A Blessing for Horses (Pariser Handschrift, 12th century)
A man went his way ·
dragging his steed ·
There my lord met him ·
With all of his men ·
How · is it going · man?
Why aren't you riding?
How can I ride when ·
my steed is all stiff?
Just push at his flank, man ·
while whispering to him ·
he'll step with his right foot ·
and get along good ·
A Blessing for a Journey (Weingartner Handschrift, 12th century)
I want to see you · I want to send for you
with my five fingers · my fifty-five angels ·
May God send you home safe ·
May triumph's door be open to you ·
and to you the door of sailing ·
May drowning's door be closed to you ·
and to you the door of fighting ·
From Das Buch der Lieder (1827)
How can you sleep peacefully,
Knowing, I live still?
When the old anger comes again,
I'll bend this yoke to my will.
Do you know the old song:
How there once was a dead knave,
Who grabbed his beloved at midnight
And pulled her into his grave?
Believe me, you magnificent,
You all-too lovely kid,
I'm still alive, and stronger,
Than any dead man is!
If you shall be my faithful wife
Then fortune on you shines.
You'll live a gay and carefree life
Of leisurely pastimes.
And if you scold and if you rave
I'll abide it all with pleasure.
But if my poems you will not praise
Then let us split forever.
The Ages of Life
You, cities of Euphrates!
You, alleys of Palmyra!
You forests of columns in the plain of the desert,
What are you?
The fire stripped you
Of your crowns as you passed
Over the border of the breathing
By the smoke of the heavenly beings;
But now I sit under clouds, in which
Each thing has its quietude, under
Well-ordered oaks on the meadow
Of deer, and strange to me
And dead to me seem
The spirits of the blessed.
A Fragment of a Hymn
What is God? unknown, and yet
Is the face of heaven full
Of signs of him. Lightning in fact
Is the wrath of a god. The more one is
Invisible, the more one conforms to what one is not. But thunder
Is the glory of God. The love of immortality,
As ours, is likewise the property
Of a god.
Judith's Return (1911)
Sleepers, black is the wetness still upon my feet, imprecise. Dew, you say.
O, that I am Judith, I am come from him, from the tent from the bed, his head trickling, thrice-drunk blood. Wine-drunk, drunk on incense, drunk on me -- and now arid as dew.
Low-held head above the morning grass; but I, above in my going, I erect.
Brain suddenly empty, images flowing out into the earth; but I am still pricked in the heart by the whole breadth of the night's deed.
Lover that I am.
Horrors drive all the pleasures in me together, all places are on me.
Heart, my famed heart, beat against the wind:
as I go, as I go
and faster the voice in me, my voice, which will call a birdcall before the city of need.
From the Sonnets to Orpheus (1922)
A god could do it. But how, tell me, could
a man follow him through a narrow lyre?
His sense is discord. At the crossing of two
hearts' paths stands no temple for Apollo.
Song, as you teach it, is not desire,
nor the announcement of something finally attained.
Song is existence. For God it is easy.
But when are we? And when will he turn
the earth and the stars toward our being?
It is not this that you love, young one, even if
voice forces open your mouth, -- learn
to forget that you are singing yourself empty. This shall pass.
In truth singing is just another breath.
A breath for nothing. A sighing in God. A wind.
The Duino Elegies (1912-22)
The First Elegy
Who then, if I cried out, would hear me from the order
of angels? and supposing one of them took
a sudden interest in me: I should wither from his
more powerful being. For the beautiful is nothing
but terror's beginning, which we yet bear unbowed,
and we marvel at it, as it calmly disdains
to disturb us. Every angel is terrible.
And so I restrain myself and swallow down the siren call
of dark convulsion. O whom then are
we able to need? Neither angels, nor men,
and the clever beasts note this well,
that we are not so solidly at home
in the world as construed. There remains to us,
perhaps, a tree on the hillside that we see again
daily; there remain to us yesterday's streets, and
the loyalty, which is forgiven, to a habit
t hat suited us well, and thus stayed, and did not go.
O and the night, the night, when the wind, full of world,
wears down our faces--, for whom would she not remain, desired,
gently disappointing, she who lies painfully in store for
the solitary heart? Is she softer on those who love?
Oh, they only hide with one another in their fate.
Do you still not know it? Throw from your arms
into space the emptiness that we breath; perhaps
the birds feel the expanded air with an inward flight.
Yes, the springtimes well needed you. Many a star
expected you to sprint. A wave
raised itself up in the past, or,
so that you should drop by the open window,
a violin gave itself up. All this was the task.
But did you manage it? Were you not always
scattered in expectation, as a beloved heralded
it all to you? (Where will you hide her,
so that these great strange thoughts of yours
should come in and out, and stay more often the night?)
If you must sing of lovers, still is their
famed feeling by far not immortal enough.
You almost envy these abandoned ones, whom you
found so much more loving than those who were appeased.
Always begin anew the acclaim that is never to be attained;
think: the hero maintains himself, even the downfall
was for him only a pretext for being: his final birth.
But exhausted nature takes the lovers back
into her, as if the strength to carry this off
could not come twice. Have you thought enough
then of Gaspara Stampa, that any girl passed up
by her beloved, on the aggravated example
of these lovers, feels: that I might be like her?
Should these oldest pains not at last become
more fruitful to us? Is it not time that we lovingly
free ourselves from the beloved, and tremblingly withstand,
as the arrow withstands the string, in order in launching
to be more than itself? For remaining is nowhere.
