Poetic Grief

My husband’s Aunt died today. After soothing his immediate grief, the first thing my mind turned to was poetry, death poetry: one of the three essential subjects of literature (and life), along with birth and love. Every poet that I can think of has touched on the theme, often numerous times. This is a piece by Rainer Maria Rilke, offered here as a lovely and sad filler whilst we deal with more pressing events.

‘On Hearing of a Death’ by Rainer Maria Rilke

We lack all knowledge of this parting. Death
does not deal with us. We have no reason
to show death admiration, love or hate;
his mask of feigned tragic lament gives us

a false impression. The world’s stage is still
filled with roles which we play. While we worry
that our performances may not please,
death also performs, although to no applause.

But as you left us, there broke upon this stage
a glimpse of reality, shown through the slight
opening through which you disappeared: green,
evergreen, bathed in sunlight, actual woods.

We keep on playing, still anxious, our difficult roles
declaiming, accompanied by matching gestures
as required. But your presence so suddenly
removed from our midst and from our play, at times

overcomes us like a sense of that other
reality: yours, that we are so overwhelmed
and play our actual lives instead of the performance,
forgetting altogether the applause.

4 thoughts on “Poetic Grief

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