Distribution Automatique

Tuesday, April 8

For Sandra
(from Rainer Maria Rilke-"The Duino Elegies"-The First Elegy)

Who, if I shouted, among the hierarchy of angels
would hear me? And supposing one of them
took me suddenly to his heart, I would perish
before his stronger existence. For beauty is nothing
but the beginning of a 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 we're not very much at home
in the world we've expounded. Maybe on a hill- slope
some tree or other remains for us, so that
we see it every day; yesterday's street is left us,
and the gnarled fidelity of an old habit
that was comfortable with us and never wanted to leave.
Oh, and the night, the night ,when the wind full of welkin
feeds on our faces-for whom wouldn't it stay,
yearned-for gently disappointing night
that wearily confronts the solitary heart?
Is night more easy 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.

Yes, the springs needed you. And many stars
expected you to feel them. A wave rose
toward you in the past; or, as you walked by
an open window, a violin yielded itself to someone.
All this was assignment. But could you handle it?
Weren't you always distraught by anticipation,
as if all this announced a sweetheart's coming?
(Where do you think you can hide her,
what with those great strange thoughts running in and out
of you and often staying for the night?)
But when you yearn, then sing of the gods who were lovers,
the fame of their passion has not been made immortal enough.
Those you almost envy, the deserted ones you found
so much more loving than those who had been appeased.
Ever newly begin the praise you cannot accomplish.
Remember: the hero keeps going, and even his ruin
was only a subterfuge for achieving his final birth.
But nature, exhausted, takes the lovers back
into herself, as if she hadn't the strength to achieve it
a second time...