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Rilke, Rainer Maria - 38 & 39 Eighth Elegy



Type of spiritual experience


A description of the experience

38 Duino Elegies – Rainer Maria Rilke [The Ninth  Elegy]

Why, if it could begin as laurel, and be spent so,
this space of Being,
a little darker than all the surrounding green,
with little waves at the edge of every leaf (like a breeze’s smile) - :
why then have to be human –
and shunning destiny long for destiny?....                                

Oh, not because happiness exists,
that over-hasty profit from imminent loss,
not out of curiosity, or to practice the heart,
which could exist in the laurel......

But because being here is much,
and because all that’s here seems to need us,
the ephemeral, that strangely concerns us.
We: the most ephemeral.

Once, for each thing, only once.
Once, and no more.
And we too, once.
Never again.

But this once, to have been, though only once,
to have been an earthly thing – seems irrevocable.

39 Duino Elegies – Rainer Maria Rilke [The Ninth  Elegy]

And so we keep pushing on, and trying to achieve it,
trying to contain it in our simple hands,
in the overflowing gaze and the speechless heart.
Trying to become it. Whom to give it to? We would
hold on to it for ever....

The source of the experience

Rilke, Rainer Maria

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