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l66                  MODERN   GERMAN   LITERATURE

Das war der Tag der weissen Chrysanthemen^ -
mir bangte fast vor seiner schweren Pracht. . .
Und dann^ dann kawst du mir die Seek nehmen
fief in der Nacht.

Mir war so bang^ imd du kamst lieb und leise^ -
ich hatte grad im Traum an dich gedacht.
Du kamst\ und leis ivie eine Marchemveise
erklang die Nacht. . .

This lyric - which has been taken into the anthologies - shows
exactly how imitative Rilke is in this early verse: he is literally
fitting words to one of the best known of German tunes, that of
Hermann Gilm"s StelF auf den Tisch die duftenden Reseden, \ Die letyten
roten Astern bring herbei, | Und lass tins von der Liebe reden, \ Wie einst
im Mai\ all he does is to lengthen the third line by one foot. The
poems of Traumgekront are decadent in tone. It is as though Rilke
had been reading Maeterlinck's Serres chaudes. Not that there is
painting of disease; indeed the attitude to death is already that
idealization of ripened readiness which Rilke was to make his
gospel; the fin-de-siecle tints are rather in the adjectival and nominal
evocations (wetsse Wunsche^ verbliihte Sterne^ nachteblasse Sehnsucht,
etc.), and in the prevailing landscapes of snowed-up winters and
faint springs in which the symbolist paraphernalia (gaudy pea-
cocks, shimmering swans, dark pools, etc.) serve for splashes
of colour. Into these lorn landscapes are projected the personal
moods of the poet - his thwarted childhood (Warst du ein Kind in
froher Schar . ..), his loneliness (Der Tag entsMummert leise) and his
(later so wistful) association of his unfulfilled longing with the
erotic expectation of maidens. Advent, too, ranges itself with the
literature of the late nineties by its decadent tints and morbid
images (blutenblasse Maienndchte^ silberstille Teiche, liebeleise Arm}.
But the real Rilke - his rapid, fluent rhythm - begins in such
poems as Der Abend kommt von weitgegangen. Notable is the adum-
bration of the poet's spiritual growth in the introductory poem:

Das ist me in Streit:


durch alle Tage schweifen,

dann, stark und breit,

mit tausend Wur^elstreifen