April 21, 2011

We, When We Feel, Evaporate

La Faunesse, by Auguste Rodin

We, when we feel, evaporate.
We breathe ourselves out and gone.
Like the glow of an ember,
the fragrance we give off grows weaker.
One could well say to us,
"You have entered my blood,
this room, this springtime is full of you ...."
What use is that when he cannot hold us
and we disappear into him and around him?

From the Second Duino Elegy


  1. And so we disappear, one day, Lorenzo. This is just so poignantly expressed.

    You have a marvelous capacity for selecting just those words that most resonate at each particular moment, Lorenzo, though with Rilke, I suppose it's not that hard. Thank you.

  2. And so we disappear, endlessly, the heart fading like Eurydice from every moment it marries to. Why? I had to read the entire Elegy to get Rilke's drift, that angels have duration and permanence -- or had, in the vanishing auspices of the Church -- but the modern is left with the only human, the half-angel, one whose heart (and its feeling) is ever exceeding itself, never holding still in the thing itself but moving on, moving past, in its thirst to exceed. We don't get the privilege of borders, our gaze somehow wandering past each next destination. Without boundary lovers, who should understand duration and permanence in their embrace? "And yet," Rilke writes, Mitchell translation,

    ... when you have survived
    the terror of first glances, the longing at the window,
    and the first walk together, once only, through the garden:
    lovers, are you the same? When you lift yourself up
    to each other's mouth and your lips join, drink against drink:
    oh how strangely each drinker seeps away from his action...

    As the last of the Romantic Mo-hicans, Rilke has plenty of Holderlin and Goethe in his intellectual silo to rappel happily down into the Realm of the Mothers (the romantic heart), but he is singed repeatedly there by massive fade going on all around him. Virgin Mary in retreat, Europe raped and dying, his own affairs fleeting at best: what sort of cathedral of song CAN be erected under such conditions, which does not have disappearance mortared into its very well-meaning walls? And to accept that, ingrain a poetic with it, synchronize with a speeding-away time, to become like steam lifting from food: A narrow ledge indeed. Would that the welcome of another be enough! If only the heart could be content, for just this once, with the desire of another. But on we go, looking over the shoulder of our beloved right at the point of rapture ... Anyway, Brendan

  3. If anyone cares, I think I missed something in the next to the last line of the first graph. Try: "Without boundaries, what are lovers to do, whose every embrace shouts duration and permanence?" - B

  4. This is spellbinding. Your additions help SO much, Brendan.

    A lifelong quest, looking for permanence in the other, finding daily small deaths, rising up and looking again for new life and completion. IF we were bounded, IF we found what we were looking for, what would life be? There is so much pleasure in the longing, even while there is misery and loss.

  5. If we were bounded, it would be, say, a good while before 1250 AD. And yearning would be reserved for the court and the church. All that has become an individual quest in a emptier wood. Take a bow, Ruth and Lorenzo, for building this fine chapel. The acoustics are wonderful and the psalms, read by M. Rilke, are so resonant. - Brendan


"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!