Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Rainer Maria Rilke

I've been reading Rilke's poetry (thanks to a commenter ;). The line that first hooked me was:

"The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things."

So here I am at 2am reading all the Rilke I can online, all because I finally googled and read his wikipedia page. His quotes just seemed to get to the core of so much of what I have learned in this life, so I finally HAD to see his life. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, but when I read this, I gasped:

"The relationship between Phia (his mother) and her only son was encumbered by her prolonged mourning for her elder daughter who was lost after only a week of life."

Rainer was his mother's rainbow baby. It all makes sense, he is someone who has been shaped by grief, raised by a mother who was profoundly impacted by child loss. His famous, Sonnets to Orpheus, were dedicated to his daughter's friend who died at the age of 19. Here is a section of one of his other most famous poems, Duino Elegies:

In the end, those who were carried off early no longer need us:
they are weaned from earth's sorrows and joys,
as gently as children outgrow the soft breasts of their mothers.
But we, who do need such great mysteries,
we for whom grief is so often the source of our spirit's growth--:
could we exist without them?
Is the legend meaningless that tells how, in the lament for Linus,
the daring first notes of song pierced through the barren numbness;
and then in the startled space which a youth as lovely as a god has suddenly left forever,
the Void felt for the first time that harmony which now enraptures and comforts and helps us.


Black Crow King said...

Doubtlessly, Rilke's power of grabbing is so intense but in my opinion this power comes from his belief of God. Though his other poems shows this mysticism much more. Nonetheless, I think there was an another upper power that tuned him eventually, called Lou Andreas-Salomé.

Cara said...

Wow. What a powerful post and an effective opening of a new box - pandora style - for me. I think I'm hooked now.

Is this what we do to our rainbow babies? I've been grappling with the "guilt" of parenting after loss but I think this is a much clearer picture of what I'm trying to understand.

The guilt is knowing my children have this, and have it forever, they will be "someone who has been shaped by grief, raised by a mother who was profoundly impacted by child loss" as you say so well.

Some days I can handle that and others I just don't know.

anarchist mom said...

Black Crow King,
I don't disagree, his imagery of God and particularly angels is magnificent, but religion is often a coping mechanism for grief. His mother's loss came prior to his birth and his understanding of religion. He was likely exposed to both (grief, religion) at a young age through his mother and her loss.

anarchist mom said...

Cara, you're right, it's one more burden for us to worry about the burden to them. But if Rilke is any example, I think it means they'll have a strong sense of compassion, and a much deeper understanding of this world and the human condition.