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Poet and Being: Specific features of R.-M. Rilke’s ontological discourse

Look, I am living. On what? Neither childhood nor future
grows any smaller . . . . . Superabundant being
wells up in my heart.

Rainer Maria Rilke ( translated by Stephen Mitchell)

Rainer-Maria Rilke is rightly considered an anagogic writer. Indeed, his works are significant not only for the German-speaking world, but for all those who in the infinity of artistic universe seeks answers to the eternal questions trying to apprehend themselves, their time, their nation and the prospects of its development. As the French thinker Gabriel Marcel has written: “Rilke’s … foundations look grand, they are hard to be perceived by the eye, and the significance of his works surpasses any limits previously set for him” 1 .

However at the dawn of the third millennium one must admit that despite numerous attempts to study Rilke he still remains one of the most enigmatic and hardly interpretable 20 th century authors. The artist’s evaluation by various specialists, often mutually exclusive and, after a thoughtful consideration, unconvincing – a pure artist, existentialist, modernist or the messiah poet – do not fully describe the aesthetic potential of the writer which is practically impossible, besides, ignoring one another, they create some exegetic chaos, significantly obscuring his reception.

Our research does not claim to be a summary interpretation of the essence of Rilke’s discourse. This is possible to do in the German-speaking cultural environment. Our aim is, however, to try and outline one of the possible main area of Rilke’s poetry study by studying its basic ontological aspects. We think that an outline of the poet’s ontological discourse will not only facilitate a future polymethodological interpretation of his works, but will also help to remove some analytical controversies such as the problem of the Christian nature, etc.

To begin with, let us draw our attention to the ontological aspect of Rilke’s works.

Paul de Man as well as many other scholars noted the perfect synthesis of Rilke’s “poetry and thought” 2 . On the other part, philosophy, in the opinion of English catholic thinker Gilbert Keith Chesterton, is nothing but a perfected thought” 3 . This alone calls for a more attentive study of the writer’s poetry through a philosophical prism. Moreover, such an interpretation perspective is quite popular in the modern hermeneutics.

Philosophisation and the ability to speculative reflections is an immanent property of human existence. Everyone, as a result of the social conscience functioning, professes to an extent some philosophical faith. “A man has only two possibilities, says Chesterton, either he is governed by a certain philosophical system or, unconsciously, picks up fragments of someone else’s uncertain, ruined systems” 4 . Therefore it is quite natural to single out the creative philosophy, first of all, of the author (as the world outlook basis 5 ), then the philosophical system of the literary character as a model of the human, including the political, ethical, religious, aesthetical and common-life viewpoints.

However, in the case of Rilke's lyrical hero we deal not with philosophisation but with the philosophy itself. As Gabriel Marcel rightly observes on the point, “it would be absurd not to expect to discover the motives in Rilke’s poems which belong to philosophy in the traditional and systemic sense of the word” 6 .

Which philosophical system, which type of philosophical thought most adequately correlates with the writer’s philosophy and his alter ego? The answer to this question can be obtained by even a superficial analysis of the poetic discourse, uppermost of the late, mature, finally shaped Rilke, where a profound sorrow for a lost integrity and seamlessness of life” 7 is felt. One may state that in the crucial for the arts and culture in general relationship man/existence the poet lays more stress with the latter element through which he comprehends the former. Therefore, the metaphysical reasoning of the problems of being is the leading motive natural for the poet. To be more precise, his philosophy shall be evaluated within the ontological existential tradition (with ontological codes indisputably prevailing) developed by Rilke’s contemporary, one of the most fundamental 20 th century philosophers, German thinker Martin Heidegger.

It is significant, that M. Heidegger himself on reading Rilke’s Elegies noted, that they represented the very ideas stated in his Being and Time 8 . In his work Why Poet the philosopher calls “existence” one of Rilke’s key words 9 , as well as relates the writer’s poetry to ontology (the teaching of being) and hermeneutics (the art of understanding and cognition of the truth of being). It was Rilke who cognized and expressed the evidence of the matter, says Heidegger, and the basis of matter has been called being since times immemorial 10 .

