“Let This Darkness Be a Bell Tower” by Rainer Maria Rilke

Quiet friend who has come so far,

feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.


“Let This Darkness Be a Bell Tower” by Rainer Maria Rilke from Sonnets to Orpheus II, 29. Translation by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows. Source: On Being “A Wild Love for the World”

6 thoughts on ““Let This Darkness Be a Bell Tower” by Rainer Maria Rilke

  1. alisonmcghee

    I love your site so much. I’ve been sending out a Poem of the Week for many years now, and it’s uncanny how so many of my own favorite poems are also your favorite poems. Thanks for your beautiful work.

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  2. This is beautiful, a perfect poem for these challenging days! Thank you for sharing it, and the links. On Being mentions that Joanna Macy’s translation of Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, together with Anita Barrows, is upcoming in 2020.

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  3. This poem reminds me of one by Billy Collins called Japan. Lighter in tone, it’s about a favorite haiku that describes a moth on a one-ton temple bell. He wrote each of the 12 stanzas to look like 3-line haiku. The imagery in the last half of the poem unravels in the most mind-bending ways as he interchanges perspectives! I posted both his poem and a two-haiku response on my blog. https://theuncarvedblog.com/2019/01/03/my-haiku-response-to-billy-collins-poem-japan/

    Liked by 1 person

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