Poem-a-Day Friday: Rainer Marie Rilke

(My New Year's resolution was to read one poem a day. Every Friday, I share one of those poems with you.)

This week I read Rainer Marie Rilke with my writer's group and discussed one of his poems from The Book of Hours (which I should really read). All that discussing Rilke got me a mood to read back through his selected poems. I don't remember reading this poem when I read him in grad school. But, this time around, it struck me.

Rilke, who wrote at the turn of the 20th century, was Austrian and wrote in German. This is a translation. Once again, I'm blown away that such emotion can be conveyed in poem when it's not even in its original language. His images are something special.

[You who never arrived]

by Rainer Maria Rilke, trans by Stephen Mitchell

You who never arrived in my arms, Beloved, who were lost from the start, I don't even know what songs would please you. I have given up trying to recognize you in the surging wave of the next moment. All the immense images in me--the far-off, deeply-felt landscape, cities, towers, and bridges, and un- suspected turns in the path, and those powerful lands that were once pulsing with the life of the gods-- all rise within me to mean you, who forever elude me.

You, beloved, who are all the gardens I have ever gazed at, longing. An open window in a country house--, and you almost stepped out, pensive, to meet me. Streets that I chanced upon,-- And sometimes, in a shop, the mirrors were still dizzy with your presence and, startled, gave back my too-sudden image. Who knows? perhaps the same bird echoed through both of us yesterday, separate, in the evening...

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