January 31, 2011

The One Who Is Coming

Why not think of God as the one who is coming, who is moving toward us from all eternity, the Future One, culminating fruit of the tree whose leaves we are? What stops you from projecting his birth on times to come and living your life as a painful and beautiful day in the history of an immense pregnancy? Do you not see how all that is happening is ever again a new beginning? And could it not be His Beginning, for to commence is ever in itself a beautiful thing. If he is to be fulfillment, then all that is lesser must precede him, so that he can fashion himself from out of the greatest abundance. Must he not be last, in order to include everything within himself? And what meaning would be ours, if he, for whom we yearn, had already existed?

Rome, December 23, 1903
Letters to a Young Poet

January 30, 2011


No. Of my heart I will make a tower
and stand on its very edge,
where nothing else exists—just once again pain
and what cannot be said, and once again world.

Once again in all that vastness
now dark, now light again, the single thing I am,
one final face confronting
what can never be appeased.

That ultimate face, enduring as stone,
at one with its gravity,
drawn by distances that could dissolve it
into some promise of the sacred.

New Poems

January 29, 2011

You Come and Go

You come and go. The doors swing closed
ever more gently, almost without a shudder.
Of all who move through the quiet houses,
you are the quietest.

We become so accustomed to you,
we no longer look up
when your shadow falls over the book we are reading
and makes it glow.

From The Book of Hours I, 45

January 28, 2011

Am I Not the Whole?

Rodin, 1902, by Edward Steichen

God, are you then the All? And I the separated one
who tumbles and rages?
Am I not the whole? Am I not all things
when I weep, and you the single one, who hears it?

From The Book of Hours II, 3

January 27, 2011

The Solitude We Are

To speak again of solitude, it becomes ever clearer that in truth there is nothing we can choose or avoid. We are solitary. We can delude ourselves and act as if this were not so. That is all we can do. How much better to realize from the start that that is what we are, and to proceed from there. It can, of course, make us dizzy, for everything our eyes rest upon will be taken from us, no longer is anything near, and what is far is endlessly far.

Borgeby gärd, Sweden, August 12, 1904
Letters to a Young Poet

Note about Rodin's hand sculpture, "Cathedral," found here:

Rodin was a highly original sculptural genius but he openly acknowledged his indebtedness to the artists who had preceded him; the masters of ancient Greece and The Renaissance; Phidias, Donatello, Michelangelo. He was also intensely interested in Gothic art, the cathedrals of France. After viewing and studying the Magnificent cathedral at Amiens he felt that the basic inspiration came from the voices of nature, from the trees with their strong limbs reaching upward. In the two right hands with fingers arching together he probably thought that he had discovered the source and inspiration for the gothic arch, that arch which with repetition and expansion led to the creation of the superb gothic cathedrals. The hands are obviously those of separate individuals. A spiritual communication between the two is expressed but the fingers and hands remain slightly separated. Could he, through that separation, have been expressing the aloneness of all human beings, the desire for a complete unification which is never realized?

January 26, 2011

The Great God Sleep

That great god Sleep: I yield to him all greediness for time. What does he care about Time! Ten hours, eleven twelve — if he wants to consume them in his silencing and privileged way, let him. Alas, I seldom manage to retire early; evening is my time to read. Seductive books, aided by the improbably intensifying noises of the old house, usually keep me awake till past midnight. The personal errands of a mouse in the thick walls of some yet-to-be-cleared inner room deepen the mystery of the endless surrounding night.

Letter to Lou Andreas-Salomé
January 13, 1923

January 25, 2011

The Beauty of You

In deep nights I dig for you like treasure.
For all I have seen
that clutters the surface of my world
is poor and paltry substitute
for the beauty of you
that has not yet happened...

From The Book of Hours II, 34

January 24, 2011

A Deeper Reality

The Meditation, Auguste Rodin, in the Tuileries, Paris
photo by l'enfer

All the worlds of the universe plunge into the Invisible as into a yet deeper reality. Certain stars increase in intensity and extinguish themselves in the angels' endless awareness. Others move toward transformation slowly and with great effort, and their next self-realization occurs in fear and terror.

We are the transformers of Earth. Our whole being, and the flights and falls of our love, enable us to undertake this task.

Letter to Witold Hulewicz
November 13, 1925

January 23, 2011

Sing, My Heart

 Rodin's garden sculpture of Balzac, Musée Rodin, Paris
photo by BillandKent;
Musée Rodin was previously the residence of the sculptor, 
77 rue de Varenne with surrounding garden,
and where Rilke also lived as Rodin's secretary;
Rodin donated the mansion and gardens to France to house his works.

Sing, my heart, the gardens you never walked,
like gardens sealed in glass balls, unreachable.
Sing the waters and roses of Isfahan and Shiraz;
praise them, lush beyond compare.

Swear, my heart, that you will never give them up.
That the figs they ripened ripened for you.
That you could tell by its fragrance
each blossoming branch.

Don't imagine you could ever let them go
once they made the daring choice: to be!
Like a silken thread, you entered the weaving.

