September 20, 2011

I shouldn't feel sad, but I do

Rainer Maria Rilke

The sky puts on the darkening blue coat
held for it by a row of ancient trees;
you watch: and the lands grow distant in your sight,
one journeying to heaven, one that falls;

and leave you, not at home in either one,
not quite so still and dark as the darkened houses,
not calling to eternity with the passion
of what becomes a star each night, and rises;

and leave you (inexpressibly to unravel)
your life, with its immensity and fear,
so that, now bounded, now immeasurable,
it is alternately stone in you and star.

It is a slightly terrible thing when everything that one is reading this semester has to do with the falling apart of things, of exposing the cracks between truth/fiction/speech/voice, of emphatically underscoring the fact that even the novel is no longer sacred, even literature is no longer safe. All these little college disappointments, all these little stress lines and upsetting news and unfortunate midterms to study for- what are they in the larger scheme of things? I should not be sad, but I am. I am much like the Schlegel sisters [from Howards End]- how can I claim to know what others feel when I am standing upon a solid rock of relative success and extracurricular security? Yet at the same time I need always to remember that this alone does not make me impregnable, this does not make me in any way superior. Sometimes it is so easy to forget, and be really mean about people I know nothing about. Sometimes it is so easy to think that this is the end goal- this collegiate significance. But it is not.

On a side note, every time I step into my religious poetry class I think of how Rilke's Book of Hours completely captured me when I first read it. How much I regret not squishing it into my luggage somehow so I can have it here with me. How much I need to find a way to read some Rilke poetry in the context of a class.

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