German Matters Literature Poetry

Vor dem Sommerregen-Rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke

Image result for regenpfeifer in dem Wald vogel

Vor dem Sommerregen

Auf einmal ist aus allem Grün im Park
man weiß nicht was, ein Etwas fortgenommen;
man fühlt ihn näher an die Fenster kommen
und schweigsam sein. Inständig nur und stark

ertönt aus dem Gehölz der Regenpfeifer,
man denkt an einen Hieronymus:
so sehr steigt irgend Einsamkeit und Eifer
aus dieser einen Stimme, die der Guß

erhören wird. Des Saales Wände sind
mit ihren Bildern von uns fortgetreten,
als dürften sie nicht hören was wir sagen.

Es spiegeln die verblichenen Tapeten
das ungewisse Licht von Nachmittagen,
in denen man sich fürchtete als Kind.

Before the Summer Rain

Suddenly, from all the green around you,

something-you don’t know what-has disappeared;

you feel it creeping closer to the window,

in total silence. From the nearby wood

you hear the urgent whistling of a plover,
reminding you of someone’s Saint Jerome:
so much solitude and passion come
from that one voice, whose fierce request the downpour

will grant. The walls, with their ancient portraits, glide
away from us, cautiously, as though
they weren’t supposed to hear what we are saying.

And reflected on the faded tapestries now;
the chill, uncertain sunlight of those long
childhood hours when you were so afraid.

More analysis of this poem in German may be found at

Book Reviews German Matters Literature Poetry Uncategorized

“Bin ich ein Tier, dass Musik mich beruehrt?”

Although perhaps reminiscent of Caliban in The Tempest, the quote comes from Gregor Samsa in Kafka’s “Die Verwandandlung”-or Metamorphosis as it is known in English translation. However I found the quote on an interesting and intriguing video about Nietzsche’s categories of the Apollonian and the Dionysian by Claudia Simone Dorchain.

My interest in Nietzsche has been re-awakened by seeing the new film about “Lou Andreas Salome” in Berlin-actually at Eva Lichtspiele at Blissestraße 18-which is a great old-fashioned cinema.  It reminds me of another old filmhouse in Vienna-(The Bellaria Kino) which is situated behind the Volkstheatre and in turn years ago to “The Scala” in the High Street in St Ives -which is where Boots Chemist is situated today. Anyway, for those who are interested this is what it says on the Eva Lichtspiele website:-

Die ‘Eva Lichtspiele’ gelten mit der Eröffnung 1913 unter dem Namen ‘Roland Lichtspiele’ als ältestes Filmtheater im Bezirk Wilmersdorf. In den 20er Jahren, nach einem Umbau und der gleichzeitigen Umbenennung des Kinos in den heutigen Namen, wurden hier die Filme auf Vorschlag des Betreibers mit Musikbegleitung präsentiert – zuerst durch eine Violinistin und später durch ein ganzes Orchester, das durch den Einbau eines zweiten Vorführapparates pausenlos im Einsatz war. Glücklicherweise blieb das Kino während des Zweiten Weltkrieges nahezu unbeschadet, so dass der Kinobetrieb durchgehend aufrechterhalten werden konnte und noch heute viele Einzelheiten des Gebäudes (wie z.B. der schöne elegante Neonschriftzug an der Fassade) auf die lange Kinogeschichte der ‘Eva Lichtspiele’ hinweisen.

Nietzsche I find difficult to come to grips with. Probably, I have read about him rather than reading him directly. Steeped in German classical studies and Schopenhauer, he has had a huge influence on his time but like Heidegger no friend of rationalism or socialist thinking. Although both not only raised interesting questions but demonstrate the continuity of philosophical history. Neo-Thomism and Catholicism in the case of the latter, Plato and Schopenhauer-and both of course were influenced by the Jena poet, Hölderlin.

