Rainer Marie Rilke’s Poem

This poem from Rainer Maria Rilke’s Poems of The Book of Hours speaks to my heart and soul this morning. It begins:

“Do not be troubled God, when they say “mine”
of all things that permit it patiently.
They are like wind that lightly strokes the boughs
and says: MY tree.

They hardly see
how all things glow that their hands seize upon,
so that they cannot touch
even the utmost fringe and not be singed.

They will say “mine” as one will sometimes call
the prince his friend in speech with villagers,
this prince being very great -and far away.
They call strange walls “mine,”knowing not at all
who is the master of the house indeed.
They still say “mine,”and claim possession, though
each thing, as they approach, withdraws and closes;
a silly charlatan perhaps thus poses;
as owner of the lightning and the sun.
And so they say: my life, my wife, my child,
my dog, well knowing all that they have styled
their own:life, wife,child,dog, remain
shapes foreign and unknown,
that blindly groping they must stumble on.
This truth, be sure, only the great discern,
who long for eyes. The others WILL not learn
that in the beggary of their wandering
they will not claim a bond with any thing,
but driven from possessions they have prized,
not by their own belongings recognized,
they can OWN wives no more than they own flowers,
whose life is alien and apart from ours.

God, do not lose your equilibrium.
Even he who loves you and discerns your face
in darkness, when he trembles like a light
you breathe upon,- he cannot own you quite.
And if at night one holds you closely pressed,
locked in his prayer so you cannot stray,
you are the guest
who comes, but not to stay.

God, who can hold you? To yourself alone
belonging, by no owner’s hand disturbed,
you are like unripened wine that unperturbed
grows ever sweeter and is all its own.”

(Rainer Marie Rilke, Poem from the Book of Hours)


I like this poem addressing the God who is intensely aware….. of the military coup in Thailand, violence poverty, prostitution, fear and want and as I wander into the local Safeway and out, even the latest hearbreaks, broken marriages and diseases of the Hollywood stars.

They say that prayer moves the hand of God. I pray then that it does, across our eyes, and that we, like the poet, might also learn to see.


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