200 MODERN GERMAN LITERATURE is the cosmic force which impels man and maid to their embraces, which for purpose have not the unborn child but the fathers lying like crumbled hills in our deeps and the dry river-bed of mothers to be ... Man's love does not pulse at the call of mother or gentle maiden, but is the heart-beat of countless generations. In The Book of Poverty and Death and in Malte Rilke had shown death to be an integral part of life. In the Elegies death is a means of transcending life, a transformation such as that of the child from womb to world. In the ist Elegy Rilke deals with an apparent difficulty: if what we mature by a rich life passes over into death, then those who die young take over an unripened fruit, and to them death is strange. But since life and death form a unity then the living can help these unripened dead until they grow conscious of eternity. The 4th Elegy - which is in decasyllabic iambic blank verse - deals with the drama of life which is played in the consciousness of death's presence, mourns the disharmony in the adult of mask and being, and points back to the undisturbed unity of childhood in which, since there is no consciousness, there is no mask. The implication is that if man could strip off appearance and attain the reality of his inner being he would lose all consciousness of seem- ing and act, as puppets do in a play, without seeking something by the acting* In the 5th Elegy - one of the most difficult - acro- bats are celebrated as being more fugacious than other men c(Wer abersindsie, sag mir^ die Fahrenden, diese tin wenig \ Fluchtigern noch ah mr selbst?\ The idea - conveyed by a series of shifting associa- tions which pass and fade as in a half-remembered dream - is that acrobats are a model for us, because they act to the will of the spectators - that is, as puppets; as we might act - instruments responding to a divine touch - to the will of the angel, if our actions were controlled by what the devising force above us de- sires. This image of acrobats, possibly suggested by Picasso's picture Les Saltimbanques? is a link in Rilke's final argument that suffering is a necessary part of our functions under divine guid- ance. The 6th Elegy, the shortest, unfolds from contemplation of a fig-tree which fruits without blossoming the conception of the 1 But see The Fifth Dmno E/tgy (in The Welsh Rewew, Vol. m, No. 2, June 1944) by B. J; Morse, who quotes a letter describing a performance by a troupe of acrobats in Paris in 1906; the persons mentioned correspond closely to those of the Elegy.