Sunday Poem

A translation from the German of X by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1929) from his Sonnets to Orpheus, Part Two. It defeats the point of poetry for me to tell you what I think it’s about, as you may interpret it totally differently, but I will say that what Rilke was writing of the Industrial Revolution still feels relevant to today’s world.


The machine will forever imperil all human creation

while it presumes to direct us rather than serve.

Lost is the hand of the Master, its fine hesitation:

rational buildings nowadays aske to be made of

rigidly accurate cuts of identical stone.

Nowhere that can escape it.In the deserted

factory, self-lubricating, self-serving, alone

it stands, omniscient, alive as the life-force incarnate;

at one resolve it designs, manufactures, destroys.

Our lives retain their enchantments; everywhere still

magical forces appear when we worship and gaze.

Words still continue to tiptoe past the Unsayable.

Music, ever renewed in inviolable Space

builds of precarious stones its celestial house.

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