Rainer Maria Rilke |
The First Elegy
Who if I cried out would hear me among the angels'
hierarchies? and even if one of them pressed me
suddenly against his heart: I would be consumed
I that overwhelming existence.
For beauty is nothing
but the beginning of terror which we still are just able to endure
and we are so awed because it serenely disdains
to annihilate us.
Every angel is terrifying.
And so I hold myself back and swallow the call-note
Of my dark sobbing.
Ah whom can we ever turn to
in our need? Not angels not humans
and already the knowing animals are aware
that we are not really at home in
our interpreted world.
Perhaps there remains for us
some tree on a hillside which every day we can take
into our vision; there remains for us yesterday's street
and the loyalty of a habit so much at ease
when it stayed with us that it moved in and never left.
Oh and night: there is night when a wind full of infinite space
gnaws at out faces.
Whom would it not remain for-that longed-after
mildly disillusioning presence which the solitary heart
so painfully meets.
Is it any less difficult for lovers?
But they keep on using each other to hide their own fate.
Don't you know yet? Fling the emptiness out of your arms
Into the spaces we breathe; perhaps the birds
will feel the expanded air with more passionate flying.
Yes-the springtime needed you.
Often a star
was waiting for you to notice it.
A wave rolled toward you
out of the distant past or as you walked
under an open window a violin
yielded itself to your hearing.
All this was mission.
But could you accomplish it? Weren't you always
Distracted by expectation as if every event
announced a beloved? (Where can you find a place
to keep her with all the huge strange thoughts inside you
going and coming and often staying all night.
But when you feel longing sing of women in love;
for their famous passion is still not immortal.
of women abandoned and desolate (you envy them almost)
who could love so much more purely than those who were gratified.
Begin again and again the never-attainable praising;
remember: the hero lives on; even his downfall was
merely a pretext for achieving his final birth.
But Nature spent and exhausted takes lovers back
into herself as if there were not enough strength
to create them a second time.
Have you imagined
Gaspara Stampa intensely enough so that any girl
deserted by her beloved might be inspired
by that fierce example of soaring objectless love
and might say to herself Perhaps I can be like her ?
Shouldn't this most ancient suffering finally grow
more fruitful for us? Isn't it time that we lovingly
freed ourselves from the beloved and quivering endured:
as the arrow endures the bowstring's tension so that
gathered in the snap of release it can be more than
For there is no place where we can remain.
Listen my heart as only
Saints have listened: until the gigantic call lifted them
off the ground; yet they kept on impossibly
kneeling and didn't notice at all:
so complete was their listening.
Not that you could endure
God's voice-far from it.
But listen to the voice of the wind
and the ceaseless message that forms itself out of silence.
It is murmuring toward you now from those who died young.
Didn't their fate whenever you stepped into a church
In Naples or Rome quietly come to address you?
Or high up some eulogy entrusted you with a mission
as last year on the plaque in Santa Maria Formosa.
What they want of me is that I gently remove the appearance
of injustice about their death-which at times
slightly hinders their souls from proceeding onward.
Of course it is strange to inhabit the earth no longer
to give up customs one barely had time to learn
not to see roses and other promising Things
in terms of a human future; no longer to be
what one was in infinitely anxious hands; to leave
even one's own first name behind forgetting it
as easily as a child abandons a broken toy.
Strange to no longer desire one's desires.
to see meanings that clung together once floating away
in every direction.
And being dead is hard work
and full of retrieval before one can gradually feel
a trace of eternity.
-Though the living are wrong to believe
in the too-sharp distinctions which they themselves have created.
Angels (they say) don't know whether it is the living
they are moving among or the dead.
The eternal torrent
whirls all ages along in it through both realms
forever and their voices are drowned out in its thunderous roar.
In the end those who were carried off early no longer need us:
they are weaned from earth's sorrows and joys as gently as children
outgrow the soft breasts of their mothers.
But we who do need
such great mysteries we for whom grief is so often
the source of our spirit's growth-: could we exist without them?
Is the legend meaningless that tells how in the lament for Linus
the daring first notes of song pierced through the barren numbness;
and then in the startled space which a youth as lovely as a god
had suddenly left forever the Void felt for the first time
that harmony which now enraptures and comforts and helps us.
Philip Levine |
The gates are chained, the barbed-wire fencing stands,
An iron authority against the snow,
And this grey monument to common sense
Resists the weather.
Fears of idle hands,
Of protest, men in league, and of the slow
Corrosion of their minds, still charge this fence.
Beyond, through broken windows one can see
Where the great presses paused between their strokes
And thus remain, in air suspended, caught
In the sure margin of eternity.
The cast-iron wheels have stopped; one counts the spokes
Which movement blurred, the struts inertia fought,
And estimates the loss of human power,
Experienced and slow, the loss of years,
The gradual decay of dignity.
Men lived within these foundries, hour by hour;
Nothing they forged outlived the rusted gears
Which might have served to grind their eulogy.
Charles Bukowski |
some dogs who sleep ay night
must dream of bones
and I remember your bones
in that dark green dress
and those high-heeled bright
you always cursed when you drank,
your hair coimng down you
wanted to explode out of
what was holding you:
rotten memories of a
you finally got
leaving me with the
you've been dead
yet I remember you
better than any of
you were the only one
the futility of the
all the others were only
Jane, you were
knowing too much.
here's a drink
to your bones
Mary Darby Robinson |
I wake! delusive phantoms hence, away!
Tempt not the weakness of a lover's breast;
The softest breeze can shake the halcyon's nest,
And lightest clouds o'ercast the dawning ray!
'Twas but a vision! Now, the star of day
Peers, like a gem on Aetna's burning crest!
Wellcome, ye Hills, with golden vintage drest;
Sicilian forests brown, and vallies gay!
A mournful stranger, from the Lesbian Isle,
Not strange, in loftiest eulogy of Song!
She, who could teach the Stoic's cheek to smile,
Thaw the cold heart, and chain the wond'ring throng,
Can find no balm, love's arrows to beguile;
Ah! Sorrows known too soon! and felt too long!
Joyce Kilmer |
When, on a novel's newly printed page
We find a maudlin eulogy of sin,
And read of ways that harlots wander in,
And of sick souls that writhe in helpless rage;
Or when Romance, bespectacled and sage,
Taps on her desk and bids the class begin
To con the problems that have always been
Perplexed mankind's unhappy heritage;
Then in what robes of honor habited
The laureled wizard of the North appears!
Who raised Prince Charlie's cohorts from the dead,
Made Rose's mirth and Flora's noble tears,
And formed that shining legion at whose head
Rides Waverley, triumphant o'er the years!