by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)

translated from the French by James Owens


So the tender prelude of your life has ended here.
The unavowed, absent ones put your heart on display!
They avoid your name like the name of some fear,
instead of calling you after studies to the sunlit day.

They avoid your name that marble proclaims its own,
for the voices of those who remember are weighted
by the event that confers our names to stone,
strayed hands seeking a confession on the forehead.

Thus it is to this, to this music's perfection,
lover and sister, that all in you gave consent.
The earth sings you; we feel its head's elation,
but its mouth is turned from us and distant.


Again, again I go, and I bow
before the slow life of your tomb.
To the periwinkle and the haw,
you surrender this plot's calm.

So much living green covers your stone
between us, this young summer.
And you offer me pale foxglove, where one
must humble oneself to enter.

The avid hornet dives
to find a way into the cavern gleam
of hanging flowers; one must rise
from below to share their dream.

Still far from that future pose,
we others, we living, are too high.
Even the bed lifts us—we dare not lie
as you lie, Friend, in tired repose.

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