Two Poems by Rainer Maria Rilke


Archaic Torso of Apollo

We cannot fathom his mysterious head,
Through the veiled eyes no flickering ray is sent:
But from his torso gleaming light is shed
As from a candelabrum; inward bent
His glance there glows and lingers. Otherwise
The round breast would not blind you with its grace,
Nor could the soft-curved circle of the thighs
Steal to the arc whence issues a new race.
Nor could this stark and stunted stone display
Vibrance beneath the shoulders heavy bar,
Nor shine like fur upon a beast of prey,
Nor break forth from its lines like a great star—
There is no spot that does not bind you fast
And transport you back, back to a far past.

The Poet

You Hour! From me you ever take your flight,
Your swift wings wound me as they whir along;
Without you void would be my day and night,
Without you I’ll not capture my great song.

I have no earthly spot where I can live,
I have no love, I have no household fane,
And all the things to which myself I give
Impoverish me with richness they attain.

Poems first published in New Poems, by Rainer Maria Rilke, 1907. Translated by Jesse Lamont.

Selected for Berfrois by Daniel Bosch.

About the Author:

Rainer Maria Rilke (4 December 1875 – 29 December 1926) was a Bohemian-Austrian poet.