Today’s Lenten poem from Education for Justice is by Rainier Maria Rilke.
I can tell a storm by the way the trees
are whipping, compared to when quiet,
against my trembling windows, and
I hear from afar things whispering
I couldn’t bear hearing without a friend
or love without a sister close by.
There moves the storm, the transforming one,
and runs through the woods and through the age,
changing it all to look ageless and young:
the landscape appears like the verse of a psalm,
so earnest, eternal, and strong.
How small is what we contend with and fight;
how great what contends with us;
if only we mirrored the moves of the things
and acquiesced to the force of the storm,
we, too, could be ageless and strong.
For what we can conquer is only the small,
and winning itself turns us into dwarfs;
but the everlasting and truly important
will never be conquered by us.
It is the angel who made himself known
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
for whenever he saw his opponents propose
to test their iron-clad muscle strength,
he touched them like strings of an instrument
and played their low-sounding chords.
Whoever submits to this angel,
whoever refuses to fight the fight,
comes out walking straight and great and upright,
and the hand once rigid and hard
shapes around as a gently curved guard.
No longer is winning a tempting bait.
One’s progress is to be conquered, instead,
by the ever mightier one.
Source: “The Observer” from Pictures of God; Rilke’s Religious Poetry,
translated by Annemarie Kidder. Livonia, MI: First Page Publications, 2005.