Treasure Island

Rainer Maria Rilke

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

To Lou Andreas-Salome


I held myself too open, I forgot
that outside not just things exist and animals
fully at ease in themselves, whose eyes
reach from their lives' roundedness no differently
than portraits do from frames; forgot that I
with all I did incessantly crammed
looks into myself; looks, opinion, curiosity.
Who knows: perhaps eyes form in space
and look on everywhere. Ah, only plunged toward you
does my face cease being on display, grows
into you and twines on darkly, endlessly,
into your sheltered heart.

As one puts a handkerchief before pent-in-breath-
no: as one presses it against a wound
out of which the whole of life, in a single gush,
wants to stream, I held you to me: I saw you
turn red from me. How could anyone express
what took place between us? We made up for everything
there was never time for. I matured strangely
in every impulse of unperformed youth,
and you, love, had wildest childhood over my heart.

Memory won't suffice here: from those moments
there must be layers of pure existence
on my being's floor, a precipitate
from that immensely overfilled solution.

For I don't think back; all that I am
stirs me because of you. I don't invent you
at sadly cooled-off places from which
you've gone away; even your not being there
is warm with you and more real and more
than a privation. Longing leads out too often
into vagueness. Why should I cast myself, when,
for all I know, your influence falls on me,
gently, like moonlight on a window seat.


Translated by A. Poulin

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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Comments about this poem (To Lou Andreas-Salome by Rainer Maria Rilke )

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  • L. M. (4/29/2012 8:35:00 PM)

    How anyone disliked this poem, I don't know. You must not understand love.

    For I don't think back; all that I am
    stirs me because of you.

    That rings true in my spirit! I've been in love since I was a child-there was nothing before my love. Every thought in my being holds that influence! To read the words of one individual that holds so much respect, regard, admiration, and love for another. He did well. (Report) Reply

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