About Rilke

In 2012 I published my translations of The Sonnets to Orpheus. In this testing time of viral pandemic, many of us have had more time to reflect than in years while others are facing daily the devastation that is being visited upon us. Quoting from my preface to that book, I wrote

“Despite his vision of the inter-relatedness of living things and the healing power of nature, Rilke also had a sense of the abysses of unique experience which separate us and make intimacy so difficult.”

As we slowly come out of the chaos and tragedy which will have harmed so many of us, how will we rise to the challenge of an altered world? What is that challenge? Of course words fail me. This prayer by Rilke seems to me to strike a suitably elegiac note:-

(Sonnet to Orpheus I, 19)

Even the world dissolves 
like billowing cloud,
all things achieved
return to their beginnings.
Beyond change and clamour, 
wider and freer, 
cast your sustaining song,
god with a lyre.

We find pain hard to bear
or learn love's teaching, 
and death's estrangement 
is unremitting.
Only divine song 
heals and affirms.

Published by davidcookpoet

I am a husband, father and grandfather. I retired from a busy working life as an adult psychiatrist in 2014. My interests are in literature, philosophy, modern jazz and horse racing. I might represent those four fields by Shakespeare, Kant, Charlie Parker and Lester Piggott. Like nearly all of us, I can identify a number of formative experiences, one of which was a psychotic episode in my first year as a psychiatrist. This reinforced an already established interest in mystical experience, and a sense of how little human beings know. My intellectual bugbear is reductive materialism, and I am surprised at the lack of moral imagination of those who promulgate such views. It seems to me they need to consider ,perhaps by exposure, just why totalitarianism is so horrific.

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