Wine becomes richer, oil becomes clear, in its vessel...







by Rainer Maria Rilke



It would be good to give much thought, before

you try to find words for something so lost,

for those long childhood afternoons you knew

that vanished so completely -and why?


We're still reminded-: sometimes by a rain,

but we can no longer say what it means;

life was never again so filled with meeting,

with reunion and with passing on


as back then, when nothing happened to us

except what happens to things and creatures:

we lived their world as something human,

and became filled to the brim with figures.


And became as lonely as a sheperd

and as overburdened by vast distances,

and summoned and stirred as from far away,

and slowly, like a long new thread,

introduced into that picture-sequence

where now having to go on bewilders us.





Little Tear-Vase




Other vessels hold wine, other vessels hold oil

inside the hollowed-out vault circumscribed by their clay.

I, as smaller measure, and as the slimmest of all,

humbly hollow myself so that just a few tears can fill me.


Wine becomes richer, oil becomes clear, in its vessel.

What happens with tears?-They made me blind in my


made me heavy and made my curve iridescent,

made me brittle, and left me empty at last.



Translated by Stephen Mitchell




Venetian Morning 




Windows pampered like princes always see

what on occasion deigns to trouble us:

the city that, time and again, where a shimmer

of sky strikes a feeling of floodtide,


takes shape without once choosing to be.

Each new morning must first show her the opals

she wore yesterday, and pull rows

of reflections out of the canal

and remind her of the other times:

only then does she concede and settle in


like a nymph who received great Zeus.

The dangling earrings ring out at her ear;

but she lifts San Giorgio Maggiore

and smiles idly into that lovely thing.



Translated by Edward Snow

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