These are Rilke’s first words that I read. I had no prior acquaintance with either the man or his writings, save for a curious Google search on a Cocteau Twins’ song called Rilkean Heart. And yet, I immediately felt a tug towards these words, gyrating around them, twisting and turning them in my head, trying to make sense of it. Perhaps, just perhaps, Rilke would know the storm that was raging in me?
I hate to read criticism first because they have a subtle and malicious effect of ruining the person, dictating my thoughts to flow in a certain way – the way the critique finds most suitable. So, I read the man. And I think I love his writings. Maybe, I am too naive to truly understand what he’s saying (reasonable because I’m only eighteen) but come to think of it, does anybody ever gets to understand anything? PS: I do read the essays afterwards to get a well-rounded education.
This post will primarily focus on his views on love, the feminine and solitude because
- That is what I have read so far.
- I cannot get myself to think of anything but love and solitude.
- I am just plain lazy.
Probably the third point is the most relevant.
Advice & solitude among other things
Oh. Brutal but true AF.
What exactly does he mean by “more one is”? More in what respect? I think more knowledge, more wealth, more authority. Poetry comes late to a hungry stomach. As beautiful as it might be to assume the idealistic projections of life that are conjured in stories and films plays out in the real world, they don’t. But to strive to inch closer to those projections is an essential element to fulfilling one’s life which must begin with the objective of security and abundance. In those silent moments, man would be more able to experience thus making him richer and not vice versa.
In the summer of 1909, he wrote:
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. These ravenous nights filled with hollow sounds and subdued whimpers.
On the labor of love
Day labor. Remember.
“There is nothing happier than work”. For what is an idle mind if not the devil’s workshop?
Advice to young lovers
(Bold text mine own)
Though, Rilke tactly pointed out what one must be, he doesn’t say anything on how to be and that has kinda pissed me. He has left the hard part of figuring that out for the reader but then I suspect the process must be unique.
Only if philanders of today could understand the nobility of love. It is not an easy enterprise to be undertaken solely to get rid of boredom or to have pleasure or fun or for any other self-vested interests because to love is not to have but to give.
The sensual nature of Rilke’s poems
Sensuality, longing, solitude and an open discussion of sexuality especially the feminine is a glaring element in Rilke’s poems. His symbolism and metaphors are far from subtle and generally borders on the obvious. Yet, how he manages to express his exasperation with such ease and lyric is a source of marvel for me. Take for instance the question he asked at the beginning of a poem,
Those are perhaps the most tightly woven seven words that captures the masculine attitude. I have this idea that though physically it seems like the female submits to the male in union, again society has strongly influenced this mindset, yet psychologically it is the male who submits to the female. What else does a man want but to keep his wife satisfied? It is not uncommon for young lovers to patronise their partners in passion or awe or a mixture thereof, which IMHO has merits and demerits. Like everything in the matter of love, answers are not straightforward or even existent.
And then in a moment of defiance, out of sheer desire, he commands:
“your hair is all in idleness”. Ah.
The following poem caught my attention for it’s sheer explicitness:
And then in the July of 1924,
In the October of 1915, he wrote probably my favourite of his so-called “Seven Phallic Poems”:
Of failing love
Probably, I shouldn’t be reading depressing poems? But I can allow myself to pain a bit I think.