April 30, 2011

The Donor


That is what he had ordered from the painters' guild.
It's not that the savior himself had appeared to him,
or even that one single bishop
ever stood beside him, as depicted here,
gently laying his hand upon him.

But this, perhaps, was all he wanted:
to kneel like this.
He had known the desire to kneel,
to hold his own outward thrusting
tightly in the heart,
the way one grasps the reins of horses.

So that when the Immense might happen,
unpromised and unpaid for,
we might hope that it wouldn't notice us
and thus, undistracted, deeply centered,
it would come closer, would come right up to us.

New Poems

6 comments:

  1. Oh, this is a marvellous poem, among so many marvellous poems of Rilke's. The desire for the mystical experience. I can honestly say that - beyond the call of scenery, chance friendships, the excitement of new places - this is the overarching reason why I walk: communion, and the 'unpromised and unpaid for' hope of some divine chink of light.

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  2. so many reading these words would find themselves laid bare . . . "when the Immense might happen,
    unpromised and unpaid for,
    we might hope that it wouldn't notice us
    and thus, undistracted, deeply centered,
    it would come closer, would come right up to us"
    wow! steven

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  3. This painting is married so perfectly to this poem that I begin to wonder about the quality of the "Immense": is it a mystical experience or the Final one? In which case, yes, I would hope it wouldn't notice me. At least, not yet.

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  4. Such riches in this piece ... To kneel and hold our outward thrusting tightly in our heart, the way we might grasp the reins of horses evokes such an exquisite inner tension. Unreined, my eyes rise from this passage to the quote we use in the header "...our heart always exceeds us".

    And by holding ourselves in in this way, the Immense will not be distracted, will notice us not and thus come right by us and brush up against our astonished face.

    Kneeling, breathless, our wild hearts held in, waiting, ... I don't know if we will achieve our encounter with the Immense this way, but it does seem like a beautiful way of reading Rilke.

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  5. I like the parallel to the horse and nature. It also reminds me of a response to art. The way standing in front of a painting can immobilize me, almost stop my heart. Some experiences seem to freeze all of our output.

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"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!