As to Salome’s influence on Rilke; here is one view relating to her Russian origin:-

“In 1899 Rilke made the first of two pivotal trips to Russia with Salome, discovering what he termed his “spiritual fatherland” in both the people and the landscape. There Rilke met Leo Tolstoy, L. O. Pasternak (father of Boris Pasternak), and the peasant poet Spiridon Droschin, whose works Rilke translated into German. These trips provided Rilke with the poetic material and inspiration essential to his developing philosophy of existential materialism and art as religion. Inspired by the lives of the Russian people, whom the poet considered more devoutly spiritual than other Europeans, Rilke’s work during this period often featured traditional Christian imagery and concepts, but presented art as the sole redeemer of humanity.” This comes from

In any event this film-not the first on her -see the link below to Calvini’s version- is visually appealling making fascinating use of old picture postcards and raises questions over the many radical ideas, poetry music and of course, psychoanalysis. There is a very revealing chapter on her in Lisa Appignanesi and John Forrester’s “Freud’s Women”. I do hope this becomes available soon on DVD with English subtitles just like the Stefan Zweig film currently also playing in Berlin. Zweig too has written interestingly on Nietzsche-the book below is available in English translation. Reading about her and her circle, their poetry and music certainly has a calming effect on me.

The following clip is also revealing:-


Literature Poetry

Autumn and Rilke, Keats usw.

René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke



Rilke’s poem seems apt for the time of the year, although the recent summer might be difficult to describe exactly as  groß.


Herr: es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war seht groß.
Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren,
und auf den Fluren laß die Winde los.

Befiehl den letzten Früchten voll zu sein;
gieb ihnen noch zwei südlichere Tage,
dränge sie zur Vollendung hin und jage
die letzte Süße in den schweren Wein.

Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr.
Wer jetzt allein ist, wird es lange bleiben,
wird wachen, lesen, lange Briefe schreiben
und wird in den Alleen hin und her
unruhig wandern, wenn die Blätter treiben.

One translation may be found at

The phrase “picture-poems” is suggestive of imagism and Pound and Wyndham Lewis somehow seem to be current in the zeitgeist with the excellent production of Parade’s End on BBC2 adapted by Tom Stoppard in currently much in vogue. There are certainly lines which capture the visual imagination such as,” auf den Fluren laß die Winde los.” Although time and season are obviously central to the poem. This dynamic is reinforced in the second stanza with,” Befiehl den letzten Früchten voll zu sein;
gieb ihnen noch zwei südlichere Tage,
dränge sie zur Vollendung hin…..” Befiehlen here probably being an invocation so as to arrange, allow or ordain matters so that the fruits attain full ripeness.

The wind, frequently and beautifully referred to in Shakespeare’s sonnets, also connected with time for example Sonnet 54 as wanton, (” As the perfumed tincture of the roses,

Hang on such thorns, and play as wantonly

When summer’s breath their masked buds discloses:”) adds to the unruly, random, dégringole quality and to the sadness, possibly of the poet himself, in the final stanza.

Wer jetzt allein ist, wird es lange bleiben,
wird wachen, lesen, lange Briefe schreiben
und wird in den Alleen hin und her
unruhig wandern, wenn die Blätter treiben.

Of course, most English readers will immediately be reminded in this poem of Keats’s Ode to Autumn.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’erbrimmed their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, –
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing, and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Keats wrote in 1819, ‘How beautiful the season is now–How fine the air. A temperate sharpness about it. Really, without joking, chaste weather–Dian skies–I never liked stubble-fields so much as now.”

John Keats

For an insightful and a radical and political reading of Keats’s poem, it is worth looking at A Poetry Primer, The Secret Life of Poems by Tom Paulin (

in which the poppies are associated with the repressive/reactionary use of the Redcoats of the British Army and the grim reaper’s sickle with the cavalryman’s sword. If Rilke knew of Keats’s Ode as one imagines he did, he is unlikely to have been aware of such associations.

There is an entertaining discussion of Rilke in Clive James’s splendid collection, Cultural Amnesia: Notes in the Margin of My Time.

There is a detailed website in German at

Another discussion of Keats’s Ode is at