The following structure of the poet’s ontological discourse, particularly the combination in various metaphysical aspects (entia) of ideal categorical, i.e. properly philosophical aspect and figurative, purely artistic aspect is explicated through reflections of one of the students of Rilke’s works Romano Guardini: “Images may be the same things for the heart as ideas are for knowledge – the prerequisites and simultaneously the highest essence of life accomplishment..; a means of subduing the implacable foes of the life: chaos, devastation and insanity – as well as the result of such subduing. Ideas and images may be the same reality, viewed from differents areas of existence, the former from outside, the latter, from the inside. They are as if irradiation of the Logos through which he creates and arranges everything finite – from the outside by the clarity of conscience, from the inside by the profundity of life” 11 .

A detailed and meticulous analysis of each element of Rilke’s artistic metaphysics has been partially made, particularly by M. Heidegger and G. Marcel, the rest of it is to be made. By creating a model of our own variant of the ontological structure we seek to outline the basic system-forming elements and those created by the system, as well as define a coherent specific character of correlations and subordinations of the following elements, uppermost, the “nuclear” ones (Yu. Lotman), forming the system. In addition, we will try to identify and substantiate the conceptual dominant, the centre of verification of this discourse, which, on the one hand, logically stipulates the existence of this type of artistic reality, and on the other hand, the cognition of such dominant is to our mind the basic hermeneutic prerequisite of a full-fledged and unbiased interpretation of Rilke’s poetry.

Most of the system-forming elements strike the eye and the researchers lay the main stress on them: “...his poetry reveals a surprising diversity of places, objects and characters” 12 . We will restrict to six of them, the most characteristic ones (naturological, resological, acoustological, mythological, spiritological and chronological), which seem to constitute an expressive explicit layer of the poetry under consideration.

Understanding of the being of nature (naturological aspect of his ontology) has a profound meaning for Rilke: “... his extended / nature grows from both domains. / The willow's twig he skillfully bends, / who knowledge of the roots has gained.” ("Is he from here then? No, his extended / nature" //“The Sonnets to Orpheus”) 13 . This medial status is indeed an authentic metaphysical foundation of existence, since nature, as M. Heidegger observes, is the basis of the matter, to which we ourselves belong, its essence” 14 for a lyrical hero. Hence the outstanding ability of entia for transcendental visionariness: “ The faces of the beasts show what truly IS to us… We alone face death. The beast, death behind and God before, moves free through eternity like a river running.” (The Eighth Duino Elegy).

The artistic explication of being of natural entia is closely connected with the explication of being of things and products (resological aspect). According to G. Marcel, Rilke’s mission is to “talk things” 15 . Dmytro Nalyvayko believes that it is the tyranny over things that pains the poet, as it caused the alienation of man “doomed to a tragic discord with the world” 16 . The symbolic image of the technogenic civilization, an objective machine (“All we've gained is threatened by the machine, for as long as it has a willful spirit and won't obey.” (Sonnets To Orpheus)) both for him and for the Ukrainian existentionalism, especially amidst “Shot Renaissance”, became the town: “ Great cities are untruth; the change the day, the night, the animals, and the child; their silence lies, they lie with noises and thing which are willing”. (“Great cities are untruth...”// “Book of Hours”) 17 . The authentic being of things created by man does not pose any threat, moreover, it is an integral part of a real spiritual being, which elevates over the routine and spiritual impoverishment.: “... Angel, behold the vision. I will show it to you-Voila! Gather it into your eternal sight where it may at last endure, upright and redeemed: pillars, monoliths, the Sphinx, the gray cathedral's striving thrust o'er some strange and fading city.” (The Seventh Duino Elegy).

The aspiration of each being to a relative objectivation, even to a partial nominisation, allows the actualization of types of being, significant for the verbal character. Similarly the acoustological aspect (being of sound) is actualized. Even the non-existent (for us) voice of fish may become a reality: “ Fish are speechless ... once we thought. Who knows? But isn't there at last a place in which one speaks the fish's language, without fish?” ("Between the stars, how far; yet, how much farther" // “ The Sonnets to Orpheus). An analysis of the mythological aspect (being of myth) seemingly confirms this opinion. Contrary to a fashionable creation of myths in the early 20 th century modernist environment, Rilke’s textual Ego does not create a new myth, but rather correlates with the traditional (mostly ancient Greek) myth, transforming it according to the immanent needs of his inner world. Menades, Apollo’s Temple, Daphne, Samson’s mother, Neptune, Pan, even Eurydice and Orpheus – all these entities seem to be the elements of rather artistic than mythological thinking of the author, for whom myth is a being concentrating the quintessence of certain experience” 18 .

