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Young Rilke and His Time

Young Rilke and His Time

George C. Schoolfield
Volume: 31
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 463
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  • Book Info
    Young Rilke and His Time
    Book Description:

    Although Rainer Maria Rilke and his work have been much studied and written about over the past century -- as befits the perhaps most important German-language poet of modern times -- certain aspects of his early life and career have been neglected or are

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-811-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature
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Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations
  1. Front Matter (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments (pp. xv-xvi)
    George C. Schoolfield
  5. List of Abbreviations (pp. xvii-xx)
  6. Chronology (pp. xxi-xxx)
  7. I. Prague
    • 1: Vally, Hidigeigei, and Others (pp. 3-48)

      The tale of René Rilke’s vicissitudes, as a child and adolescent, has often been told:¹ his cosseting by his mother, his attendance, often interrupted by illnesses, at Prague’s Piarists’ School, his parents’ marital troubles and divorce, his enrollment in the junior military school at Sankt Pölten, where he spent four years, his advancement to the upper and more rigorous academy at Mährisch-Weißkirchen (a catastrophe, with long spells in the infirmary), and then his eight months at the commercial institute in Linz, where he appears to have led a mildly dissolute life.²

      From Muzot, on 18 December 1925, in a famous...

    • 2: Larenopfer: A Commentary (pp. 49-90)

      No proof exists that Rilke, for several years a devoted fan of Detlev von Liliencron, ever got to know Liliencron’s apostrophe to Prague in the sixteenth “Cantus” of his expanded autobiographical epic, Poggfred (1908). Liliencron toyed with the fancy that he had been born in the city, “perhaps a thousand years ago”; his heart is forsworn to it, although he has not forgotten Palermo (where he had evidently never been) and “Riben,” the medieval pearl that, just barely, had stayed inside Denmark’s new borders after Prussia took away South Jutland in 1864. (As he is from Holstein and a German...

  8. II. Diaries
    • 3: Three Diaries, 1898–1900 (pp. 93-121)

      Rilke’s nomenclature for these diaries is misleading. Only a small part of the “Florentine diary” (TF, 13–140) was written in Florence, and it was then continued in Viareggio, although it contains, to be sure, many memories of the city he had just precipitously abandoned. The final lengthy entry is from Zoppot, the Baltic resort near Danzig, on 6 July 1898. The “Schmargendorf diary” (143–306) is a patchwork; it starts in Zoppot on 11 July and continues from Berlin with a single entry on 1 August. Next, a letter from Arco (10 March 1899) is inserted. The diary contains...

    • 4: Lou Andreas-Salomé’s Russian Diary, 1900 (pp. 122-133)

      The diary of Lou Andreas-Salomé from her second Russian trip with Rilke is a precious piece of Rilkeana, although Rilke’s name appears only in the title she gave it, “Rußland mit Rainer.”¹ (As far as the present author knows, no corresponding diaristic records exist of their first Russian trip, undertaken from 25 April to 15 June 1899 and including both the cicisbeo Rainer and Lou’s husband, “der Loumann,” Friedrich Carl Andreas, the Iranist. This time the couple, Lou and Rainer, without Professor Andreas, set out from Berlin on 7 May 1900 and reached Moscow on 9 May; the latter stretch...

    • 5: Rilke’s Diary from Westerwede and Paris, 1902 (pp. 134-148)

      The Westerwede entries in Rilke’s Westerwede diary¹ were written in the wake of his marriage to Clara Westhoff on 28 April 1901, the establishment of their household in the vicinity of Worpswede, and the birth of little Ruth on 12 December of the same year, an event announced first with a new father’s traditional joy, followed shortly by desperate tones, for example, to Axel Juncker on 18 January: “Es ist eine schwere, schwere Zeit, eine Zeit, wie ein Maeterlinck’sches Schloß mit langen leeren Gängen und Thüren, die ins Nichts führen” (AJ, 52; It is a difficult, difficult time, a time...

  9. III. Rilke as Literary Critic
    • 6: Rilke as Reviewer of German-Language Literature (pp. 151-198)

      Viktor Karsky, in Rilke’s story “Heiliger Frühling” (Holy Spring), published in the new Munich illustrated weekly, Jugend (1896), is a likable young man who does not put his friends off, finds brilliant names for everything he does or does not do, and expresses himself with a certain mature assurance. He is also a sort of critic — he likes to speak about literature, never in blame or dismissal, but rather praising the books that find his favor, his words sounding like sanctions from the highest instance. Customarily he does not finish reading the books that seem poor to him but keeps...

    • 7: Rilke as Reviewer of Scandinavian Literature (pp. 199-234)

      On 14 March 1904, in Rome, Rilke had his wife, the willing Clara, pack up a copy of Mir zu Feier so that it could be sent to Ellen Key in Sweden; Rilke’s “liebe Freundin,” whom he had not yet met, was preparing to lecture on him in Gothenburg, Copenhagen, and Lund, and to write an essay about him for the leading Swedish periodical, Ord och bild (Word and Picture). Perhaps concerned to demonstrate to Ellen that the Rilkes were an ideal couple, interested in one another’s work, he told his Swedish correspondante that the book belonged to his wife,...

