you, full of sources and night

Rainer Maria Rilke

translated by Edward Snow

Ah, women, that you are here on earth, that you
move here among us, grief-filled,
no more watched over than we and yet able
to bless like the blessed.

From what region,
when the loved one appears,
do you take the future?
More than will ever exist.
He who knows distances
out to the outermost fixed star
is amazed to find this,
your magnificent heartspace.
How, in the crush, do you keep it free?
You, full of sources and night.

Are you really the same
as those girls who on the path
to school were rudely
shoved aside by an older brother?
You whole ones.

              Whereas we, even when children, hatefully
              disfigure ourselves forever,
              you were like bread before the Change.

Childhood’s breaking-off
did you no harm. All at once
you stood there, complete,
as if made manifest in the god.

              We, as if broken from cliffs,
              even as young boys sharp
              at the edges, though sometimes
              perhaps smoothly cut;
              we, like large chunks of stone
              dumped over flowers.

Flowers of the deep soil,
loved by all roots,
you, Eurydice’s sisters,
always full of sacred turning-back
behind the ascending man.

              We, hurt by ourselves, keen
              to be hurters and keen
              to be hurt back deep inside.
              We, like weapons laid
              beside anger asleep.

You, who are almost protection where no one
protects. The thought of you
is like a shady sleeptree
for the swarms of the solitary man.

Lines 1-4, Venice, summer 1912; lines 5-46, Muzot, February 9, 1922


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