Not wooing, no longer shall wooing, voice that has outgrown it,
be the nature of your cry, but instead, you would cry out as purely as a bird
when the quickly ascending season lifts him up, nearly forgetting
that he is a suffering creature and not just a single heart
being flung into brightness, into the intimate skies. Just like him
you would be wooing, not any less purely—, so that, still
unseen, she would sense you, the silent lover in whom a reply
slowly awakens and, as she hears you, grows warm,—
the ardent companion to your own most daring emotion.
Oh and springtime would hold it—, everywhere it would echo
the song of annunciation. First the-small
questioning notes intensified all around
by the sheltering silence of a pure, affirmative day.
Then up the stairs, up the stairway of calls, to the dreamed-of
temple of the future—; and then the trill, like a fountain
which, in its rising jet, already anticipates its fall
in a game of promises. . . . And still ahead: summer.
Not only all the dawns o£ summer—, not only
how they change themselves into day and shine with beginning.
Not only thee days, so tender around flowers and, above
around the patterned treetops, so strong, so intense.
Not only the reverence of all these unfolded powers,
not only the pathways, not only the meadows at sunset,
not only, after a late storm, the deep-breathing freshness,
not only approaching sleep, and a premonition . . .
but also the nights! But also the lofty summer
nights, and the stars as well, the stars of the earth.
Oh to be dead at least and know them endlessly,
all the stars: for how, how could we ever forget them!
Look, I was calling for my love. But not just she
would come . . . Out of their fragile graves
girls would arise and gather . . . For how could I limits
the call, once I called it? These unripe spirits keep seeking
the earth.—Children, one earthly Thing
truly experienced , even once, is enough for a lifetime.
Don't think that fate is more than the density of childhood;
how often you outdistanced the man you loved, breathing, breathing
after the blissful chase, and passed on into freedom.
Truly being here is glorious. Even you knew it,
you girls who seemed to be lost, to go under - in the filthiest
streets of the city, festering there, or wide open
for garbage. For each of you had an hour, or perhaps
not even an hour, a barely measurable time
between two moments—, when you were granted a sense
of being. Everything. Your veins flowed with being.
But we can so easily forget what our laughing neighbor
neither confirms nor envies. We want to display it,
to make it visible. We want to display it,
to make it visible, though even the most visible
happiness can't reveal itself to us until we transform it, within.
Nowhere, Beloved, will world be but within us. Our life
passes in transformation. And the external
shrinks into less and less. Where once an enduring house was,
now a cerebral structure crosses our path, completely
belonging to the realm of concepts, as though it still stood in the brain.
Our age has built itself vast reservoirs of power,
formless as the straining energy that it wrests from the earth.
Temples are no longer known. It is we who secretly save up
these extravagances of the heart. Where one of them still survives,
a Thing that was formerly prayed to, worshipped, knelt before—
just as it is, it passes into the invisible world.
Many no longer perceive it, yet miss the chance
to build it inside themselves now, with pillars and statues: greater.
Each torpid turn of the world has such disinherited ones,
to whom neither the past belongs, nor yet what has nearly arrived.
For even the nearest moment is far from mankind. Though we
should not be confused by this, but strengthened in our task of preserving
the still-recognizable form.— This once stood among mankind,
in the midst of Fate the annihilator, in the midst
of Not-Knowing-Whither, it stood as if enduring, and bent
stars down to it from their safeguarded heavens. Angel,
to you I will show it, there! in your endless vision
it shall stand, now finally upright, rescued at last.
Pillars, pylons, the Sphinx, the striving thrust
of the cathedral, gray, from a fading or alien city.
Wasn't all this a miracle? Be astonished, Angel, for we
are this, O Great One; proclaim that we could achieve this, my breath
is too short for such praise. So. after all, we have not
failed to make use of these generous spaces, these
spaces of ours.. (How frighteningly great they must be,
since thousands of years have not made them overflow with our feelings.)
But a tower was great, wasn't it? Oh Angel, it was—
even when placed beside you? Chartres was great—, and music
reached still higher and passed far beyond us. But even
a woman in love—, oh alone at night by her window. . . .
didn't she reach your knee—?
Don't think that I'm wooing.
Angel, and even if I were, you would not come. For my call
is always filled with departure; against such a powerful
current you cannot move. Like an outstretched arm
is my call. And its hand, held open and reaching up
to seize, remains in front of you, open
as if in defense and warning,
Ungraspable One, far above.
(Translation by Stephen Mitchell)