Rainer Maria Rilke: A Study of His Later Poetry

Rainer Maria Rilke: A Study of His Later Poetry

Rainer Maria Rilke: A Study of His Later Poetry

Rainer Maria Rilke: A Study of His Later Poetry

Excerpt

At this point, however, the question arises whether it is possible to pass judgment on a poet in philosophical and theological terms. Shall we not encounter the objection that to abstract from a poetic work of art a philosophical or ideological content and to criticize it is an illegitimate and misguided enterprise? Shall we not have to hear that whatever the poet wished to communicate in the way of a philosophy or view of life or precept for living is wholly to one side of the main issue, which is poetic realisation? 'I doubt whether belief proper enters into the activity of a great poet, qua poet', says Mr Eliot in his essay on Shakespeare and the Stoicism of Seneca . 'That is, Dante qua poet did not believe or disbelieve the Thomist cosmology or theory of the soul: he merely made use of it, or a fusion took place between his initial emotional impulses and a theory, for the purpose of making poetry.' The emphasis here is on what Mr Eliot calls 'the emotional': for it is, he says, '[the poet's] business to express the greatest emotional intensity of his time, based on whatever his time [happens] to think.' This is indeed an essential and profound insight; nevertheless, it is only one half of the truth of the matter. For the rest, it is important to realize that there is no such thing as 'pure poetry' from which all non-poetic intentions are excluded. The poet too is part of the human order of things, he too is involved in the moral, religious and intellectual discourse or strife of the world; hence it is clear that such a spiritual and intellectual decision as a poem is influenced by non-aesthetic considerations too. Mallarmé's 'absolute work of art' is an illusion. The poet desires not only to create beauty but also to expound the truth. Thus it is Klopstock aim in the Messias to declare his Christian faith; Lessing in his Nathan the Wise to express his faith in the doctrine of enlightened toleration; and Goethe too, in his Gott und Welt poems, is concerned with presenting a very specific view of the world. Now the truth which a poet expounds has no significance if it does not also appear in a beautiful form, if the bare, theoretical, conceptual truth has failed to issue into an 'artistically true' formulation. And only where it is the expression and formulation of the true can the beautiful be said to be artistically significant. 'Only that is beautiful', says Grillparzer, 'which, while wholly satisfying the sensuous, lifts up the soul at the same time. That which merely satisfies the senses is agreeable. And that which lifts up the soul without . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.