Saturday, September 4, 2010

"For the Sake of a Single Verse" - Words of Rainer Maria Rilke


Ah! but verses amount to so little when one writes them young.
One ought to wait and gather sense and sweetness a whole life long,
and a long life if possible, and then, quite at the end, one might perhaps
be able to write ten lines that were good. For verses are not, as people imagine, simply feelings (those one has early enough) , - they are experiences. For the sake of a single verse, one must see cities, men
and things, one must know the animals, one must feel how the birds fly
and know the gesture with which the little flowers open in the morning.
One must be able to think back to roads in unknown regions, to
unexpected meetings and to partings one had long seen coming;
to days of childhood that are still unexplained, to parents whom one
had to hurt when they brought one some joy and one did not grasp it
(it was a joy for someone else) : to childhood illnesses that so
strangely begin with such a number of profound and grave transformations, to days in rooms withdrawn and quiet and to mornings by the sea, to the sea itself, to seas, to nights of travel that rushed along on high and flew with all the stars-and it is not yet enough if one may think of all this. One must have memories of many nights of love, none of which was like the others, of the screams of women in labor, and of light, white, sleeping women in childbed, closing again. But one must also have been beside the dying, must have sat beside the dead in a room with the open window and the fitful noises.

And still it is not yet enough to have memories. One must be able to
forget them when they are many and one must have the great patience
to wait until they come again. For it is not yet the memories themselves.
Not till they have turned to blood within us, to glance and gesture,
nameless and no longer to be distinguished from ourselves-not till
then can it happen that in a most rare hour the first word of a verse
arises in their midst and goes forth from them.

- Rainer Maria Rilke, from The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. Translated by M.D Herter Norton. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

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