This week’s Featured Poem comes from Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke, regarded as one of the German’s language’s greatest poets of the 20th century. Rilke’s work has been termed ‘deeply mystical’, influencing readers to aim towards a more peaceful and less anxious life, and The Duino Elegies, from which this extract is taken, is considered to be a significant influence on poets such as Robert Bly, W.S. Merwin and John Ashbery, as well as philosophers.
This poem was recently read by our Operational Management Group in one of their fortnightly meetings: perhaps it will provide some deep thought and inspiration for your Monday morning?
From The Duino Elegies (7th Elegy)
Being here is the wonder. You knew it, girls, even you,
you who seemed dispensable, sunken – you, in the worst
streets of the cities, festering, or open
for refuse. Since an hour was given – perhaps not
so much as an hour, one that was scarcely
measurable by time’s measure, between two moments, where you
had a being. Everything. Veins filled with being.
But we forget so easily what our laughing neighbour
neither acknowledges nor envies. We want to visibly
show it, while even the most visible of joys
can only display itself to us when we have changed it, from within.
Nowhere, beloved, will world be, but within. Our
life passes in change. And ever-shrinking
the outer diminishes. Where there was once a permanent house,
some conceptual structure springs up, athwart us, as fully
at home among concepts, as if it still stood in the brain.
Vast reservoirs of power are created by the spirit of the age,
formless, like the tense yearning gained from all things.
Temples are no longer known. Those extravagances
of the heart we keep, more secretly. Yes, where even one survives,
a single thing once prayed to, served, knelt before –
it stands, as it is, already there in the invisible.
Many no longer see it, but lose the chance to build it
inside themselves now, with columns, and statues, grander!
Rainer Maria Rilke