Today’s poem is by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926), a German-Czech poet who did most of his best work around the turn of the twentieth century. If you don’t think you know what good poetry is, see below. In the next few weeks, you’ll get poems from Shakespeare, Whitman, Byron, Blake, Giovanni, and several local poets, but, to be painfully honest, it’s all downhill from here. Poems just don’t get any better than this one.
by Rainer Maria Rilke
This laboring through what is still undone,
as though, legs bound, we hobbled along the way,
is like the awkward walking of the swan.
And dying—to let go, no longer feel
the solid ground we stand on every day—
is like his anxious letting himself fall
into waters, which receive him gently
and which, as though with reverence and joy,
draw back past him in streams on either side;
while, infinitely silent and aware,
in his full majesty and ever more
indifferent, he condescends to glide.
Translated by Stephen Mitchell