Sonnets from Rilke

UnityAshInspirations, Poems

Does time, as it passes, really destroy?

Part Two, Sonnet XXVII   RILKE

Does Time, as it passes, really destroy?
It may rip the fortress from its rock;
but can this heart, that belongs to God,
be torn from Him by circumstance?

Are we as fearfully fragile

as fate would have us believe?

Can we ever be severed
from childhood’s deep promise?

Ah, the knowledge of impermanence
that haunts our days
is their very fragrance.

We in our striving think we should last forever,

but could we be used by the Divine

if we were not ephemeral?


You who let yourselves feel: enter the breathing
You who let yourselves feel: enter the breathing
that is more than your own.

Part One, Sonnet IV

Let it brush your cheeks
as it divides and rejoins behind you.

Blessed ones, whole ones,

you where the heart begins:

You are the bow that shoots the arrows
and you are the target.

Fear not the pain. Let its weight fall back

into the earth;
for heavy are the mountains, heavy the seas.

The trees you planted in childhood have grown

too heavy. You cannot bring them along.

Give yourselves to the air, to what you cannot hold.

Quiet friend who has come so far
Quiet friend who has come so far,

feel how your breathing makes more space around you.

Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell.

As you ring,

Part Two, Sonnet XXIX

what batters you becomes your strength.

Move back and forth into the change.

What is it like, such intensity of pain?

If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,

be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,

the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,

say to the silent Earth: I flow.

To the rushing water, speak: I am.


The machine endangers all we have made


The Machine endangers all we have made.

Part Two, Sonnet X

We allow it to rule instead of obey.

To build a house, cut the stone sharp and fast:

the carver’s hand takes too long to feel its way.

The Machine never hesitates,

or we might escape
and its factories subside into silence.

It thinks it’s alive and does everything better.

With equal resolve it creates and destroys.

But life holds mystery for us yet.

In a hundred places
 we can still sense the source:

a play of pure powers 
that — when you feel it — brings you to your knees.

There are yet words that come near the unsayable, 

from crumbling stones, a new music

to make a sacred dwelling in a place we cannot own.

Erect no gravestones


Erect no gravestone. Just let the rose
bloom every year for him.

For this is Orpheus: metamorphosis

into one thing, then another.

Part One, Sonnet V

We need not search for other names.

It is Orpheus in the singing, once and for all time.

He comes and goes. Is it not enough

that sometimes he outlasts a bowl of roses?

Oh, if you could understand — he has no choice but to disappear,

even should he long to stay. As his song

exceeds the present moment,

so he is already gone where we cannot follow.

The lyre’s strings do not constrain his hands.

It is in moving farther on that he obeys.

Be ahead of all parting


Part Two, Sonnet XIII

Be ahead of all parting, as if it had already happened.

like winter, which even now is passing.

For beneath the winter is a winter so endless

that to survive it at all is a triumph of the heart.

Be forever dead in Eurydice, and climb back singing.

Climb praying as you return to connection.

Here among the disappearing, in the realm of the transient,

be a ringing glass that shatters as it rings.

Be. And, at the same time, know what it is not to be.

The non-being inside you allows you to vibrate

full resonance with your world. Use it for once.

To all that has run its course,

and to the vast unsayable

numbers of beings abounding in Nature,

add yourself gladly, and cancel the cost.

9th Duino Elegy