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climbing up to the moon

asleep on a train

Peter Barnes
6 January 1977
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When I walk out of enclosed spaces, like large buildings or subway stations, I struggle to regain my sense of direction. Even in very familiar places, I suddenly feel as though I have no idea where I am or where I am going.

[Fragment of an Elegy]

Now shall I praise the cities, those long-surviving
(I watched them in awe) great constellations of earth.
For only in praising is my heart still mine, so violently
do I know the world. And even my lament
turns into a paean before my disconsolate heart.
Let no one say that I don't love life, the eternal
presence. I pulsate in her; she bears me, she gives me
the spaciousness of this day, the primeval workday
for me to make use of, and over my existence flings
in her magnanimity, nights that have never been.
Her strong hand is above me, and if she should hold me under,
submerged in fate, I would have to learn how to breathe
down there. Even her most lightly entrusted mission
would fill me with songs of her; although I suspect
that all she wants is for me to be vibrant as she is.
Once poets resounded over the battlefield; what voice
can outshout the rattle of this metallic age
that is struggling on toward its careening future?
And indeed it hardly requires the call, its own battle-din
roars into song. So let me stand for a while
in front of the transient: not accusing, but once again
admiring, marveling. And if perhaps something founders
before my eyes and stirs me into lament,
it is not a reproach. Why shouldn't more youthful nations
rush past the graveyard of cultures long ago rotten?
How pitiful it would be if greatness needed the slightest
indulgence. Let him whose soul is no longer startled
and transformed by palaces, by gardens' boldness, by the rising
and falling of ancient fountans, by everything held back
in paintings or by the infinite thereness of statues -
let such a person go out to his daily work, where
greatness is lying in ambush and someday, at some turn,
will leap upon him and force him to fight for his life.

--Rainer Maria Rilke