Quotes By Duino Elegies

“For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror
which we are barely able to endure, and it amazes us so,
because it serenely disdains to destroy us.
Every angel is terrible.”

“Look, I am living. On what? Neither
childhood nor future
lessens . . . . Superabundant existence
wells in my heart.”

“A kind of memory that tells us
that what we're now striving for was
nearer and truer and attached to us
with infinite tenderness. Here all is
there it was breath. After the first
the second one seems draughty and
strangely sexed.”

“weren’t you always
distracted by expectation, as if every event
announced a beloved? (Where can you find a place
to keep her, with all the huge strange thoughts inside you
going and coming and often staying all night.)…”

“How I will cherish you then,
you grief-torn nights!
Had I only received you,
inconsolable sisters,
on more abject knees, only
buried myself with more
in your loosened hair. How we waste
our afflictions!
We study them, stare out beyond them
into bleak continuance,
hoping to glimpse some end. Whereas
they're really
our wintering foliage, our dark greens
of meaning, one
of the seasons of the clandestine
year -- ; not only
a season --: they're site, settlement,
shelter, soil, abode.”

“Isn’t it time that these most ancient sorrows of ours
grew fruitful? Time that we tenderly loosed ourselves
from the loved one, and, unsteadily, survived:
the way the arrow, suddenly all vector, survives the string
to be more than itself. For abiding is nowhere.”

“And we, spectators always, everywhere,
looking at, never out of, everything!
It fills us. We arrange it. It collapses.
We re-arrange it, and collapse ourselves.

Who's turned us round like this, so that we always,
do what we may, retain the attitude
of someone who's departing? Just as he,
on the last hill, that shows him all his valley
for the last time, will turn and stop and linger,
we live our lives, for ever taking leave.”

“But suppose the endlessly dead were to
wake in us some emblem:
they might point to the catkins hanging
from the empty hazel trees, or direct
us to the rain
descending on black earth in early
spring. ---

And we, who always think of happiness
rising, would feel the emotion
that almost baffles us
when a happy thing falls.”

“But not you, O girl, nor yet his
stretched his eyebrows so fierce with
Not for your mouth, you who hold him
did his lips ripen into these fervent
Do you really think your quiet
could have so convulsed him, you who
move like dawn wind?
True, you startled his heart; but older
rushed into him with that first jolt
to his emotions.
Call him . . . you'll never quite
retrieve him from those dark consorts.
Yes, he wants to, he escapes; relieved,
he makes a home
in your familiar heart, takes root
there and begins himself anew.
But did he ever begin himself?”

“Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels'
hierarchies? and even if one of them
pressed me against his heart: I would be consumed
in that overwhelming existence. For beauty is nothing
but the beginning of terror, which we still are just able to endure,
and we are so awed because it serenely disdains
to annihilate us. Every angel is terrifying.”

“And these things
that keep alive on departure know that
you praise them; transient,
they look to us, the most transient,
to be their rescue.
They want us to change them completely,
in our invisible hearts,
into -- O endlessly -- us! Whoever,
finally, we may be.”

“We only pass everything by
like a transposition of air.”

“O trees of life, O when are you wintering?
We are not unified. We have no instincts
like those of migratory birds. Useless, and late,
we force ourselves, suddenly, onto the wind,
and fall down to an indifferent lake.
We realise flowering and fading together.
And somewhere lions still roam. Never knowing,
as long as they have their splendour, of any weakness.”

“For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror.”

“Here is the time for the sayable, here
is its home.
Speak and attest. More than ever
the things we can live with are falling
and ousting them, filling their place,
a will with no image.
Will beneath crusts which readily crack
whenever the act inside swells and
seeks new borders.”

“Isn’t it time that, loving, we freed ourselves
from the beloved, and, trembling, endured:
as the arrow endures the bow, so as to be,
in its flight, something more than itself?”

“Once for each thing. Just once; no more. And we too,
just once. And never again. But to have been
this once, completely, even if only once:
to have been at one with the earth, seems beyond undoing.”

“And so I check myself and swallow the luring call
of dark sobs. Alas, whom can we turn to
in our need? Not angels, not humans,
and the sly animals see at once
how little at home we are
in the interpreted world. That leaves us
some tree on a hillside, on which our eyes fasten
day after day; leaves us yesterday’s street
and the coddled loyalty of an old habit
that liked it here, stayed on, and never left.”

“Once for each thing. Just once; no more. And we too,
just once. And never again. But to have been
this once, completely, even if only once:
to have been at one with the earth, seems beyond undoing.”

“It’s true enough, of course, no longer to live on earth is strange, to abandon customs barely mastered yet, not to interpret roses and other auspicious things, not give them meaning in a human future. No longer to be as we have always been, in those endlessly anxious hands – to leave even our name behind us as a child leaves off playing with a broken toy. Strange, no longer to know desires desired – strange to witness the involvement of all things lost suddenly, each drifting away singly into space. And truly, to be dead is hard, so full of making up lost ground, till little by little we find a trace of eternity. Yet, the living are wrong to draw such distinctions so clearly: angels (it is said) are often never quite sure whether they pass among the living or the dead,”

“O smile, going where? O upturned look:
new, warm, receding surge of the heart--;
alas, we are that surge. Does then the
cosmic space
we dissolve in taste of us? Do the
reclaim only what is theirs, their own
outstreamed existence,
or sometimes, by accident, does a bit
of us
get mixed in? Are we blended in their
like the slight vagueness that
complicates the looks
of pregnant women? Unnoticed by them
in their
whirling back into themselves? (How
could they notice?)”

“How we squander our sorrows, gazing beyond them
into the sad wastes of duration,
to see if maybe they have a limit.”

“Lovers, if Angels could understand them, might utter
strange things in the midnight air. For it seems that everything's
trying to hide us. Look, the trees exist; the houses
we live in still stand where they were. We only
pass everything by like a transposition of air.
And all combines to suppress us, partly as shame,
perhaps, and partly as inexpressible hope.”

“Isn't it time that, in love, we freed ourselves
from the loved one and, trembling, endured:
as the arrow endures the string, collecting itself
to be more than itself as it shoots?”

“Who shows a child, just as they are? Who sets it
in its constellation, and gives the measure
of distance into its hand? Who makes a child’s death
out of grey bread, that hardens, - or leaves it
inside its round mouth like the core
of a shining apple? Killers are
easy to grasp. But this: death,
the whole of death, before life,
to hold it so softly, and not live in anger,
cannot be expressed.”

“In the end, those who were carried off early no longer need us: they are weaned from earth's sorrows and joys, as gently as children outgrow the soft breasts of their mothers. But we, who do need such great mysteries, we for whom grief is so often the source of our spirit's growth––: could we exist without them? Is the legend meaningless that tells how, in the lament for Linus, the daring first notes of song pierced through the barren numbness; and then in the startled space which a youth as lovely as a god had suddenly left forever, the Void felt for the first time that harmony which now enraptures and comforts and helps us.”

“Und wir: Zuschauer, immer, überall,
dem allen zugewandt und nie hinaus!
Uns überfüllts. Wir ordnens. Es zerfällt.
Wir ordnens wieder und zerfallen selbst.”