O trees of life, where’s winter? We are not one. Are not intelligent as flocking birds. Outstripped and late, we hurl ourselves into sudden winds and fall down into apathetic pools. Bloom and wither meet in us. And somewhere still roam lions who understand in their majesty, nothing of impotence. But for us, when we assert one thing wholly, it’s at the other’s palpable expense. Enmity is what follows. Don’t lovers tread always on edges, one into the other, which promise them width, pursuit and home? There for the blink of an eye becoming a sketch, a ground of contrast arduously prepared, to aid perception; only then can we distinguish it. We don’t know the contours of feeling, only what forms it from outside. Who hasn’t sat timidly before his own heart’s curtain? It flings itself up: the scenery is parting. Easy to understand. The familiar garden, slightly swaying: then first of all the dancer. Not him. Enough. And if he acts too lightly he’s just disguised, he turns into a bourgeois going home through the kitchen. I’ll not have these half-filled masks, rather the puppet. That’s full. I’ll endure the skin and the wire and its sight that’s all outlooking. Here. I’m waiting. Even if the footlights go out, even if they say to me: Nothing more - , even if the stage breathes out grey draughts of void, even if none of my silent forebears will sit with me, no woman, not even the boy with the brown-eyed squint. I’ll stay anyway. It’s always a spectacle. Am I not right? You, to whom life with me tasted so bitter, sipping mine, father, that first thickened infusion of my force, always bigger sips as I grew, and busy with its aftertaste of such strange future, tested my covert gaze, - You, father, often since your death my inmost hope is your fear for me, giving up death’s equanimity, empires of equanimity, for my bitten destiny, am I not right? And you, am I not right, that you loved me for that little beginning love for you, which I always drove away, because the space in your countenance overflowed, there as I loved you, to worldspace, and you were no longer there. When it moves me to wait in front of the puppet stage, no, gazing so intensely that as my gaze at last swings up, an angel is forced down as an actor, shredding the skins. Angel and puppet: that’s finally drama. Then what we’re always dividing while we’re here comes together. Then emerges the circle of all mutability out of our first seasons. Then the angel plays over and under us. Look, don’t the dying imagine the whole pretext of everything is what we achieve here? Everything is not itself. O hours of childhood, behind those figures was more than just a past, and before us was not the future. We grew of course, and sometimes we pushed ourselves to grow up quickly, half to please those others who had no more than their bigness. And yet in our solitude we were amused with duration, and stood there in the interstices between world and toy, on a place which from the earliest beginning was founded for a pure process. Who shows a child what he is? Who places him in his constellations and puts in his hand the measure of distance? Who makes the childish death out of grey bread grown hard, or leaves it in his round mouth, like the core of a beautiful apple? . . . Murderers are easy to understand. But this: death, the whole of death, even before life so soft to hold and so unmalignant, is indescribable.
Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Alison Croggon