April 14, 2011

Spanish Trilogy (3)

 Bibemus Quarry, by Paul Cézanne

When I re-enter, alone, the city's crush
and its chaos of noise
and the fury of traffic surrounds me,
may I, above that hammering confusion,
remember sky and the mountain slopes
where the herds are still descending homeward.

May my courage be like those rocks
and the shepherd's daylong work seem possible to me—
the way he drifts and darkens, and with a well-aimed stone
hems in his flock where it unravels.
With slow and steady strides, his posture is pensive
and, as he stands there, noble. Even now a god might
secretly slip into this form and not be diminished.

In turn, he lingers and moves on like the day itself,
and cloud shadows pass through him, as though all of space
were thinking slow thoughts for him.

Uncollected Poems


  1. ruth i am so grateful that you are sharing this wonderful set of poetry. i slip into its world easily and can luxuriate in the rich insightful surroundings!!! steven

  2. Thanks, Steven. I've been enthralled by the Spanish Trilogy, and all of Rilke too. And the commentary along the way has been tremendously invigorating, so thank you for your part.

    Though Lorenzo has been a bit absent lately due to the "chaos and crush" of other responsibilities, he is still very much present here in the piloting of this space. I've been grateful for his wonderful comments recently, so we could all feel his keen reflections once again.

  3. The prodigal's return here -- I'm guessing Rilke heading back to Paris -- carries with it now this Spanish Trilogy: a vast and deep reminder of the Interior which is simple and eternal and ever there, with an inward stare ...

    And yes, thanks Ruth and Lorenzo for erecting this square with its fountain of Rilke who is just damn inexhaustible. As Erin said yesterday, "each time, i swear, i come thinking, ok, enough with rilke. he'll have nothing left to teach me, and then he raises his switch." -- A proper Rilkean spanking every day, reminding us of the eternal rules! And the dialogue which follows is among the most rewarding I find anywhere. - Brendan

  4. This is truly wonderful stuff. Rilke has long been a favourite of mine. In this poem the last line of the first stanza seems so important to me. A lot of the poem's meaning seems to crystalise around it. And then there is the perfect matching you are achieving between the verse and the paintings. Fabulously well done!

  5. This passage is so lovely, like a quiet prayer at sunrise seeking guidance for the day ahead. Today, I will try more than ever to linger and move on like the day itself, to allow cloud shadows to pass through me, and to create space for slow thoughts.

  6. one thing i find fascinating with rilke is how he seems to need to get away from people in order to understand them. too much is in fact too much. i understand this deeply. i can only imagine how a city might overwhelm. and so he turns to the quiet acceptance of the shepherd, something in his unquestioning state. even likening it to the state of a rock. this irony with rilke. i laugh because i know it. perhaps that is why we love rilke so. he speaks of us, to us. thinking so deeply. and yet, and yet, in the face of all consideration there needs to be, my god, there does, an acceptance. so he lives within two states of being. he is both the porter who needs to ask, why and for who. and too, the rock, just being.

    i find myself happy here, allowed to be both the porter and the rock.


  7. An Den Engel, Al Angel. I'd love to see it in English. It can´t be a coincidence: Rilke's wings, the way they sound in the air across languages...

    i'd really love to, de verdad, me encantaría, read your translation.
    Mar i bel

  8. erin, you're right - Rilke's emotional myopia was such that I don't think he got anything in proximity. (Probably a relic of his mother-complex; he had to go far to breathe his own air.) Only from the greatest distance could see the most intimate things. Goodie for us he didn't remedy it with optometry. - Brendan

  9. his thoughts and wisdom seem so ageless, so unable to be contained.
    He seems often not only a need to step out of himself to understand but out of the world and look as a god would look and he never seems to miss. I wonder if the shepherd is as content as he supposes, or if he longs for traffic.

  10. So many thanks, Ruth & Lorenzo, for bringing this wonderful trilogy before us. I had not come across it before.

    "I never kept sheep,
    But it is as if I did watch over them.
    My soul is like a shepherd ...'

    Fernando Pessoa: The Keeper of Sheep


"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!