René Maria Rilke, better known as Rainer Maria Rilke, was a Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist. He is “widely recognized as one of the most lyrically intense German-language poets”.
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Famous Rainer Maria Rilke Poems
Simply she stands at the cathedral’s
great ascent, close to the rose window,
with the apple in the apple-pose,
guiltless-guilty once and for all
of the growing she gave birth to
since form the circle of eternities
loving she went forth, top struggle through
her way throughout the earth like a young year.
Ah, gladly yet a little in that land
Would she have lingered, heeding the harmony
And understanding of the animals.
But since she found the man determined,
She went with him, aspiring after death,
And she had as yet hardly known God.
Windows pampered like princes always see
what on occasion deigns to trouble us:
the city that, time and again, where a shimmer
of sky strikes a feeling of floodtide,
takes shape without once choosing to be.
Each new morning must first show her the opals
she wore yesterday, and pull rows
of reflections out of the canal
and remind her of the other times:
only then does she concede and settle in
like a nymph who received great Zeus.
The dangling earrings ring out at her ear;
but she lifts San Giorgio Maggiore
and smiles idly into that lovely thing.
Translated by Edward Snow
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.
Strange violin, why do you follow me?
In how many foreign cities did you
speak of your lonely nights and those of mine.
Are you being played by hundreds? Or by one?
Do in all great cities men exist
who tormented and in deep despair
would have sought the river but for you?
And why does your playing always reach me?
Why is it that I am always neighbor
to those lost ones who are forced to sing
and to say: Life is infinitely heavier
than the heaviness of all things.
Losing too is still ours; and even forgetting
still has a shape in the kingdom 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
nterior of the hand. Sole that has come to walk
only on feelings. That faces upward
and in its mirror
receives heavenly roads, which travel
That has learned to walk upon water
when it scoops,
that walks upon wells,
transfiguring every path.
That steps into other hands,
changes those that are like it
into a landscape:
wanders and arrives within them,
fills them with arrival.
The Song Of The Blindman
I am blind, you out there — that is a curse,
against one’s will, a contradiction,
a heavy daily burden.
I lay my hand on the arm of my wife,
my grey hand upon her greyer grey,
as she guides me through empty spaces.
You move about and stir, and imagine
your sounds differing from stone to stone.
But you are mistaken: I alone
live and suffer and complain, for
in me is an endless crying,
and I do not know whether it is
my heart that cries or my bowels.
Do you recognize these songs? You never sang them,
not quite with this intonation.
For you every morning brings its new light
warm through your open windows.
And you have the feeling from face to face
that tempts you to be indulgent.
The Blindman’s Song
I am blind, you outsiders. It is a curse,
a contradiction, a tiresome farce,
and every day I despair.
I put my hand on the arm of my wife
(colorless hand on colorless sleeve)
and she walks me through empty air.
You push and shove and think that you’ve been
sounding different from stone against stone,
but you are mistaken: I alone
live and suffer and howl.
In me there is an endless outcry
and I can’t tell what’s crying, whether its my
broken heart or my bowels.
Are the tunes familiar? You don’t sing them like this:
how could you understand?
Each morning the sunlight comes into your house,
and you welcome it as a friend.
And you know what it’s like to see face-to-face;
and that tempts you to be kind.
The Last Evening
And night and distant rumbling; now the army’s
carrier-train was moving out, to war.
He looked up from the harpsichord, and as
he went on playing, he looked across at her
almost as one might gaze into a mirror:
so deeply was her every feature filled
with his young features, which bore his pain and were
more beautiful and seductive with each sound.
Then, suddenly, the image broke apart.
She stood, as though distracted, near the window
and felt the violent drum-beats of her heart.
His playing stopped. From outside, a fresh wind blew.
And strangely alien on the mirror-table
stood the black shako with its ivory skull.
My whole life is mine, but whoever says so
will deprive me, for it is infinite.
The ripple of water, the shade of the sky
are mine; it is still the same, my life.
No desire opens me: I am full,
I never close myself with refusal-
in the rhythm of my daily soul
I do not desire-I am moved;
by being moved I exert my empire,
making the dreams of night real:
into my body at the bottom of the water
I attract the beyonds of mirrors…
A prince survives by unseen acts.
At night the chief advisor knocked
at Frederick’s workroom in the tower
and found him formulating facts
for treatises on wingèd power
while his penman turned out text.
It was in this aerie room
he’d walked all night with her on arm,
turbulent and barely fledged.
Whatever plans then sprang to mind,
whatever fondness deeply chimed
in recollection he would trash
and tend the frightened and impassioned
thing he wished to understand.
Every night he made a time
for nothing but the young unhandled
animal. It was her staring
inborn mind he’d worked to learn,
so he was lofted with her grace
when she, the bird that nobles praise,
thrown gleaming from his hand (her wingbeats raised
into the heartfelt morning air)
and diving like an angel struck the hern.
Behind The Blameless Trees
Behind the blameless trees
old fate slowly builds
her mute countenance.
Wrinkles grow there . . .
What a bird shrieks here
springs there like a gasp of warning
from a soothsayer’s hard mouth.
And the soon-to-be lovers
smile on each other, not yet knowing farewell,
and round about them, like a constellation,
their destiny casts
its nightly spell.
Still to come, it does not reach out to them,
floating in its heavenly course.
At The Brink Of Night
My room and this distance,
awake upon the darkening land,
are one. I am a string
stretched across deep
Things are violin bodies
full of murmuring darkness,
where women’s weeping dreams,
where the rancor of whole generations
stirs in its sleep . . .
I should release
my silver vibrations: then
everything below me will live,
and whatever strays into things
will seek the light
that falls without end from my dancing tone
into the old abysses
around which heaven swells