Ngala-Najla

I Celebrate Myself…

Rilke and me

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I am on page 1 of my 10 page paper ( due on Tuesday, a test on Monday–it’s 9pm on Sat). My mind is in constant motion, I am in no mood for thinking, on one thing at least. I am questioning the meaning of life, and I know the answer is complicated. I am not even sure I want to know the answer at this point. So, I sought Rilke ( I bookmarked his page on the computer for times like this) and I see why I connect with him. I guess I must say, I continuously see why I connect  with him. I think his favorite English word might have been “lament.”

I read an article recently, which said that we often connect to sad poems more than happy ones. Rilke’s poems, though not sad per se, are often in a constant state of yearning, for that happy place. In this moment, I seek only contentment. So while I wait, I will remember:

    The Tenth Elegy

     
    That some day, emerging at last from the terrifying vision 
    I may burst into jubilant praise to assenting angels! 
    That of the clear-struck keys of the heart not one may fail 
    to sound because of a loose, doubtful or broken string! 
    That my streaming countenance may make me more resplendent 
    That my humble weeping change into blossoms. 
    Oh, how will you then, nights of suffering, be remembered 
    with love. Why did I not kneel more fervently, disconsolate 
    sisters, more bendingly kneel to receive you, more loosely 
    surrender myself to your loosened hair? We, squanderers of 
    gazing beyond them to judge the end of their duration. 
    They are only our winter's foliage, our sombre evergreen, 
    one of the seasons of our interior year, -not only season, 
    but place, settlement, camp, soil and dwelling. 
    
    How woeful, strange, are the alleys of the City of Pain, 
    where in the false silence created from too much noise, 
    a thing cast out from the mold of emptiness 
    swaggers that gilded hubbub, the bursting memorial. 
    Oh, how completely an angel would stamp out their market 
    of solace, bounded by the church, bought ready for use: 
    as clean, disappointing and closed as a post office on Sunday. 
    Farther out, though, there are always the rippling edges 
    of the fair. Seasaws of freedom! High-divers and jugglers of zeal! 
    And the shooting-gallery's targets of bedizened happiness: 
    targets tumbling in tinny contortions whenever some better 
    marksman happens to hit one. From cheers to chance he goes 
    staggering on, as booths that can please the most curious tastes 
    are drumming and bawling. For adults ony there is something 
    special to see: how money multiplies. Anatomy made amusing! 
    Money's organs on view! Nothing concealed! Instructive, 
    and guaranteed to increase fertility!... 
    
                                                                Oh, and then outside, 
    behind the farthest billboard, pasted with posters for 'Deathless,' 
    that bitter beer tasting quite sweet to drinkers, 
    if they chew fresh diversions with it.. 
    Behind the billboard, just in back of it, life is real. 
    Children play, and lovers hold each other, -aside, 
    earnestly, in the trampled grass, and dogs respond to nature. 
    The youth continues onward; perhaps he is in love with 
    a young Lament....he follows her into the meadows. 
    She says: the way is long. We live out there.... 
                                                            Where? And the youth 
    follows. He is touched by her gentle bearing. The shoulders, 
    the neck, -perhaps she is of noble ancestry? 
    Yet he leaves her, turns around, looks back and waves... 
    What could come of it? She is a Lament. 
    
    Only those who died young, in their first state of 
    timeless serenity, while they are being weaned, 
    follow her lovingly. She waits for girls 
    and befriends them. Gently she shows them 
    what she is wearing. Pearls of grief 
    and the fine-spun veils of patience.- 
    With youths she walks in silence. 
    
    But there, where they live, in the valley, 
    an elderly Lament responds to the youth as he asks:- 
    We were once, she says, a great race, we Laments. 
    Our fathers worked the mines up there in the mountains; 
    sometimes among men you will find a piece of polished 
    primeval pain, or a petrified slag from an ancient volcano. 
    Yes, that came from there. Once we were rich.- 
    
    And she leads him gently through the vast landscape 
    of Lamentation, shows him the columns of temples, 
    the ruins of strongholds from which long ago 
    the princes of Lament wisely governed the country. 
    Shows him the tall trees of tears, 
    the fields of flowering sadness, 
    (the living know them only as softest foliage); 
    show him the beasts of mourning, grazing- 
    and sometimes a startled bird, flying straight through 
    their field of vision, far away traces the image of its 
    solitary cry.- 
    At evening she leads him to the graves of elders 
    of the race of Lamentation, the sybils and prophets. 
    With night approaching, they move more softly, 
    and soon there looms ahead, bathed in moonlight, 
    the sepulcher, that all-guarding ancient stone, 
    Twin-brother to that on the Nile, the lofty Sphinx-: 
    the silent chamber's countenance. 
    They marvel at the regal head that has, forever silent, 
    laid the features of manking upon the scales of the stars. 
    His sight, still blinded by his early death, 
    cannot grasp it. But the Sphinx's gaze 
    frightens an owl from the rim of the double-crown. 
    The bird, with slow down-strokes, brushes 
    along the cheek, that with the roundest curve, 
    and faintly inscribes on the new death-born hearing, 
    as though on the double page of an opened book, 
    the indescribable outline. 
    
    And higher up, the stars. New ones. Stars 
    of the land of pain. Slowly she names them: 
    "There, look: the Rider ,the Staff,and that 
    crowded constellation they call the the Garland of Fruit. 
    Then farther up toward the Pole: 
    Cradle, Way, the Burning Book, Doll, Window. 
    And in the Southern sky, pure as lines 
    on the palm of a blessed hand, the clear sparkling M, 
    standing for Mothers....." 
    
    Yet the dead  youth must go on alone. 
    In silence the elder Lament brings him 
    as far as the gorge where it shimmers in the moonlight: 
    The Foutainhead of Joy. With reverance she names it, 
    saying: "In the world of mankind it is a life-bearing stream." 
    
    They reach the foothills of the mountain, 
    and there she embraces him, weeping. 
    
    Alone, he climbs the mountains of primeval pain. 
    Not even his footsteps ring from this soundless fate. 
    
    But were these timeless dead to awaken an image for us, 
    see, they might be pointing to th catkins, hanging 
    from the leafless hazels, or else they might mean 
    the rain that falls upon the dark earth in early Spring. 
    
    And we, who always think 
    of happiness as rising feel the emotion 
    that almost overwhelms us 
    whenever a happy thing falls. 
    
    Translated by Albert Ernest Flemming 

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Author: ngalanjala

I Have Learned So much from God That I can no longer Call Myself A Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim, A Buddhist, a Jew. The Truth has shared so much of Itself With me That I can no longer call myself A man, a woman, an angel, Or even pure Soul. Love has Befriended Hafiz so completely It has turned to ash And freed Me Of every concept and image My mind has ever known. ~ Hafiz ~

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