The Spike [or Victoria University College Review 1954]
E.P.M. Dronke — The Fifth Elegy of Rainer Maria Rilke
The Fifth Elegy of Rainer Maria Rilke
O but who are they, tell me, these acrobats, even a little
more transient than we ourselves, oppressed from their childhood,
being wrung by a never,
ah for whom never satisfied Will? But it wrings them,
bends them, tosses and swings them,
throws them and catches them back; as out of smoother,
oilier air they are coming downward
on to the threadbare carpet, worn thinner
by their perpetual upspring, this carpet abandoned,
lost in the universe,
sticking on like a plaster, as though the suburban
heaven had injured the earth at that place.
upright, shown and at hand: the great
capital letter of Being . ., the strongest men are rolled again and again in jest by the
ever oncoming grasp, as Augustus the Strong
rolled a tin platter at table.
Ah and around this
centre, the rose of watching
blossoms and sheds its leaves. Around this
pestle, the pistil, caught by its own blowing
pollen, the dust, to fructify into
the sham-fruit of boredom again, their never—
realised, thinnest surface agleaming,
superficially, falsely smiling boredom.
There, the wrinkled, withering lifter,
the old one, who only drums now,
shrunken in his once powerful skin, as though at some earlier time
two men were contained in it, one now
lay in the churchyard, and he was outliving the other,
deaf and sometimes a little
confused, in the widower skin.
But the young one, the man, who might be the son of an oafish
neck and a nun: so tightly, strappingly filled
with muscles and simpleness.
whom a Suffering, still very
young, received as a plaything once, in one of its
long convalescences . . .
You that with the falling
such as fruits only know, unripe and
day by day drop a hundred times down from the tree of
their movement upbuilt, (in a moment, and swifter than water,
has in it spring, summer and autumn)—
fall and rebound on the grave:
sometimes, in half a pause, a glance of love wants to
rise in your face and steal across to your seldom
lovable mother; yet it goes quite lost on your body's
surface, that uses up the timid
scarcely attempted face . . . And again the
man is clapping his hands for the spring, and before a
pain ever grows clearer to you, in the nearness of your ever-
galloping heart, the source of pain, in your burning
footsoles, already outdoes it by swiftly
dashing your eyes with a few mere physical tears. And
despite that, blindly,
your smiling. . . .
Angel! oh take, pluck that small-flowering healing-herb.
Fashion a vase to preserve it! Set it among those joys not yet
open to us; in a lovely urn
praise it in floral, sweeping inscription:
You then, lovely one,
you by all joys most delightful
mutely passed over. Perhaps your
frills are happy for your sake,
or the green and metallic
silk that covers your firm young breasts
feels itself endlessly spoilt and lacks nothing.
different again and again on the quivering scale-pans of balance
downset market-fruit of detachment,
open under the shoulders.
Where, ah where is the place I keep in my heart,
where they were still far from practised, where they still fell
from each other like animals mounting,
awkwardly paired; where
weights were still heavy;
hoops still unbalanced,
on sticks. . .
And suddenly, in this wearisome nowhere, suddenly
the unsayable point, where the pure too-little
incomprehensibly changes, and springs
into that empty too-much.
Where the many-figured addition
comes out to nothing.
Paris, o one of the squares, perpetual show-place,
where the modiste, Madame Lamort,
is twisting and winding the restless ways of the earth, those
endless ribbons, inventing creations of
ever-new bows from them, flowers and frills, cockade, imitation fruit—
all artificially dyed—for the
cheap winter-hats of Destiny.
Should there be, Angel, a square which we know nothing about, and
there, on some unimagined carpet, lovers, that never
here arrive at perfection, could then show their
daring high figures of heart-flight,
their towers of pleasure, their
ladders where ground never was, long since leaning
only on each other, quivering—could do it
for the audience around them, the countless unmurmuring dead:
would they not toss their last coins, their ever preserved ones,
ever concealed, those unknown to us, ever current
coins of their gladness before the at last
truthfully smiling pair on the quietened