I would like to step out of my heart’s door
and be under the great sky.
— Rilke, “Lament”
A myriad of shades, a plethora of images, the juxtaposition of sentiments which soothe and unsettle. Das Buch der Bilder.
A miscellany of visuals and existential hues. A mélange of nuances and distinctive sounds. A sense of clarity with the scent of perplexity. The mystical and the ordinary fluctuate in harmony. Chaotic perfection takes this collection by storm. A vision. A metaphor. A book. A thousand mirrors. The book of images.
The last of his lineI have no paternal house,nor have I lost one;my mother birthed me outinto the world.Here I stand now in the world and goeven deeper into the worldand have my happiness and have my woeand have each one alone....
This poetry collection was first published in 1902, when Rilke was twenty-six years old. The second edition, which appeared in 1906, is the one I read, translated by Edward Snow and published in 2014. A work which apparently knew how to circumvent the challenges of poetry and translation, for Rilke’s verses acquire a natural fluency by virtue of Snow’s mastery.
Requiem…Life is only a part… of what?Life is only a note… in what?Life has meaning only joined with manyreceding circles of increasing space, –life is only the dream of a dream,but waking is elsewhere.
The variety of themes and the original approach chosen by Rilke have distinguished his writing until evanescent categories were completely gone, elevating poetry to sometimes unfathomable levels. Sacred symbols and mundane illustrations coalesce in the land of polarity. If the reader finds a way to connect with the poetic expressions Rilke used to deconstruct the world, then a memorable journey will soon begin. A journey in which the light of day emphasizes the color of a rose, and the silence of a room shape the nights that never end. The days that bring solace. The nights that beg for poetry. The days of pressure. The nights that dislike the sound of echo; the nights that long for it afterwards amidst confusion. The nights of indifference and quick replacements too despicable to confess. The nights when childhood is a distant memory, when guardian angels seem oblivious, when life is heavier than the weight of all things.*
* From the poem “The Neighbor”