Rainer Maria Rilke, “The Ninth Elegy”

Perhaps we are here in order to say: house, / bridge, fountain, gate, pitcher, fruit-tree, window– / at most: column, tower…. But to say them, you must understand, / oh to say them more intensely than the Things themselves / ever dreamed of existing.

This, from Stephen Mitchell’s translation of Rilke’s Duino Elegies, is a call to that most basic human impulse, more basic even than the desire to tell each other stories: to name our world, to declare it. We are called to point out what we see, hear, smell, taste, touch. We are called to see into things. We are the animal that has the ability to tell, to praise, to write it all down.

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