher, the stars. New. The stars of the Painlands. Slowly the Lamentation names them: “Here, see: the Rider, the Staff, and that fuller constellation they call Fruitwreath. Then, further, towards the Pole, Cradle, Way, The Burning Book, Doll, Window. But in the southern sky, pure as the interior of a blessed hand, the clear radiant M that signifies mothers...” But the dead must go on, and silently the older Lament brings him as far as the gorge, where the source of joy shimmers in moonlight. She names it with reverence, saying: “Among men it’s a sustaining stream.” They stand at the foot of the range. And there she embraces him, weeping. Alone then he climbs the mountains of primal pain. And his step never once rings on his soundless destiny. But if they awakened a likeness within us, the endlessly dead, they’d show us perhaps the catkins hanging from empty hazels, or would mean rain falling on dark earth in the early year. - And we, who think of happiness climbing, would feel the compassion which almost confounds us, when happiness falls.
Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Alison Croggon