Sunday, October 17, 2010

Poem of the Week: "Sonnets to Orpheus #6," by Rainer Maria Rilke

There's not a lot of reason for me to post this poem other than the fact that I really like it. Also, the influences of the dead seem well-suited for the beginning of autumn, a season I tend to associate with memory and loss and bizarre language and images of the dead. Anyway, Rilke is obsessed with the tragic mythological figure of Orpheus, a poet and musician capable of producing the world's most beautiful songs. Rilke even wrote an entire book of sonnets dedicated to Orpheus. All the Orpheus sonnets are incredible and full of strange, beautiful imagery, like this one, which also ruminates at length on the art of poetry writing. This sonnet manages to be both really lovely and super-creepy at the same time. Enjoy!

Sonnets To Orpheus, No. 6, by Rainer Maria Rilke
Translated by David Young

Is he of this world? No, he gets
his large nature from both realms. To know
how best to curve the willow's boughs
you have to have been through its roots.

Don't leave bread or milk on the table
at night: that attracts the dead.
But under your own mild eyelids
you can let this conjuror mingle

the sight of the dead into all that you've seen;
and may the magic of earthsmoke and meadow rue
be as true as the clearest relation.

Nothing should spoil good images; whether
they came from a grave or a bedroom,
let him praise finger-ring, buckle, and pitcher.

Note: There won't be a Poem of the Week next Sunday, as I will be out of town visiting friends. Sorry!

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