Friday, June 17, 2016

"Ein jeder Engel ist schrecklich" -- Every angel is terrible, from Rilke's Duino Elegies #QotD (1 of 2)

Angel, Svatý Josef, Prague
From the Duino Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke (Trans. C.F. MacIntyre)

Rilke wrote The Duino Elegies (German: Duineser Elegien), a collection of ten elegies begun 1912 while he was a guest of Princess Marie von Thurn und Taxis (1855–1934) at Duino Castle, near Trieste on the Adriatic Sea. The series took nearly 10 years to complete and were dedicated to the the Princess when published in 1923.

* * * * * * *

First Elegy (extract)

For beauty is nothing
but the beginning of terror we can just barely endure,
and we admire it so because it calmly disdains
to destroy us. Every angel is terrible
And so I restrain myself and swallow the luring call
of dark sobbing. Ah, whom can we use then?
Not angels, not men, and the shrewd animals
notice that we're not very much at home
in the world we've expounded.

Is night more eacy on lovers? Ah, they only
hide their fate from themselves by using each other.
Don't you know that yet? Throw the emptiness from your arms
into the spaces we breathe, so maybe the birds
can feel the expanded air, more ardently flying.

Often angels (it's said) don't know if they move
among the quick or the dead. The eternal current
hurtles all ages along with it forever
through both realms and drowns their voices in both.

* * * * *

Second Elegy (extract)

Lovers, if they knew it, could speak strangely
in the night air. Fir it seems that everything
is keeping us a secret. Look: the trees are;
the houses we live in still stand. Only we go
past everything like a bartering of the breeze.
And everything conspires to silence us,
half as shame, perhaps, and half as unspeakable hope.

* * * * *

Fourth Elegy (extract)
When I'm in the humor to watch the marionettes, no,
but to gaze so hard that at last, to balance my gazing,
an angel must come as a player to quicken the puppet.
Angel and marionette: then at last there's a show.

Look: must not the dying
guess how full of subterfuge is all we achieve here?
Nothing is anything.

* * * * *

Fifth Elegy (extract)
And suddenly in this tedious Nowhere, suddenly
the ineffable place where pure dearth
is inconceivably transmuted--changes
into this empy surfeit.
Where the reckoning of many columns
totals zero.

Angel, if there were a place we don't know, and there
on some ineffable carpet, the lovers who never
could bring off their feats here, could show
their bold lofty figures of heart-swings,
their towers of ecstasy, their pyramids
that long since, where there was no standing-ground,
were tremblingly propped together--could succeed
before the spectators around them, the innumerable silent dead:
would not these then throw their last, ever-hoarded,
ever-hidden, unkknow to us, eternally
valid coins of happiness
before that pair with the finally genuine smile
on the assuaged carpet?

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