January 2, 2011

Lifting My Eyes

Roses, by Leonid Pasternak

Lifting my eyes from the book, from the tightly sequenced lines
to the full and perfect night:
Oh how like the stars my buried feelings break free,
as if a bouquet of wildflowers
had come untied:

The upswing of the light ones, the bowing sway of the heavy ones
and the delicate ones' timid curve.
Everywhere joy in relation and nowhere grasping;
world in abundance and earth enough.

Uncollected Poems


  1. I wish I could 'shriek into the heart of the night', but it is day here now, broad sunlight and the roses are fast falling from their frames.

    What a joy it is to read Rilke again. Thanks, R and L.

  2. I think I'm going to adore the artwork you are posting here as much as the poetry itself. What a great start!

  3. Elisabeth, my brother said to me yesterday that we are always dreaming, night and day, so maybe it is always night as well.

    Margaret, I'm very glad you are enjoying Pasternak's art here. I only discovered him (Boris's father) after investigating the book's cover portrait.

    I can't tell you how I admire and love this poem. With every reading I feel that I am one of those wildflower stars, everywhere joy[ful] in relation and nowhere grasping.

  4. The imagery here is astonishing and arresting: his feelings breaking free like stars in the night sky, the description of the swing, sway and curve of those star-emotions as if they were music.

    And I deeply appreciate the concept of taking joy in the abundance of the earth, while knowing not to grasp for more. There is another quote from Rilke that touches on this concept, in which he compares eyes with hands and suggests we would be better off if our hearts strove to be more like our eyes than our hands, forever taking in everything we can, and always letting go (tenderly as he will soon tell us), not trying to hold on ...

    Seeing is for us the most authentic possibility of acquiring something. If god had only made our hands to be like our eyes —so ready to grasp, so willing to relinquish all things— then we could truly acquire wealth. We do not acquire wealth by letting something remain and wilt in our hands but only by letting everything pass through their grasp as if through the festive gate of return and homecoming. Our hands ought not to be a coffin for us but a bed sheltering the twilight slumber and dreams of the things held there, out of whose depths their dearest secrets speak. Once out of our hands, however, things ought to move forward, now sturdy and strong, and we should keep nothing of them but the courageous morning melody that hovers and shimmers behind their fading steps.

  5. "Oh how like the stars my buried feelings break free" after "lifting my eyes from the book," only to find "world in abundance and earth enough." Liberation and discovery. This is why poetry sustains people like me. This is such a beautiful poem and it speaks to me like an old friend.

  6. "...nowhere grasping; World in abundance and earth enough."

    And Rilke is 'enough'. These thoughts have inhabited me for many years and I feel the deepest loving connection to Rilke when he articulates them. I shall now walk through my day, 'everywhere in joy'.

  7. the opening up of sight in whatever manner is so fruitful and rilke expresses that unfolding moment so insightfully here. "everywhere joy in relation". steven

  8. i sit here at my desk with a bouquet of pink tulips on my desk, the first of the year. the sun shines on them, lovely though the day is crisp and brittle. and i think how i want break free too - move forward instead of this stagnant feeling that i've had the last few months. this was the perfect quote for today - in moving towards my word, "acceptance".

  9. I'm with Margaret, the art is beautiful. It is as beautiful as that of the best known artists of that period. Yet, I've never heard of Leonid Pasternak til now.

    So much work goes unnoticed.

  10. What a beautiful pairing of image and words. I think if I could read only one new blog in the new year, I would make it this one.

    Lorenzo, your commentary adds so much. I appreciate the additional quote, so full of wisdom.

  11. Thank you, Ruth, and thank you Lorenzo for creating this blog and introducing a Rilke I do not know, even though once i thought I had studied him. You already give me new eyes through which to look at this most ineffable of poets. Reason enough to devote a year (or more) to him.

  12. Wonderful! I am intrigued by the artwork of Leonid Pasternak, as well as Rilke's words. Both of your thoughtful & informative comments help to tie it all together. I am hooked.

  13. "Everywhere joy in relation and nowhere grasping;
    world in abundance and earth enough."

    How does he DO that?! If only to write a few lines as Rilke did...if only...


"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!