She who did not come, wasn't she determined
nonetheless to organize and decorate my heart?
If we had to exist to become the one we love,
what would the heart have to create?
Lovely joy left blank, perhaps you are
the center of all my labors and my loves.
If I've wept for you so much, it's because
I preferred you among so many outlined joys.
The sky puts on the darkening blue coat
held for it by a row of ancient trees;
you watch: and the lands grow distant in your sight,
one journeying to heaven, one that falls;
and leave you, not at home in either one,
not quite so still and dark as the darkened houses,
not calling to eternity with the passion of what becomes
a star each night, and rises;
and leave you (inexpressibly to unravel)
your life, with its immensity and fear,
so that, now bounded, now immeasurable,
it is alternately stone in you and star.
Sometimes she walks through the village in her
little red dress
all absorbed in restraining herself,
and yet, despite herself, she seems to move
according to the rhythm of her life to come.
She runs a bit, hesitates, stops,
and, all while dreaming, shakes her head
for or against.
Then she dances a few steps
that she invents and forgets,
no doubt finding out that life
moves on too fast.
It's not so much that she steps out
of the small body enclosing her,
but that all she carries in herself
frolics and ferments.
It's this dress that she'll remember
later in a sweet surrender;
when her whole life is full of risks,
the little red dress will always seem right.
Lord: it is time. The summer was immense.
Lay your shadow on the sundials
and let loose the wind in the fields.
Bid the last fruits to be full;
give them another two more southerly days,
press them to ripeness, and chase
the last sweetness into the heavy wine.
Whoever has no house now will not build one
Whoever is alone now will remain so for a long
will stay up, read, write long letters,
and wander the avenues, up and down,
restlessly, while the leaves are blowing.
I am much too alone in this world, yet not alone
to truly consecrate the hour.
I am much too small in this world, yet not small
to be to you just object and thing,
dark and smart.
I want my free will and want it accompanying
the path which leads to action;
and want during times that beg questions,
where something is up,
to be among those in the know,
or else be alone.
I want to mirror your image to its fullest perfection,
never be blind or too old
to uphold your weighty wavering reflection.
I want to unfold.
Nowhere I wish to stay crooked, bent;
for there I would be dishonest, untrue.
I want my conscience to be
true before you;
want to describe myself like a picture I observed
for a long time, one close up,
like a new word I learned and embraced,
like the everyday jug,
like my mother's face,
like a ship that carried me along
through the deadliest storm.
Ignorant before the heavens of my life,
I stand and gaze in wonder. Oh the vastness
of the stars. Their rising and descent. How still.
As if I didn't exist. Do I have any
share in this? Have I somehow dispensed with
their pure effect? Does my blood's ebb and flow
change with their changes? Let me put aside
every desire, every relationship
except this one, so that my heart grows used to
its farthest spaces. Better that it live
fully aware, in the terror of its stars, than
as if protected, soothed by what is near.
O trees of life, oh, what when winter comes?
We are not of one mind. Are not like birds
in unison migrating. And overtaken,
overdue, we thrust ourselves into the wind
and fall to earth into indifferent ponds.
Blossoming and withering we comprehend as one.
And somewhere lions roam, quite unaware,
in their magnificence, of any weaknesss.
But we, while wholly concentrating on one thing,
already feel the pressure of another.
Hatred is our first response. And lovers,
are they not forever invading one another's
boundaries? -although they promised space,
hunting and homeland. Then, for a sketch
drawn at a moment's impulse, a ground of contrast
is prepared, painfully, so that we may see.
For they are most exact with us. We do not know
the contours of our feelings. We only know
what shapes them from the outside.
Who has not sat, afraid, before his own heart's
curtain? It lifted and displayed the scenery
of departure. Easy to understand. The well-known
garden swaying just a little. Then came the dancer.
Not he! Enough! However lightly he pretends to move:
he is just disguised, costumed, an ordinary man
who enters through the kitchen when coming home.
I will not have these half-filled human masks;
better the puppet. It at least is full.
I will endure this well-stuffed doll, the wire,
the face that is nothing but appearance. Here out front
I wait. Even if the lights go down and I am told:
"There's nothing more to come," -even if
the grayish drafts of emptiness come drifting down
from the deserted stage -even if not one
of my now silent forebears sist beside me
any longer, not a woman, not even a boy-
he with the brown and squinting eyes-:
I'll still remain. For one can always watch.
