Wednesday, April 27, 2011

'we must die because we have known them'


(Papyrus Prisse.  From the sayings of Ptah-hotep, manuscript from ca. 2000 B.C.)


'We must die because we have known them.'  Die
of their smile's unsayable flower.  Die
of their delicate hands.  Die
of woman.

Let the young man sing of them, praise
these death-bringers, when they move through his heart-space,
high overhead.  From his blossoming breast
let him sing to them:
unattainable!  Ah, how distant they are.
Over the peaks
of his feeling, they float and pour down 
sweetly transfigured night into the abandoned
valley of his arms.  The wind
of their rising rustles in the leaves of his body.  His brooks run
sparkling into the distance.

But the grown man
shudders and is silent.  The man who 
has wandered pathless at night
in the mountain-range of his feelings:
is silent.

As the old sailor is silent,
and the terrors that he has endured
play inside him as though in quivering cages.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
from Uncollected Poems