A Brief Rilke Biography




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Rainer Maria Rilke  1875-1926


| About Cliff Crego | Rilke Portrait | Poem Index | Rilke Posters | The Rilke Archive | Im Bild | Picture/Poems | Rilke HOME | SHOP | 


Poet, writer.


Widely considered one of the greatest lyric poets of 20th century German Literature.  
Rilke's work has been introduced into the English literary world, starting in 1936,  by
two different generations of translators, including J. B. Leischmann, C. F. MacIntyre,
Walter Arndt, Edward Snow, David Young, Robert Bly
and Stephen Mitchell.

Biographers include, among others, Ralph Freedman, Lehmann, and William H. Gass.

Below is a recording/sample of Rilke's work in English translation; it's a soundpoem
based on the beginning of the famous cycle of poems which he composed in Paris
around the turn of the 20th century, DIE STIMMEN / THE VOICES: "Title Page"








1875

Born on December the 4th in Prague. Son of Josef Rilke,
a railway inspector, and his wife Phia.


1886-1891

Military Academy. Already during his younger school days,
Rilke has ambitions as a writer.


1894

Publishes his first collection of poems, "Leben und Lieder",
or "Life and Songs."


1895

Begins Art and Literature History studies in Prague.


1896

Begins studies in philosophy at the University of Munich.

orpheus drawing Emil Orlik's Rilke (1896)
used as one of the icons for
picture-poems.com/rilke

(click to enlarge)
Emil Orlik's
Rilke
(1917)


(click to enlarge)



| see also Emil Orlik:
Rilke with Wilhelm von Scholz and Oskar Fried
(1896) |


Begins what will become a life-long friendship with the writer
and Russian-born intellectual Lou Andreas-Salomé.

lou andreas-salomé Lou Andreas-Salomé (1861-1937)
Rilke's friend and confidant .

(click to enlarge)

1897

Follows Andreas-Salomé to Berlin. Following her advice, he changes first
name from René to Rainer.

rilke with lou andreas-salomé Rilke with Lou Andreas-Salomé (1897)
On the balcony of the summer house
of the family Andreas. (Near München:
left to right: Professor Andreas, August Endell,
Rilke and Lou Andreas-Salomé.)

(click to enlarge)


1899

Rilke enters the University of Berlin as an Art History student.


1899/1900

Together with Lou Andreas-Salomé, Rilke undertakes two extended journeys through Russia.
Meets Leo Tolstoy. Plans a monograph on Russian painters, which, however, is never written.

pasternak's rilke Leonid Pasternak's
Rilke sketch
(Moscow 1900)

(click to enlarge)
Rilke with Lou Andreas-
Salomé in Russia
(1900)


(click to enlarge)

1900

Rilke spends the summer at the artists' colony at Worpswede. There he meets the sculptress,
Clara Westhoff, and the painter, Paula Modersohn-Becker.


1901
Breaks off his relationship with Lou Andreas-Salomé and marries Clara Westhoff.
They move from Westerwede to Worpswede, where their daughter, Ruth, is born.

 Rilke with Clara Westhoff

Portrait of Clara Rilke-Westhoff by Paula Modersohn-Becker. (A German site
in English, with gallery) "Clara Westhoff was born on September 21st, 1878 in Bremen.
She became sculptor student of Fritz Mackensen in Worpswede in 1898. In 1899
studies with Max Klinger and Carl Seffner in Leipzig,
in 1900 studies with Rodin in Paris."

rilke 1902 Rilke (1902)
Photograph was made just after
the publication of the frirst edition
of The Book of Images.

(click to enlarge)

1902

Dissolves household at Worpswede. Ends his marriage to Clara Westhoff,
although they remain close the rest of Rilke's life. Lack of funds forces Rilke
to take on various writing commissions. Journeys to Paris, where he meets
the sculptor, Auguste Rodin.

Breaks away from the more subjective, sentimental style of his earlier poetry. In part, perhaps
because of Rodin's profound influence -- Rilke takes a position as his private secretary --
Rilke's work begins to show an amazing compact quality, with great attention
given to the unity of sound, image and meaning. Also remarkable is
the care with which the poems move as a sequence, from one poem or quality
of space to the next.

