Rainer Maria Rilke on Loneliness and Connection

Thursday, May 23, 2013 - 11:31 am

Rainer Maria Rilke on Loneliness and Connection

 

Now you must go out into your heart
as onto a vast plain. Now
the immense loneliness begins.

~Rilke

This poem by Rainer Maria Rilke follows the course of change though seasons and captures the loneliness of uncertainty in everyday life. Yet there is a sense of connection to the earth and a feeling of humility in the final verse. How would you describe this sense of endurance that might sustain us through the changing seasons and through difficult times?

Onto a Vast Plain
You are not surprised at the force of the storm—
you have seen it growing.
The trees flee. Their flight
sets the boulevards streaming. And you know:
he whom they flee is the one
you move toward. All your senses
sing him, as you stand at the window.

The weeks stood still in summer.
The trees’ blood rose. Now you feel
it wants to sink back
into the source of everything. You thought
you could trust that power
when you plucked the fruit:
now it becomes a riddle again
and you again a stranger.

Summer was like your house: you know
where each thing stood.
Now you must go out into your heart
as onto a vast plain. Now
the immense loneliness begins.

The days go numb, the wind
sucks the world from your senses like withered leaves.

Through the empty branches the sky remains.
It is what you have.
Be earth now, and evensong.
Be the ground lying under that sky.
Be modest now, like a thing
ripened until it is real,
so that he who began it all
can feel you when he reaches for you.


Reprinted from Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows’ translation of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Book of Hours

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was a production assistant at On Being/Speaking of Faith.

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