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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Number 285: Ranier Maria Rilke "Moving Forward"

Moving Forward

The deep parts of my life pour onward,
as if the river shores were opening out.
It seems that things are more like me now,
that I can see farther into paintings.
I feel closer to what language can't reach.
With my sense, as with birds, I climb
into the windy heaven, out of the oak,
and in the ponds broken off from the sky
my feeling sinks, as if standing on fishes.

--Rainer Maria Rilke
(Translated by Robert Bly)

Hap Notes: I don't know that Rilke is specifically writing about aging in this poem, although he is certainly talking about the maturation and inspiration of perception. Rilke's poetry is so moving because of his economy of thought; he gives us a few word pictures, a few clues, and then lets us float around in the words and find our own startling revelations.

There are many profound sides to this poem. Let me select my favorite: " I feel closer to what language can't reach." The historian Heinrich Zimmer said "The best truths cannot be spoken and the second best will be misunderstood." (To which Joseph Campbell added "The third best is the usual conversation.") It's a staggering and awe-filled observation that language cannot reach many of the most important things we think and feel.

Here's a little more fuel for your thinking fires as they smolder. Rilke said in the last (tenth) of the "Duino Elegies"– "And we, who have always thought/ of happiness as rising, would feel/ the emotion that almost overwhelms us / whenever a happy thing falls."

Here's a bit more: Rilke writes, "we are incessantly flowing over and over to those who preceded us and to those who apparently come after us … Transience everywhere plunges into a deep being."

Here is where we have talked about Rilke before:

and here:

Today's masthead features several of Cy Twombly's panels from “Untitled (A Painting in Nine Parts)." On the panel labeled Part 1 are Rilke's words from todays poem. I think the other two panels pictured (V and VI) are a perfect illustration of the poem (for me anyway, but all the panels are exquisite in their speechless perfection of feeling.) If you've a hankering to see the works of "second wave" abstract expressionist Twombly, you owe yourself a trip to Houston, Texas, to the Menil Collection Cy Twombly Gallery where his artwork gets the proper light and setting to astound. You can see the gallery and some of the works here: (Twombly passed away in July of this year- there will never be another like him.)

1 comment:

  1. Hi! I love this poem and found it through the Twombly paintings in Houston. The poem and paintings mean a lot to me personally. I have never found a Rilke collection with Moving Forward included in it. Do you know of a collection that I could buy to own Moving Forward in print? I don't know why it matters to me, I am just desperate to own a book with Moving Forward in it. Please help if you can!