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Sonnets to Orpheus IV

Updated: Sep 18, 2023



O you tender ones, step now and then into the breath that takes no heed of you; let it part as it touches your cheeks, it will quiver behind you, united again.

O you who are blessed, o you who are whole, you who seem the beginning of hearts. Bows for the arrows and targets of arrows, tear-stained, your smile shines more everlasting.

Fear not the suffering; the heaviness, give it back to the weight of the earth; the mountains are heavy, heavy the oceans.

Even the trees you planted as children long since grew too heavy, you could not sustain them. Ah, but the breezes . . . ah, but the spaces. . .


Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus

Translated by Robert Bly



Another version, translated by Stephen Mitchell O you tender ones, walk now and then into the breath that blows coldly past, Upon your cheeks let it tremble and part; behind you it will tremble together again. O you blessed ones, you who are whole, you who seem the beginning of hearts, bows for the arrows and arrows' targets— tear-bright, your lips more eternally smile. Don't be afraid to suffer; return that heaviness to the earth's own weight; heavy are the mountains, heavy the seas. Even the small trees you planted as children have long since become too heavy; you could not carry them now. But the winds…But the spaces….



Joanna Macy Translation:

You who let yourselves feel: enter the breathing

that is more than your own.

Let it brush your cheeks

as it divides and rejoins behind you.


Blessed ones, whole ones,

you where the heart begins:

You are the bow that shoots the arrows

and you are the target.


Fear not the pain. Let its weight fall back

into the earth;

for heavy are the mountains, heavy the seas.


The trees you planted in childhood have grown

too heavy. You cannot bring them along.

Give yourselves to the air, to what you cannot hold.

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