Poet Analysis: Rainer Maria Rilke

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” -Milton Berle

Rainer Maria Rilke was an Austrian poet, who is well known for writing lyrical German poetry. Rilke has many published collections of poetry and his work is often said to be ‘mystical’.

Born René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke, he was brought up in the capital city of Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), Prague. There he lived an unhappy childhood, riddled with sadness; due to the loss of her daughter, his mother often dressed him in girl’s clothing, to make up for the loss.

At the age of 11, Rilke studied at a military academy for 5 years, before ending, due to his illness. He then went to study for 4 years for a university entry exam and as a result, passing.

After travelling for a few years with Lou Andreas-Salomé, he met his wife, sculptor Clara Westhoff. The couple then had a daughter Ruth, born 1901.

In 1902, Rilke moved to Paris to study and write a monograph on the sculptor, Auguste Rodin. As a result, Ruth was left with Westhoff, before her move to Paris as well. Rilke acted as a secretary for Rodin and wrote about her work. In addition to this, Rodin helped Rilke understand the value of objective observation, therefore transforming Rilke’s poetic style.

After publishing a novel, and a number of poetic books, Rilke died on December 29th 1926, later diagnosed to be suffering with leukemia. He wrote the following words for the inscription on his gravestone:

Rose, oh reiner Widerspruch, Lust,
Niemandes Schlaf zu sein unter soviel

Rose, oh pure contradiction, delight
of being no one’s sleep under so
many lids.

His grave may be seen today in the Raron cemetery, in the south of Switzerland.


Interesting Works by Rilke:

Rilke has written a number of different, interesting poems and there are a number of different books available that list them all. Another notable thing of Rilke’s is ‘Letters To a Young Poet’, which is a series of letters between himself and ‘young poet’ Franz Xaver Kappus.

Some of Rilke’s poems may be read here: http://www.bestpoems.net/rainer_maria_rilke/index.html


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