The Seventh Elegy (from Duino Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke)
Appeals no more; appeals aren't the nature of adult calls.
Your voice could produce the pure bird sounds --
what he sings when the season -- the rising -- is lifting him, almost forgetting
that he is also a worried creature and not just a solitary heart,
which is thrown far into the clear skies of an intimate heaven. Like him, yet,
you appeal all the same, and woo --, that, still unnoticed,
a female friend became aware of you, and silently, a response from within
slowly was woken and through her listening warmed, --
your emboldened ardor her smouldering feelings.
O, spring would get it --, there is not a village,
that does not carry the tone of this message. First, that
uncertain intonation, which, with increasing silence,
a pure, confident day will besiege wide and far.
Then, stepping onwards and upwards, shouts of stairs, approaching what
seems to be a temple in some imagined future --; then trills, fountains,
that give themselves away, to the promised fall
of the playing jet.... And before them all, summer.
Not just all the mornings of summer --, or only
how they change themselves into midday, beaming of beginnings.
Not just the days, who are smiling around the flowers, and higher up,
among the topiary trees, seem strong and mighty.
Not the devotion of such deciduous or evergreen powers,
not the highways, or just the meadows at dusk,
not, after a late afternoon's thunder, that breathing purity,
not the approaching sleep and a notion of something, at dusk...
but also the nights! Also the high nights of summer,
also the stars, the stars of an earthly night.
O, once deceased and knowing them eternally,
all the stars: because how, how, how can you forget them!
See, I called my beloved. But not just she alone
came... There came from fragile, weakened tombs
young women, risen... Because, how can I mute it,
how, my thus resounding call? The sunken still are
seeking open air forever. -- Hear, children: that, which once
moved some of us to tears, might come to many more.
Do not believe, that fate is more than clouds formed in your childhood;
how often you overtook the beloved, breathing out,
breathing, after the joyful round, into the open and free.
Being here is wonderful. You knew this, maidens, even you,
who seemingly gave it up, fell down --, you, in the most cursed
alleys and corners, fed, and fading in garbage.
For every being there is an hour, though perhaps not even
a full hour, an immeasurably short period of history, caught
between two moments --, when it is a being
and has life. Everything. Has veins full of being.
However, so easy left behind, what laughing neighbour
refuses to envy us or recognize. In sight, raised up,
would we like it, though our most visible happiness will
materialize before us, first, when we transform it within.
Nowhere, my love, is any world created, like within. Our
lives are lost and spent in transformation. Always shrinking,
the external soon ceases to exist. Where once a rugged house stood,
mental images are breaking forth, across conceptual borders, though
as if they were still based entirely in a brain.
And the zeitgeist is creating vast areas of power stations, formless
like the high energy, which it draws from everyone and all.
The zeitgeist knows no sacred ground. This abundance, of the heart,
we harbour in more secret spaces. Yes, where still a little is left of it,
something once worshipped, kneeled before and served --,
this temple, as it is, already is moving into hiding.
Many are unable to notice, and without the advantage,
that they may build it within, now, with pillars and statues, expanding!
Every obscure revolution of the world brings such poor unconnected beings,
those not belonging to earlier stages, and not yet held by future.
For even the next stage is too far away for a human. Us should
this not confuse; it strengthens in us the ability to preserve
a still recognizable character. -- This one stood among humans, once,
took the stand for destiny, within the denying, in the middle of
Destination Unknown he stood, like a being, and he bent
stars to him from the secured heavens. Angel,
to you I now present it, here! in your view,
it stands as saved at last, now upright takes its place.
Columns, pylons, the Sphinx, the ambitious upraising of it,
grey through this city's decay or polluted from afar, this cathedral.
Was it not a miracle? O, astonishment, angel, over our being,
over us, o tremendous power, so tell it, that we were able to do it, my breath
cannot spread the rumour enough. Thus we have not, in spite of it all,
neglected the premises, these warranting rooms, these
our premises. (How frightfully vast they must be,
when millennia upon millennia of fluent feelings have not flooded them yet.)
But one tower was tall, surely it was? O, angel, so it was, --
tall, even compared to you? Chartres was great --, and music
reached even higher and exceeded our heights. However, even
just a lover -- o, alone at the nightly window....
reaching your knee, did she not --?
Think not, that I am appealing.
Angel, and if I should do it! You would not come. For my
call is always based on departure; against such powerful
currents you cannot advance. Like an outstretched arm
is my call. And the hand, held open
to catch from above,
remains in your presence
an open sign, as warning and defence,
uncatchable one, high above.
(work in progress translation from German to English by Maria Ljungdahl, Sweden, 4-6 juli 2010)
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