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Duino Elegies: The Tenth Elegy - Poem by Rainer Maria Rilke

That some day, emerging at last from the terrifying vision
I may burst into jubilant praise to assenting angels!
That of the clear-struck keys of the heart not one may fail
to sound because of a loose, doubtful or broken string!
That my streaming countenance may make me more resplendent
That my humble weeping change into blossoms.
Oh, how will you then, nights of suffering, be remembered
with love. Why did I not kneel more fervently, disconsolate
sisters, more bendingly kneel to receive you, more loosely
surrender myself to your loosened hair? We, squanderers of
gazing beyond them to judge the end of their duration.
They are only our winter's foliage, our sombre evergreen,
one of the seasons of our interior year, -not only season,
but place, settlement, camp, soil and dwelling.

How woeful, strange, are the alleys of the City of Pain,
where in the false silence created from too much noise,
a thing cast out from the mold of emptiness
swaggers that gilded hubbub, the bursting memorial.
Oh, how completely an angel would stamp out their market
of solace, bounded by the church, bought ready for use:
as clean, disappointing and closed as a post office on Sunday.
Farther out, though, there are always the rippling edges
of the fair. Seasaws of freedom! High-divers and jugglers of zeal!
And the shooting-gallery's targets of bedizened happiness:
targets tumbling in tinny contortions whenever some better
marksman happens to hit one. From cheers to chance he goes
staggering on, as booths that can please the most curious tastes
are drumming and bawling. For adults ony there is something
special to see: how money multiplies. Anatomy made amusing!
Money's organs on view! Nothing concealed! Instructive,
and guaranteed to increase fertility!...

Oh, and then outside,
behind the farthest billboard, pasted with posters for 'Deathless,'
that bitter beer tasting quite sweet to drinkers,
if they chew fresh diversions with it..
Behind the billboard, just in back of it, life is real.
Children play, and lovers hold each other, -aside,
earnestly, in the trampled grass, and dogs respond to nature.
The youth continues onward; perhaps he is in love with
a young Lament....he follows her into the meadows.
She says: the way is long. We live out there....
Where? And the youth
follows. He is touched by her gentle bearing. The shoulders,
the neck, -perhaps she is of noble ancestry?
Yet he leaves her, turns around, looks back and waves...
What could come of it? She is a Lament.

Only those who died young, in their first state of
timeless serenity, while they are being weaned,
follow her lovingly. She waits for girls
and befriends them. Gently she shows them
what she is wearing. Pearls of grief
and the fine-spun veils of patience.-
With youths she walks in silence.

But there, where they live, in the valley,
an elderly Lament responds to the youth as he asks:-
We were once, she says, a great race, we Laments.
Our fathers worked the mines up there in the mountains;
sometimes among men you will find a piece of polished
primeval pain, or a petrified slag from an ancient volcano.
Yes, that came from there. Once we were rich.-

And she leads him gently through the vast landscape
of Lamentation, shows him the columns of temples,
the ruins of strongholds from which long ago
the princes of Lament wisely governed the country.
Shows him the tall trees of tears,
the fields of flowering sadness,
(the living know them only as softest foliage);
show him the beasts of mourning, grazing-
and sometimes a startled bird, flying straight through
their field of vision, far away traces the image of its
solitary cry.-
At evening she leads him to the graves of elders
of the race of Lamentation, the sybils and prophets.
With night approaching, they move more softly,
and soon there looms ahead, bathed in moonlight,
the sepulcher, that all-guarding ancient stone,
Twin-brother to that on the Nile, the lofty Sphinx-:
the silent chamber's countenance.
They marvel at the regal head that has, forever silent,
laid the features of manking upon the scales of the stars.
His sight, still blinded by his early death,
cannot grasp it. But the Sphinx's gaze
frightens an owl from the rim of the double-crown.
The bird, with slow down-strokes, brushes
along the cheek, that with the roundest curve,
and faintly inscribes on the new death-born hearing,
as though on the double page of an opened book,
the indescribable outline.

And higher up, the stars. New ones. Stars
of the land of pain. Slowly she names them:
"There, look: the Rider ,the Staff,and that
crowded constellation they call the the Garland of Fruit.
Then farther up toward the Pole:
Cradle, Way, the Burning Book, Doll, Window.
And in the Southern sky, pure as lines
on the palm of a blessed hand, the clear sparkling M,
standing for Mothers....."

