Sunday, February 1, 2015

Rainer Maria Rilke: "Departure of the Prodigal Son"

To go forth now
from all the entanglement
that is ours and yet not ours,
that, like the water in an old well,
reflects us in fragments, distorts what we are.

From all that clings like burrs and brambles—
to go forth
and see for once, close up, afresh,
what we had ceased to see—
so familiar it had become.
To glimpse how vast and how impersonal
is the suffering that filled your childhood.

Yes, to go forth, hand pulling away from hand.
Go forth to what? To uncertainty,
to a country with no connections to us
and indifferent to the dramas of our life.

What drives you to go forth? Impatience, instinct,
a dark need, the incapacity to understand.

To bow to all this.
To let go—
even if you have to die alone.

Is this the start of a new life?

"Departure of the Prodigal Son" by Rainer Maria Rilke, from A Year with Rilke: Daily Readings from the Best of Rainer Maria Rilke, edited and translated from the original German by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows (HarperOne, 2009). Text presented here by editor permission.

Art credit: "Frayed rope about to break isolated on blue background," image by unknown photographer.

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