February 8, 2011


Landscape with Couple Walking and Crescent Moon
Vincent van Gogh

Exposed upon the mountains of the heart. See how small over there
the last outpost of words, and higher up,
just as small, one last farmyard of feeling.
Do you recognize it? Exposed
upon the mountains of the heart. Stony ground
under the hands.

Something still blooms here, on the dumb cliff face
blooms an unconscious weed, singing.
But where is the conscious one? He who began to be conscious
now is silent, exposed upon the mountain of the heart …

Uncollected Poems


  1. Apparently this poem was written on the eve of WWI in Paris. This helps me understand a little. For instance the use of "outpost" and the whole sense of incredible pain and loss, the landscape of the heart so raw. In the farmyard maybe there are a few potatoes of feeling, but there are few words left to speak, facing what lies ahead. Even in a time of grief and speechlessness, Rilke manages to rub beauty from the stony ground.

  2. A 'farmyard of feeling' what an exquisite way to describe the depth of his emotions. Thanks Lorenzo.

  3. Rilke was a deep subterranean influence on Pynchon when he wrote "Gravity's Rainbow." The character Enzian comes from the gentian named in Rilke's Ninth Elegy --

    .. .For the wanderer doesn’t bring a handful of that
    unutterable earth from the mountainside down to the valley,
    but only some word he’s earned, a pure word, the yellow
    and blue gentian. Maybe we’re here only to say: house,
    bridge, well, gate, jug, olive tree, window –
    at most, pillar, tower… but to say them, remember,
    oh, to say them in a way that the things themselves
    never dreamed of existing so intensely ...

    Here the flower is just a weed, unnamed, singing unconsciously, as the Poet cannot yet name it, or once did (as Rilke did with his first Elegy in 1911) but was silenced. It is part of the essential work of transformation, the harrow on the mountaintop, exposed like a Prometheus to the elements, unable -- yet--to speak... -- Brendan

  4. I like much of the imagery in this poem, the notion of a "weed, singing" and being "exposed upon the mountains of the heart." I confess, however, that I have yet to discover the deeper meaning, unless it is what you say,
    Ruth, which makes sense. I do love the Van Gogh painting. One could do worse in life that walking across the colorful landscape, hand in hand with one's soul mate, beneath a crescent moon.

  5. Something still blooms here, on the dumb cliff face

    is my favorite line. it's hopeful

  6. "He who began to be conscious..." love that

  7. I came across the term Ekphrasis today.
    Ekphrastic Art

    dialogue between written and visual arts, and thought of this, of you , and you and so many of you, and perhaps me sometimes.

    I wake every morning grateful to keep learning , thank you.


"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!