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Top 100 or so POEMS -- "The Island" by Rainer Maria Rilke

The Island I, II, III - a series of introspective poems by the great Rainer Maria Rilke, have been a real pleasure to pass on in previous POEM OF THE DAY posts.

Here they are as one entry, fittingly inserted into the "Top 100 or so" series. You know, these poems lend themselves to strong personal feelings.
Spiritual and introspective, exploring loneliness and isolationism...the essence of the poet. Rilke's writing style invokes deep emotion, and like the great Pablo Neruda, this deep emotion translates well into english poetry, contributing to their success outside their native language.  Feel free to comment below, I'd love to get some input on these...

The Island (I)

By Rainer Maria Rilke

The tide erases the path through the mud flats
and makes things on all sides look the same.
But the little island out there has closed its eyes.
The dike around it walls its people in.

They are as if born into a sleep
that silently blurs all destinations.
They seldom speak,
and every utterance is like an epitaph

for something cast ashore, some foreign object
that comes unexplained, and just stays.
So is everything their gaze encounters from childhood on:

not intended for them, random, unwieldy,
sent from somewhere else
to underscore their loneliness.

And here is the beginning or preamble of the second section of the poem with an odd preamble for you to consider:
 -farm enCIRCLED
-YOU gaze into the crooked mirror
-ONE of YOU draws on the weeping harmonica
-YOU heard ONCE
-ONE sheep

Look at YOUrself softly.
The Island (II)

by Ranier Maria Rilke

As if lying in some crater on the moon,
each farm is encircled by its earthen banks.
And like orphans the gardens inside
are dressed and combed the same

by the storm that raises them so roughly,
scaring them all the time with threats of death.
That's when you stay indoors, gazing into
the crooked mirror at the assorted things

reflected there. Toward evening one of you
steps outside the door and draws from the harmonica
a sound as soft as weeping

such as you heard once in a distant port.
Out there, silhouetted against the sky,
one of the sheep stands motionless on the far dike.

The Island (III)

By Rainer Maria Rilke

Only what is within you is near; all else is far.
And this within: so packed and pressured,

barely contained, unsayable.
The island could be a star so insignificant

that space in its terrible blindness takes no note
and mindlessly destroys it.
Thus, unillumined and unheard,
expecting nothing

but that all this may yet come to an end,
it continues doggedly its self-invented course,
alone, outside the patterns made

by planets and the suns they orbit.

1 comment:

  1. Hey E-Nothing,
    Looks like you have a photo of the young Frost with the Rilke poems... an inside joke?

    Enjoy your blog.