Archaic Torso of Apollo

Archaic Torso of Apollo

Rainer Maria Rilke

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.


From Ahead of All Parting: Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Stephen Mitchell and published by Modern Library.


On Standing—Rainer Maria Rilke

Und wir: Zuschauer, immer überall,

Dem allen zugewandt und nie hinaus!

Uns überfüllts. Wir ordnens. Es zerfällt.

Wir ordnens wieder und zerfallen selbst.


And we: spectators, always everywhere,

Turned to the universe and never escaping!

It fills us. We order it. It falls apart.

We order it again and fall apart ourselves.

Rainer Maria Rilke

…from the Duino Elegies