Spoiled Children of Divorce

Exemplary Children of Divorce – Rainer Maria Rilke
March 10, 2010, 1:55 am
Filed under: Boarding school, creativity, Exemplary Children of Divorce

The great German poet Rainer Maria Rilke was a Child of Divorce.

Rilke’s parents split when he was 9 years old and he was sent to live out the rest of his childhood in a Military Academy.  Previous to that his childhood seems to have been overshadowed by his Mother who was grief stricken over the death of a baby sister.  She dressed her son in girl’s clothes until he was 5 years old.  (Kind of strange to say, but my Father went through the exact same thing — and he was sort of a creative genius in his own right).

Rilke’s biography and a good summary of what his poetry is about is here.

Rilke wandered around Europe his whole life.  He published his first poems at Age 19.  He had a long affair with a married woman and then was married for one year in 1899 and had one daughter.  It seems that he spent a lot of time in castles and chateaus writing some of the most incredible poetry of all time.  It seems that his relationships suffered due to his need for solitude.

One can sense the trauma of the child of divorce all over the first lines of his Duino Elegies. I never liked poetry until I found these when I was in my early twenties.

Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1992
Translated by Stephen Mitchell

The First Elegy
Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels’ hierarchies?

and even if one of them pressed me suddenly against his heart:
I would be consumed in that overwhelming existence.
For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we are still just able to endure,
and we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
Every angel is terrifying.
And so I hold myself back and swallow the call-note of my dark sobbing.
Ah, whom can we ever turn to in our need?
Not angels, not humans, and already the knowing animals are aware
that we are not really at home in our interpreted world.

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