Friday, September 12, 2008

A Poem

I was skimming through Rainer Maria Rilke's Book of Hours this morning and found myself drawn to the following poem. These verses, which Rilke wrote in 1903, describe with stunning precision the world as I know it today.

The cities only care for what is theirs
and uproot all that's in their path.
They crush the creatures like hollow sticks
and burn up nations like kindling.

Their people serve the culture of the day,
losing all balance and moderation,
calling their aimlessness progress,
driving recklessly where they once drove slow,
and with all that metal and glass
making such a racket.

It's as if they were under a spell:
they can no longer be themselves.
Money keeps growing, takes all their strength,
and empties them like a scouring wind,
while they wait for wine and poisonous passions
to spur them to fruitless occupations.


Steve said...

Wow! What a great find! It's amazing how relevant something written more than 100 years ago can be today. I especially like the line about "losing all balance and moderation" true!

Merle Sneed said...

Wow indeed! I guess that the feeling that progress takes as much as it gives is timeless.

Barbara said...

Some things obviously don't change with time. Steve's post today concerns Paul's teachings about material wealth are several thousand years old.

Barbara said...

Make that "WHICH are several thousand years old."

Reya Mellicker said...

Same as it ever was!

We humans tend to romanticize the "good old days" but my belief is that the way we live, while fancier and with more stuff, isn't that different than the way people have always lived.

GREAT poem, btw. Thanks!


I am such an urban person. I love cities!! Don't tell anyone, especially Mr. Rilke!

Jeff said...

Here is another Rilke poem that complements yours and I think explains somewhat the underlying dynamic of cities as collections of people:

No one lives his life.

Disguised since childhood,
haphazardly assembled
from voices and fears and little pleasures,
we come of age as masks.

Our true face never speaks.

Somewhere there must be storehouses
where all these lives are laid away
like suits of armor or old carriages
or clothes hanging limply on the walls.

Maybe all the paths lead there,
to the repository of unlived things.

willow said...

I love Rilke. And especially the line "they can no longer be themselves".

Popping in via the black box! :^)

Adrianne said...

Willow -- thanks so much for stopping by. I will check out your blog today as well. Sounds from your profile as if we have a great deal in common.