About a seer and prophet

The Minister of Culture and Communication Neumann is about to join the audience in his turn to ask questions about world literature: How to view the work of the revered poet Rilke. Marcel Reich-Ranicki (1) sees in it the feat of conquering the unspeakable.
To me Rilke belongs to the most impressive Germanic poets. Now how do you rate the work of that poet? Bernd Neumann, Culture Minister of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Marcel Reich-Ranicki: He is the hero, the saint of many generations of Germany, moreover, of European readers. For them he was the embodiment of poetry, and the rhythmic name Rainer Maria Rilke became a symbol of poetry. However, unlike the other great poets of the last century, although not first, Rilke is also perceived as a seer and a prophet. His words were accepted as savior and as a substitute for religion.

It may be difficult to bear the appearance of a fortune-teller today, and demanding prophecy from a politician or a poet is often seen as outmoded. But even today, it is very difficult to resist the rhythm of these verses, before and after they enthrall us, their sweet rhythms, their high tones, their extravagant fullness. .

Rilke knows how to use rhyme like very few poets in the history of our (German) literature. His poetry is a feat of conquering the unspeakable. Thus Rilke succeeded in opening to German poetry fields almost no one knew of their existence.

There was no shortage of whispers and darkness in him. But for that very reason, in his poems, many of the succinct expressions gain persuasion and impact through a wonderful clarity, a surprising simplicity. Not a few of these expressions can be easily quoted, such as the winged words of Schiller (3) or the vernacular in Heine’s verses. We love the solemn beginning of the poem: „ Dear Father, the time has come. Summer is so vast.” Frequently and with delight, we quote the evocative, tragic directive: ‘Whoever is now homeless, will not build any more’.

One of Rilke’s early poems is cited, which is not among his finest works, but, in the millions of editions that have been published and made famous like no other line of poetry, has even made he could become a folk poet. I mean „Cornet Christoph Rilke’s Song of Love and Death“. I have never forgotten the first teaching: “Phi, phi, go through the day and night… And the day is tired and the nostalgia is big”.

Rilke’s lyrical ravishing music should not make us overlook or underestimate the fact that Rilke captured the spirit of the times and accurately expressed it. He is the author of the always-quoted verse written in 1908, which expresses the grief of an entire generation and, at this verse Gottfried Benn bowed in gratitude: „ Who speaks of victory? ? Overcoming is everything.”

In the play “Don Carlos”, Marquis Posa begged the queen to refer to the prince as her friend: „ With youthful dreams, it is necessary to be careful to be masculine. “Belongs to the dream of Youth are still literary works, which will continue to invade our hearts, because they always meet us at the right time – and therefore are forever unforgettable.

Translator’s Note:

Marcel Reich-Ranicki (born 1920): The most influential contemporary literary critic and author in the German-speaking region.

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926): Poet, writer, essayist and translator, he belongs to the most important poets of German literature.

Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805): German poet, philosopher and historian, one of the greatest playwrights and lyricists of German literature.

Gottfried Benn (1886-1956): German poet, essayist, doctor, among the few most famous poets of the first half of the 20th century.

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