Together with material beings Rilke’s poetry permanently models the spiritual being (spiritological aspect). No wonder, that for G. Marcel Rilke is “a man embodying the being of spirit” 19 . Another statement of the French thinker confirms the above: “...the spiritual, for Rilke, is not separated from things, on the contrary...” 20 . Whereby the spitit as an idealistic ens, has both superexistential – “ "Hail to the spirit, with power that connects,"” (“The Sonnets to Orpheus”) – and abexistential forms (objective and subjective ones): “… Be - but still know non-being's conditions, the infinite foundation of your innermost vibration, so you fulfill it fully in this only time around.” (“Be ahead of all parting, as if it were / behind you …”// The Sonnets to Orpheus).

The same two forms (seemingly typical for Rilke’s ontological discourse) are observed in the chronological aspect (being of time). Rilke is efficient in construing complex temporal images. P. de Man mentions this efficiency in particular in “New Poems”, where, in his opinion. a new entity – the temporal one – appears, where a whole constellation of time, its deeply paradoxical anxiety can be singled out by the totalization of temporality” 21 . For us the most important is the highlighting of essential characteristics, i.e. the varieties of chronological images.

There are three main varieties of temporal entia. First, the time as objective essence, whose being does not depend on the human existence, only correlates with the latter (rather with its time): “ And with tiny steps the hours go by, keeping pace alongside our actual days.” (“Hail to the spirit, with power that connects” // Sonnets To Orpheus). Second, time as a semiexistential phenomenon able to break off at any time (given certain circumstances) with the man: “ O hour of my muse: why do you leave me, Wounding me by the wingbeats of your flight?” (“The Poet” // New Poems). Third, time as purely existential phenomenon, one of the main characteristics of human existence: “ Afraid, we seek a solid hold, we, too young sometimes for the old and too old for what never was.” (Call me to this hour of yours // Sonnets To Orpheus).

All these main explicit aspects of the ontological being are stipulated more or less by system-forming elements – anthropological, artological and theological ones, attested to by direct actualized correlations (the anthropological correlates practically with all the elements, the artogical – with the mythological one, and the theological with the spiritological aspect, etc.). The connection here is much more conceptual, however: each of the above six elements formed by the system depends on the three system-forming elements, which, in their turn, are also closely connected with each other and subordinated to the basic “nuclear” element.

The being of man (the anthropological aspect) on the strength of the peculiarity of arts is the leading one for the artistic world modeling. Everything is to an extent verified by it. The problem is, different artist understand the man in their own manner. However, certain axiological constants caused uppermost by the national cultural tradition, requirements of the epoch, individual artistic peculiarities can be defined. The major issues of the gnoseology of human existence have been conceptually developed to the utmost degree by the late Rilke. G. Marcel characterizes “the main issues besieging the poet’s soul” in the “Elegies”: “What is man? What can man? How does he sometimes avoid his predestination? How can he or could he fulfill it?” 22 .

We have already mentioned the medial status of existence for the poet, through which the man in some aspect, ontologically, appears to disadvantage before the animals” as “the pure existence” (Guardini) 23 , which is “before the world” (M. Heidegger) 24 . However the predestination of the man and his status are not exhausted thereby. As Vasyl Stus wrote to his wife (4.10.1974), contemplating over the Sonnets to Orpheus: “A usual collision for the poet: the man and the world who are to become akin forgetting any disagreements” 25 . Hence this penetrability of the human existence, its temporal and spatial versatility and cogency: “ Waves, Marina, we are the ocean! Depths, Marina, we are the sky! Earth, Marina, we are earth, a thousand times spring. We are larks whose outbursts of song fling them to the heavens.” (Elegy to Marina).

However Rilke does not reduce the human existence to the here-existence in atheistic existential sense of this term. Together with the existential dimension the man has another not less important (or maybe much more important) one. The human existence is characterized by V. Stus as follows: “We are in the radiance of two suns: God – the Providence and the free will” (P.125). The prevalence of the Divine, at least concerning the artist’s being, we clearly hear in the first lines of Sonnet ХХ (part one): “ But oh, what can I consecrate, say, to you, lord, who taught the creatures hearing?”. Thus, Rilke’s lyrical hero is differentiated from those existentialist philosophers who, explicitly or otherwise, come out against any reality of the beyond” 26 .