Yet the dead youth must go on alone.
In silence the elder Lament brings him
as far as the gorge where it shimmers in the moonlight:
The Foutainhead of Joy. With reverance she names it,
saying: "In the world of mankind it is a life-bearing stream."

They reach the foothills of the mountain,
and there she embraces him, weeping.

Alone, he climbs the mountains of primeval pain.
Not even his footsteps ring from this soundless fate.

But were these timeless dead to awaken an image for us,
see, they might be pointing to th catkins, hanging
from the leafless hazels, or else they might mean
the rain that falls upon the dark earth in early Spring.

And we, who always think
of happiness as rising feel the emotion
that almost overwhelms us
whenever a happy thing falls.

Translated by Albert Ernest Flemming

Comments about Duino Elegies: The Tenth Elegy by Rainer Maria Rilke

  • Rookie Lucy Williams (5/8/2018 3:28:00 AM)

    Typos: foutainhead - should be fountainhead, reverance - should be reverence, th catkins - the catkins. I don't know, maybe you are typing deliberate mistakes to avoid copyright issues? (Report) Reply

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  • Gold Star - 170,075 Points Fabrizio Frosini (11/13/2015 1:19:00 PM)

    The 'finale': German/Italian text:

    Doch der Tote muss fort, und schweigend bringt ihn die ältere
    Klage bis an die Talschlucht,
    wo es schimmert im Mondschein:
    die Quelle der Freude. In Ehrfurcht
    nennt sie sie, sagt: - Bei den Menschen
    ist sie ein tragender Strom. –
    Stehn am Fuß des Gebirgs.
    Und da umarmt sie ihn, weinend.

    Einsam steigt er dahin, in die Berge des Ur-Leids.
    Und nicht einmal sein Schritt klingt aus dem tonlosen Los.

    Aber erweckten sie uns, die unendlich Toten, ein Gleichnis,
    siehe, sie zeigten vielleicht auf die Kätzchen der leeren
    Hasel, die hängenden, oder
    meinten den Regen, der fällt auf dunkles Erdreich im Frühjahr. -

    Und wir, die an steigendes Glück
    denken, empfänden die Rührung,
    die uns beinah bestürzt,
    wenn ein Glückliches fällt.

    (Rainer Maria Rilke, entworfen 1912/13, beendet 11.2.1922, Duino, Paris)


    Ma il morto deve andare, e tacendo l’antica
    Lamentazione lo porta fino alla gola della valle,
    dove nella luce lunare scintilla:
    la sorgente della gioia. In adorazione
    ella la nomina, dice: - Tra gli uomini
    ella è una corrente che trasporta.-

    Sono ai piedi del monte,
    ed ella là lo abbraccia, piangente.

    Solo sale, sui monti del primigenio dolore
    E non soltanto una volta il suo passo risuona del
    Destino senza suono.

    Ma se essi, gli infinitamente morti, potessero ridestare in noi
    Un’ immagine,
    vedi, essi indicherebbero forse gli amenti
    del vuoto nocciolo, quelli pendenti, o
    suggerirebbero la pioggia, che cade sullo scuro
    regno della terra a primavera. –

    E noi, che pensiamo alla elevata felicità,
    sentiremmo la commozione,
    che quasi ci sconcerta,
    quando una cosa felice cade.

    (Rainer Maria Rilke, progettata 1912/13, finita 11 febbraio 1922, Parigi) (Report) Reply

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  • Gold Star - 170,075 Points Fabrizio Frosini (11/13/2015 1:14:00 PM)


    Die zehnte Elegie

    Dass ich dereinst, an dem Ausgang der grimmigen Einsicht,
    Jubel und Ruhm aufsinge zustimmenden Engeln.
    Dass von den klar geschlagenen Hämmern des Herzens
    keiner versage an weichen, zweifelnden oder
    reißenden Saiten. Dass mich mein strömendes Antlitz
    glänzender mache; dass das unscheinbare Weinen
    blühe. O wie werdet ihr dann, Nächte, mir lieb sein,
    gehärmte. Dass ich euch knieender nicht, untröstliche Schwestern,
    hinnahm, nicht in euer gelöstes
    Haar mich gelöster ergab. Wir, Vergeuder der Schmerzen.
    Wie wir sie absehn voraus, in die traurige Dauer,
    ob sie nicht enden vielleicht. Sie aber sind ja
    unser winterwähriges Laub, unser dunkeles Sinngrün,
    eine der Zeiten des heimlichen Jahres -, nicht nur
    Zeit -, sind Stelle, Siedelung, Lager, Boden, Wohnort.