Voices, voices. Hear, my heart, as else only
saints have heard: that they raised the great
call from the ground; but they knelt
again, impossible, and paid it no mind.
Thus did they listen. Not that you would bear
the voice of God, not by far. But listen to the blowing,
the uninterrupted news that is made up of silence.
It is rustling now, from those young dead ones, to you.
Wherever you entered, did their fate not calmly
address you in the churches of Rome and Naples?
Or an inscription was loftily borne to you,
as of late that tablet in Santa Maria Formosa.
What do they want of me? Gently shall I
shrug off the semblance of injustice that the pure
motion of their spirits sometimes hinders a little.
It is indeed peculiar to inhabit the earth no longer,
not to exercise skills barely learned, nor to give
to roses, and to other things that promise themselves,
the significance of a human future;
not to be what one was in infinitely
anxious hands, and to leave behind
even one's own name like a broken toy.
Peculiar, to no longer wish wishes. Peculiar,
to see everything fluttering that hung
so loosely in space. And being dead is laborious
and full of catching up, so that one gradually senses
a bit of eternity. -- But all of the living make
this mistake, that they distinguish too sharply.
The angels (it is said) would often not know, whether
they were moving among the living or the dead.
The eternal current always pulls all the ages
along with it through both domains,
and drowns them out in both.
In the end they need us no longer, the early departed,
one is gently weaned of the earthly, as one meekly
grows away from the mother's breast. But we who need
such large secrets, for whom blissful progress
so often springs from mourning--: could we be without them?
The story is in vain, that once in the lament for
Lino's daring first music, barren torpor crept in;
that first in the stunned space, into which an almost divine youth
suddenly entered forever, did the emptiness shift into that
vibration, that now thrills us and comforts and helps.
From Das Buch der hängenden Gärten (1895)
Speak not always
Of the leaves ·
Violent breeze ·
Of the smashing
Of ripe quinces ·
Of the coming
At year's end.
Of the quiver
Of the darters
In bad weather
And the lights
With the flicker
From Der siebente Ring (1907)
May you still by night and day
Demand your share · you trace ·
In all my joys to have your place ·
From every yield to take your pay?
My desire still awakens by your suck
Me, whose ore you scraped out ·
Me, whose wine you slurped out–
In the loss do I still shiver at my luck?
Am I, now that you are slake,
Mean with what I gave?
Do I force you down in the grave ·
Do I drive through your heart with a stake?
From Der Stern des Bundes (1914)
Is this the lad of ancient lore
Who came from thence with flatterer's eyes
With rosy soft virgin's members
With sumptuous tissues enticing?
His trunk was slim and taut. He grasps ·
He tempts no more · has no jewels.
Shines with grit and lust for battle
His look . . his kiss is short and burning.
His seed now shot from the holy shaft
He pushes into pain and danger.
From Das neue Reich (1928)
The Man and the Faun
A waterfall blocks the narrow creekbed--
Who now extends a hairy leg
From this cliff's dribblingly fat moss?
A horn peeks from a bushy ruffled head . .
For as long as I have hunted in the mountain forest
I have never met his likes… Be still
Your path has shifted • conceal nothing
Through a clear wave a goat's foot shows.
Neither you nor I will be happy that you found me.
I knew indeed of your sort of people.
From tales of old -- but not that today
Such a needlessly ugly monster still lives.
If you drive off the last of my kind
You will look in vain for noble creatures
You will have nothing but rodents and worms
And when you pierce into the deepest thicket
The spring you need most will be dry.
So far beneath me you deign to teach? Our spirit
Has brought down hydra giant dragons
Has cleared barren high forest
Where bogs stood fields of corn now heave
In the juicy green our tame cattle graze
And there is still enough forest for hart and doe--
We raised the treasures from sea and ground
Stones called out our victories to the heavens…
What do you want you leftover of cruel wilderness?
The light the order follow our trace.
You are only a man .. where your wisdom ends
Ours begins • you see the edge only
Where you have been punished for crossing it
When your grain ripens your cattle flourish
The holy trees give oil and grapes
You imagine this comes only from your cunning
The earths that breath in the dull primordial night
Never perish • they are always disposed
They dissolve when a member escapes.
For a good while your reign goes well •
Now hurry back! you have seen the Faun.
You do not know your worst: if your sense
Which can do much is caught in the clouds
The bond has been broken with beast and clod--
Disgust and desire movement and such
And dust and sunbeam and dying and growing
Can be comprehended in the course of things no more.
Who told you so? This is the concern of the gods.
We speak not of them yet in your madness
You believe that they themselves help you. Unmediated
Have they never approached you. You become you die--
Whose true creature you are you never learn.
Soon there will be no room left for your licentious game.
Soon you will call inside what outside you malign.
You poisonous fiend with crooked mouth
In spite of your misshapenness you are too close
To us • otherwise you would get to know my weapon ..
The beast knows no shame the man no thanks.
With all the arts you still never learn
What you most need .. but we still serve.
So hear just this: wiping us out, you erase yourselves.
Where our tufts grow alone comes milk
Where our hooves kick not there grows no straw.
If your spirit alone had been at work: if long ago
Your beat had been muffled with all you had done
Your wood had withered and your crops gone to seed ..
Only by magic does life stay awake.