A characteristic symbolic image uniting the existential and transcedential dimensions in the human existence is the heart , which is an eidological sign in five sonnets (part І (ХХV, VII), part ІІ (ІІ, ІХ, ХХІ)) and ten elegies (І, ІІ, ІІІ, IV, V, VI, VII, ІХ, Х, “ Elegy to Marina”). In a letter written during the First World War the writer observes: “Nowhere are the measures of the individual heart applied, which however secured the unity of the earth and the heaven, of all the open and all the abysmal” 27 . By the way, such formulation to a great extent correlates with the Ukrainian existentialism, which is both transcendental and cordocentric.

However the most characteristic feature of the anthropological aspect of Rilke’s artistic philosophy is the view on the problems of human existence if not from existentialist, then from the existential perspective: “ Once and once only for each thing-then no more. For us as well. Once. Then no more... ever. But to have been as one, though but the once, with this world, never can be undone.” (The Ninth Duino Elegy). Thus, a peculiar Rilke’s existentialism is established, one of the leading modes whereof being a hard perception of life. “A hard perception of life, – says G. Marcel, – is weighing it at its real weight, it is measuring things by the carats of the heart, and not by suspicion and incidence. There is no denial. Rather on the contrary, this is an infinite attachment to life here” 28 . A hard perception of life helps to realize the impossibility to change something in it, leading to another chief existential – despair: “ We are, above all, eternal spectators looking upon, never from, the place itself. We are the essence of it. We construct it. It falls apart. We reconstruct it and fall apart ourselves.” (The Eighth Duino Elegy).

The danger to human existence expressed in the analysis of other existential modes – death, hope, love, loneliness, alienation, responsibility, struggle, etc. – are contemplated by the lyrical hero in a purely existentialist manner. It goes about the exposure of the destructive, dehumanizing and disabling influence of the technogenic civilization. In the first part of the Sonnets To Orpheus the general personification of this threat is the machine, the engine: “ See the machines: how they clash and careen, how they mangle and unnerve us. If our power they have, then at least, without passion, they bustle and serve us.” (“Lord, hear the new rumbling and ringing?”).

The objectivation of the world by the man in Heidegger’s opinion is presented by Rilke as one of the consequences of the essence of the established technology” 29 . “By building the world as an object the man obstructs of his own free will the already closed road to the Open” 30 , – observes the German philosopher. Thereby the man turns into a technologic functionary and through objectivation of the world retracts from the pure relationship.” 31 . Thus the negative notion of “night” in Rilke’s poetic universe is established: “The essence of technology only slowly appears on the surface, into the light of day. This day is just a world night reset into a bare technical day.” 32 . Addressing Orpheus the lyrical subject forms an imperative of his own towards the Europeans: “ Be, in this night of extravagances, magics at the crossroads of your senses, the sense they oddly all cohere.” (“Still friend of many distances, feel how”// Sonnets To Orpheus).

We will return to the discussion of the night and the character of the technological civilization. Here we will only remark that being the sense of the night is in the poet’s opinion articulating a natural and cultural space of his own, a materialized national spirit: “ Could it not be that we are here to say: house, bridge, cistern, gate, pitcher, flowering tree, window-or at most: monolith... skyscraper? But to say them in a way they, themselves, never knew themselves to be?” (The Ninth Duino Elegy). In this way the too universal thing seems to be established and specified, the noticed by G. Marcel destination of the soul in the Elegies and the Sonnets, which “in a way takes into guardianship the universe and undertakes the mission to ensure its growth or even rebirth” 33 . But these tasks are, first of all, set not for any human, but for an artist (moreover, Orpheus is nothing but an artist of genius). The artist (poet, singer) is the one more courageous, in Heidegger’s interpretation, who executes the here-being in the work of heart” 34 . While articulation of things, their artistic pronouncement is the praise of the national simple “things” (bridge, house, springs, tree, pitcher, window, tower, column), which had been gaining their shape from generation to generation and lived our life within our hand stretch and within our sight”(G. Marcel) 35 . Thus the national existential (nation-creating and nation-protecting) peculiarity of arts become apparent – “ the endless praise” (“Only one who raised the lyre among shades,” // Sonnets To Orpheus).

