Why, when this short span of being could be spent
like the laurel, a little darker than all
the other green, the edge of each leaf fluted
with small waves (like the wind’s smiles)—why,
then, do we have to be human and, avoiding fate,
long for fate?
—Rainer Maria Rilke, opening strophe to “The Ninth Elegy,” from Duino Elegies and the Sonnets of Orpheus, translated from the German by A. Poulin, Jr., (Houghton Mifflin, 1977)