The Sweet Promise of a Ripening Peril

The purpose in life is to be defeated by greater and greater things.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Sonnets to Orpheus
Part Two, Sonnet XXIX

by Rainer Maria Rilke

Translated by Stephen Mitchell

Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,
what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.
In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.
And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent Earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am

Sonnets to Orpheus
Part Two, Sonnet XXIII

by Rainer Maria Rilke

Translated by Robert Temple

Call me to you when the hour turns away,
The one which always opposes you:
It is as close to you as a dog’s face
But then it wavers, forever eluding you,

Just when you thought it was yours.
All things which are taken from your grasp are most your own.
How free we are. We are shut out from
Just where we expected most to be warmly greeted.

We struggle anxiously for a hand-hold,
We who are perhaps too new for what is truly old,
But too old for that which has never yet been.

We are only correct insofar as we praise,
For we are both blade and branch,
We contain the sweet promise of a ripening peril.

Published by

A Sonnet Obsession

I am a life-long Minnesotan who resides in Minneapolis. I hope you enjoy my curated selection of sonnets, short poems and nerdy ruminations. I am pleased to offer Fourteenlines as an ad and cookie free poetry resource, to allow the poetry to be presented on its own without distractions. Fourteenlines is a testament to the power of the written word, for anyone wanting a little more poetry in their life.

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