Generally we single out the being of art (artological aspect) as a second dominant of Rilke’s metaphysics. The art for the writer is first of all singing, poetry. As V. Stus observes, singing is an attempt to inspire the soul into the void, the unspirited... Poetry is the breath of non-being. It’s a blowing in the God...” (P. 125). Singing is timeless, it’s the Divine eternity: “ Over tumult and change, soaring wider and higher, your prelude's enduring, god with the lyre.” (“Though the world changes form quick as a cloud does” // Sonnets To Orpheus). The first of the Sonnets may serve as an example of the ontological spiritual creative power of the arts – “breathing a soul into unspirited” – where it is the singing of Orpheus that animates even the beasts: “... And where before there barely stood a hut to take this in, a hiding place of deepest darkest yens, and with an entryway whose doorposts trembled - you built for them an auditory temple.” (“A tree ascended there. Oh pure transcendence!”).

However, Rilke’s protagonist is not just a man or an artist, it is also a seeker and creator of the divine in the world. Hence, the theological aspect (being of God) is one of the most complex and contradictory ones in the writer’s philosophical discourse (it requires a detailed separate research, so we will only outline some important for us problems.). Hunter’s conclusion: God is only “the symbol of poet’s soul” 36 , contains inaccuracies and is somewhat biased, since it does not take into consideration the evolution of the notion of God in the Weltanschauung of the writer and his verbal protagonist. G. Marcel points out Rilke’s break with Christianity at the age of 16 (approximately in 1891) 37 , believed to be caused by his studies in Austrian military school. Obviously, here we see only the beginning of the break and reconsideration of God’s being (evidenced by the poetry of these years), which lead to his deobjectivation: “God is a direction given to love” 38 , – writes the poet.

Two types of the God’s image dominating in Rilke’s works can be singled out. The first places the divine being into the Christian paradigm (dealing with the God). The other abstracts from this paradigm, creating a kind of religious surrogate, the notion of the transcendental, something between the pantheism, humanism, aestheticism and Protestantism (the image of a god). Both these eidological types (the God and a god) tend to coexist in the philosophical and religious conscience of the lyrical hero from the very beginning, though the former type prevails in the early period of the poet’s career, while the latter – during his later period.

It is the Christian god that the lyrical hero strives to when Biblical are made (“...But I'll guide my lord's hand and speak: Here. This is Esau in his fur.” (You, my friend, are alone, because...” // Sonnets To Orpheus), the image of an angel appearing in the “Elegies” through which the God opens itself to the artist 39 , or a monk being sorry for the man’s vilification of the notion of God (in geocentric structure (P. de Man) 40 of the “Book of Hours”): “I know how manly the plan Madonna, and I often dream of young Titians, through which the God goes to hell.” (“I have many brethren in soutanes” // Book of Hours).

Another understanding of the divine being is asserted simultaneously. Similar to the Nietzschean desire to reconsider the God, a god as a transcendental unity leads to the fission of the notion, as D. Nalyvayko observes, into God the creator and god a creature 41 , whereof Rilke writes: “The man has such an urgent need in Him, that from the very beginning treats Him as if he were here. The man needed Him to be complete and he said: the God is there. No he must undergo the expected formation and our duty is to help Him” 42 . Thus the foundation is laid of Rilkean “religion”, Rilkean “god”, the so-called “orphism” (G. Marcel), which is very far from the Christianity: in the Sonnets Orpheus occupies the place of the Angel in the Elegies and of the God in his early works – writes the French philosopher 43 .

The prophetic image of humanistic existential god appears back in the Book of Hours: “my god is dark and like a web of a hundred roots which ding silently” (“I have many brethren in soutanes”). The God therefore is considered (continuing logically the Protestant tradition: “And no churches that embrace the God as a refugee and then lament him like a caged and sore animal" (“All will be great and violent again.” // Book of Hours)) as an abexistential essence, dependent completely on the man: “ I'm Your clothes and your business, with me you'll lose any sense.” (“What will you do, God, when I die?” // Book of Hours). Not the man created by the God, but a god created by the man.

Here it goes about the God and a god. The Rilkean god is a transcendental aesthetic essence gradually understood as a self-god (a natural product of any humanistic contemplation). Creators become the gods of the world, because they are those “little singers having Orphean duties before the universe, says V. Stus, to aesthesize it, not through the will of their own but by a crooked will of the nature of selfness. The world worships uis, expecting the Orphean singing from us, having believed in us.” (p. 126): “ Oh desolate god! You unending trail out! Only since blind hatred strew you about are we now hearers and a mouth for nature.” (“But you, divine, to the last resonating” // Sonnets To Orpheus). However, the same Sonnets To Orpheus contain the traditional understanding of God – superpersonal Supreme Essence ruling the universe: “ As that which we are, as the drivers, we're still regarded by lasting powers as divine necessities.” (“Is there really Time, the Reaver?” // Sonnets To Orpheus).

