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The South Central Modern Language Association

The Role of the Paradox in Rilke's "Sonette" Author(s): Elaine E. Boney Source: The South Central Bulletin, Vol. 22, No. 4, Studies by Members of S-CMLA (Winter, 1962), pp. 19-23 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press on behalf of The South Central Modern Language
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eternity. For a livinghumanbeing thishorizon never vanishesexcept in momentary transcendence of the Self. poral and the absolute.and reasonand belief.Man is limited and out of harmony withtotalBeing."' Man can only surmisethe in which he lives. the Sonnets are the resultof a few days of intensivework and reflectprimarily the concludingresultsreached in the Eleof the gies.but nevercomprehend-it suddenly acquires value. BONEY The Sonette an Orpheus are closely relatedto the later DuineserElegien in mood and conception. deals withthe natureof the cosmosand of man and withtherelationship between cosmosand man. Althoughthe arrangement entirecollection of Sonnetsis much less strict thanthatof the Elegies. The central of the Sonnets.and yet explicableas expressing a truth. All of these elements." The American adds to this CollegeDictionary definition the elementof truth in definor proing the paradoxas "a statement or positionseemingly self-contradictory absurd. with its terse divisioninto octet and suitedto the parasestet. it appears devoid of value because of its limitations." In the Philosophical Fragments. and is unable to sublimatethem into a comprehensive whole.The central paradoxmay be stated as the age-old one of the finite and inwiththe relatedones of timeand finite. especially the ultimateone of death.life and death. 9 Mar 2014 10:13:50 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Although man may page nineteen This content downloaded from 194. He is always totality surrounded by a horizonwhichmay retreator close in upon himin accordwith his relationship to transcendence.24 on Sun. fromwhich he feels separatedbecause he cannotcomprehend it: "Sein Sinn ist Zwiespalt. and it is this paradox which is inherent in the formand content of the Sonnets. But whereasthe Elegies grewfrom manyyearsof development in Rilke's thoughtand mirror the consistent evolutionof the concept of Being in the entire cycle. the unknownbeing that which is absolutelydifferent from the known. Man is not like Orpheus.is particularly doxical natureof the material presented within the individual sonnets of thiscollection. which is devoted to the paradoxesof Christianity. who cannot stand aside fromhis involvement in it. a conflict between elementsof reason and belief are likewise involved in a paradox. A paradoxis defined in Webster's New International Dictionary as "any phenomenon or action with seemingly contradictoryqualities or phases.177." Since man's view of the cosmos changeswith the factors whichhis view encompasses. whichexcludeand yet complement each mustnecessarily cause life to apother. Life is thus a paradox to man.or between"Sein" and "Dasein. "SON ETTE" the tembeing and becoming.When human life is viewed in and by itself. partly because of the sonnetform.218. known.the structure of each poem is verytight. Yet whenit is viewedas partof a meaningfulwhole-whichman can only surmise. This form.'Since the knownis a function of reason and knowledgeand the unknownis related to man by belief.The Role of the in RILIKE'S PARADOX ELAINE E. and problem indeed of all of Rilke's later thought. pear paradoxical to man. These two evaluations.are to be found in the paradoxesof Rilke's Sonnets. Kierkegaardstates that a paradox is the collisionof the known and the unknown. the apparent the known and the uncontradiction. these views may appear paradoxical.

