The Poets

March 26, 2010

On Our Having Lived- Rilke

Everyone once, once only. Just once and no more.
And we also once, Never again. But this having been
once, although only once, to have been of the earth,
seems irrevocable.

-Rainer Maria Rilke

If you haven't read this poem (Duino Elegies) I highly highly suggest doing so- it's an incredibly existential piece.


Annie said...

Famous quote. Thank you for posting it.

John W. May said...


Thanks, Annie. I think it’s a rather awesome fact: our having the opportunity to exist and experience this life- even, as this poem suggests, if it only be once (for by once having lived we will live forever, if not in the hereafter, in human history) …

I delight in the fact that even Milton has his devilish fiend, who knows he’ll live forever (albeit in hell), acknowledge the primacy of existence over that of non-existence …

happier far
Than miserable to have eternal being!
Or if our substance be indeed divine,
And cannot cease to be, we are at worst
On this side of nothing

Book II 97 - 101

… or the sheer bliss of it (expressed in the closing lines of one of my favorite movies):

Oh my soul,
Let me be in you now.
Look out through my eyes,
Look out at the things you’ve made:
All things shining . . . .

The Thin Red Line - Scene 02:42:20 from 02:40:52

As of April 9th, 2010