Allegro ma non troppo
Life, you're beautiful (I say)
you just couldn't get more fecund,
more befrogged or nightingaily,
more anthillful or sproutspouting.
I'm trying to court life's favor,
to get into its good graces,
to anticipate its whims.
I'm always the first to bow,
always there where it can see me
with my humble, reverent face,
soaring on the wings of rapture,
falling under waves of wonder.
Oh how grassy is this hopper,
how this berry ripely rasps.
I would never have conceived it
if I weren't conceived myself!
Life (I say) I've no idea
what I could compare you to.
No one else can make a pine cone
and then make the pine cone's clone.
I praise your inventiveness,
bounty, sweep, exactitude,
sense of order – gifts that border
on witchcraft and wizardry.
I just don't want to upset you,
tease or anger, vex or rile.
For millennia, I've been trying
to appease you with my smile.
I tug at life by its leaf hem:
will it stop for me, just once,
to what end it runs and runs?
Wisława Szymborska (1972),
trans. Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Saturday, May 16, 2009
I.3 (from The Sonnets To Orpheus)
A god can do it. But will you tell me how
a man can penetrate through the lyre’s strings?
Our mind is split. And at the shadowed crossing
of heart-roads there is no temple for Apollo.
Song, as you have taught it, is not desire,
not wooing any grace that can be achieved;
song is reality. Simple, for a god.
But when can we be real? When does he pour
the earth, the stars, into us? Young man,
it is not your loving, even if your mouth
was forced wide open by your own voice – learn
to forget that passionate music. It will end.
True singing is a different breath, about
nothing. A gust inside the god. A wind.
— Rainer Maria Rilke (1923), trans. Stephen Mitchell (1989)
Monday, May 11, 2009
Sunday, May 10, 2009
'We Must Die Because We Have Known Them'
(Papyrus Prisse. From the sayings of Ptah-hotep, manuscript from circa 2000 B.C.)
'We must die because we have known them.' Die
of their smile's unsayable flower. Die
of their delicate hands. Die
Let the young man sing of them, praise
these death-bringers, when they move through his heart-space,
high overhead. From his blossoming breast
let him sing of them:
unattainable! Ah, how distant they are.
Over the peaks
of his feeling, they float and pour down
sweetly transfigured night into the abandoned
valley of his arms. The wind
of their rising rustles in the leaves of his body. His brooks run
sparkling into the distance.
But the grown man
shudders and is silent. The man who
has wandered pathless at night
in the mountain-range of his feelings:
As the old sailor is silent,
and the terrors that he has endured
play inside him as though in quivering cages.
— by Rainer Maria Rilke (c. 1920s).