Seeking the Beloved, for Jim Gant

[ by Charles Cameron — two great poems, my friend, and the impassioned voice of Sara Mingardo ]


Rainer Maria Rilke:

You who never arrived..

You who never arrived

in my arms, Beloved, who were lost

from the start,

I don’t even know what songs

would please you. I have given up trying

to recognize you in the surging wave of

the next moment. All the immense

images in me — the far-off, deeply-felt

landscape, cities, towers, and bridges, and

unsuspected turns in the path,

and those powerful lands that were once

pulsing with the life of the gods–

all rise within me to mean

you, who forever elude me.

You, Beloved, who are all

the gardens I have ever gazed at,

longing. An open window

in a country house– , and you almost

stepped out, pensive, to meet me.

Streets that I chanced upon,–

you had just walked down them and vanished.

And sometimes, in a shop, the mirrors

were still dizzy with your presence and,

startled, gave back my too-sudden image.

Who knows? Perhaps the same

bird echoed through both of us

yesterday, separate, in the evening…


Hide and go seek, or for the truly young at heart, peek-a-boo, is the earliest of games, and the most profound. We are seekers: there is something, some treasure to be found.

Among the greatest of our comrades was Rabia of Basra who, sensing an unaccustomed absence of the divine beloved, wept all night long in prayer, WHere are You, Why have you left me? — only to be comforted in the morning by the renewal of the presence, which patiently asked, And Rabia, who do you suppose cried all night long, praying so urgently for my presence?

Let us go seek, for the great game is upon us.


David Jones:

If Rilke gave us the romantic beloved, Jones shows us the search for the beloved in the person of Christ, seeking his form without success in the structures of modernity..

This poem is remarkable also for the two great wailing cries in Latin that give it its title and final words, giving poetry a passion more eaily found these days in the blues.. I know of no poem in the English language quite like it,.

A, a, a, Domine Deus

I said, Ah! what shall I write?

I enquired up and down.

(He’s tricked me before

with his manifold lurking-places.)

I looked for His symbol at the door.

I have looked for a long while

at the textures and contours.

I have run a hand over the trivial intersections.

I have journeyed among the dead forms

causation projects from pillar to pylon.

I have tired the eyes of the mind

regarding the colours and lights.

I have felt for His wounds

in nozzles and containers.

I have wondered for the automatic devices.

I have tested the inane patterns

without prejudice.

I have been on my guard

not to condemn the unfamiliar.

For it is easy to miss Him

at the turn of a civilisation.

I have watched the wheels go round in case I

might see the living creatures like the appearance

of lamps, in case I might see the Living God projected

from the Machine. I have said to the perfected steel,

be my sister and for the glassy towers I thought I felt

some beginnings of His creature, but A,a,a Domine Deus,

my hands found the glazed work unrefined and the terrible

crystal a stage-paste … Eia, Domine Deus.


We are frtunate to have that same cry, Domine Deus, delivered with unmatched devotional intensity in the voice of Sara Mingardo, in Rinaldo Alessandrini‘s version of Vivaldi‘s Gloria, RV589:

I am posting this in the hope that it will go some way towards illuminating the equivalent devotional inttensity in Jones‘ poem. The whole Gloria in Alessandrini‘s version with Mingardo, can be found here on YouTube.

3 comments on this post.
  1. Jim Gant:

    Charles, a beautiful post indeed. My prayer for you remains one of hope, happiness and health. I keep a journal of my daily spiritual reading and when I am done each day I send it to my father. On 5/22 I sent him the following poem. You posting Rilke’s poem and I recently just having read another one that I identified with is yet another example of the small beads of light that connect two people on seemingly different paths but are ever joined. I think of you often.

    A poem by Rainer Rilke:
    God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
    then walks with us silently out of the night.
    These are the words we dimly hear:
    You, sent out beyond your recall,
    go to the limits of your longing.
    Embody me.
    Flare up like flame
    and make big shadows I can move in.
    Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
    Just keep going. No feeling is final.
    Don’t let yourself lose me.
    Nearby is the country they call life.
    You will know it by its seriousness.
    Give me your hand.

  2. Charles Cameron:

    Among recent Western poets, Rilke strikes me as the poet of the interior life just as Hesse is its novelist (think Steppenwold, Siddhartha, Demian) and Paul Klee its painter (though he might term it “painter of the the invisibles” rather than “the interior life”).
    May I warmly recommend Stephen Mitchell‘s translations, The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke.

  3. Jim Gant:

    Ah! Stephen Mitchell…my favorite translator of the classics. He has written my favorite translation of the Gita and of Job (my favorite book of the Old Testament) and I am currently reading ‘The Enlightened Mind’ which is powerful as well…another small thread appears…seemingly out of nowhere…:)
    Take care old friend. I will continue to look for you on these pages and elsewhere.