by Rainer Maria Rilke
trans. by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy
Part One, Sonnet IV
You who let yourselves feel: enter the breathing
that is more than your own.
Let it brush your cheeks
as it divides and rejoins behind you.
Blessed ones, whole ones,
you where the heart begins:
You are the bow that shoots the arrows
and you are the target.
Fear not the pain. Let its weight fall back
into the earth;
for heavy are the mountains, heavy the seas.
The trees you planted in childhood have grown
too heavy. You cannot bring them along.
Give yourselves to the air, to what you cannot hold.
from In Praise of Mortality–Selections from Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus, translated and edited by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy, Riverhead Books, 2005.
O you, the tender, from time to time enter
the breath to which you mean nothing,
and on your cheeks let it splinter;
behind you, it trembles, again uniting.
O you, the saved, O you, blest forever,
who seem the heart’s new beginning.
The arrow’s bow, what hunts the archer,
your smile shines more eternal, crying.
Don’t be afraid to suffer: what is heavy,
give back to the weight of the earth, as its due;
heavy the mountains, heavy the sea.
Those trees that you planted when children you were,
too heavy to bear have become for you.
But the airs… ah, but the spaces out there…
this poem is mighty- speaks deeply to the burden of the earth we carry
a salve, a balm,
speaking what we cannot speak
soothing the forehead of terrors of the despair
gathering the outlaw up in arms that hold us all
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