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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

RILKE                                         203

Und sie hi let ihn hicht durch die weite l^andschaft der Klagen,
%eigt ihm die Sdulen der Tempel oder die Triimmer
jemr Burgen^ von wo Klage-Fursfen das Land
einstens mise beherrscht. Zeigt ihm die hohen
Trdnenbaume und Felder bliihender Webmut,
(JLebendige kenmn sie nur ah sanffes Blathrerfe) ;
*%eigt ihm die Tiere der Trauer, weidend, - und manchmal
schreckt em Vogel und %ieht^ flach ibnen fliegend durchs Aufschatm^
mi thin das schriftliche BiId seines vert ins am ten Schrits.

(The extract is suflScient to provide hostile critics with a cry that
this is an anaemic allegory of the medieval sort; nor will such a
critic be impressed by the picture of the ominous bird flying
through the spectator's upturned vision and writing the image of
its lonely wail - really a fair example of Rilke's characteristic way
of seeing his images complete as pictures or sculpture.) This age-
old Klage points to the monument that, like the sphinx by the
Nile, has a human face whose ripe rounding is marked in the dead
boy's hearing as he gazes by the slow flitting of an owl past its
cheek. (Again a picture which might be cryptic if we did not know
from Rilke's correspondence that it is a reminiscence of his Egyp-
tian travel.) Thence she leads him to the moonlit gorge whence
flows the river of Joy into the land of men.

It would be idle to claim that there is variety of theme or specu-
lation in the Ditino Elegies, or indeed - since in these Elegies the
ideas which have haunted Rilke from his earlier years shape them-
selves as a finished flower round his central conception of the
divine - in his work as a whole. Irreverent medical men have
written tractates to prove that the poet was a sufferer from ob-
sessional mania. But even if this is admitted it might be shown
that there is escape from the obsession of Death (to Rilke the
goal to which childhood, poverty, and love converge) in the praise
of life because of - not in spite of - the suffering it brings. At a
cursory glance, too, it might seem that the Elegies show an escape
from the obsession of God. Actually even in Das Stundenbuch God
fades into the background after The Bo0& of Monkish Ufe: God is
then the Messiah who is to be born of perfected man.1 In the Elegies
God is mentioned only once - and casually - in the ist Elegy,
which was written in 1912. Rilke in one of his letters explained

1 *der Kommende .. ., der von 'Emgksit her bevorstebt, der Zukunftige^ die endticbe
Irrucbt etnesJSaumes, dessen Blatter &irsind* -Briefs an emenjtmgen Dichter, p. 34.