Thursday, August 11, 2016

from The Third Elegy

Rainer Maria Rilke

Mother, you made him small, it was you who started him;
in your sight he was new, over his eyes you arched
the friendly world and warded off the world that was alien.
Ah, where are the years when you shielded him just by placing
your slender form between him and the surging abyss?
How much you hid from him then. The room that filled with suspicion
at night: you made it harmless; and out of the refuge of your heart
you mixed a more human space with his night-space.
And you set down the lamp, not in that darkness, but in
your own nearer presence, and it glowed at him like a friend.
There wasn’t a creak that your smile could not explain,
as though you had long known just when the floor would do that . . .
And he listened and was soothed. So powerful was your presence
as you tenderly stood by the bed; his fate,
tall and cloaked, retreated behind the wardrobe, and his restless
future, delayed for a while, adapted to the folds of the curtain.

trans. Stephen Mitchell

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