Rilke: You Must Change Your Life

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Archaic Torso of Apollo

Rainer Maria Rilke

(translated by Stephen Mitchell)

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

Rilke: Every Angel is Terrifying

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Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels’
Orders? and even if one of them
pressed me against his heart: I would be consumed
in that overwhelming existence. For beauty is nothing
but the beginning of terror, which we still are just able to endure,
and we are so awed because it serenely disdains
to annihilate us.
Every angel is terrifying.

Rainer Maria Rilke , The Duino Elegies (“The First Elegy”), 1923.