Skip to main content

Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

See other formats

RILKE                                           197

grotesque of the ending words 'offen me der Tod*. The transposi-
tions of statues (Fruher Apollo, Archdiscber Torso Apollos, Kretische
Artemis] provide perhaps the best object-lessons for testing Rilke's
sculptural theories. The conception of permanence in a Ktwsfding
is brought out in Tanagra. The very soul of dancing flashes and
flames in Spaniscbe Tan^erin. Die Insel: Nordsee is one of the com-
paratively rare poems with German themes: the taciturn character
of Holstein men is interpreted by that turning inwards of the spirit
which means so much to Rilke; we get it even in Morgue, attributed
to corpses washed out of the Seine - 'Die Augen baben binter ibren
Li Jem j sich umgewandt und scbaum jet^t bhmn\ Morgue is not in-
tended to be grotesque; the grotesque poems proper are Legends
von den drei Lebendigen und dm drei Toten, Der Konig von Miwster,
Totentam^ Dasjungsie Gericbt^ Die Versucbung^ Papageienpark. Kre^i-
gung (and this will shock many) is also in the nature of a grotesque.
For humour veiling pathos Der Konig should be read - and com-
pared (as a portrait of a Spanish prince) with Stefan George's Der

On May i9th, 1922, Rilke wrote from his tower at Muzot to a
lady1 that zest in creation had returned to him: 'Die mir uber alles
Heben(i9i2 ingrossartigerEinsamkeitbegonnenm mdseit 1914fast gafis^
unterbrochenen} Arbeiten konnten meder aufgenommen  , konnten unter
jmendlicberFahigkeit^ ^uEnde gebracbtwerden* - Danebengingeine fdeim
Arbeit her, fast tmgewollt, em Nebenstrom, uber jo Sonettey die Sonette
an Orpheus genannt, und geschrieben ah ein Grabmalfur eittjungverstor-
benes Mddchen? He is referring to the Duineser Elegien (1923). The
first of them had been written in 1912 at Duino (p. 165); hence
their title. Rilke not only loved the Duineser Elegien 'more than all
else', but he actually rated them as his best work; and this is one
reason why critics and academic teachers burrow into them to
earn the cachet of superior intelligence. The form alone should
make one sceptical. Rilke called these poems 'elegies* because they
are approximately in elegiac metre. Technically this implies dis-
tiches of rising hexameter and falling pentameter to give the sob
and sigh of plaintive feeling, but the Duineser Elegien are far from
conforming to this traditional type - the lines are merely hexa-
meter-like, but not so like as those at which Tennyson turned up
his classic nose - cbarbarous experiment, barbarous hexameters'.
It is of course quite consistent with Rilke's general system of effect
1 'Briefe an elnejmge Frau (1930).