The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes. MARCEL PROUST

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. WILLIAM BLAKE

Wanderer, there is no way; the way is made by walking. ANTONIO MACHADO

Thursday, 20 February 2014

The Sayable And the Unsayable

 . . . Ah, but what can one carry across
into that other relation? Not the art of seeing,
learned so slowly here, and no event that transpired here. Not one.
The pain, then. Above all, the hard labor of living,
the long experience of love, — all the purely
unsayable things. But later on,
among the stars, what then: there the unsayable reigns.
The traveler doesn't bring from the mountain slope
into the valley some handful of sod, around which all stand mute,
but a word he's gained, a pure word, the yellow and blue
gentian . . .

 . . . What if we're here just for saying: house,
bridge, fountain, gatejug, fruit tree, window, —
at most: column, tower . . . but for saying, understand,
oh for such saying as the things themselves
never hoped so intensely to be. Isn't this the sly purpose
of the taciturn earth, when it urges lovers on:
that in their passion each single thing should find ecstasy?


Here is the time for the sayable, here is its home.
Speak and attest. More than ever
the things we can live with are falling away,
and ousting them, filling their place: a will with no image.
Will beneath crusts which readily crack
whenever the act inside swells and seeks new borders.
Between the hammers our heart
lives on, as the tongue,
even between the teeth, remains
unceasing in praise.

RILKE Duino Elegies: The Ninth Elegy (Translated by EDWARD SNOW)


(For AS Kline's line-by-line commentary on Rilke's Ninth Elegy, please click here.)

2 comments:

George said...

Wow! There is so much here, and I am looking forward to reading the full Kline commentary. For the moment, my mind is locked on those unsayable things, "above all, the hard labor of living, the long experience of love," and I am especially moved by the insight and truth contained in the last lines: "Between the hammers our heart lives on, as the tongue, even between the teeth, remains unceasing in praise."

The Solitary Walker said...

That Kline commentary is quite interesting, George; he's translated and commented line-by-line on each Elegy.

I love Rilke's distinction between the sayable and the unsayable, and how our role on this earth, in this life, is to say, to name, to praise, to celebrate, to internalise things and and make them invisible in order to vouchsafe their continued and eternal existence.