Classic and Contemporary Poetry
BE NOT AFRAID, GOD, by RAINER MARIA RILKE Poet's Biography
First Line: Be not afraid, god. They say: mine
Last Line: And growing sweeter in its solitude.
Be not afraid, God. They say: mine,
of all things that permit it patiently.
They are like wind, that strokes the skyey boughs
and says: my tree.
They hardly see
how all you touch, your hand with glow endows,
so that to grasp the mere extremity
of things with such a burning radiance fringed, is to be singed.
They will say: mine, as one might say,
in speech with peasants, the prince is his friend,
the prince being greatand very far away.
They call their strange walls: mine, nor comprehend
who is their dwelling's lord, whom they gainsay.
They still say: mine,possessive, every one,
though all things close as they draw near to them,
as a dull clown in a paste diadem
claims that he owns the lightnings and the sun.
And thus they say: my life, my property,
my wife, my child, but know with certainty
that all things: wife and child and life and lands
are alien forms, against which, with blind hands,
groping, they knock, where none can penetrate.
Yet those who have this surety are the great
who long for eyes. The rest, incredulous,
will not believe their wandering is thus
a walking in the void, to naught attached,
that, from their putative possessions snatched,
unrecognized by all that they named: ours,
they can own wives no more than they own flowers,
whose life is alien and apart from man.
God, do not fall from your poised, perfect place.
Even he who loves you and who knows your face
in darkness, when he trembles like a light
before your breath,he does not own you quite.
And if at night one holds you, closely pressed,
so that you are his prayer's denizen:
You are the guest
who soon goes on again.
Who can retain you, God? You are your own,
disturbed by no possessor, rash or rude,
like the unripened wine, untouched, unknown,
and growing sweeter in its solitude.
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