Rainer Maria Rilke

(4 December 1875 – 29 December 1926 / Prague / Czech Republic)

The Sonnets To Orpheus: I


A tree ascended there. Oh pure transendence!
Oh Orpheus sings! Oh tall tree in the ear!
And all things hushed. Yet even in that silence
a new beginning, beckoning, change appeared.

Creatures of stillness crowded from the bright
unbound forest, out of their lairs and nests;
and it was not from any dullness, not
from fear, that they were so quiet in themselves,

but from just listening. Bellow, roar, shriek
seemed small inside their hearts. And where there had been
at most a makeshift hut to receive the music,

a shelter nailed up out of their darkest longing,
with an entryway that shuddered in the wind-
you built a temple deep inside their hearing.


Translated by Stephen Mitchell

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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