Sunday, April 15, 2007


A number of weeks ago, a very kind friend sent me this volume of Rilke's poetry which I am enjoying immensely. I've been meaning to post a couple of extracts and have finally got them transcribed:
Moses’s Death

None of the angels, but the dark and fallen one
was willing; took up arms and with deadly intent
approached the one to whom he had been sent.
But again he rattled away, backwards, and up
to the heavens he screamed: I can't.

For nonchalantly through the heavy brow
Moses had seen him coming and continued to write:
words of blessing and the everlasting name.
And his eye was pure to the depth of his core.

Thus, the Lord himself, carrying along half the heavens
came down and removed the covers of the hill like a bed;
placed the old man there. And from this well-ordered house,
he called the soul forth to rise, up! to recount
the many common things of a friendship deeply laid.

And in the end, the soul had enough, was satisfied,
and said this much. Then, the ancient God
bent toward the old man His old face and took
life with a kiss out of him into His own,
the older one. And with the hands of creation
He covered the mountain so as to disguise
it as one among many others
and to keep it from being recognized.

Extract From: Death of Mary

Who would have thought that until her coming
the entire heavens were incomplete?
The risen one had taken his seat,
but next to him, for twenty-four years,
the seat had been empty. And they had begun
to get used to the vacancy,
which seemed to have closed up and healed;
the son with his radiant gleaming had it filled

Thus, not even she who stepped into heaven
walked toward him, despite his pleas;
there was no room, only he was there
with the radiance that stung with its gleam.
But when she, the gentle figure,
sought to blend with other newcomers there
and sidled with them inconspicuously,
there broke from her such sheen
of such might, that the angel next to her
blinded by it, cried: Who is she?
There was surprise. Then they saw
how the Father in heaven implored our Lord
so that caressed by a mild dawn
the empty spot emerged like a small wound,
like a trace of loneliness,
like something he still endured,
a residue of earthly time, a dry compress-.

And they looked at her; and she, afraid,
leaned forward as if to say: I am
his most enduring pain-: and fell suddenly
forward. But the angels caught her and braced
her fall and happily, for the final stretch,
carried her in.
I wish my German was sufficent to properly appreciate the original poetry.

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