silenceof the heart ("Verschweigung"). a futile attemptto by the tombstone.Like Orfunctions humanbeing.. Lob darfdas unendliche ahnend erstatten. of Orpheus' of the first cycle-the story with the death.III. Orreality pheus is beyond the limits of human Rilke'sOrpheusis a symbol. Althougha mortal. Seine Metamorphose in dem und dem (G.177. may be aware and into which he may loss or destruction without be integrated of the Self. withmusic. but to a The Self. relationship worlds in the two stands he man dinary and transcendent of immanent reality formtotal Being: which together Ist er ein Hiesiger? Nein. it merelychanges in a final and absoluteact of transcendence.aus beiden seine weite Natur. seem final. keinen Errichtet Rose nur jedes Jahr zu seinen Gunsten bliihn. pheus. W. surrounds man. Orpheus sound. with reto theislandof Lesbos.. Denn Orpheusists. Ldirmen portionof the Orpheus legend.321) tionship communicaOn the level of existential In the figureof Orpheus the paration the human ear shouldbe tuned to doxes which exist for mortalman are of Orphic silence in the wave-length resolved because.218. thustranscended reality physical death. afterthe end preservepersonalidentity of life: Lasstdie Denkstein. of man's immanent As a combination and pure or absoluteBeing. Orphic song reaches of the sensesand beyondthe limitations physicalrealityto touch upon the essence of existence. He reachescompleteattainment women. man life as meaningful as a true existence.speak of total Being. not a figurewhich man can perceive not even by the mostprodigious flights The whole. III.unattainableby reason. it remainsoutside his realm of factual knowledge. represented of imagination. perception.III. 317) The contrasting Orphic symbol of the rose pointsnot to a finalend. of life: significance Nur wer die Leier schonhob auch unterSchatten.W. become an objector image forhim. Such whereexistence essence is perceivedby the human ear of existence-asa relaas the beginning betweenman and the absolute..his head and lyrefloateddown such harmony only in death. it can never by Orpheus. W.the ultimate causes life to end in apparent finality and this end is symbolized nothingness. III.Orpheus ringing miraculously in love. and song..Such listening functions of the soundwaves is not the perception but of of the worldof physicalreality.subject to the limitahumanbeing. like the rose..' The life-deathpolaritymakes death Such limitation. are inevitable In life griefand sorrow because of nature of man's components In recognizing its inherentlimitations. Afterhis death and dismember. in his searchforEurythe mere world of transcend to order border the transcended dice. Man's sensoryworld is disharbebetweenlife and death and thereby between submoniousin its dichotomy came familiarwith both realms. 9 Mar 2014 10:13:50 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .onlythe individual to in relation despitehis frailty standing can truly capture the transcendence. W.24 on Sun. (G.The hearing or listening("H6ren") of the firstSonnet in this manner. appears in many symbolic guises in the Sonnets. Unlikeorto transcendence. Reichenerwuchs of which man The Orphic totality.Ortions of the ordinary to createan the ability possesses pheus reachaoticexternal innerabsolutefrom in direct him this and places ability lity.W. as a part of his verynatheirnecessity themto praise tureand yettranscending and valuable. 359). III. Herbrus theriver page twenty (G. is not lost in death. which sonnet Man seeks knowledgeof the tangible Rilke uses in his twenty-sixth world: "denn wir wollen wissen" (G. This is also seen in another ject and object: "Uns wird nur das double character angeboten"(G. metamorphosis.318) This content downloaded from 194. but harmony world of the absolute eludes intangible Bacchic mentat the hands of infuriated of him. 359). or pure Being lies.

