One thing to sing the beloved. Another, alas, that hidden guilty rivergod of blood. Her distantly known boy, her lover, what does he know of the lords of lust, who often, out of his loneliness, before the girl soothes him, often as if she doesn’t exist, overflow, ah, from what unrecognisable, heaving the godhead up, rousing the night to unending uproar. O the blood’s Neptune, his awesome trident! O the dark blast of his breast from the winding shell! Hear how the night hollows itself. You stars, doesn’t the lover’s delight in the face of his loved one stem from you? Doesn’t his ardent insight into her pure sight come from the purest star? Not for you, alas, nor for his mother is the taut bow of his expectation. Not for you, girl who feels him, not for you does his lip bend to fertile expression. Did you really think that your lighter appearance would shake him, you, who step like an early wind? Of course you terrified his heart; but older terrors hurled into him at the shock of touch. Call him - you can’t call him back from those dark companions. Of course, he wants to, he springs; lightened he settles himself in your homely heart and grasps and begins himself. But did he ever begin himself? Mother, you made him small, it was you who began him; to you he was new, you bent over those new eyes the friendly world and averted the strange. Where, ah where are the years when just for him with your slender form you trod back the boiling chaos? You hid so much from him; that nightly suspected room you made harmless: out of your heart’s full refuge you mixed human space into his night-space. Not within darkness, no, in your nearer being you set the nightlight, and it shone as if out of friendship. Nowhere a creak your smile didn’t explain, as if you’d long known when the plank would behave so. And he heard you and relaxed. You managed so much tenderly standing there; his tall mantled destiny stepped behind the cupboard, and in the folds of the curtain lay neatly what so easily slips, his unruly future. And he himself, as he lay, relieved, under sleepy lids your lightening form loosening sweetly into the foretaste of sleep - : seeming protection. But inside: what checked, what hindered inside him the floods of origin? Ah, there was no caution in that sleeper; sleeping, but dreaming, but in fever: he sank himself. He, new, fearful, how he was tangled in the long vines of inner event winding already to intricate patterns, to strangling growths, to bestial predatory forms. How he gave himself up - . Loved. Loved his innerness, his interior wilderness, these ur-forests within him, on whose mute collapse stood his greenlit heart. Loved. Left it, and went down to his roots and out to immense beginning where his small birth was already outlived. Lovingly lifted down into older blood, the ravines where horror lay, gorged with his fathers. And every terror knew him, winking, was so understanding. Yes, atrocity smiled. . . Seldom have you smiled so tenderly, mother. How could he not love what smiled at him. He loved it before you, for even as you bore him it loosened inside the waters that lighten the seed. See, we don’t love like flowers, for one single year; we raise, when we love, immemorial sap in our arms. O girl, this: that we love inside us, not one, a possible, but numberless brewings; not a single child, but the fathers who root as ruinous mountains in the ground of us; but the parched riverbeds of earlier mothers - ; but the entire noiseless landscape under its clouded or clear destiny: these, girl, forestalled you. And you yourself, what do you know - , you coax deep pasts up in your lover. What feelings swelled out of mutable substance? What women hated you there? What sinister men did you rouse in the veins of boys? Dead children reached towards you. . . O softly, softly, make love for him, a solid day’s work, - lead him close to the garden, give him the night’s excess. . . . . Restrain him. . . . .
Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Alison Croggon