The first human listeners

… WHEN WILL, when will, when will they let it suffice,
the complaining, explaining? Have we not had masters to splice
human words, compose them? Why all this new endeavour?

Do not, do not, do not books for ever
hammer at people like perpetual bells?
When, between two books, silent sky appears: be glad…
or a patch of plain earth in the evening.

Louder than gale, louder than sea swell, men
have roared and yelled… what preponderance of stillness
must reside in the cosmic spaces, when
the cricket is audible still to yelling mankind.
When stars, the silent, shine for us in the yelled-at heavens!

Oh, if they spoke to us, the remotest, ancient, most ancient forbears!
And we: listeners at last. The first human listeners.

– Rilke (trans. M. Hamburger)

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5 responses to “The first human listeners

  1. ‘The eternal silence of these infinite spaces fills me with dread.’

    – Pascal

  2. ‘The eternal silence of these infinite spaces fills me with dread.’

    – Pascal

  3. Thanks for finding (and sharing) this amazing passage from Rilke… The books and bells part is particularly wonderful… Is it from Turning-point: Miscellaneous Poems 1912-1926?

  4. That’s the one. I was lucky enough to have my copy signed by M. Hamburger at a reading not long before he died.

  5. That’s the one. I was lucky enough to have my copy signed by M. Hamburger at a reading not long before he died.

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