Rainer Maria Rilke: Excerpt from “The Book of Pilgrimage”

Poet Lois P. Jones, whose “Milonga for a Blind Man” I reprinted here earlier this month, was inspired by my “Mu!” post to send me this Rilke poem. In the spirit of hermeneutic indeterminacy that we pride ourselves on here at Reiter’s Block, I’m sharing both of the translations that she found. The first, which I like better, is courtesy of The Old Bill blog (I’ve queried him for its source), and the second is from the Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy translation of Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God (Riverhead Books, New York).

from The Book of Pilgrimage
(version one)

All will come into its strength again;
the seas will rage, the field will be undivided,
the trees will tower and the walls will be small,
and in the valleys, nomads and farmers as strong and varied
as the land itself.

No churches to encircle God as though
he were a fugitive, and then bewail him
as if he were a captured, wounded creature.

Houses will welcome all who knock,

a sense of boundless sacrifice will prevail

in all actions, and in you and me.

No more waiting for the Beyond, no longing for it,
no belittling, even of death,
we shall long for what belongs to us,

learn the earth,
serve its ends,
and feel its hands about us like a friend’s.

from The Book of Pilgrimage
(version two)

All will come into its strength;
the fields undivided, the waters undammed,
the trees towering and the walls built low.
And in the valleys, people as strong
and varied as the land.

And no churches where God
is imprisoned and lamented
like a trapped and wounded animal.
The houses welcoming all who knock
a sense of boundless offering
in all relations, and in you and me.

No yearing for an afterlife, no looking beyond,
no belittling of death,
but only longing for what belongs to us,
and serving earth, lest we remain unused.