Happy Birthday, Rainer Maria Rilke
Say Happy Birthday to Rainer Maria Rilke, born December 4, 1875 in Prague. Rilke is considered one of the German language's greatest 20th century poets. His poetry focuses "on the difficulty of communion with the ineffable in an age of disbelief, solitude, and profound anxiety — themes that tend to position him as a transitional figure between traditional and modernist poets."
Rilke's two most well-known verse sequences are the Sonnets to Orpheus and the Duino Elegies. His two most famous prose works are the Letters to a Young Poet and the semi-autobiographical The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. He also wrote more than 400 poems in French.
Rilke died on December 29, 1926.
Here's a short poem from one of my favorite translations of Rilke's work.
TO SAY BEFORE GOING TO SLEEP
I would like to sing someone to sleep,
to sit beside someone and be there.
I would like to rock you and sing softly
and go with you to and from sleep.
I would like to be the one in the house
who knew: The night was cold.
And I would like to listen in and listen out
into you, into the world, into the woods.
The clocks shout to one another striking,
and one sees to the bottom of time.
And down below one last, strange man walks by
and rouses a strange dog.
And after that comes silence.
I have laid my eyes upon you wide;
and they hold you gently and let you go
when something stirs in the dark.
-Rainer Maria Rilke, from The Book of Images (North Point Press, 1991), trans. by Edward Snow, p. 59.