Whatever image you take within you deeply,
even for a moment in a lifetime of pain,
see how it reveals the whole — the great tapestry.

Sonnets to Orpheus II, 21

January 22, 2011

If I Cried Out

Guardian Angel Fountain, Rilkeplatz (Vienna)
Photo: Via Kali
If I cried out, who
in the hierarchies of angels
would hear me?

And if one of them should suddenly
take me to his heart,
I would perish in the power of his being.
For beauty is but the beginning of terror.
We can barely endure it
and are awed
when it declines to destroy us.

From the First Duino Elegy

January 21, 2011

The Man Watching (II)

What we triumph over is so small,
and the victory makes us small too.
The eternal and uncommon
refuses to be bent by us.
Like the angel who appeared
to the wrestler in the Old Testament:
when his opponent's sinews
grow hard as metal in the struggle,
they feel to his fingers like strings
on which to play a depthless melody.

Whoever is conquered by this angel
when the angel does not refuse to fight
walks away erect and ennobled,
strengthened by that fierce hand
that, like a sculptor's, shaped him.
Winning does not tempt that man.
His growth is this: to be defeated
by ever greater forces.

Book of Images

January 20, 2011

God Speaks

I am, you anxious one.
Don't you sense me, ready to break
into being at your touch?
My murmurings surround you like shadowy wings.
Can't you see me standing before you
cloaked in stillness?
Hasn't my longing ripened in you
from the beginning
as fruit ripens on a branch?

I am the dream you are dreaming.
When you want to awaken, I am waiting.
I grow strong in the beauty you behold.
And with the silence of stars I enfold
your cities made by time.

The Book of Hours I, 19
Letters to a Young Poet

January 19, 2011

Your Singing Continues

As swiftly as the world is changing,
like racing clouds,
all that is finished
falls home to the ancient source.

Above the change and the loss,
farther and freer,
your singing continues,
god of the lyre.

How can we embrace our sorrows
or learn how to love,
or see what we lose

when we die? Only your song
over the earth
honors our life and makes it holy.

Sonnets to Orpheus I, 19

January 18, 2011

And Everything Matters

The tasks that have been entrusted to us are often difficult. Almost everything that matters is difficult, and everything matters.

Worpswede, Germany, July 16, 1904
Letters to a Young Poet

January 17, 2011

The Lute

I am the lute. When you describe my body,
its beautiful curving lines,
speak as if speaking of a ripely
curving fruit. Exaggerate the darkness you glimpse in me.

It was Tullia's darkness, which at first was hidden
in her most secret place. The brightness of her hair
was like a sun-filled hall. At moments
some tone from within me

was reflected in her face
and she would sing to me.
Then I arched myself against her softness
and what was within me entered her at last.

New poems

Please click About the Images here or on the sidebar for information about the artists behind the images we post. There are currently summaries about Leonid Pasternak and Auguste Rodin, their connections with Rilke, and further links about them both. 

January 16, 2011

Not by Grasping

Fugit Amor, Auguste Rodin

A god can do it. But tell me how
a person can flow like that through the slender lyre.
Our mind is split. At the crossroads in our heart
stands no temple for Apollo.

Song, as you teach us, is not a grasping,
not a seeking for some final consummation.
To sing is to be. Easy for a god.
But when do we simply be? When do we

become one with earth and stars?
It is not achieved, young friend, by being in love,
however vibrant that makes your voice.

Learn to forget you sang like that. It passes.
Truly to sing takes another kind of breath.
A breath in the void. A shudder in God. A wind.

Sonnets to Orpheus I, 3

January 15, 2011

Through All That Happens

The Danaid, by Auguste Rodin

As you unfold as an artist, just keep on, quietly and earnestly, growing through all that happens to you. You cannot disrupt this process more violently than by looking outside yourself for answers that may only be found by attending to your innermost feeling.

Paris, February 17, 1903
Letters to a Young Poet

January 14, 2011

What Lies Ahead

A Sunbeam, by Leonid Pasternak

Nothing alien happens to us, but only what has long been our own. We have already had to rethink so many concepts about motion; now we must also begin to learn that what we call fate comes not from outside us but from within. . . . Just as for so long we were mistaken about the movement of the sun, we are still mistaken about what lies ahead of us in time.

Borgeby gärd, Sweden, August 12, 1904
Letters to a Young Poet

January 13, 2011

Be Ahead of All Parting

On the Sofa, by Leonid Pasternak

Be ahead of all parting, as if it had already happened,
like winter, which even now is passing.
For beneath the winter is a winter so endless
that to survive it at all is a triumph of the heart.

Be forever dead in Eurydice, and climb back singing.
Climb praising as you return to connection.
Here among the disappearing, in the realm of the transient,
be a ringing glass that shatters as it rings.

Be. And know as well the need to not be:
let that ground of all that changes
bring you to completion now.

To all that has run its course, and to the vast unsayable
numbers of beings abounding in Nature,
add yourself gladly, and cancel the cost.

