May 14, 2011

God's True Cloak

We must not portray you in king's robes,
you drifting mist that brought forth the morning.

From The Book of Hours I, 4


  1. In my mind's eye I've seen Rilke on that winter shore of the Adriatic where the first words of the Elegies come to him: But I've never seen the actual site as it is pictured above. It's fascinating, but somehow "king's robes" -- the mist could have enveloped Rilke anywhere, since its Voice came from deep within ... In another life, maybe I'll too walk the Rilke Path, the way penitents still navigate with bare feet the stony walk of St. Patrick's Purgatory in Ireland. To walk in the Poet's footsteps for that while, on path made distinct now by all of us who so revere the gift which came to one who so prepared to receive it. Yet if I heard Rilke's voice in the crash of Adriatic waves, in the wild wind of that promontory: would I be deceived by the king's robes? - Brendan

  2. Lydia, yes.

    Brendan, you exactly captured my feelings! While I was stunned to find this image of the castle and Rilke's path, and would so love to stand and walk somewhere on that height, imagining the poet, it also strikes such a King's robes pose, that it belies the quote. Somehow in that I find the delicious tension that this writer continually puts before us.

  3. I've just discovered this site. Thank you for creating it and for the wondrous paintings and images you also link with the texts. The Rilke Path is one I will now have to explore. I travel as much as possible in the Balkans but I didn't know before that the Duino Elegien were written here. Thanks again for the inspiration,

  4. I'm elated to see the paring down of the king. This is one of the aspects i love so of Rilke. The king - he walks among us. There is a demystification, a humbling, a nuding of royalty. There is, there is not, there is not, there is - here we all are tumbling out close to the cliff through the mist that enshrouds us.


  5. reading this i'm brought to recollect the words in rainer's letters to a young poet that allude to living the mystery honestly. i'm drawn to brendan's words also :" one who so prepared to receive it". i am really intrigued to know (if it is known) what rainer did to prepare himself for this massive download of insight and understanding and then more impressively, how he arrived at his extraordinary ability to articulate the download. steven

  6. Hi Steven -- Rilke's accomplishment by 1911 was incredible; he was already one of the most popular poets of the age; New Poems was pretty well without peer; yet Rilke knew he needed to develop further, and suffered several years of drifting about Europe, trying to get a bead on what perfection in poetry could be. How does one develop past the summit? He had renounced everything for it, yet still found himself gazing at some deeper, more intense labor.

    When the Voice came to him in the wind at Muzot that winter's day at Muzot -- whispering, "And if I cried, who'd listen to me among those angelic orders?", Rilke knew he was hearing the Source. He had enough in him to write the first two Elegies, but then the Angels went silent, for an entire decade. Rilke kept writing, attenuating, listening.

    To pick up from Donald Prater's biography, A Ringing Glass, when Rilke "received" the final "dictation" of the Elegies, in 1921: "Mountain heights or mine depths were expressive metaphors to convey the isolation his work demanded: but the notion of dogged perseverance to the goal was far from apposite. The Elegies had been begun, and their whole cycle perceived in outline, in an abrupt tempest of inspiration at Duino ((in 1911)), now a whole decade back in time; the inspiration had briefly returned in Paris and Munich; it had to return again if they were to be completed. Rodin's 'tojours travailler' could no longer be the precept for the 'heart-work/on all the images imprisoned within you', and no amount of chipping away at the seam in the search for gold, or struggling forward in the quest for the mountain peak, could substitute, it seemed, for the sudden burst of 'inner dictation.' All he could do was seek the right conditions, prepare himself by routine word-smith work-letters, transcriptions from his reading, translations--and hope."

    And so it came at Muzot -- but not as he expected. The Sonnets to Orpheus poured out first in a roar, and then mixed into the torrent the remaining Elegies. Within a month, both works were done. - Brendan

  7. No, we must not dress as a king he who so humbly offered us his morning. But what a morning! In truth, it is not the castle that amazes me so much as the cliff, the boom and echo of the sea on three sides (or so I imagine)--the angels' hierarchies indeed.

  8. brendan thankyou for this insight. rilke has hovered on the fringe of my reading for a very long time and through the work of ruth and lorenzo and your own detailed and insightful unpackings, i have come to admire and appreciate not only his writing, but the deeper experiencing that they point to. steven

  9. hard to draw near a king
    seems favor is required
    a work
    ah! but a mist cannot be avoided
    it envelopes the peasant and prince just the same
    seems that's how it should be
    a lovely observation


"Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night."

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Go ahead, bloom recklessly!