This is the first day I have ever read any part of Rilke’s elegies.
Rushing online to share a quote, I opened my web browser and, without thinking, clicked on the Bank of America icon. Wrong turn. It’s too early to do banking, to bank, to broker and barter. Soon I’ll be in the car going to back-to-back meetings with my shrink and a client. But right now I’m here, and I’ve just read this:
Yes, the Springs had need of you. Many a star
was waiting for you to espy it. Many a wave
would rise on the past towards you; or, else, perhaps,
as you went by an open window, a violin
would be giving itself to someone. All this was a trust.
But were you equal it it?*
Evidently not. But look, here’s another translation of the same passage:
Yes, the springtimes needed you. Stars now and then
craved your attention. A wave rose
in the remembered past; or as you came by the open window
a violin was singing its soul out. All this
was a given task. But were you capacious
enough to receive it?*
Yes–the springtimes needed you. Often a star was waiting for you to notice it.
A wave rolled toward you out of the distant past,
or as you walked under an open window, a violin yielded itself to your hearing.
All this was mission. But could you accomplish it?*
Can I accomplish it? Is learning German going to help? Because now I’m really itching to get closer to Rilke’s words. And on top of that, I’ve got this task, this mission; I want to be equal to it. First, I’ll have to clear my schedule.
From: Ruth <email@example.com>
To: Shrink@earthlink.net and Client@clientdujour.com
Hi Shrink & Client,
Please pardon the mass email; I’m short on time, undergoing a poetry-induced-transformation. Apparently, killer waves are headed this way. I’ve been charged with digging my toes into the sand so I can stand firm in welcoming every drop rushing towards me: drop of water, drop of starshine, drop of springtime. Mary Oliver said the world offers itself to my imagination, but Rilke makes it sound a bit more like a mandate. Plus, after reading some of these stanzas, I may have to spend the rest of my days barefoot clutching a damp handkerchief. So perhaps we can try again next Tuesday.
Unfortunately, my bank account can’t withstand the double hit of a cancellation fee and lost income. But, you know what? My client’s office is a couple blocks from the beach.
*Excerpt from The First Elegy of The Duino Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke