Those who are beautiful—
who can keep them as they are?
Unceasingly in their faces
the life in them arises and goes forth.
Like dew from morning grass,
like steam from a plate of food,
what is ours goes out from us.
Where does a smile go, or the upward glance,
the sudden warm movement of the heart?
Yet that is what we are. Does the universe
we dissolve into
taste of us a little?
There is much beauty here, for great beauty is everywhere. Living waters flow endlessly through ancient aqueducts into the great city, and dance in many piazzas over white stone basins and spread out in spacious pools, murmuring by day and lifting their murmur into the starry, wind-softened night. There are gardens here, unforgettable boulevards, and stairs—stairs designed by Michelangelo, stairs inspired by downward flowing water—step flowing into widening step like wave into wave. From such impressions you gather yourself, you win yourself back from the clamoring multiplicity, and slowly learn to know a very few things in which the eternal is reflected, which you love and in which your solitude allows you to take part.
Live for awhile in the books you love. Learn from them what is worth learning, but above all love them. This love will be returned to you a thousand times over. Whatever your life may become, these books—of this I am certain—will weave through the web of your unfolding. They will be among the strongest of all threads of your experiences, disappointments, and joys.
I am learning to see something new. In addition to sky and land, a third thing has equal significance: the air.
Things usually appear to me as finite and limited in comparison with the great body of Earth. But here there are many things that seem like islands—alone, bright, caressed on all sides by ever-moving air that makes their forms stand out so clearly.
What you say of your life—that its most painful event was also its greatest—that is, so to speak, the secret theme of these pages, indeed the inner belief that gave rise to them. It is the conviction that what is greatest in our existence, what makes it precious beyond words, has the modesty to use sorrow in order to penetrate our soul.
Memory is not enough...
I do not recollect. What I am
is alive in me because of you. I do not reinvent you
at sadly cooled-off places you have left behind.
Even your absence is filled
with your warmth and is more real
than your not-existing. Longing often meanders
into vagueness. Why should I throw myself away
when something in you may be
touching me, very lightly, like moonlight
on a window seat.
How gladly, my young friend, I would respond to your new leaflet; but here the words come hard to me. On the whole I want to acknowledge that you do well to approach this conflict as a matter intimately related to your own disposition. This is surely the most responsible attitude. You must only take care to eliminate from the tone you use all consternation and reproachfulness. My friend, this is important: fight harmlessly.
Doubt can serve you well, if you train it. It must become a way of knowing, a good critic. Every time doubt wants to spoil something for you, ask why it finds something ugly and demand proofs. Thus tested by you, doubt may become bewildered and embarrassed, even aggressive. But don't give in, demand reasons and be persistent and attentive every single time, and the day will come when, instead of a destroyer, he will become one of your best servants—perhaps one of the most intelligent of those who help you build your life.
The quieter we are, the more patient and open we are in our sadnesses, the more deeply and unerringly a new revelation can enter us, and the more we can make it our own. Later on when it "happens" —when it manifests in our response to another person—we will feel it as belonging to our innermost being.
Eurydice was no longer the fair beauty
celebrated in Orpheus' singing,
no longer the fragrance and landscape of the bed,
no more the property of any man.
She was already unbound, like loosened hair,
surrendered like falling rain,
and generously offered to all creation.
She was already root.
And when, suddenly,
the god held her back and with anguish
spoke the words: he has turned around,
she was puzzled and softly answered, Who?
Up ahead, dark against the brightness of a gateway,
stood someone whose features she did not recognize.
He stood and saw how on the pale ribbon of the meadow path
the messenger god had silently turned
to watch the form of one retracing her steps,
constricted by the winding sheets,
uncertain, meek, without impatience.
Now Eurydice walked at the hand of a god,
her steps, constricted by the winding sheets,
uncertain, meek, without impatience.
She was deep within herself like a woman full with child,
and gave no thought now to the man who walked ahead
or the path that rose toward life.
She was deep within herself, and her having died
was a fullness she carried.
Like a fruit, she was filled with the sweetness
and darkness of her huge death,
still so new she could hardly grasp it.
She had entered a new virginity,
had becomes untouchable; her sex had closed
like a wildflower toward evening,
and her hands were so estranged from marriage
that even the god's touch, infinitely light,
disturbed her as too familiar.
He told himself they must be coming.
He said the words aloud and heard them fade away.
They must be coming, it was just
that they were moving so quietly.
If he might turn a single time
(if to look back were not the ruin
of this whole venture now near completion),
surely he would see those two
following him so noiselessly.
The little god of journeys and messages,
winged cap above observant eyes,
wings at the ankles too, slender staff held out before him,
and entrusted to his left hand: her.
The one so loved, that from a single lyre
more lament came forth than from centuries' sorrows.
So loved that a world took form from that lament
where everything came to be once more:
path and village, forest and valley, field, river, animal.
And round this lamenting world, as if
it were a second earth, moved a sun and star-strewn heavens,
a grieving heaven with grief-stricken stars.
That's how loved she was.
First, the slender figure cloaked in blue,
looking straight ahead, tense and unspeaking.
Propelled by relentless haste,
his stride devoured the path. Under the folds
of the mantel, his hands were clenched,
and barely felt the weight of the lyre he carried with him always.
His senses were as though divided:
for his sight, like a dog, raced ahead,
turned around, came back only to run off again
and wait at the next bend.
But his hearing lingered behind.
Sometimes it seemed to be trying to reach back
to the steps of the other two
who should follow him all the way uphill.
At times there was nothing but the echo of his own footfall
and the flutter of his cloak behind him.
It was the mysterious mine of souls.
They threaded their way through its darkness
like veins of silver. Between roots
sprang up the blood that flows to the living
and in the dark it looked as hard as porphyry.
Nothing else was red.
Rocks were there
and forests of shadows. Bridges over chasms
and a vast, depthless lake of grey
that extended above its distant bed
like rain clouds over the land.
On either side of the pale ribbon of that one path
meadows unfolded, endlessly opening.
There were a few of us, playmates
in the scattered gardens of the city.
Remember how we found each other
and hesitantly liked each other,
and, like the lamb with the talking scroll,
spoke in silences. The good times we had belonged to no one.
Whose could they be? They disappeared amid all the hurrying people
and the worries to come with the long years.
Wagons and trucks rolled by. We didn't care.
Houses rose around us, solid but unreal, and no one knew us.
What, after all, was real?
Nothing. Only the ball, the beautiful arcs it made.
Not even the children were real, except for the moment
of reaching up and ah! catching the ball.