Half Figure of an Angel (after Rembrandt)
Praise the world to the angel: leave the unsayable aside.
Your exalted feelings do not move him.
In the universe he inhabits you are a novice.
Therefore show him what is ordinary, what has been
shaped from generation to generation, shaped by hand and eye.
Tell him of things. He will stand still in astonishment,
the way you stood by the ropemaker in Rome
or beside the potter on the Nile.
Show him how happy a thing can be, how innocent and ours,
how even a lament takes pure form,
serves as a thing, dies as a thing,
while a violin, blessing it, fades.
And the things, even as they pass,
understand that we praise them.
Transient, they are trusting us
to save them—us, the most transient of all.
As if they wanted in our invisible hearts
to be transformed
into—oh, endlessly—into us.
From the Ninth Duino Elegy