The Sonnets To Orpheus: Book 2: Vi
Rose, you majesty-once, to the ancients, you were
by Rainer Maria Rilke
just a calyx with the simplest of rims.
But for us, you are the full, the numberless flower,
the inexhaustible countenance.
In your wealth you seem to be wearing gown upon gown
upon a body of nothing but light;
yet each seperate petal is at the same time the negation
of all clothing and the refusal of it.
Your fragrance has been calling its sweetest names
in our direction, for hundreds of years;
suddenly it hangs in the air like fame.
Even so, we have never known what to call it; we guess...
And memory is filled with it unawares
which we prayed for from hours that belong to us.
Translated by Stephen Mitchell