(The collection of 80 translations presented here attempts to give the reader something
of an idea of these wonderful contrasts between the individual poems. Try reading aloud
the sequence: The Panther >>> The Swan >>>The Gazelle.
There is a movement from powerfully masculine granitelike accents and rhythms—
The Panther, to the almost timeless quality of peacefully flowing water—
The Swan, to one of the most beautifully delicate, purely feminine compositions
in the German language—  The Gazelle. As a whole, this trio of poems displays
a quality of balance in flowing movement that makes them perhaps just as important
and relevant in the current era as they were when they were written, almost 100 years ago.)



Writes one of his most famous poems Der Panther -- The Panther:
Six Ways of Seeing a German Poem
 --  which becomes the signature piece
of a collection called simply, "Neue Gedichte", or "New Poems."

Birth of the Ding-Gedicht  --  a 'thing' or object poem  --  characterized by an intense
seeing into the subject and short, tightly-crafted compositions with striking imagery.
Also remarkable is the lack of the appearance of the poet himself, in first person, 
in the poems.

| go to selected New Poems |



1903

Publishes a monograph on Rodin in Berlin.



 Auguste Rodin


1903-1906

Rilke's friendship with Rodin, as well as his travels to Paris, Rome and Scandinavia,
profoundly influences his manner of writing. Characteristic of this period is the
"sachlichen Sagens", or a more 'concrete' or 'factual saying' or 'telling.

Below, an autograph copy of one Rilke's most famous poems dating from
this period, Herbst / Autumn, still in his older, more lyrical style. Notice
Rilke's characteristic use of images of natural movement, which runs throughout
the whole of his work:


The leaves are falling, falling as if from afar,
as if withered in the distant gardens of heaven;
with nay-saying gestures they fall.

And in the nights falls the heavy earth
from all the stars into loneliness.

We all are falling. This hand there falls.
And look at the others: it is in all of them.

And yet there is one, who holds all this
falling with infinite gentleness in his hands.


(tr. Cliff Crego)

In RealAudio: Listen to a moving historic recording of Clara Westhoff-Rilke reading
Herbst / Autumn in the German original: (from the website of radiobremen)

(1) "Herbst", [0'37]  Clara Westhoff liest das Gedicht: "Herbst"
von Rainer Maria Rilke, (Radio Bremen 1953)

| go to
manuscript of Vorgefühl/Premonition (c.1904)
a part of the second edition of The Book of Images. (1906) |

Publishes the enlarged edition of "The Book of Images." 

| go to selected The Book of Images |









1905

The "Stunden-Buch" or "Book of Hours" is released.
Enrolls again in the Philosophy Seminar at the University
of Berlin as a student of Georg Simmel.

| go to selected The Book of Hours |


1906-7

Rilke is for a short time the private secretary of Rodin.

Written around the turn of the century, and much influenced by the Jugenstil,
"The Tale of the Love and Death of the Cornet Christoph Rilke" is published,
which became a great popular success.

rilke with clara 1906 Rilke with Clara Westhoff-Rilke (1906)
In the photograph, Clara Westhoff, a sculptress
and student of Rodin's, is modelling
a bust of Rilke.

(click to enlarge)

In 1907 on the famous island off the southwest coast of Italy, Capri, Rilke translates
Elizabeth Barret-Browning's "Sonnets from the Portuguese."


XLIII

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace. [...]
XLIII

Wie ich dich liebe? Lass mich zählen wie.
Ich liebe dich so tief, so hoch, so weit,
als meine Seele blindlings reicht, wenn sie
ihr Dasein abfühlt und die Ewigkeit. [...]

(For the complete English/German texts (44), see Rilke entdecken, Rilke besprechen,
a German website. "Rilke later wrote, [I have] gone after the English verses in the same
way one on turbulent windy nights goes after the clear moon -- without hope of reaching it."")



