Mirrors in Poetry

Mirrors frequently appear in poetry. Here is a selection of poems featuring the mirror that seem to capture the mysterious and compelling qualities inherent in reflection. Rumi has also used mirror symbolism in his poems.

 

Lady at a Mirror by Rainer Maria Rilke

rilke

As in sleeping-drink spices
softly she loosens in the liquid-clear
mirror her fatigued demeanor;
and she puts her smile deep inside.

And she waits while the liquid
rises from it; then she pours her hair
into the mirror, and, lifting one
wondrous shoulder from the evening gown,

she drinks quietly from her image. She drinks
what a lover would drink feeling dazed,
searching it, full of mistrust; and she only

beckons to her maid when at the bottom
of her mirror she finds candles, wardrobes,
and the cloudy dregs of a late hour.

Translated by Edward Snow

 

Telling You All  by Rainer Maria Wilke

Telling you all would take too long.

Besides, we read in the Bible
how the good is harmful
and how misfortune is good.
Let’s invite something new
by unifying our silences;
if, then and there, we advance,
we’ll know it soon enough.
And yet towards evening,
when his memory is persistent,
one belated curiousity
stops him before the mirror.
We don’t know if he is frightened.

But he stays, he is engrossed,
and, facing his reflection,
transports himself somewhere else.

 

The Muses Mirror by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

EARLY one day, the Muse, when eagerly bent on adornment,
Follow’d a swift-running streamlet, the quietest nook by it seeking.

Quickly and noisily flowing, the changeful surface distorted
Ever her moving form; the goddess departed in anger.

Yet the stream call’d mockingly after her, saying: “What, truly!
Wilt thou not view, then, the truth, in my mirror so clearly depicted?”
But she already was far away, on the brink of the ocean,
In her figure rejoicing, and duly arranging her garland.