Die Neunte Elegie; The Ninth Elegy

[This page by Marielle Sutherland]

Sind wir vielleicht hier, um zu sagen: Haus,

Brücke, Brunnen, Tor, Krug, Obstbaum, Fenster, –

höchstens: Säule, Turm . . . aber zu sagen, verstehs,

oh zu sagen so, wie selber die Dinge niemals

innig meinten zu sein.

Preise dem Engel die Welt, nicht die unsägliche, ihm

kannst du nicht großtun mit herrlich Erfühltem; im Weltall,

wo er fühlender fühlt, bist du ein Neuling. Drum zeig

ihm das Einfache, das von Geschlecht zu Geschlechtern gestaltet,

als ein Unsriges lebt, neben der Hand und im Blick.

Sag ihm die Dinge.

Und diese, von Hingang

lebenden Dinge verstehn, daß du sie rühmst; vergänglich,

traun sie ein Rettendes uns, den Vergänglichsten, zu.

Wollen, wir sollen sie ganz im unsichtbarn Herzen verwandeln

in – o unendlich – in uns! Wer wir am Ende auch seien.

[…] Are we perhaps here to say: house,

bridge, fountain, gate, pitcher, fruit tree, window –

at the most: columns, tower … but to say them, you know,

oh to say them in ways the Things themselves could never

inwardly think they could be. […]

Praise this world to the Angel, not the inexpressible:

boasting your grand emotions will not impress him;

in the cosmos, where he feels more feelingly, you are a novice. Show him,

therefore, the simplest thing, crafted across generations,

living as ours, near at hand and in view.

Tell him the Things. […]

[…] And these Things,

living by passing from life, understand that you praise them; transient,

they trust us to save them, us, the most transient of all.

Wish us to wholly transform them in our invisible heart

in – oh endlessly – in us! Whoever, in the end, we may be.



It is through language that we can affirm our existence. We are here, says the poem, to speak, say and praise, and this means to create a language that can endow our world with deep meaning. The Angel is a witness to this language, but notice that the Angel is not lured down towards us, as in the bird-call of The First Elegy, rather we create within ourselves superabundant life if we actively praise and transform into language the meaning and intensity of the physical, earthly world around us. Rilke is asking us to celebrate life from within life and for its own sake, rather than seek to transcend it and invoke some higher, angelic realm outside of ourselves. We are to glorify our own life, work and creations instead of aspiring to some other, higher consciousness.