May 8, 2011

I Love the Dark Hours

Rainer Maria Rilke

I love the dark hours of my being.
My mind deepens into them.
There I can find, as in old letters,
the days of my life, already lived,
and held like a legend, and understood.

Then the knowing comes: I can open
to another life that's wide and timeless.

From The Book of Hours I, 5


  1. The poem is grandios like all other poems of Rilke.I love also "the dark hours of my being."
    Thanks for this poem!I found hope into these words.

  2. Another telling juxtaposition here. Yesterday's knowledge of eternity emanating from the shared loving embrace; today's knowledge of timelessness found in the solitary examination of one's own life, interpreted as a meaningful fable (we all give a semi-fictional, 'artistic' narrative to our lives.) Are both doors to knowledge valid and necessary? Or is Rilke desiring of the first while compensating with the second? (Thinking of his personal life.)

    1. Do you think there are a finite number of doors to knowledge?

  3. Welcome, Megi! We're glad to have you board the Rilke train. Truly one of his embraces that keeps teaching me is the darkness of solitude. I hope you will let us know when you think a translation might need some further upturning.

    Robert, It was a great juxtaposition by the editors of the book that we take these readings from for these two days, and cool that you noticed it. I wonder if it was purposeful. I'm a young learner of Rilke's life, and though I know he had deep loves (and lovers), maybe your question is a good one to ponder, as to whether he compensated what he might have wished more of by embracing the legend of himself.

    What I take from this reading (who happen to be a person who loves my morning darkness) is the juxtaposition in my own history of life within a Christian tradition where being a "broken vessel" for God's love to flow through for the benefit of others was transformed into being a well watered garden that by its simple existence naturally benefits others. (Isaiah 58:11) When you know and love yourself, that confidence allows you to open to others.

  4. This is one of my favorites of his and always brings a tear and sense of wonder. And relief.

  5. ruth i greatly appreciate your words on this poem! steven

  6. Solitary Walker, Ruth, this is a great juxtaposition from yesterday -- the sense of greater being which can only come through "knowledge" of another (carnal knowledge, for the lovers) and that knowledge which is solitary and dark, reading the maps of self through introspection, gaining a gnosis which is rich as Pluto's gold -- all mined from deep within.

    I've been reading Norman O. Brown's essays of late, from "Apocalypse and/or Metamorphosis." He has a there a series of prodund meditations on mythical figures -- Daphne, Actaeon, and Narcissus -- and what he says about the figure of Narcissus is telling about the strange identification and distance which comes from regarding one's own image, as if in a pool:

    "...Narcissus, another young hunter or shepherd destroyed by what he saw, the reflection of himself in the water -- there I drowned, like Narcissus, lost in the endless replication of his image in world literature; overwhelmed by the abundance; as in Ovid Naricissus says inopem me copia fecit, "Plenty made me poor," or paralysed by the proximity: iste ego sum - could it be me? Narcissus is undone discovering his identity with his own reflection; we are undone discovering our identity with Narcissus, our identity made out of identifications. I am an Other; some primordial and universal schizophrenia, as if our first experience of the self were self-alienation."

    Odd -- to come so close to the source and thus be shattered into a thousand selves. That's the peril and plenty of self-absorption. We ought to know this more than ever, as culture grows leaden with narcissim, so entranced with its own image that it is composed of a billion shouts of self-recognition: white noise. If lovers get close but fail, looking so intently for love that they miss it in their lovers, and we lose it so greatly looking within: what is left?

  7. loving the dark hours of our being - reading in them like in old letters...who else could've said it like rilke...usually we all try to avoid the dark hours and make them pass quickly...but what treasures can be found in these difficult times... wonderful

  8. "And suddenly you know: that was enough.
    You rise and there appears before you
    in all its longings and hesitations
    the shape of what you lived."

    "Remembering" from The Book of Images

    I place this work in contrast to an earlier post (March 27). This acceptance of self and remembering of self as legend is much more palatable to me because it doesn't say "that was enough", it takes the remembrance to lead to acceptance and that self-knowledge leads to an opening up to something more universal,a bigger life outside of the self, but also inclusive of self. (And I struggled so with "Remembering." I felt that my soul was too small, too in love with its own story to let go and shine with all you others who were enraptured by the great opening up that came with surrender.)

    1. How beautifully put! Finding one's self includes finding one's place in the world.

  9. "Then the knowing comes..."
    So triumphant.

  10. I love this Ruth and it makes me wonder; I too love these dark hours but I'm not sure about the understanding. thee math never adds up and maybe because of this, the knowing he speaks of is maybe only a wanting. don't have the knowing mastered. I love how this made me consider

  11. This poem is increedible, as is the accompanying picture.


"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!