370) (G. (G. growing plants and trees signify the presenceof forcesbeyond the physicalworld. (G. This is the essence of the apple whicheach personshouldexperience and express: "Wagt zu sagen.In earlyspringthe awakening of life is feltin the air. nahmstdu es niemals.. love. III. (G. and grapesperisheach year.of whichman is a vital part.. III. W. . Stern .fruit. tragend als Stromungdas Haupt und die Leier. (G. was ihr Apfelnennt"(G. scheinbar H6rende. The ordinaryperson in his senseless.III.and each time it gives to man in spite of his inbountifully completeness.transcendent forces changebut do not destroy them: Wir gehen um mit Blume.24 on Sun. W. III.reminding man that death is everpresent in life. to the Absolute: Ordnedie Schreier. Being an absolute perceptiblein the whole: Nichtmehrfiir Ohren . the paradoxes whichastoundman are resolved. Entwurf innerer Weltenim Frein . 325). This for the cosimplies man's significance mos. Weinblatt. W. "Gong": Dauer. as in the figure of Orpheus. 331) transforOrpheus' task of proclaiming mationof the Self preparesman for a world and a cosmoswhere change prevails. If he producedonly sound waves. In the raucous disof his uncoordinated searchhe harmony remainsalmost totallyoblivious to the higherdemandsof the spirit-therealizationthatall of life is meaningless unless correlated with the absolute.. aus Ablaufgepresst.by whichthe wall of man's limitations can be breachedin transcending the Self and thusattaining harmony withpureBeing.lease of the innerabsoluteinto cosmic Being: Nur der Tote trinkt aus derhiervon unsgehirten Quelle wenn der Gott ihm schweigend dem Toten.Unconscious of changeand death. W.Orpheus must reveal in these aspects of life the ultimate basis of existence. of the earth and inevitableripeningto the end. Sie sprechen nichtdie Sprache nur des Jahres. In nature. 359) The paradoxical relationshipbetween timeand eternity and sound and silence receives additionaltreatment in a later poem. To man it appears new each time. forspring in eternalmetamorpreparing phosis.wie ein tieferes Ohr.Frucht. and death. uns.can heal and unitea disharmonious world: Einzig das Lied iibermLand heiligtund feiert. Only the song of the true artistsuch as Orpheus.to make him receptiveto Orphic song. they would be lost for the ear of the but he producesin his inner universe... Umkehrder Riume.177. to reduce him to the silencewhereexistence begins. .but appear again the following year.218... 371). spring arrives unfailingly. that of total Being. III. Whereasmortal men fail to recognize thepositive aspectsof absolutelimitationin suffering. W. singenderGott! dass sie rauschend erwachen. W. It is a paradoxicalunit of specific. overcoming winter'sdormancy: Jenesso oft dir schon Gekommenescheint dir zu kommen wiederwie Neues. : Gongl' um-gegossener In this poem man is pictured as the gong. unique life and of recurring of the bounty existence. They do not vanish completely. der.Rilke appeals to Orpheusto interfere creatively in man's senselessnoise. Immererhofft.Flowers. whose sound is perceived by a greaterear. the earthpasses through fall and winter. 9 Mar 2014 10:13:50 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 371) Like Orpheus.hart.: Klang. winkt. W.Althoughwinter is still presentin this early spring. 326) page twenty-one This content downloaded from 194. III.purposeless life seeks knowledge of the worldabout him: "Schreienden Zufall" (G. III. Aus Dunkel steigt ein buntesOffenbares Each fruit and flower is-like Orpheusa combination of life and death.Es hat dich genommen.

althoughthe flowers water will placed in vase and reviving of bloomand beaushed a finalsplendor are like the maidens ty.through its creative to the forceman stands in relationship cosmos and bringspure Being into his life: measured Gedicht! Atmen. just as the earthdoes. insteadof being a new marksin metamorphosis absolute.218.a symof the paradoxin bol forthe resolution it is at the same timeconstantly totality." intopart is transformed "Weltinnenraum" of the individual..ist das schlafend Dies (das Geffiss) Ohr. (G.in welchemallerLeben.and many places of have been within the "Weltinnenraum" the individual. Mund. Flowing water is.Change is therefore of condition able since it is a primary life and basic part of man's role in the which is his schemeof creative activity. 9 Mar 2014 10:13:50 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . As the flowers in their inevitable death. wir wiihren schenkt.man is innately he not only createslifeIn breathing of breathdeathis marked by a cessation exising-but also partakesof universal The air of the tence. like Orpheus.24 on Sun. Reines spricht. Wir Gewaltsamen. 