Friday, June 17, 2016

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

Angel from 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.

* * * * * * *

Sixth Elegy (extract)
For the hero went storming through the lodgings of love,
and every well-meaning heart-throb thrust him upward and on;
already turning, he stoood at the end of smiles, another.

* * * * *

Seventh Elegy (extract)
Wooing no more, not wooing, but the voice from it,
be the purport of your cry; though your call pure as a bird's,
when the upheaving season lifts him, almost forgetting
that he's a troubled thing, not merely a single heart
tossed by spring to the cheerful tender sky.
Like him, no less, you want to be after some yet unseen
mate who'll be aware of you silently,
in whom an answer slowly awakens and warms itself by listening,
to the glowing companion of your high-mettled feeling.

* * *

This stood once among men,
stood in the middle of fate, the annihilator,
in the center of Not-knowing-whither, as if it existed
and bent the stars from the established skies
toward it. I show it you, angel, still there.
Stand, rescued at last, in your gaze, and finally upright
Columns, pylons, the Sphinx, the upward striving
of the cathedral, gray, from a foreign or dying city
Was it not miracle? Oh, marvel, angel, because
it is we, O mighty one, we; announce that we did it,
I've not breath enough to hold out for such praising
So then, we haven't neglected these spaces of ours.
(How terribly vast they must be if thousands of years
of our feeling have not overfilled them.) But a tower was tall
was it not? O angel, it was that -- great, even beside you?
Chartres was great -- and music reached still farther upward.
and soared beyond us. But even one loving girl,
alone at night, by the window ...
didn't she reach to your knee?

Don't think I am wooing.
Angel, and, if I were, you wouldn't come.
For my appeal is always full of refusal.
You cannot stride against so strong a flood.

Like an outstretched arm is my call. And its grasping
upward open hand stays before you,
open, as safeguard and warning,
you unseizable one, wide open.

* * * * *

Eighth  Elegy (extract)
If the animal moving toward us so securely
in a different direction had our kind of
consciousness–, it would wrench us around and drag us
along its path. But it feels its life as boundless,
unfathomable, and without regard
to its own condition: pure, like its outward gaze.
And where we see the future, it sees all time
and itself within all time, forever healed.
Yet in the alert, warm animal there lies
the pain and burden of an enormous sadness.

And we: spectators, always, everywhere,
turned toward the world of objects, never outward.
It fills us. We arrange it. It breaks down.
We rearrange it, then break down ourselves.

Who has twisted us around like this, so that
no matter what we do, we are in the posture
of someone going away? Just as, upon
the farthest hill, which shows him his whole valley

one last time, he turns, stops, lingers–,
so we live here, forever taking leave.

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