The obvious immanent controversialism of understanding the God by Rilke requires a more extended consideration of the lyrical protagonist. He is not a humanistic atheist, nor is he a Christian orthodox, rather an artist, Orphist, constantly searching for (and creating) the God (both the objective God the Creator and a created god-in-itself-for-everyone), thereby developing the existentionalist and the Protestant traditions..

Rilke’s Orphism returns the social conscience of his generation to the so-called pre-Christian state of the world reception by a conscience which knows that the transcendental sacred does exist, but for which it is extremely difficult to specify the parameters of there-being. In G. Marcel’s opinion it is this Orphism that provides a chance to comprehend the incomprehensible, ...he establishes around us as well as within us... a climate, favourable for us to discover this ability “to expect the unexpected”, without which... the Christian message itself is in danger of losing, in the end, its sense and its virtues” 44 .

Simultaneously, all the God-seeking reflections and feelings of the lyrical hero, their controversial character demonstrate a certain gnoseological and even hermeneutical defeat of the writer in the aspect of rationalist creating of God. Probably that is why Rilke, in one of his letters expresses his admiration by the tradition, lost to a great extent by West Europeans, where the notion of god is adopted on the irrational level, the level of the national subconsciousness (as God archetype): “I feel an affinity not to be expressed by words with the nations that have come to the God not through faith but by cognition of Him through their own ethnic peculiarity, inherited him, so to say, from their ancestors, like Jews, Arabs, to some extent Orthodox Russians (here Ukrainians should be included – P.I.), as well as, though in a quite different way, Oriental and ancient Mexicans.” 45 .

All the three described dominants of R.-M.Rilke’s artistic discourse point in a way to another one, which is more important, conceptual and profound, which arranges the structure of all other elements. The already discussed material – articulation by the author of the materialized national spirit as the sense of existence, continuation of the Protestant tradition of interpretation of God, religion and the church, etc. – these and similar elements point to the fundamental, mostly implicit dominant, the verification and axiological nucleus of Rilke’s ontological discourse. We mean the nation, or, to be more exact, the natiological aspect (being of the nation).

Most scholars agree about the obvious character of the poet’s partiality to a certain spiritual national system, Rilke’s conscience rooting in the German cultural tradition, despite some knowledge of the Austrian, Czech, French, etc. cultures. This is noticed even on the personal level. G. Marcel speaks of expressively Nietzschean themes in his Sonnets: agreement, attachment to the land, will of transformation 46 . M. Heidegger points out, that in the Elegies the Angel is metaphysically the same as Nietzsche’s Zarathustra 47 . Besides, Herder’s divine breeze resounds in the divine stir, wind in the 3 rd Sonnet, Part 1 48 . D. Nalyvayko observes, that during the post-war period "an unprecedented great importance for an artist is attached to the tradition of the German philosophical lyrics, first of all, to Goethe and Gelderlin” 49 . These names – Herder, Goethe, Gelderlin, Nietzsche, Heidegger himself, etc. – expressly show the German, not Austrian character of Rilke’s national identity and that of his lyrical protagonist. This explains both the fact that the writer did not consider himself an Austrian, and his orientation to the German classical literature 50 .

The natiological aspect of Rilke’s discourse absorbs two sub-aspects: being of a people and being of a race. The unity of race and people is ensured by the syncretic character of these notions in the lyrical hero’s mind, their eidological integrity, the original transfusion of one into the other. The structuredness of the national life as a blood unity of the dead, the living and the unborn (a reminiscence of Shevchenko’s concept) is especially noticeable and very clear in his 14 th sonnet, Part 1: “ We share the cycle of flower, grapeleaf, fruit. They don't speak just the language of the seasons. From darkness grows a gaudy revelation which is perhaps the object of some mute envy from the dead, who strengthen the soil. Can we conceive how they regard their part in this? It long has been their way to lard the loam through with their marrow. But this toil: the question seems to be, whether this is done freely. Does this, heavy work of slaves, ensphered press up to us, their lords, as fruit? Or are they the lords, who sleep beside the roots, and grant us out of their affluent graves this thing halfway between brute force and kisses?”

