This week’s poem invites an unfolding, a self-reflection, an examination of the “I” in relation to self and the world. I particularly love the second stanza, when the speaker wants to “unfold” and stand in truth, to know self like a well-studied painting, a well-analyzed saying, a well-used pitcher, a well-loved face, and finally “like a ship/ that took me safely/ through the wildest storm of all.”
The poet, Rainier Maria Rilke, born in Prague in 1875, led a life mostly devoted to the art of writing, although he struggled financially, personally, and artistically. The French sculptor, Rodin, mentored Rilke for awhile and told him “You must change your life” (in order to fully pursue your art), and Rilke did.
I Am Too Alone in the World, and Not Alone Enough
by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Robert Bly
I am too alone in the world, and not alone enough
to make every minute holy.
I am too tiny in this world, and not tiny enough
just to lie before you like a thing,
shrewd and secretive.
I want my own will, and I want simply to be with my will,
as it goes toward action,
and in the silent, sometimes hardly moving times
when something is coming near,
I want to be with those who know secret things
or else alone.
I want to be a mirror for your whole body,
and I never want to be blind, or to be too old
to hold up your heavy and swaying picture.
I want to unfold.
I don’t want to stay folded anywhere,
because where I am folded, there I am a lie.
And I want my grasp of things
true before you. I want to describe myself
like a painting that I looked at
closely for a long time,
like a saying that I finally understood,
like the pitcher I use every day,
like the face of my mother,
like a ship
that took me safely
through the wildest storm of all.
If you’d like to read more by and about Rilke, you might enjoy the following:
- Selected Poems of Rainier Maria Rilke translated by Robert Bly
- Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
- You Must Change Your Life: the Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin by Rachel Corbett
This week’s featured photo is one I took of the foxgloves “unfolding” in our yard this week. Enjoy!