I Believe In All That Has Never Yet Been Spoken by Rainer Maria Rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke wrote of all that has never yet been spoken in 1899

This poem was written sometime in late 1899, shortly after Rilke’s first trip to Russia. It is part of the book “The Book of Hours.” The Book of Hours is more commonly called “Rilke’s Book of Hours” to distinguish it from the Christian devotional book of the 16th Century. After writing the group of poems containing this poem, Rilke wrote in his journal “I have begun my life.”

Anita Barrows translated Rilke's poem "I believe in all that has never yet been spoken"Joanna Macy translated Rilke's poem "I believe in all that has never yet been spoken"

Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy are the translators of this rendering. I haven’t heard of either of them until recently. Translating Rilke isn’t the main occupation for either of them, but their three Rilke translation collaborations have been warmly received. I believe they are (or are becoming) to Rilke what Coleman Barks is to Rumi; beloved late 20th-early 21st Century interpreters.

All that has never yet been spoken

Here is the poem in the original German.

I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for

may for once spring clear
without my contriving.

If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.

Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,

streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.

 

Does the title need work? The German version has a title “Alles noch nie Gesagte” (All that has not yet been said). Barrows and Macy took poetic license with the second line, changing “most pious feelings” to “what waits within me.” It wouldn’t hurt my feelings if the title of this poem was “I believe in what waits within me.” But most people know this poem by its first line.

Why am I sharing this poem with you now? Because the bit about “what no one dared to wish for” got me. What is it that no one dared to wish for? A new message from God, that’s what.

A fellow student wrote something yesterday which provides an exclamation point:

“Show me the prayers of humankind and I will show you a New Message from God; show me the fate of a spiritual people and I will show you God’s Prophecy; show me the promise of intelligent life and I will show you God’s blessing; show me purpose, meaning and direction and I will show you a Time of Revelation. Such is upon us. Such is the power of our prayer and of our existence.”

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

2 thoughts on “I Believe In All That Has Never Yet Been Spoken by Rainer Maria Rilke

  1. As a translator, I appreciate the insightful rendering of this poem. It is not the words that are important, in my humble opinion, but the message behind them, and I think these two women have done something incredible. My German is very rusty these days, but as I feel it, the translators have taken the inner essence of Rilke’s words and rendered them in crystal clear images that flow in a bright and lucid stream and speak straight to the soul. Rilke may even say, “that is not what I meant,” but I think he will appreciate how his words and thoughts have been taken and shone through with perfect meaning.

  2. As there are as yet no comments, I feel that Rainer Maria Rilke may have become less read and taught than Shakspeare. Too bad, for as great a writer as Shakespeare is/was, Rilke has a message of sublime importance that any living, caring person/student should be made aware of. Who can deny that the soul of man or woman is perhaps the most significant mystery of all?

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