Sonnets to Orpheus II, 13

January 12, 2011

The Panther

Pine Trees and the Sea, by Leonid Pasternak

His gaze, forever blocked by bars,
is so exhausted it takes in nothing else.
All that exists for him are a thousand bars.
Beyond the thousand bars, no world.

The strong, supple pacing
moves in narrowing circles.
It is a dance at whose center
a great will is imprisoned.

Now and again the veil over his pupils
silently lifts. An image enters,
pierces the numbness,
and dies away in his heart.

New Poems

January 11, 2011

To Be in Nature Now

Island Rügen, by Leonid Pasternak

A solitary sojourn in the country is, especially at this moment, only half real, because the sense of harmlessness in being with nature is lost to us. The influence on us of nature's quiet, insistent presence is, from the start, overwhelmed by our knowledge of the unspeakable human fate that, night and day, irrevocably unfolds.

Letter to Lou Andreas-Salomé
September 9, 1914

January 10, 2011

To Praise

The Golden Autumn, by Leonid Pasternak

Praise, my dear one.
Let us disappear into praising.
Nothing belongs to us.

Uncollected Poems
(From Elegy to Marina Tsvetayeva-Efron)

January 9, 2011


Unloading a Train Car, by Leonid Pasternak
(click to enlarge the painting)

Thus the overflow from things
pours into you.
Just as a fountain's higher basins
spill down like strands of loosened hair
into the lowest vessel,
so streams the fullness into you,
when things and thoughts cannot contain it.

From the Book of Hours II, 10

January 8, 2011


Collecting Apples, 1918, by Leonid Pasternak
(click on painting to enlarge)

Oh trees of life, when is your wintertime?
We are not in balance. Not in agreement
as migrating birds are. Late and overtaken,
we hurriedly try to catch the wind
and fall into a random swamp.
To bloom and to wilt is all the same to us.
Somewhere lions still walk the earth.
As long as their majesty endures, so does their power.

From the Fourth Duino Elegy

January 7, 2011

The Vastness of Connection

Palestine - The Heat and the Donkey, by Leonid Pasternak

Bereft of knowledge before the heavens of my life,
I stand astonished. Oh the great stars.
Their rising and their setting. How quiet.
As if I did not exist. Am I taking part? Do I discount
their pure power? Does it rule the movement
of my blood? I will yearn for no closer connections
and accustom my heart to its farthest reaches.
Better it live with the spine-chilling stars
than with the pretense of some protection hovering near.

Uncollected Poems

January 6, 2011

Our Closest Friend

Leo Tolstoy, by Leonid Pasternak

Our effort, I suggest, can be dedicated to this: to assume the unity of Life and Death and let it be progressively demonstrated to us. So long as we stand in opposition to Death we will disfigure it. Believe me, my dear Countess, Death is our Friend, our closest friend, perhaps the only friend who can never be misled by our ploys and vacillations. And I do not mean that in the sentimental, romantic sense of distrusting or renouncing life. Death is our friend precisely because it brings us into absolute and passionate presence with all that is here, that is natural, that is love. . . . Life always says Yes and No simultaneously. Death (I implore you to believe) is the true Yea-sayer. It stands before eternity and says only: Yes.

Letter to Countess Margot Sizzo-Noris-Crouy
Epiphany, 1923

January 5, 2011

The Impermanence We Are

Moscow During the Winter, by Leonid Pasternak

It seems
our own impermanence is concealed from us.
The trees stand firm, the houses we live in
are still there. We alone
flow past it all, an exchange of air.

Everything conspires to silence us,
partly with shame,
partly with unspeakable hope.

From the Second Duino Elegy

January 4, 2011

Life's Bestowal of Riches

The Road to Clear Polyana, by Leonid Pasternak

You might notice that in some ways the effects of our winter experiences are similar. You write of a constant sense of fullness, an almost overabundance of inner being, which from the outset counterbalances and compensates all deprivations and losses that might possibly come. In the course of my work this last long winter, I have experienced a truth more completely than ever before: that life's bestowal of riches already surpasses any subsequent impoverishment. What, then, remains to be feared? Only that we might forget this! But around and within us, how much it helps to remember!

Letter to Lisa Heise
May 19, 1922

January 3, 2011


Alexander Pushkin at the Seashore, by Leonid Pasternak

Whoever you may be: step into the evening.
Step out of the room where everything is known.
Whoever you are,
your house is the last before the far-off.
With your eyes, which are almost too tired
to free themselves from the familiar,
you slowly take one black tree
and set it against the sky: slender, alone.
And you have made a world.
It is big
and like a word, still ripening in silence.
And though your mind would fabricate its meaning,
your eyes tenderly let go of what they see.

Book of Images

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

January 1, 2011

I Choose to Begin

At the Window. Autumn. by Leonid Pasternak

I love all beginnings, despite their anxiousness and their uncertainty, which belong to every commencement. If I have earned a pleasure or a reward, or if I wish that something had not happened; if I doubt the worth of an experience and remain in my past--then I choose to begin at this very second.
     Begin what? I begin. I have already thus begun a thousand lives.

Early Journals