Am I not right? You, to whom life would taste
so bitter, Father, after you - for my sake -
slipped of mine, that first muddy infusion
of my necessity. You kept on tasting, Father,
as I kept on growing, troubled by the aftertaste
of my so strange a future as you kept searching
my unfocused gaze -you who, so often since
you died, have been afraid for my well-being,
within my deepest hope, relinquishing that calmness,
the realms of equanimity such as the dead possess
for my so small fate -Am I not right?
And you, my parents, am I not right? You who loved me
for that small beginning of my love for you
from which I always shyly turned away, because
the distance in your features grew, changed,
even while I loved it, into cosmic space
where you no longer were...: and when I feel
inclined to wait before the puppet stage, no,
rather to stare at is so intensely that in the end
to counter-balance my searching gaze, an angel
has to come as an actor, and begin manipulating
the lifeless bodies of the puppets to perform.
Angel and puppet! Now at last there is a play!
Then what we seperate can come together by our
very presence. And only then the entire cycle
of our own life-seasons is revealed and set in motion.
Above, beyond us, the angel plays. Look:
must not the dying notice how unreal, how full
of pretense is all that we accomplish here, where
nothing is to be itself. O hours of childhood,
when behind each shape more that the past lay hidden,
when that which lay before us was not the future.
We grew, of course, and sometimes were impatient
in growing up, half for the sake of pleasing those
with nothing left but their own grown-upness.
Yet, when alone, we entertained ourselves
with what alone endures, we would stand there
in the infinite space that spans the world and toys,
upon a place, which from the first beginnniing
had been prepared to serve a pure event.
Who shows a child just as it stands? Who places him
within his constellation, with the measuring-rod
of distance in his hand. Who makes his death
from gray bread that grows hard, -or leaves
it there inside his rounded mouth, jagged as the core
of a sweet apple?.......The minds of murderers
are easily comprehended. But this: to contain death,
the whole of death, even before life has begun,
to hold it all so gently within oneself,
and not be angry: that is indescribable.
Translated by Albert Ernest Flemming
Harshness vanished. A sudden softness
has replaced the meadows' wintry grey.
Little rivulets of water changed
their singing accents. Tendernesses,
hesitantly, reach toward the earth
from space, and country lanes are showing
these unexpected subtle risings
that find expression in the empty trees
Center of all centers, core of cores,
almond self-enclosed, and growing sweet--
all this universe, to the furthest stars
all beyond them, is your flesh, your fruit.
Now you feel how nothing clings to you;
your vast shell reaches into endless space,
and there the rich, thick fluids rise and flow.
Illuminated in your infinite peace,
a billion stars go spinning through the night,
blazing high above your head.
But in you is the presence that
will be, when all the stars are dead.
Put out my eyes, and I can see you still,
Slam my ears to, and I can hear you yet;
And without any feet can go to you;
And tongueless, I can conjure you at will.
Break off my arms, I shall take hold of you
And grasp you with my heart as with a hand;
Arrest my heart, my brain will beat as true;
And if you set this brain of mine afire,
Then on my blood-stream I yet will carry you.
You, you only, exist.
We pass away, till at last,
our passing is so immense
that you arise: beautiful moment,
in all your suddenness,
arising in love, or enchanted
in the contraction of work.
To you I belong, however time may
wear me away. From you to you
I go commanded. In between
the garland is hanging in chance; but if you
take it up and up and up: look:
all becomes festival!
Translated by Stephen Mitchell
Come thou, thou last one, whom I recognize,
unbearable pain throughout this body's fabric:
as I in my spirit burned, see, I now burn in thee:
the wood that long resisted the advancing flames
which thou kept flaring, I now am nourishing
and burn in thee.
My gentle and mild being through thy ruthless fury
has turned into a raging hell that is not from here.
Quite pure, quite free of future planning, I mounted
the tangled funeral pyre built for my suffering,
so sure of nothing more to buy for future needs,
while in my heart the stored reserves kept silent.
Is it still I, who there past all recognition burn?
Memories I do not seize and bring inside.
O life! O living! O to be outside!
And I in flames. And no one here who knows me.
Simply she stands at the cathedral’s
great ascent, close to the rose window,
with the apple in the apple-pose,
guiltless-guilty once and for all
of the growing she gave birth to
since form the circle of eternities
loving she went forth, top struggle through
her way throughout the earth like a young year.
Ah, gladly yet a little in that land
Would she have lingered, heeding the harmony
And understanding of the animals.
But since she found the man determined,
She went with him, aspiring after death,
And she had as yet hardly known God.