‘Outwintering winter’

In many countries a second lockdown in the middle of winter signals the severest challenge yet faced. In the UK the nurses and doctors in the NHS, already weary after a difficult year struggling against Covid 19, know that the rising number of admissions to hospital have not yet reached their peak. Our hopes that the vaccine will turn the tide could not be more fervent. In the coldest days of winter we think of death and re-birth. Here are two pieces by Rilke, the first four lines of Sonnet to Orpheus II, 13, and the third and final part of his poem O Lachrimosa.

Be ahead of all leaving as though it were behind you 
like the winter which is now relenting. 
For among winters there is one, which is so endless,
that only by outwintering it does the heart survive.

                -------   ///   -------

But the winters! Those secret
meditations of the earth. Near the dead,
in the pure withdrawal of sap
courage gathers itself,
the courage of future becoming.
Where earth-thought is sprung
beneath the chill, where the sequestered greenness 
of those great summers 
leans once more into the new 
wave and into the mirror of future feeling;
and where the colour of flowers
shakes off the old enchantment in our eyes.

Published by davidcookpoet

I am a husband, father and grandfather. I retired from a busy working life as an adult psychiatrist in 2014. My interests are in literature, philosophy, modern jazz and horse racing. I might represent those four fields by Shakespeare, Kant, Charlie Parker and Lester Piggott. Like nearly all of us, I can identify a number of formative experiences, one of which was a psychotic episode in my first year as a psychiatrist. This reinforced an already established interest in mystical experience, and a sense of how little human beings know. My intellectual bugbear is reductive materialism, and I am surprised at the lack of moral imagination of those who promulgate such views. It seems to me they need to consider ,perhaps by exposure, just why totalitarianism is so horrific.

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