Thursday, September 04, 2008

Recommended Read - Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet

This is a book I find it easy to recommend to anyone interested in writing, and especially poetry.

It is a collection of real letters written by Rilke to a Mr. Kappus, a young would-be poet, between 1903 and 1908. Rilke still had a lot of his life's work ahead of him.

In this slim volume, you hear a poet speaking with authority about what writing is really about, and what it takes to be able to call yourself a real writer: If you don't have to write - don't do it. If writing is not a necessity, you should do something else. This is one of the things Rilke tells the eager young man who cherishes a wish to become a significant poet. And beneath everything Rilke says, beneath every line, you sense his deep commitment to the poet's profession.

Writing from several cities throughout Europe and often referring to his having been ill, you also get a sense that being a full-time poet in no way is an easy task. From many of his poems, and certainly most photographs of him (many of whom I find rather too theatrical, but probably reflecting his personality) we get the impression of a man with an intense attitude which is also chanelled through his gaze.
Sorry I don't quote any of his poems, but I'm just not that familiar with his poetry. Some I know, of course, but as my German really never has been up to any scratch at all, and although being a Norwegian means our mother tongues are like first cousins, I just haven't spelled my way through his collected works yet...
OK, changed my mind. Here is a poem fitting the season:


Die Blätter fallen, fallen wie von weit,
als welkten in den Himmeln ferne Gärten;
sie fallen mit verneinender Gebärde.

Und in den Nächten fällt die schwere Erde
aus allen Sternen in die Einsamkeit.

Wir alle fallen. Diese Hand da fällt.
Und sieh dir andre an: es ist in allen.

Und doch ist Einer, welcher dieses Fallen
unendlich sanft in seinen Händen hält.

* * *
Which beautifully describes the falling of the Fall.

1 comment:

Jacques Felix said...

Wonderful poem, like so many of Rilke. Here's one of which the tone reminds me of the one you chose:


Und du wartest, erwartest das Eine,
Das dein Leben unendlich vermehrt;
Das Mächtige, Ungemeine,
Das Erwachen der Steine,
Tiefen dir zugekehrt.

Es dämmern im Bücherständer
Die Bände in Gold und Braun;
Und Du denkst an durchfahrene Länder,
An Bilder, an die Gewänder
Wiederverlorener Frauen.

Und da weißt Du auf einmal: das war es.
Du erhebst dich, und vor dir steht
Eines vergangenen Jahres
Angst und Gestalt und Gebet.