1908

In memory of Paula Modersohn-Becker, who died in 1907,
Rilke writes, "Requiem for a Friend."


| go to Portrait |

| go to Paula Modersohn-Becker: Selfportrait  (1906) |

1910

"The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge" is published. This is Rilke's journal-like
book, written in prose-poem form, on which Rilke has worked since 1904; its
young protagonist is a poor Danish poet living in Paris.  

brigge table Rilke in his workroom
at Hôtel Biron, Paris,
during the time he was
writing "Brigge."

(click to enlarge)

A Rilke Library  (A German site, with the complete text of Die Aufzeichnungen
des Malte Laurid Brigge
)




1912

At Castle Duino, near Triest, Italy, guest of Marie von Thurn und Taxis-Hohenlohe,
Rilke composes the first of his Elegies as well as "The Life of Mary."

Together with Andreas-Salomé, Rilke takes part in a Psychology Congress in Munich
where he meets Sigmund Freud.

Das Marienleben  (Duino, Januar 1912: A German site, with complete  German text)


1914

At the beginning of the First World War, Rilke writes his "War Songs."
This initial enthusiasm for the war gives way quickly to devastation.
See from this period "Exposed on the Mountains of the Heart" at a related website
by Cliff Crego, picture-poems.com: Out of an April: Mountains of the Heart.

This extraordinary poem, which is one of the some five hundred pieces Rilke left
behind in his uncollected work, was written in September of 1914. By year's end, more
than a million men had died in the trenches along the French/German front not
far from Paris.



1915

Rilke is conscripted into the Austrian Army.

rilke as soldier Rilke as soldier (c. 1915) Rilke was drafted
into the Austrian Army on the 26th of November,
1915. He was almost forty years old. From the end
of January to June of 1916, he worked
at the War Archive in Vienna.

(click to enlarge)

1916

Given a position at the War Archive in Vienna.

1918

After the war, Rilke moves again to Munich, where he meets Hans Eisler,
the composer, and Ernst Toller.

Listen in RealAudio: Claire Goll recalls hear friendschip with Rilke c.1918;
reads from letters: an histroic recording from radiobremen
Claire Goll: Meine Beziehung zu Rilke
Aus einem Radio-Bremen-Interview1966,
Interviewerin: Irmgard Bach


1919

Rilke leaves Germany and takes up residency at different addresses in Switzerland.

rilke passbild Rilke's Passport
Photo:
1919
.

(click to enlarge)

1921

He moves into the villa at Muzot, in the Rhone River valley, Switzerland.
Becomes a Swiss citizen.

sierre, chateau de muzot Sierra, Switerland
Chéteau de Muzot
.

(click to enlarge)

rilke at muzot Rilke at Muzot
(Fall of 1923).

(click to enlarge)

rilke, moodie, reinhardt Rilke at Muzot
(Fall of 1923). With the young violin
virtuoso, Alma Moodie and conductor,
Werner Reinhardt.

(click to enlarge)





1922-23

"The Duino Elegies" and the "Sonnets to Orpheus" are published.

rilke with klossowska Rilke with Baladine Klossowska
(Muzot 1923)

(click to enlarge)
Klossowska's
famous Rilke sketch
(Paris 1925)


(click to enlarge)


| manuscript of Sonnet I [FIRST PART] Given as a gift to
Katharina Kippenberg during a visit to Muzot, February 1922. |


Sonnets to Orpheus: XIII [SECOND PART]

clip sonnet XIII

Watch Cliff Crego
perform one of the central poems
of the Sonnets to Orpheus:
German / English
QuickTime 2.7 Mb

.pdf



orpheus drawing Orpheus drawing by Cima da Coneligano
(around 1459-1518).
Baladine Klossowska placed it
above Rilke's writing table
at Muzot. 

(click to enlarge)

| go to Rilke ListeningPages: Sonnets to Orpheus 14 II Cliff Crego reads
in German and English [QuickTime]


wera ouckama-knoop Wera Ouckama-Knoop (1900-1919)
Rilke dedicated his Sonnets to Orpheus
to her, as"a grave memorial".

