Rereading Rilke Regularly

Ich lebe mein Leben in wachsenden Ringen,
die sich über die Dinge ziehn.
Ich werde den letzten vielleicht nicht vollbringen,
aber versuchen will ich ihn.

Rilke, I think, has nothing to say to the modern age, and that’s why he’s so wonderful to read.  Such a balm for the mindless of the world of GitHub.  A profound pacifist, he switched his poetry language from German to French after World War I, a protest of his native tongue, which he considered too closely tied to militarism.  (Interestingly enough, military terms are predominantly French, as “lieutenant,” “general,” “corporal,” “ensign,” “colonel,”).  Regardless, Rilke the man was in touch with interiority and exteriority.  This extoriority (which David Need in his new translation of late Rilke poetry, translates as “gesture”)


Rose o reiner Widerspruch, Lust,
niemandes Schlaf zu sein unter so vielen Lidern.

Which, as much as I like German, as a gorgeous lilt in Italian,

Rosa, o pura contraddizione,
voglia di essere il sonno di nessuno sotto
cosě tante palpebre.

The Italians were on the better side in World War I.


About Russell Backwater

Somewhere beyond the sea, Somewhere, waiting for me, My lover stands on golden sands And watches the ships that go sailing.
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