CLIFF CREGO | EVENING, last light at Hidden Lake

EVENING, last light at Hidden Lake, Autumn, Eagle Cap Wilderness [click photo for next . . . ]

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EVENING, the Rainer Maria Rilke poem featured below, is one of those handful of verses that till this day German speakers may know by heart. The images are striking, and, as is so typical of Rilke, they find a deep emotional resonance with most listeners,or readers, moving from a row of trees, to a stone held in the palm of the hand, to the most distant star.

Bucky Fuller, that great poet of design, frequently would stand in a certain way during public lectures to demonstrate how he could sense "the turning of the Earth," and go on to explain how important that was to his work. "Spaceship Earth," or a sense of the planet as a round, not flat, living whole. Mountains are the place par excellence where we can perhaps learn to sense this movement best. The ever-changing angle of the light, lifting out and bringing to life ridgelines that were just a moment ago completely flat; the play of shadow and light is nowhere so sharp and extreme in its contrasts; and as we learn to return, time and time again to the same, favorite spot, like a small lake or meadow, then the rock formations themselves work as a kind of primal clock, marking the movements of the day as they ever have, going back almost to the beginning of time itself.

Bucky Fuller was also fond of quoting the great American transcendentalist, Emerson: "Poetry means saying the most important things in the simplest way." He went on to generalize Emerson's magnificent insight in is whole philosophy of design, creating the now iconic geodesic dome—-we alpinists use and depend on them everyday—-strongest of structures, weighing less then the air they contains.

Rilke can help us here, too, in that he holds the frame of the poem—-his titles are very much like the frames around paintings--perfectly steady, while moving from one image to the next with amazing virtuosity. It is as if the poet had a secret magic wand, turning with a single tap one metaphor into the next, all the while looking both outwardly at the world around him, and inwardly at the psyche that perceives, like a lens which looks both ways.

Here, Rilke might help us come to grips with the question of "what is a good photograph?" This is no longer as self-evident as it once was now that a camera's onboard digital computer make a clear, clean shot almost too easy. Perhaps a "good photograph" has something to do with giving us a sense of the living Earth as it turns, and this "lens which looks both ways."

EVENING—a poem from
the German by
Rainer Maria Rilke

Slowly the evening changes into the clothes
held for it by a row of ancient trees;
you look: and two worlds grow separate from you,
one ascending to heaven, another, that falls;

and leave you, belonging not wholly to either one,
not quite as dark as the house that remains silent,
not quite as certainly sworn to eternity
as that which becomes star each night and rises—

and leave you (unsayably to disentangle) your life
with all its immensity and fear and great ripening,
so that, all but bounded, all but understood,
it is by turns stone in you and star.

Rainer Maria Rilke (tr. Cliff Crego)


Der Abend wechselt langsam die Gewänder,
die ihm ein Rand von alten Bäumen hält;
du schaust: und von dir scheiden sich die Länder,
ein himmelfahrendes, und eins, das fällt;

und lassen dich, zu keinen ganz gehörend,
nicht ganz so dunkel wie das Haus, das schweigt.
nicht ganz so sicher Ewiges beschwörend
wie das, was Stern wird jede Nacht und steigt—

und lassen dir (unsäglich zu entwirrn)
dein Leben bang und riesenhaft und reifend,
so daß es, bald begrenzt und bald begreifend,
abwechselnd Stein in dir wird und Gestirn.

| download EVENING / ABEND [ 3.8 MB] |

Featured gallery, mountain water . . . .
If you're a picture-poems fan, please visit my Living Water Gallery—some of
the best of my flowform photography w/ a selection of the highest quality
prints & frames . . . [ mouse over for controls / lower right fro full-screen ]

for $49.95 + shipping or
download as e-Book for $14.95

New English translations
from the German of 80
of Rainer Maria Rilke's
best poems, together
with 120 color prints
from the High Wallowas.
With introduction . . .

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All Photographs & texts by Cliff Crego © 2014
(created: VIII.8.2011)