Deeply Mysterious and Worthy of Reflection

from Rilke's Book of Hours
from "The Book of Pilgrimage"
Rainer Maria Rilke
Tr. Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

So God, you are the one
who comes after.

It is sons who inherit,
while fathers die.
Sons stand and bloom.

You are the heir.

II, 9

I don't even know where to start with this.  The logic is so alien and yet so right that reading this opens many doors.  In what way, precisely is God the heir?  What is it that he inherits?  How is it that He comes after.  And yet-- "I am the alpha and omega,  the beginning and the end, the first and the last."  So not only is He father, but He is also the last, the one to whom all things must come.

As I said, there is a logic here that makes the poem like a little puzzle box, fascinating, mysterious, and worth the time to think about carefully.


  1. Hmm, lovely. It's almost a reversal of Christian thinking, isn't it? God isn't first. He's not figurehead from which all proceeds. Instead, there are two heirs. Sons who inherits life from fathers, as well as life's attendant blessings and curses, and God, who appears to be identified by Rilke as perpetual youthful blooming, who inherits its attendant glories of father, son, and life ever-changing. Life first, God second. Maybe. K

  2. Dear Kevin,

    A lovely interpretation. I'm not certain how it fits in with the whole corpus--but this is certainly one way of viewing it, and a deeply mysterious way at that. Mystical, perhaps.

    Thank you.




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