Sonnet to Orpheus

oil on canvas 38" x 76" 1992-3 Private Collection

Sonnet to Orpheus I,i
by Rainer Maria Rilke
( translation: Stephen Mitchell )

A tree ascended there. Oh pure transcendence!
Oh Orpheus sings! Oh tall tree in the ear!
And all things hushed. Yet even in that silence
A new beginning, beckoning, change appeared.

Creatures of stillness crowded from the bright
Unbound forest, out of their lairs and nests;
And it was not from any dullness, not
From fear, that they were so quiet in themselves,

But from simply listening. Bellow, roar, shriek
Seemed small inside their hearts. And where there had been
Just a makeshift hut to receive their music,

A shelter nailed up out of their darkest longing,
With an entryway that shuddered in the wind-
You built a temple deep inside their hearing.