Andyet Rilke's own discursive commentaries can makethe poetry seem ... In his first letter of1903to Franz Xaver Kappus, the officercadet 'young poet', ...
Author: Rainer Maria Rilke
They are perhaps most mysterious, even to me,' wrote Rainer Maria Rilke of the Sonnets to Orpheus, 'in the manner in which they arrived and imposed themselves on me - the most puzzling dictation I have ever received and taken down.' Rilke, born in Prague in 1875, died at Valmont near Montreux in the last days of 1926. His Sonnets to Orpheus may appear comparatively simple, even casual, at first reading, but they are crammed with content which resonates far beyond the familiar legend of Orpheus and Eurydice. The Sonnets have an astonishing range which takes in the Singing God and his beloved Eurydice; legend in general, along with time, flight and change; architecture, music and dance; animals, plants, flowers and fruits. They ask to be read by the ear and by the inner eye as much as by the intellect. The Sonnets were 'taken down' during a very few weeks in 1922 - weeks in which the poet also brought his Duino Elegies to completion. In them, Rilke partly identifies himself with Orpheus. The young dancer Vera, for whom the Sonnets are inscribed, taken so young into the Underworld, becomes Eurydice. A tension which adds life to Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus comes through a paradox. Rilke's was a deeply inward, introspective nature, but in the Sonnets he succeeds brilliantly in looking out from his isolation: in making poetry from material which lies in an important sense 'outside'. Rilke's ten letters to the young officer-cadet Franz Xavier Kappus, written between 1903 and 1908, were later published as Letters to a Young Poet. By now the letters have become a part of literary folklore. They contain insights which are as profound today as when they were written, almost a century ago.