A few of my favorite things...

One of my favorite poets is Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1925). I read a lot of his work back in the mid-90s, while I was in grad school. I loved his poetry so much that I did a paper examining the relationship between man and God as portrayed by Rilke's devotional poems, and the same relationship as portrayed by Milton in "Paradise Lost". My professor commented that she never would have thought to compare the works of those particular poets. Well, I guess that's just me--always thinking about things that seem unrelated and trying to make them relate. At least I got an A on the paper.

Maybe that's why I've had such a terrible relationship history: I'm always trying to make connections when none exist. All right, one of MANY reasons. Here's a few of Rilke's poems that I happen to like. I wouldn't impose Milton you, however. It doesn't exactly fit most people's idea of a good time.

[Ignorant before the heavens of my life]

Ignorant before the heavens of my life,
I stand and gaze in wonder. Oh the vastness
of the stars. Their rising and descent. How still.
As if I didn't exist. Do I have any
share in this? Have I somehow dispensed with
their pure effect? Does my blood's ebb and flow
change with their changes? Let me put aside
every desire, every relationship
except this one, so that my heart grows used to
its farthest spaces. Better that it live
fully aware, in the terror of its stars, than
as if protected, soothed by what is near.

Translated by Stephen Mitchell

The Panther (My absolute favorite!)

His tired gaze -from passing endless bars-
has turned into a vacant stare which nothing holds.
To him there seem to be a thousand bars,
and out beyond these bars exists no world.

His supple gait, the smoothness of strong strides
that gently turn in ever smaller circles
perform a dance of strength, centered deep within
a will, stunned, but untamed, indomitable.

But sometimes the curtains of his eyelids part,
the pupils of his eyes dilate as images
of past encounters enter while through his limbs
a tension strains in silence
only to cease to be, to die within his heart.

Translated by Albert Ernest Flemming


Encircled by her arms as by a shell,
she hears her being murmur,
while forever he endures
the outrage of his too pure image...

Wistfully following their example,
nature re-enters herself;
contemplating its own sap, the flower
becomes too soft, and the boulder hardens...

It's the return of all desire that enters
toward all life embracing itself from afar...
Where does it fall? Under the dwindling
surface, does it hope to renew a center?

Translated by A. Poulin

Greek Love-Talk

What I have already learned as a lover,
I see you, beloved, learning angrily;
then for you it distantly departed,
now your destiny stands in all the stars.

Over your breasts we will together contend:
since as glowingly shining they've ripened,
so also your hands desire to touch them
and their own pleasure superintend.

Translated by John J.L. Mood
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