  10. IV. Poems
    • 8: “Der alte Invalid” (pp. 237-248)

      Rilke’s terrified outcry of 19 February 1919 (B 14–21, 235) to Insel’s Dr. Hünich concerned his very first book, Leben und Lieder (1894). Looking at Insel’s Die Frühen Gedichte (1909) and Erste Gedichte (1913), he found “beschämend viele Spuren jener kindischen Unredlichkeit” (shamefully many traces of that childish dishonesty) of which he had been guilty in those far-off days before the turn of the century, but now Dr. Hünich proposed resuscitating “jenes, in aller Weise verunglückte Heftchen, ‘Leben und Lieder,’ aus seiner heilen Vergessenheit” (that booklet, “Life and Songs,” a failure in every respect, from its blessed oblivion). If...

    • 9: “Auswandrerschiff” (pp. 249-259)

      When René had his much anticipated stay in the Bohemian countryside at Lautschin (Loučeň) in July 1894, visiting with Vally and her parents, he wrote a poem in utter contrast to other verses from the same time, poems such as “Abendstimmung” (Evening Mood), “Abend im Dorfe” (Evening in the Village), and “Mittelböhmische Landschaft” (Middle Bohemian Landscape). The spark for the aberrant verses can only be guessed at.

      Auswandrerschiff! Drauf Leute über Leute.

      Vornehme oben. Lachend, schlendernd, schmausend.

      Tief unten in dunstschwangeren Kajüten,

      wo nur die trübe Lampe müde brennt,

      die Armen.

      Männer, Weiber. Bleich, verdrossen. Ganz nah zusammgedrängt

      von ungewisser...

    • 10: “An den Grafen von Platen” (pp. 260-274)

      Poems about August von Platen-Hallermünde, the master of classical metrics, sonnets, and the Persian ghasel, were not uncommon after his sudden passing, at thirty-nine, in Syracuse, on 5 December 1835. Franz von Dingelstedt (1814–81) criticizes those who call Platen a cold and pedantic prosodist, as Karl Immermann (1796–1840) did in his lampoon-essay with verse appendix (mostly sonnets), Der im Irrgarten der Metrik umhertaumelnde Kavalier (The Cavalier Tumbling About in the Maze of Metrics, 1829). Platen’s reputation had been further damaged by his homosexuality, hinted at by Heine in chapters 10–11 of Die Bäder von Lucca (The Baths...

    • 11: “Die Liese wird heute just sechzehn Jahr” (pp. 275-280)

      The painful elements in Traumgekrönt, the successor to Larenopfer, are legion. Divided into “Träumen” (Dreaming) and “Lieben” (Loving), it has patches of extreme sentimentality: “Nur heute sind es Tränen, — / und gestern war es Tau” (SW 1:77; Only today it is tears, — / and yesterday it was dew); cuteness: “mäuschenstille Plätze” (85; places still as a little mouse) and “ihr Händchen, elfenschlank” (91; her little hand, elfin-slender); and hints at sexual involvement ending badly. The lover has been given his walking papers and feels

      Als ob ich tot wär und im Hirne

      mir dennoch wühlte wilde Qual,

      weil mir vom...

    • 12: “Venedig” (pp. 281-293)

      On 26 June 1920, Rilke dredged up the memory of his first visit to Venice, in a letter to Countess Marie Therese Mirbach-Geldern, née Countess Hoyos: “Venedig will ‘geglaubt’ sein; als ich es zuerst sah, im Jahre 1897, geschahs als Gast eines Amerikaners!” (GB 4:303; Venice has to be “believed”; when I first saw it, in 1897, it was as a guest of an American!). This time he had been in Venice since 11 June, initially staying at the Hotel Europe, then, after the departure of Princess Marie von Thurn und Taxis, in her “mezzanino” in the Palazzo Valmarana. The...

    • 13: “Weißes Glück” (pp. 294-302)

      The Czech journal Moderní revue pro literaturu, umĕní a život published in 1898 (4.7:173) a Rilke poem, “Bílé štĕstí” (Weißes Glück), translated by Arnošt Procházka. The previous year, Moderní revue had brought out two Rilke poems in German, “Der Kirchhof” (The Churchyard), taken into Advent as “Tenno” (SW 1:119), and “Der schwarze Tod” (The Black Death), next published in 1959 (SW 3:444). The journal’s editor, Jiří Karásek ze Lvovic (1871–1951), was not a fanatic in the language question and, as a programmatic decadent, had a fondness for the morbid and the perverse. (Among Karásek’s own poems in the journal...

