rather, it names the realm into which the renunciation must enter; it names the call to enter into that relation between thing and word which has now been experienced. What the poet learned to renounce is his formerly cherished view regarding the relation of thing and word. His renunciation concerns the poetic relation to the word that he had cultivated until then. If so, the "may be" in the line, "Where word breaks off no thing may be," would grammatically speaking not be the subjunctive of "is," but a kind of imperative, a command which the poet follows, to keep it from then on. If so, the "may be" in the line, "Where word breaks off no thing may be," would mean: do not henceforth admit any thing as being where the word breaks off. In the "may be" understood as a command, the poet avows to himself the self-denial he has learned, in which he abandons the view that something may be even if and even while the word for it is still lacking. What does renunciation mean? It is equivalent to "abdication." Here the root word is the Latin dicere, to say, the Greek δείκνυμι, to show, point out, indicate. In his renunciation, the poet abdicates his former relation to the word. Nothing more? No. There is in the abdication itself already an avowal, a command to which he denies himself no longer.
Now it would be just as forced to claim that the imperative interpretation of "may be" is the only possible one. Presumably one meaning and the other of "may be" vibrate and mingle in the poetic saying: a command as appeal, and submission to it.
The poet has learned renunciation. He has undergone an experience. With what? With the thing and its relation to the word. But the title of the poem is simply "The Word." The decisive experience is that which the poet has undergone with the word—and with the word inasmuch as it alone can bestow a relation to a thing. Stated more explicitly, the poet has experienced that only the word makes a thing appear as the thing it is, and thus lets it be present. The word avows itself to the poet as that which holds and sustains a thing