March 22, 2011

Since I've Learned to Be Silent

 L'Estaque, by Paul Cézanne

Since I've learned to be silent, everything has come so much closer to me. I am thinking of a summer on the Baltic when I was a child: how talkative I was to sea and forest; how, filled with an unaccustomed exuberance, I tried to leap over all limits with the hasty excitement of my words. And how, as I had to take my leave on a morning in September, I saw that we never give utterance to what is final and most blessed, and that all my rhapsodic Table d'hote conversations did not approach either my inchoate feelings or the ocean's eternal self-revelation.

Early Journals


  1. '... never give utterance ...' (Whoops!)

    I love this little extract from Rilke's journals about the rewards of silence and quietude, and feel a deep sympathy with it.

  2. An excellent reminder to this windbag. You can't hear the god if the gust is coming out of your own mouth. And Rilke's early certainty that language is by nature insufficient gave him a lifelong gradient of growth. How did it put it elsewhere? The poet as Jacob and the poem his rassle with god, his success measured by getting pinned by successively greater angels. - Brendan

  3. Which makes me think there was less ability, or less language, to say it, the greater the angels got.

    In this brief excerpt I think I hear him say that while he said too much as a child and did not pause in silence and let things get closer, that later, in this September leave taking, he wishes he had said more to express his feelings. . . . Or is he just saying that we can't do so, and he is once again resting in the silence that lets the feelings stay close?

  4. This blog makes my heart sing.

  5. Ruth, I get the feeling that Rilke here is coming at Saying and Silence from that of a poet still cutting his teeth; here the point is to embrace Silence, the archangelic presence. Later -- in the September of his own years -- he changed his mind - or poetics, deciding that what the angels so thirsted for was Things: tactile intimacies for which they had no appendages for except the contours of our yearning. If our longing is for the deathless hierarchies -- those vast rooms of spirit -- the deathless hierarchies yearn in turn for the small, local, living Presences of roses and children, well-water and windows. So he let his mouth bloom recklessly ... My take, anyway ... B

  6. Welcome, Robby!

    Brendan, Yes. That makes utter sense, in the context of all the "Rilkeology."

  7. Robert, I just had to laugh at your "Whoops!"

    I think we all said that after reading this today. :-)

  8. all my rhapsodic Table d'hote conversations

    That's quite the phrase, expressing both the artifice and limits of the poet's inchoate speech.

  9. Words I cannot grace further.
    Lovely. Thanks for posting.


  10. There is always silence in leave-taking.

  11. I believe the power of the ocean's eternal self-revelation. Each wave has the power to cleanse the spirit.

    I find that I am far more silent now than even ten years ago. I wonder if this is a natural progression of aging?

    I learned a new word today: "inchoate".

  12. P.S. The Cezanne is a great choice for these words. That quiet field of blue speaks volumes.

  13. think rilke teached us first to be silent and listen - and then write from what the silence left in traces on his heart..


"Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night."

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Go ahead, bloom recklessly!