    • 14: “Aus einem Bauernsommer” and “Vom Tode” (pp. 303-317)

      A substantial if confusing pictorial record¹ exists of the stay of Lou and her entourage at Wolfratshausen, outside Munich. A well-known photograph of her first summer rental, the “Lutzhaus” or also, more splendidly, the “Lutzvilla” (called after its owner, Herr Lutz), shows, from left to right, in a gazebo, a dowdy Frieda von Bülow, Lou’s friend, holding Lou’s dog; Rilke, neatly clad and unmustached; August Endell, the Munich interior decorator and architect, panama-hatted; Lou herself, on whom Rilke’s gaze is fixed, girlish in her loose hair and sleeves, leaning over a railing; and, standing close beside her, a Russian visitor,...

    • 15: “Intérieur” (pp. 318-325)

      Intérieur,” written in Berlin-Wilmersdorf on 25 November 1897, and included in Mir zur Feier (1899), is one of the sixteen poems Rilke dropped when he revised the collection for the Insel-Verlag as Die Frühen Gedichte (1909):

      So bleiben in den Wellen dieses Felles.

      Und wie zum Spiel durch müde Liderspalten

      den Formen folgen und den samtnen Falten,

      und sachte tasten die damastnen Decken

      entlang, mit Fingern fühlen: kühle Becken,

      und mit den Händen ihre Lichte lecken

      und raten: Sind sie Silber oder Gold?

      Und an den Vasen rütteln, daß ein Wellchen

      in ihnen aufwacht, und aus hellen Kelchen

      ein Blätterrieseln...

    • 16: “In der Certosa” (pp. 326-337)

      When Rilke was in Florence in April 1898, on the commission of Lou, he made an excursion recommended by Baedeker’s Italien: Erster Teil: Ober-Italien, Ligurien, Das [sic] nördliche Toscana (1894): to reach the “Certosa di Val d’Ema,” also called the “Certosa di Galluzzo,” one took a twenty-three minute ride by steam-tram, for 35 centesimi, from the Porta Romana. Contrary to his wont, he did not describe the artistic treasures of the large Carthusian monastery, the “rich and splendid edifice” built by the Florentine merchant Nicolo Acciaioli in 1341. Instead his attention was fixed on the courtyards, filled with small gardens:...

    • 17: “Die Heiligen Drei Könige” (pp. 338-349)

      Rilke wrote his poem about the Three Wise Men at Schmargendorf on 23 July 1899. It was printed in the first year of the handsome journal, Die Insel, and was fitted out with arabesques in the margins and an illustration (of the Wise Men against a wintry landscape) by Heinrich Vogeler. Why Rilke turned to this Yuletide topic in high summer is not clear; perhaps he had his eye on a coming December number of one or another of the many periodicals that he bombarded with submissions. A contributing circumstance may be that he thought of a particular child, Rolf,...

    • 18: “Aus dem hohen Jubelklanggedränge” and “Im Musiksaal” (pp. 350-361)

      The last decades of the “long nineteenth century,” which ended in 1914, saw and heard a wonderful continuation of the German-Austrian musical flood, Brahms, Wagner, Bruckner, Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler, and Hugo Wolf, accompanied by voices that had learned from the German tradition, such as Smetana, Dvořák, Grieg, and Sibelius. The response of major literary men in the same language realm was spotty: Thomas Mann was wholly at home in music and his works cannot be understood without a knowledge of the art; Hermann Hesse had deep and abiding musical interests; but Stefan George seems almost tone-deaf, and Hofmannsthal, during...

    • 19: “Karl der Zwölfte von Schweden reitet in der Ukraine” (pp. 362-387)

      On their first visit to Moscow, in April 1899 Lou and Rilke, both art lovers, had found the museums closed for Easter, but when they returned in May, they went to the Tretyakov Gallery, among others; Rilke was captivated by a large display of works by Viktor Michailovich Vasnyetzov (1846–1925). These included “After the Battle of Igor Against the Polovtsians,” “The Werewolf,” “Ivan the Terrible,” and “Three Knights,” or “The Bogatyrs,” as well as a number of sketches for the murals in the Cathedral of St. Vladimir in Kiev, which they would visit a year later. Rilke was particularly...

    • 20: “Sturm” (pp. 388-396)

      Had “Sturm” existed before the first publication of Das Buch der Bilder, it could have been an appendage to “Karl der Zwölfte”; Ivan Mazeppa (1640–1709), the chieftain of the Zaporogean Cossacks, was Charles’s ally at Poltava and his companion on the flight to Bender. August Stahl believes that the poem was written at Jonsered in the autumn of 1904,² thus contemporary to another poem about wind, “Vorgefühl” (Presentiment), placed just before it in the expanded version of 1906.

      Ich bin wie eine Fahne von Fernen umgeben.

      Ich ahne die Winde, die kommen, und muß sie leben,

      während die Dinge...

  11. Select Bibliography (pp. 397-398)
  12. Index (pp. 399-433)
  13. Back Matter (pp. 434-434)