    - - - - - - - - - - - La decima elegia - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    Che io, una volta fuggito da feroce visione,
    elevi canto di gloria e giubilo in accordo agli angeli.
    Che dai martelli del cuori chiaramente percossi
    Nessuno fallisca sulle fragili, incerte, lacerabili
    Corde. Che a me il volto inondato
    si faccia fulgente; che il pianto appena visibile
    sia in fiore. Oh notti, come a me sarete dilette,
    voi addolorate. Che io non v’accettai genuflesso,
    inconsolabili sorelle, nelle vostre sciolte chiome
    non mi smarrisca. Noi, dissipatori di dolori.
    Come noi prevediamo, nel triste durare,
    se essi forse finiscono. Ma essi sono certamente
    il nostro vero fogliame invernale, il nostro scuro
    sempreverde, uno delle epoche dell’anno segreto-, non solo
    tempo-, sono luoghi, posto, giaciglio, terra, dimora. (Report) Reply

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Poems About Elegy

  1. 1. Elegy Written In A Country Churchyard , Thomas Gray
  2. 2. Elegy , Dylan Thomas
  3. 3. Duino Elegies: The First Elegy , Rainer Maria Rilke
  4. 4. Elegy For Jane , Theodore Roethke
  5. 5. Elegy In April And September , Wilfred Owen
  6. 6. Duino Elegies: The Tenth Elegy , Rainer Maria Rilke
  7. 7. Elegy Xix: To His Mistress Going To Bed , John Donne
  8. 8. Elegy To The Memory Of An Unfortunate Lady , Alexander Pope
  9. 9. An Imperial Elegy , Wilfred Owen
  10. 10. Duino Elegies: The Fourth Elegy , Rainer Maria Rilke
  11. 11. Elegy In The Classroom , Anne Sexton
  12. 12. Elegy I , Rainer Maria Rilke
  13. 13. A Satirical Elegy On The Death Of A Late.. , Jonathan Swift
  14. 14. An Elegy On The Death Of Kenneth Patchen , Lawrence Ferlinghetti
  15. 15. An Elegy On The Death Of A Mad Dog , Oliver Goldsmith
  16. 16. Elegy Xvi: On His Mistress , John Donne
  17. 17. Elegy Xviii: Love's Progress , John Donne
  18. 18. March Elegy , Anna Akhmatova
  19. 19. Elegy V: His Picture , John Donne
  20. 20. Elegy X , Rainer Maria Rilke
  21. 21. Elegy Ix: The Autumnal , John Donne
  22. 22. Elegy I: Jealousy , John Donne
  23. 23. Elegy X: The Dream , John Donne
  24. 24. Elegy Xiii: His Parting From Her , John Donne
  25. 25. Elegy , Siegfried Sassoon
  26. 26. Elegy In A Country Churchyard , Gilbert Keith Chesterton
  27. 27. Elegy Viii: The Comparison , John Donne
  28. 28. Elegy Iii: Change , John Donne
  29. 29. Elegy Iv: The Perfume , John Donne
  30. 30. Elegy Ii: The Anagram , John Donne
  31. 31. Elegy Vii , John Donne
  32. 32. From The Tenth Elegy , Rainer Maria Rilke
  33. 33. Elegy Iv , Rainer Maria Rilke
  34. 34. Elegy Vi , John Donne
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  36. 36. Elegy V , Ovid
  37. 37. Elegy , Carolyn Forché
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  39. 39. An Elegy On A Lap-Dog , John Gay
  40. 40. Elegy Before Death , Edna St. Vincent Millay
  41. 41. An Elegy In Frost , Sandra Fowler
  42. 42. Elegy , Alan Dugan
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  50. 50. Elegy Xvii: On His Mistress , John Donne
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