This, Our Hour

Henri Fantin-Latour (1836 – 1904)

Rose enthroned, known to antiquity,
as a ringed calyx of small complexity;
to us you are the fulsome infinity
of bloom, the inexhaustible entity.

You appear as garment upon rich garment
clothing a body of nothing but light;
yet your single leaf is both estrangement
and renunciation of such an insight.

Across the centuries your sweetest names
have drifted down to us like soft perfume.
Suddenly it hangs in the air like fame.
Even so, we don’t know what to call it, we infer. . .

And, reaching toward it, memory subsumes
all which we have pleaded for in this, our hour.


from the Sonnets to Orpheus,

by Rainer Maria Rilke (tr. Cliff Crego)

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