(click to enlarge)

| go to selected Sonnets to Orpheus twenty-three poems in the order
they have been featured (text only) | or download the PDF of 21 Sonnets
|


Picture/Poems: The Rilke Archive a collection of 40 biweekly
features: photography, commentary and translations by Cliff Crego


1924-1926


Rilke c. 1926

Frequent visits to a sanatorium in Val-Mont near Montreux and Bad Ragaz
because of poor health.

handinneres Manuscript of Handinneres/
Palm of the Hand

(1924).

(click to enlarge)


| go to selected Uncollected Poems |


1926

On December the 29th, Rilke dies at Val-Mont. "The Poetical Work of Michelangelo",
as well as his voluminous correspondence, are published post mortem. This body of work,
which includes letters to some of the most prominant writers and intellectuals of his time,
such as Marina Tsvetaeva, Auguste Rodin, André Gide, Hugo von Hofmannstahl,
Boris Pasternak, and Stefan Zweig. 







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"Dollar Store" image + backside text picture-poems.com Rilke Postcards

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a lifetime . . .




Mak




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THE WALLOWAS . . . Read the
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as clickable slideshow, about 15 pages. Everything about why I think
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and for the present era is there.


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New English translations
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With introduction . . .


| preview opens in new window |



photo of cliff crego
THE VOICES—

A new soundpoem for
percussion orchestra
& spoken voice


based on the famous
poem sequence
of
Rainer Maria Rilke
| go to German/English text |

DOWNLOAD
MP3 [23'] at AMAZON
for $0.89
or iTunes as album with
other of my compositions $9.99
[c. 23' 9 Mb]



| About Cliff Crego | Rilke Portrait | Poem Index | Rilke Posters | The Rilke Archive | Im Bild | Picture/Poems | Rilke HOME | SHOP |  

A List of Rilke's Work:

LEBEN UND LIEDER, 1894

MIR ZU FEIER, 1899

GESCHICHTEN VOM LIEBEN GOTT, 1900

DAS BUCH DER BILDER, 1902

WORPSWEDE, 1903

AUGUSTE RODIN, 1903-1913

GESCHICHTEN VOM LIEBEN GOTT, 1904

DAS STUNDEN-BUCH, 1905  (THE BOOK OF HOURS)

DIE WEISE VON LIEBE UND TOD DES CORNETS CHRISTOPH RILKE, 1906  
(THE TALE OF THE LOVE AND THE DEATH OF CORNET CHRISTOPHER RILKE)

DIE NEUEN GEDICHTE, 1908  (NEW POEMS)

REQUIEM, 1909

DIE AUFZEICHNUNGEN DES MALTE LAURIDS BRIGGE, 1910   
(THE NOTEBOOK OF  MALTE LAURIDS BRIGGE)

DAS MARIEN LEBEN, 1913
|(THE LIFE OF THE VIRGIN MARY)

DUINESER ELEGIEN, 1923  (DUINO ELEGIES)

DIE SONETTE AN ORPHEUS, 1923  
(SONNETS TO ORPHEUS)



ERZÄHLUNGEN UND SKIZZEN AUS DER FRÜHZEIT, 1928

BRIEFE UND TAGEBÜCHER AUS DER FRÜHZEIT, 1931

SPÄTE GEDICHTE, 1934

See also: Rilke entdecken, Rilke besprechen  (An excellent online resource with
a large selection of the original German texts. A German site: rilke.de)


| Source of documentary photographs used above: Schnack: Rilke: LEBEN UND WERK IM BILD Insel Verlag 1975 |
| Table of Contents | Biography | Portrait | Poem Index | Rilke Posters | The Rilke Archive | Im Bild | Picture/Poems | 
To view other work of Cliff Crego's, go to picture-poems.com: Picture/Poems: Central Display.
Also, see The Circle in the Square, a new music, poetry and dance performance project. See also
r2c: New Dutch Poetry in translation.

Comments and criticism are welcome, in English or German. You can write to Cliff Crego directly at crego@picture-poems.com



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(Last update: I.1.11)
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