“The dead” are a symbol of metaphysical national sub-being, substance which even from the sphere of there-being can (and does) ensure the innermost and eternal character (through a sacral sign) of the here-being – “ strengthen the soil”, “lard the loam through with their marrow” “for the living” . The activity of the dead is explicated by an association with magic –“ the magic spell” (“You, my friend, are alone, because” // Sonnets To Orpheus).

Even love is actualized for the hero through the ancient – “ olden things”: women, “gloomy men”, “dead children” (3 rd Elegy). The ancient in the writer’s discourse turns into the ontological source, the initial point of the cosmo-psycho-logos (G. Gachev), a kind of the national Eden: “ Oh this longing, ever new, from loosened clay! Nearly no one helped the earliest ventures. Cities were built despite that on blissful bays; despite it, oil and water filled the pitchers. (...)We, a thousand year lineage: mater and pater, filled with future children, always more, which once outstripping us, will shake us, later.” Sonnets To Orpheus). Here an image of the unborn child appears, logically complementing the chain of generations – the live and the dead.

However, an idyllic vision of the national ancient being is darkened by the modern threat to the national existance: “ O my love, consider: the child we would fain conceive was never an individual but a multitude, the personification of the fathers lying in our depths like mountains leveled to the lowest summits; like the barren riverbeds of mothers past – the entire soundless panorama, whether cloudy or clear, of mutual destiny. Before you, sweet lover, this was...” (The Third Elegy). Simultaneously a certain gradation system is laid out: intimate peculiarities do not exist as a phenomenon – it is inscribed into the metaphysical national structure of a multitude. Besides, the individual being is verified by the collective (national) being (the child we would fain conceive was never an individual) and is subordinated to its entia – “child”, “fathers”, “mothers”, “soundless panorama”, – everything that preceded “my love” as the personification of a particular personality. According to M. Heidegger, this occurs in accordance with Pascal’s “heart logics”, close to Rilke’s concept: “The innermost and unseen is not only sincere for the heart – the man first of all inclines to that which is to be loved: ancestors, the dead, childhood, descendants” 51 . All these national categories-eidos belong to the outer circle, which becomes aware as the sphere of a whole vital relationship” 52 .

Let us dwell on the threat. The national being is threatened by the entropy. Mostly, as the live are abandoned by gods, “mighty friends”: “ We hold our banquets far away from here, seclude our baths, and always speed ahead of their slow messengers. Now just depending on each other, ignorant of each other, we no longer blaze a trail with lovely bending, but just a slope.” (“Just because they do not know the hard strong steel” // Sonnets to Orpheus). It is the loss of the vivifying cosmic connection with the ancient national there-being that leads to the atomization of the society, to the fearful alienation of the man – “ ignorant of each other”. The pictures of the national destruction – “ Time, the Reaver”, “On the calm hill, when does it crush the castle” (Sonnets To Orpheus) – acquire apocalyptic monumentality: “ The same surplus plummets past today, but only as rushing, from flat yellow day on into the night, too much dazzled with light.” (“Oh the marvelous overflows of our existence” // Sonnets To Orpheus). After all, the loss of ontological source – the past – makes the progress impossible, the existential time is threatened: ”Each sluggish revolution of the world leaves its dispossessed-heirs neither of things past nor of those impending. The immediate future is distant for man.” (The Seventh Elegy).

The poet’s lyrical hero does not go deep into the initial cause of this threat or even of the decline of the national existence. Obviously, everything is explained by the existentialist appellation in this case to the leveling technogenic civilisation (the threat by the machine), with its thrive to globalization, cosmopolitism, imperialism, etc. 53 , though, it is an interesting precedent for further studies in this sphere. We are mostly interested in the way out of this situation, proposed by the author. Who shall the man rely on, saving the national (German) entia, or whether they are worth saving at all (“pure artists” (Hunter, de Man et al.) seem not to care about the problems of protection, they are rather the proponents of destruction)?

This conceptual moment is best explained by Rilke himself in his letter to Witold von Hulewicz: ”We fervently collect the honey of the visible to accumulate it in the golden hive of the invisible. And this activity is supported and stimulated by the fact that an enormous part of the visible disappears quickly without a replacement. For our forefathers the house, fountain, familiar tower, up to their attire, their coat belonged infinitely more to the sphere of the intimate; every thing was a container where they stored and from where they drew up the compassion. Nowadays, exported from America, empty and listless thing invade our life, the semblance of things, imitation... The house in American understanding, the apples or grapes from America have nothing in common with the house, fruit, bunches of grapes, which had absorbed the hopes and thoughts of our ancestors... Animated, living things, as we know them, are declining, they will never be replaced by anything. We may be the last people to have known them. We bear the responsibility not only to preserve the memory thereof (that would be too little and too feeble), but become the protectors of their humaneness and sacred feeling of value... The Angel of the Elegies is the creature in whom the replacement of the visible by the invisible, we are trying to do, seems to be completed.” 54 .

