In 2012 I published my translations of The Sonnets to Orpheus. In this testing time of viral pandemic, many of us have had more time to reflect than in years while others are facing daily the devastation that is being visited upon us. Quoting from my preface to that book, I wrote
“Despite his vision of the inter-relatedness of living things and the healing power of nature, Rilke also had a sense of the abysses of unique experience which separate us and make intimacy so difficult.”
As we slowly come out of the chaos and tragedy which will have harmed so many of us, how will we rise to the challenge of an altered world? What is that challenge? Of course words fail me. This prayer by Rilke seems to me to strike a suitably elegiac note:-
(Sonnet to Orpheus I, 19)
Even the world dissolves like billowing cloud, all things achieved return to their beginnings. Beyond change and clamour, wider and freer, cast your sustaining song, god with a lyre. We find pain hard to bear or learn love's teaching, and death's estrangement is unremitting. Only divine song heals and affirms.