Poetry Review: “A Walk” by Ranier Maria Rilke

On another snowy Minnesota morning, this poem by Rilke comes to mind as we “walk” into another new year. In my early 20s, Rilke was a favorite poet. In the many moves I made in those days, I lost a number of those dog-eared volumes. I still do have two of his books: Selected Poems of Ranier Maria Rilke translated by Robert Bly and Letters to a Young Poet. The latter especially shows the effects of time and usage.

In my early 20s, I lived in Chicago and Michigan, two places greatly influenced by German immigrants. It was the perfect time and place to read Rilke, like it was to read Kafka and Mann and Hesse.

Metaphor is important in Rilke’s poems. Some re-occur often so as you read his poetry those metaphors gradually take on weight and freight. Rilke is not a Symbolist but he is sometimes something very near to that.

Rilke has been translated by both Robert Bly and Galway Kinnell among others. I have read a few of Kinnell’s translations and like them very much. I am more familiar, though, with Bly’s. Bly is the translator of this one.

I like the image in this poem of walking toward a sunny hill with the wind on our faces. Enjoy!

A Walk

My eyes already touch the sunny hill.
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has inner light, even from a distance-

and charges us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it,
we already are; a gesture waves us on
answering our own wave…
but what we feel is the wind in our faces.

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