|" . . . you lift very slowly one black tree / and place it against the sky . . ."|
Whoever you are: in the evening step out
of your room, where you know everything;
yours is the last house before the far-off:
whoever you are.
With your eyes, which in their weariness
barely free themselves from the worn-out threshold,
you lift very slowly one black tree
and place it against the sky: slender, alone.
And you have made the world. And it is huge
and like a word which grows ripe in silence.
And as your will seizes on its meaning,
tenderly your eyes let go . . .
RAINER MARIA RILKE (From The Book Of Images translated by EDWARD SNOW)
The excellent Pilgrimpace featured this poem of Rilke's recently, and it struck me at once that there could be no better totem-poem for this new blog. "And you have made the world. And it is huge / and like a word which grows ripe in silence." I wasn't thinking of these lines at all when I gave my blog the title words and silence and when I chose to quote Rilke's idea of "the bees of the invisible" and his poem It Is All About Praising in my third post, Lodestones. All I can say is that mysterious things happen in the unconscious, and that our blog world is full of such synchronicities.
As to the meaning of this poem, I really don't want to diminish it by analysis — and Rilke does say in the last two lines: "And as your will seizes on its meaning, / tenderly your eyes let go . . ." (Letting go tenderly! That word "tenderly" here moves me so much, and I can't quite explain why.) I think the poem's about writing a poem, reading a poem, creation, birth, death, weariness, renunciation, acceptance, discovering the new, seeing the old through fresh eyes, embracing the unknown, letting go, seeking a deeper significance to life, exploring death while still alive. But all these interpretations reduce it to cyphers; the "meaning" is in the whole way it's created, in each word, in each space and silence between each word, in the manner each word and space and silence uniquely fit together. Words and silence . . .
Here are some more of Rilke's words, words about praise:
Say, poet, what it is you do. — I praise.
How can you look into the monster's gaze
And accept what has death in it? — I praise.
But, poet, the anonymous and those
With no name, how do you call on them? — I praise.
What right have you though, in each changed disguise,
In each new mask, to trust your truth? — I praise.
Both calm and violent things know you for theirs,
Both star and storm: how so? Because I praise.
RAINER MARIA RILKE (Translated by CLIVE WILMER)
Praise! Unwilled, spontaneous, inevitable, necessary. Perhaps our whole lives and the whole of creation depend upon it . . .
Are we able to leave the house of the familiar and enter the house of praise? Or are we still standing at the "worn-out threshold"?
All of this brings us back full circle to my third post again — and also to Ruth's praise-poem, which you can find here.