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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

RILKE                                        199

of angels. But by the law of contraries - and by his very nature
Rilke has the pictorial logic of the old mystics - if the body is the
devil then there must be, however far remote, that divine some-
thing which the devil's very close presence proves; and Rilke
chooses to call this divine and luminous something, this contrary
of the body fixed helplessly in disease and darkness, cangeP. The
terrible thing is that man, for all his yearning to transform what
within him Is earthly to the divine - by that eternal transformation
which is the will of the universe - cannot project himself into the
angels as (by the law of heredity) he can project himself into his
descendants: there are mechanical Darwinian laws for the brute
body but not for the soul.

The ist Elegy, then, is negative. But Rilke in a letter written a
year before his death Interprets the general sense of the Elegies as
affirmative of life: 'In den EJegien nnrd . . . das Leben nieder moglicb^
ja es erfahrt hier diejenige endgultige B ejahung^ ^u der es derjunge Ma/fe
. . noch nicht Jubren konnfe. Lebens- und Todesbejahung erweisf
sicb a Is Eines in den Elegien. Das erne ^tf^ugeben obne das andere,
se/y so nwd hier erfahren und gefeiert, eim scbliesslicb alks Unendlicbe
ausschliessende JLinschrdnhmg. Der Tod ist die uns abgehshrte^ von uns
ttnbescbienene Seite des L,ebens: wir muss en versucben^ das grosseste
Eemtsstsein unseres Daseins ^u fasten, das in beiden unabgegren^ten
Bereichen ^uHauseisf; aus beiden unerscbdpflicb genahrt.
. .. Die wahre I^ebensgestalt reichtdurcb beide Gebzete, dasElttt desgro-
ssesten Kreislaufs freibt durcb beide: es gibt weder ein Dtesseits
noch Jenseits, sondern die grosse EinbeitS

The ist and 2nd Elegies continue the interpretation of love and
lovers which in Malte is so subtle; here again the love of man is
depicted as a biological impulse, while that of women such as
Gaspara Stampa and Maria Alcoforado (see p. 205) is pure and
essential because it is not merely in the blood. This 'hidden and
guilty river-god of the blood' is in the 3rd Elegy used to shadow
forth Rilke's gospel of sex, which is anything but romantic. After
the War Rilke's religion had developed into a species of worship
of sexuality: this was heightened by his acquaintance with Freud,
and was expressed in two letters published in 1933 under the title
of Uber Gott. There had been idealization of sex too in the Rodin
lecture: "Hier bungert die Menscbbeit ttber sicb binaus. Hierstrecksn sicb
Hands aus nacb der Emgkeit. Hier offmn sicb Augen, scbauen den Tod
undfurcbten ibn nicbt...' What in the 3rd Elegy is dimly celebrated