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..i^j^.n.iviN   MILKMAN   LITERATURE

The rendering of sensuous impressions is throughout Mir %ur
Feier equally gentle and equally poignant, and is in itself sufficient
for the stamp of exquisite poetry. But to Rilke what to us is the
very soul of poetry is merely the veil of the meaning: 'Die Worte
sind nur die Maitern* \ Dahinter in ifvwer blauem \ Bergen schimmert ihr
Sinn*-, and the wistful maiden of these poems is interpreted as
Rilke's image at this stage of his mysticism for his own maiden
soul - maiden because of its union, in purity, of physical and
spiritual life, of inner urge and dream projected into outer phen-

Between 1895 and 1902 Rilke attempted plays, in which he ad-
vances from the crass realism of the naturalists to a symbolism
influenced by Maeterlinck, as in Die weisse Furstin, which appeared
in 1899 in Pan, and was reprinted in Mir %ur Feier. It is the only
one of his plays which he included in his collected works. Die
weisse Furstin is in the nature of a curiosity among those playlets of
the period which take rank, in spite of their thinness of action, by
reason of their new lyrical suppleness. All there is in the play -
but it has the fascination of some strange hot-house flower - is the
unfolding by the White Princess and her young sister, Monna
Lara, of their sexual state. Whether the White Princess is (like
Hebbel's or Georg Kaiser's Judith) physically a virgin - she has
long been married to a man who does not heed her - or merely
virgin in soul (she has been in bed with the ebony Cross of Christ)
and waiting for her lover is not clear. Her sister has the fire and
-snow of Rilke's maidens who pray to Mary. What one does not
forget is the Pre-Raphaelite picturing in the sultry atmosphere of
the night, particularly in the stage directions: '^ Monna Lara hatsich
knieend ^ttruckgeworfen und halt mit beiden Hdnden ihre Bruste bin, als
warte sie> dasssie sichfullen sollten* The erotic problem is in any case
that of Hofmannsthal's Elektra, and there is nearness to the hys-
teria of Elektra, as in Monna Lara's plaint:

Wenn icb mir denke> dass ich noch em ]ahr
herumgehn soil mit unerklartem Elut>
unamgeruht, - von meinem eignen Haar
hochmutig ubersehen me ein Kind.,
allein und blind immitten meiner J*>rande>
sogar den Hunden neu und me versagt,
mir selbst sofremd> dass mich die eignen Hande