Inspiring inscription from Rilke about words and the essence of language. On the fifteenth of February, 1924, Rainer Maria Rilke inscribed these lines on the copy of The Duino Elegies he gave his Polish translator:
Happy are those who know:
Behind all words, the Unsayable stands;
And from that source alone, the Infinite
Crosses over to gladness, and us—
Free of our bridges,
Built with the stone of distinctions;
So that always, within each delight,
We gaze at what is purely single and joined.
To learn more about Jane Hirshfield, read this wonderful interview: Pirene’s Fountain: Jane Hirshfield on Poetic Craft.
To learn more about the source of words, creation, both literal and literary, and their connection to consciousness, read: The Flow of Consciousness: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on Literature and Language.
Rilke is letting his translator know that he should just work with the spirit of the poem and not get hung up on translating it word for word, but to capture its essence in his own language.
There’s another message here: When we know the Infinite Unsayable Source of words, which is our own essential nature, it creates freedom from distinctions, like divisive judgments, self-imposed and on others, the fear of differences, and transforms us with the more harmonious unifying values of life. This is liberating and fulfilling. We begin to see things as they are, and enjoy their essence, enjoy our Self.
During our practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique, the mind effortlessly goes beyond words, to the source of thought; it transcends. The mind expands to its full dignity; it becomes saturated with bliss consciousness; and the body releases accumulated stresses; it becomes freer, more flexible. After meditation, our outlook is clearer, we’re happier, and naturally focus on the beautiful in everything and everyone. This brings us delight. It increases our capacity to love; we feel more at home in the world. Maharishi reminds us that the world is as we are. The Talmud agrees: “We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are.” (Nine Gates, p. 119)
In closing, here is a multiple-haiku poem I wrote on the creative process, after hearing Maharishi discuss how the Infinite, wanting to know it’s own nature, collapses to a point, and then refers back to itself. This self-referral process continuously goes on within the unmanifest Infinite source—a singularity containing the togetherness of all possibilities. This self-interacting dynamics sequentially creates the primordial sounds of nature’s language, the Veda, which reverberate and manifest into the whole Universe, the unity of all diversities, Nature’s poetry: Coalescing Poetry: Creating a Universe.
See a related poem mentioned in Nine Gates on this topic: Singing Image of Fire, a poem by Kukai, with thoughts on language, translation, and creation. You may also enjoy reading Elizabeth Gilbert—Some Thoughts On Writing, Writers on Writing—What Writing Means To Writers, and one of my first poems, Writing—a poem on the writing process.