In this reflection the writer exposes the most fraudulent myth of the 20 th century, covering the demoliberal and communist imperialisms – that of the common human values. There is nothing human neither in the ontological, nor the existentialist dimensions. The human for Rilke and many other national thinkers (Herder, Fichte, Mazzini, Shevchenko, Franko, Berdyaev, Heidegger, Unamuno, Dontsov, Ramos, etc.) is always nationally concrete, nationally defined, nationally stipulated . Humaneness is determined by the national idea (invisible space) and the national here-being (visible space). Only in the context of the national being humaneness becomes authentic, outside this context only anti-humaneness is possible – a substance of antispiritual character.

In the poet’s artistic discourse the major natiological markers are “spiritual, living” national things, opposing the antihuman imitation – “empty” and “listless” things from America (a symbol of modern imperialist cosmopolitism). The national entia (sub-being) become a reliable equivalent to the humaneness – the container where the ancestors stored and from where they drew up the compassion”. Among them are houses, towers, pillars, temples, fountains, trees, fruit, flowers, animals, etc. and even the ancient Roman sarcophagi (a direct correlation of the German history with the Roman history, as well as а combination of naturological and resological aspects in these entia): “ You, who never leave my heart for long, I salute you, antique sarcophagi, whom the carefree water of Roman times flows through like a meandering song.” (Sonnets To Orpheus).

To remain human everyone must preserve the national things – “ become the protectors of their humaneness and sacred feeling of value”. And this is the uppermost mission of the poets, the courageous ones who, as Heidegger said, “recognize defencelessness in the incurable. They bring to mortals the traces of abandoned gods into the dark of the world night. The courageous singers of the Life-giver are the “poets in the hour of need” 55 (Gelderlin). The artists (national artists) become a kind of mediators between here- and there-being, overcoming the threat and decline of the national non-speech: “ Only one who ate poppies with the dead, will the faintest note never forget.” (“Only one who raised the lyre among shades” // Sonnets To Orpheus).

The national universe is preserved in the word. The main mission of the writer (in the spirit of Heidegger’s concept of protection of the national land and world 56 ) is to protect this world transferring it from the sphere of the visible into that of the invisible, reveal it, objectivize it, make a Kantian phenomenon (thing for us): “ Exalt no ineffable, rather a known world unto the angel. (...) So show him a common thing, the crafting of which has been passed down from age to age until our hands are, themselves, shaped to the making of it and our eyes to its beholding.” (the Ninth Elegy). Through cognition and preservation of the national the fundamental for Rilke return of his contemporaries “from immanence of the calculating conscience to the inner space of the heart” 57 takes place.

In our opinion, a full value reading of Rilke, which could to an extent reconcile often polar interpretations is possible only using the advantages of methodological pluralism (combining the achievements of, say, hermeneutics, semiotics, neomythologism, existentialism, national existential methodology, etc.). Thereby an objective exegesis of the poet’s works is possible only when taking into account the complex structure, interdependence of the dominants in this discourse and the fundamental role of the natiological aspect as the main verification dominant. In our opinion, the peculiarity of the ontological discourse lies in its most often implicitly modeled nationality . The author projects the image of a lyrical protagonist hero as a national artist, the spokesmen and protector of the national (obviously, German) existence.

In Paul de Man’s opinion, the central theme of Rilke’s poetry is a radical demand to change our manner of being in the world” 58 . It can be agreed to, only taking into account the fact that Rilke called to change the manner of being in order to save first of all the national man and the national world. On the threshold of the third millennium looking back into the past and staring alarmingly into the future let us ask ourselves: has this manner of being, leveling the spirituality (national humaneness) and against which the ontological discurs of the German-Austrian writer and philosopher warns us, changed? If not, has not the time come to change it?

Petro IVANYSHYN

Л і т е р а т у р а

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(1883 – 1973)













Науково-ідеологічний центр імені Дмитра Донцова
Роwеrеd bу Аgеd Prоgrаmmеr SіMаn СMS 1.4