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Three poems of Rilke by Douglas Graebner
April 8, 2009, 12:01 pm
Filed under: literature, poetry

The Panther

His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold
anything else. It seems to him there are
a thousand bars, and behind the bars, no world.

As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
the movement of his powerful soft strides
is like a ritual dance around a center
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.

Only at times, the curtain of the pupils
lifts, quietly. An image enters in,
rushes down through the tense, arrested muscles,
plunges into the heart and is gone.
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Sonnet 17,first part, Sonnets to Orpheus(Trans. M.D Herter Norton)

Underneath the Ancient, entangled

Root of all those

Uprooted, concealed source

They never saw.

Helmet and hunter’s horn

Saying of greybeards

Men in their brother-wrath,

Women like lutes…

Branch crowding on branch,

None of them free…

One! O climb…o climb

But still they break

Yet this top one at last

Bends into a lyre.

Archaic Torso of Apollo(trans. Stephen Mitchell)

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast's fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

apollo_torso

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