Walking With Rilke

Walking snowy cliff paths east, I rest

at the promontory with water

and a book of hours at noon.

Spontaneously received, the Sun’s inner light charges,

grasps me, and waves the wind west.


                                      Photo by Aconcagua 

A much nicer cliff walk than mine, this is Duino Castle near Trieste, Italy, where Rainer Maria Rilke began writing the Duino Elegies. He said he heard spontaneously received the first line – Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the Angelic Orders? – as a voice in the wind while walking along the cliffs and that he wrote it quickly in his notebook.

See this post for some background on the inspiration for this poem.


Rainer Maria Rilke

I have been spending some time reading about Rainer Maria Rilke, a poet whose poems I have never loved as much as critics and other readers.

I have read his Book of Hours: Love Poems to God which was inspired by a trip to Russia where he found a “spirituality he encountered there.” Back in Germany, he set down what he felt were “spontaneously received prayers.”

The other book I have is The Duino Elegies which is often described as “ecstatic.” It was inspired by a trip to Italy, but he wrote it in Switzerland where he spent the last years of his life.

I find his life interesting though and that did send me back to read more of the poems. I know lots of writers list his Letters to a Young Poet as a life-changer. The book I read most recently is about him and is also some of his poems.

A Year with Rilke: Daily Readings from the Best of Rainer Maria Rilke is a reading from Rilke for every day of the year, including poetry, prose and his letters and journals. Not a book of hours, but a book of days, which slips nicely on a virtual shelf with this website.

Rilke is far more concerned with achieving intimacy with God, or the divine, than I am. That’s a relationship I don’t find to be reciprocal, but I can be interested in his quest.

My little Rilke poem on this site was inspired by a cliff walk I took and by Rilke’s poem below.


A Walk

My eyes already touch the sunny hill.

going far ahead of the road I have begun.

So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;

it has inner light, even from a distance –

and charges us, even if we do not reach it,

into something else, which, hardly sensing it,

we already are; a gesture waves us on

answering our own wave…

but what we feel is the wind in our faces.