June 12, 2011

The Watchman in the Vineyards

The White Orchard, by Vincent van Gogh

Just as the watchman in the vineyards
has a hut, keeps vigil there,
I am that hut, Lord.
And I am night, Lord, within your night.

Wine garden, meadow, apple orchard,
field that no springtime forgets,
fig tree that yields a thousand figs
though rooted in ground as hard as marble:

fragrance exudes from your rounding branches.
You never ask if I am keeping watch.
Fearless, dissolved in juices,
your depths rise quietly around me.

The Book of Hours I, 58


  1. Who is witnessing whom? He who watches, or the One who surrounds him? Maybe the work is becoming united and whole, until there is no more watching (You never ask if I am keeping watch. . . ), but only being, together.

  2. i sense that deliquescent melding, that loss of other, that becoming of allness. steven

  3. Yes, it's as if Rilke, the poet, we are both the hut (I am that hut) and the watchman (You never ask if I am keeping watch). And the Lord too can perhaps be seen as hut (the macro-hut of the universe, containing all) and watchman (the Lord is my shepherd, the all-seeing Lord). The two (Rilke and the Lord) are merged, interpenetrative: I am night, Lord, within your night; at ease and fearlessly at one with each other.

    And what is being watched, witnessed, cultivated - and perhaps, by inference and knowing Rilke, interiorised? Vines, apple orchards, figs - all richly redolent, Bible-drenched imagery. We are part of Creation ourselves, continually watching and bearing witness, cultivating the garden. This is our work.


"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!