Part Four Chapter 6

She swings around from the waist. Her mouth forms a word but her breath won’t come. Lowering the rifle a touch, the marksman tightens his finger on the trigger: Firing pin strikes percussion cap, powder ignites as primer explodes. Be a resonant glass that shatters while it is ringing. The deflagration gases expel the bullet, sealing the cartridge case against the chamber wall. In the bore of the barrel the spiral grooves impart a spin to the projectile; out of the muzzle the bullet sizzles through the air. Be a resonant glass that shatters while it is ringing. In its copper jacket the lead slug continues its flight. Be a resonant glass that shatters while it is ringing. Scorching the skin, the bullet perforates the flesh and enters the body through the right shoulder. Tearing through the tissues, it passes through the scapula. Be a resonant glass that shatters while it is ringing. Above the clavicle it passes, through the apex of the right lung, perforating the pulmonary artery and penetrating the pericardium—deep in the heart it comes to rest. Before the blood spills inside it, the shocked body has already surrendered: Your father’s mother is dead.

Giovanni Battista Cima de Conegliano (1459-1517), Orpheus

Château de Muzot (Canton du Valais, Switzerland), where Rilke wrote Sonnets to Orpheus

On Rilke’s writing of the Sonnets:  Fondation Rilke

Sonnets to Orpheus, Part II No 13
Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by C.F. MacIntyre

Keep ahead of all parting, as if it were behind
you, like the winter that is just now passed.
In winters you are so endlessly winter, you find
that, getting through winter, your heart on the whole will last.

Be ever dead in Eurydice—arise singing
with greater praise, rise again to the pure relation.
Among the fleeting, in the realm of declination,
be a resonant glass that shatters while it is ringing.

Be—at the same time, know the terms of negation,
the infinite basis of your fervent vibration,
that you may completely complete it this one time.

To teeming nature’s store of used, as of dumb
and moldy things, to that uncountable count,
add yourself joyously, and annul the amount.


Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus, trans. C.F. MacIntyre (University of California Press, 1960)