The First Elegy

“The problem is not whether the song will continue,

but whether a dark space can be found where the notes can resonate.” — Rilke


excerpts from a poem by Rilke, the accompanying monotypes are my own:

The First Elegy

Who, if I cried, would hear me among the angelic

orders? And even if one of them suddenly

pressed me against his heart, I should fade in the strength of his

stronger existence. For Beauty’s nothing

but the beginning of Terror we’re still just able to bear…

Fling the emptiness out of your arms

to broaden the spaces we breathe—maybe that the birds

will feel the extended air in more fervent flight.


Yes, the Springs had need of you. Many a star

was waiting for you to perceive it. Many a wave

would rise in the past towards you; or else, perhaps,

as you went by an open window, a violin

would be utterly giving itself…


They’ve finally no more need of us, the early-departed…

But we, that have need of

such mighty secrets, we, for whom sorrow’s so often

source of blessedest progress, could we exist without them?


Is the story in vain, how once, in the mourning for Linos,

venturing earliest music pierced barren numbness, and how,

in the startled space an almost deifed youth

suddenly quitted for ever, emptiness first

felt the vibration that now lifts us and comforts and helps?


The complete poem in the translation I used can be found in Letters to a Young Poet/ The Possibility of Being by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by John M. Burnham.

Another translation by A.S. Kline can be found here: The Duino Elegies.

Another Rilke poem, The Seeker, is in my post Monotypes Made by Children.

a wonderful sketch of the poet Rilke by the Russian impressionist,  Leonid Pasternak

a wonderful sketch of the poet Rilke by the Russian impressionist, Leonid Pasternak

More monotypes and art inspired by Rilke: Piano Memories and A Childhood Memory

My own poems are at the bottom of the Creative Writing section.