Apollo’s Archaic Torso

(after the German of Rainer Maria Rilke)

We have no knowledge of his ancient brow
where pippins ripen. Yet his torso gleams,
reflecting the candela, luminous streams
that yet pour from his gaze, his glance’s glow

still radiant, though dimmed. If not, his bare
breast would not blind you in the silent turn
of hip and thighs, a smile not flash and burn
through groins, his genitals not ever glare.

If not, this stone would seem deformed and small,
the light beneath his shoulder’s sudden fall
not seem a preying panther’s shimmering mane,

not burst beyond the limits of the skies,
starlike, until there is no point or plane

blind to your ways. You must change your life.

by Leo Yankevich

Other poems of YANKEVICH (258)

Comments (4)

To the positive side. Nice work.
Congratulations for having this poem chosen as poem of the day two years in a row on January 5!
The closing sentence of this poem never fails to strike me as a very personal summons. And I am very rarely in the moment when once again the summons comes with such force that it cannot be ignored. But if we step back from the obvious shock value of this sonnet. we can see Rilke's description of this stature is in no way conventional art criticism. Already aroused himself, he wants to arouse our esthetic appreciation allied to our sense of moral purpose. Few modern poems which address former gods has the credibility of what Rilke achieves by means of his precise physical description and then his brilliant metaphors. Whereas most viewers see a damaged fragment, Rilke sees a wholly new object of worship and rescue.
...you must observe, listen and feel the things around you very deeply, beautifully written...