Friday, December 16, 2011

Duino Elegies

  • But listen to the voice of the wind and the ceaseless message that forms itself out of silence.
  • It is murmuring toward you now from those who died young.
  • Didn’t their fate, whenever you stepped into a church in Naples or Rome,
  • quietly come to address you?
  • Or high up, some eulogy entrusted you with a mission,
  • as, last year, on the plaque in Santa Maria Formosa.
  • What they want of me is that I gently remove the appearance of injustice about their death—
  • which at times slightly hinders their souls from proceeding onward.
  • Of course, it is strange to inhabit the earth no longer,
  • to give up customs one barely had time to learn,
  • not to see roses and other promising Things in terms of a human future;
  • no longer to be what one was in infinitely anxious hands;
  • to leave even one’s own first name behind,
  • forgetting it as easily as a child abandons a broken toy.
  • Strange to no longer desire one’s desires.
  • Strange to see meanings that clung together once, floating away in every direction.
  • And being dead is hard work and full of retrieval before one can gradually feel a trace of eternity.
  • Though the living are wrong to believe in the too-sharp distinctions which
  • they themselves have created.
  • Angels (they say) don’t know whether it is the living they are moving among, or the dead.


  1. strange; i find this comforting. is it supposed to be comforting?
    --sometimes i'm a bit dense with poetry. the floaty feeling of it, and the sense that we ...among the living...can loosen the tie that binds them, give slack to the kite string. (am i making this up? i'm too much in it this week i think...)

    lovely though, no matter...

  2. me? I'm certainly no poetry buff myself! it's one of the only bits I kinda understand in the elegies.. I think so yes ..what you said.. it is lovely isn't it? I know those weeks Susan xoxo

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  4. I'm sorry for your loss.

    Total loss is something we can try to shape, but we know in our bones it's a never-ending process.

    Don't think I will forget a line that articulates this so precisely as "And being dead is hard work" does.

    The Duinos seem to come from another place altogether than most of the poetry written in that century.

    Spiritually incandescent, humbling, calming. Like ocean waves.

    Who talks over ocean waves?

  5. William, thanks for this. Yes it is a never-ending process, comes in waves, hit's you out of the blue like a huge wave and floors you. Go with I'm told until it's had it's way with you. Not easy to do every time.. but sometimes. I'm glad to make your acquaintance via DC.. you've made my morning..

  6. And death shall have no dominion.
    No more may gulls cry at their ears
    Or waves break loud on the seashores;
    Where blew a flower may a flower no more
    Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
    Though they be mad and dead as nails,
    Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
    Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
    And death shall have no dominion.

    Dylan Thomas

    hope you have a happy christmas!!