Both poems use the swan as a symbol. In the Kabir poem, the swan is seen as a kind of mystery. The poet questions the swan ("From what land do you come / O Swan? to what shore will you fly?") as a way of addressing certain mysteries of life...
Both poems use the swan as a symbol. In the Kabir poem, the swan is seen as a kind of mystery. The poet questions the swan ("From what land do you come / O Swan? to what shore will you fly?") as a way of addressing certain mysteries of life itself. Like the swan, perhaps, each of us is on a journey to an unknown "shore."
Rilke, on the other hand, is a bit more explicit. The swan is the focus of a simile: the "laboring" of humans is like the "lumbering gait" of the swan on land. The image suggests that life is ungainly, awkward, difficult.
This difference suggests a difference in tone and in the relationship of the poet to the subject of the poem. For Kabir, the tone is expressive of a kind of ecstatic truth: yhe poet tells the swan to "awake, arise, follow me" because the poet can lead the swan to paradise ("where the terror of Death is no more"). In this sense, the Kabir poem is explicitly religious in a way the Rilke poem is not. Rilke seems to address a specific person who faces death: when he refers to "our dying," he is talking about a specific event, the moment of death, rather than a mystic concept. Rilke's tone differs from Kabir in that his poem is more personal, more contemplative, and more abstract.
Finally, both poems consist of two movements, first, how life is a struggle, and second, how death is a kind of release. Kabir explicitly sees this as a return to the divine: the paradise he speaks of in the second stanza smells of the "fragrant scent," "He is I," which can only be the scent of a transcendent union with god.
Rilke is at once more concrete and less specific spiritually. For Rilke, the specific action of the swan walking on land is equated with the "this laboring of ours with all that remains undone" or the specific sense of having not accomplished all in life we would want. The swan swimming is an image that suggests physical ease: the swan "glides" over the "yielding" water. While Rilke does not invoke a specific paradise, this "lowering" into the water is nevertheless a way of entering into a state of grace.