Rilke for Monday

orpheusI only know Rilke’s work in translation, mostly by Stephen Mitchell. Here’s a sample from Sonnets to Orpheus, about the myth of Orpheus trying to rescue his lover, Eurydice from the underworld. If you don’t know the story, here’s a summary, and below is a snippet from the much longer poem:

Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes

She was no longer that woman with blue eyes
who once had echoed through the poet’s songs,
no longer the wide couch’s scent and island,
and that man’s property no longer.

She was already loosened like long hair,
poured out like fallen rain,
shared like a limitless supply.

She was already root.

And when, abruptly,
the god put out his hand to stop her, saying,
with sorrow in his voice: He has turned around —,
she could not understand, and softly answered

Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Stephen Mitchell


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