Falling Stars

While in our hearts we felt safe and secure...


Rainer Maria Rilke






The sky puts on the darkening blue coat

held for it by a row of ancient trees;

you watch: and the lands grow distant in your sight,

one journeying to heaven, one that falls;


and leave you, not at home in either one,

not quite so still and dark as the darkened houses,

not calling to eternity with the passion of what becomes

    a star each night, and rises;


and leave you (inexpressibly to unravel)

your life, with its immensity and fear,

so that, now bounded, now immeasurable,

it is alternately stone in you and star.


Translated by Stephen Mitchell






Only mouths are we. Who sings the distant heart

which safely exists in the center of all things?

His giant heartbeat is diverted in us

into little pulses. And his giant grief

is, like his giant jubilation, far too

great for us. And so we tear ourselves away

from him time after time, remaining only

mouths. But unexpectedly and secretly

the giant heartbeat enters our being,

so that we scream ——,

and are transformed in being and in countenance.



Translated by Albert Ernest Flemming





Falling Stars




Do you remember still the falling stars

that like swift horses through the heavens raced

and suddenly leaped across the hurdles

of our wishes—do you recall? And we

did make so many! For there were countless numbers

of stars: each time we looked above we were

astounded by the swiftness of their daring play,

while in our hearts we felt safe and secure

watching these brilliant bodies disintegrate,

knowing somehow we had survived their fall.



Translated by Albert Ernest Flemming

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