June 23, 2011

David Sings Before Saul (I)

David and Saul

My king, hear how my fingers on the strings
open distances we can travel through.
Stars careen around us
and we find we are falling like the rain.
Earth blooms where this rain has fallen.

Girls you still remember are blooming too.
They are women now, and they draw me.
Young boys wait by the still closed door.
Slender and tense, they hold their breath.

Oh, might my playing restore it all to you!
But my music reels drunkenly.
It's those nights of yours, those nights—
my singing moves me to imagine
the exhausted forms when you had done with them.

I can accompany your memories
because I feel them. But on which strings
can I pluck for you the dark groans of your lust?

New Poems


  1. I'm sure Rilke imagined himself a David, singer and poet to the King -- in the Middle Ages, bards were "married" to the King, singing his praises the way a Beloved sings to her husband. A complex love-song which most poets living by their verses knows involves patronage and a certain amount of brown-nosing. And don't we all try to woo readers, to some extent? David's imperatives are a deep resident of the vatic mind, wooing, bitching, satirizing, completing a King's unspoken (or inarticulate) thought. Like Emerson said: poets are Namers. Odd how Rilke's refutation of his Catholic upbringing (so tied to his mother's random approval) involved, in "New Poems," so many biblical themes ... Brendan

  2. It seems to me here that Rilke bemoans the limitations of song, in a sense-- we cannot sing another's "dark groans." Or, perhaps he condemns the listener/reader's carnal hungers. xj

  3. It is a little odd to take up biblical themes after turning his back on the church; they must be deep in him. I understand this, for I would have shed all that myself, but my writing mentor helped me see the value in it as a deep resource (and mythologically so rich). Maybe he’s looking for new meanings in what shaped his childhood.

    The times before our modern ones were undemocratic in terms of art. The wealthy, and kings and queens, hired artists, poets and musicians to do something for them, do what? As Brendan says, to praise them, and also maybe to feel for them? As jen revved says, perhaps it doesn't work, and that is what Rilke is expressing.


"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!