324) The earth constantlypresents man with indications of the function of an eterwithin changeas metamorphosis nal whole ratherthan as final termination of life.Breathing is rhythinic and harmonious. and generthe waterfillsthe jug freely ously. Like nature. ( G. W. III.Even when the barriersof time and from man. the same. very raison d'Atre. desirare required. W. space conceal ultimate reality and he cannot comprehend the significance of his situation and as a changing seeminglyuseless atom in the eternal cosmos. like nature. "Weltinnenraum.even thoughhe may have and sepof isolation developeda feeling aration fromthe completely different worldof the absolute. in dem ich michrhythmisch ereigne.To look for perworldis to seek manencein a changing but in the processof certain destruction. (G. W. In a changingand constantly the bowl is like an ear listenfountain message ing in its sleep to the timeless of the earth-that death is only a phase in eternalmetamorphosis: du du gebender. It does not abandon him to the physical limitations which he exso painfully: periences Selbst wenn sich der Bauer sorgt und handelt. hingelegte in das du immer das Marmor-Ohr. The short-lived to eternalBeing of completereceptivity as it opens its petals wide to the light of the heavens. beginning: page twenty-two This content downloaded from 194. O Brunnen-Mund. III. sind wir endlichoffen und Empffinger? (G. Aberwann. sprichst.du unsichtbares Immerfort um das eigne Weltraum. In particular. plants-each one grown to completion-havebeen selected by Rilke as symbolsof exisanemone speaks tence. Sein rein eingetauschter Gegenwicht. A static conditionnever creates.. 345) In the seventhSonnet of the second whichhave been pluckcycletheflowers ed are compared to the maidens who and the pluckedthem-boththe flowers maidens will die. withthe everand man-made. But for man such free to absolute Being and open receptivity comes only with difficulty: Wir Gewaltsamen. eternalchangethe end. givingof its richesto man. III. wo die Saat in Sommersich verwandelt. the world continuesto fulfill his needs.. creative. the maidens that in finding mustbe like the flowers rather than death is a metamorphosis an absoluteend. is by nature of both worlds. wir wiihren linger.But bountiful lasting. for actionand change creativeproductivity..177. compared flowof the water. 341) Man. W. III. 358) of wateris The jug filledby the stream temporary nothingbut an interruption. der unersch6pflich Eines.

not from life alone.177. Gedichte.welcher jenerentwerfende Irdischemeistert. two conceptsexist in perfect harmony. total Being. W. III. These Sonnetsare concerned withthe paradoxicalnatureof human life. Philosophie. an ever-awake state of anticipation. Philosophical Frag. to enrich his life with the dynamic. dieses eindass du vIllig vollziehst zige Mal." as a segment of given with the quotation and abbreviated G. Springer. als g6ttlicher Kriiften (C. is pointing out the natureof man'slimitSubsequent references to this edition will be ed Being. however. its very static. principle havingundergone ments. sion.whichappearsto man as an expression of his painful primarily thus becomes the great intransience. (Berlin. als die Treibenden. p." For Orpheus the 8Karl Jaspers. Totality. 2nd ed. "Sein. 1930).His function 2Rainer Maria Rilke.(G. W. space. 709 f. Insel-Verlag. himself theunity whichmancan envisage only as a paradox. foreand the aftertouch in an absolute. die wir sind. den unsliglichen Summen. and death-whereas the sestet shows the obverseside of the problemthe significance of theselimitations when within human theyare viewed. trans.but which he must seek to understand and expressas the verybasis of human life. but dynamic. himself. Wolle die Wandlung. Insel-Verlag. W. with the paradoxfrequently in the expressed sonnetform itself. W. 187.. University Press.III. 1946). Zu de gebrauchtensowohl. III.the truest mode of existence is not in the before and the after..III. 9 Mar 2014 10:13:50 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . centiveforhim to lifthis visionbeyond to transcend and thus himself. 354) As part of a cosmic unitychangeitself is eternal. (G. but in the very moment the moment when the beof transition. 1953).24 on Sun. 1948). 315. Orpheus embodiesin 5lbid.356) NOTES Orpheus symbolizesthe ever-creative 1Soeren Kierkegaard. The octetmayexpress the idea of man's limitations-in time. "Dasein. drinsich ein Ding dir entzieht. 31 f. dich jubelnd hinzu und verzUihle nichtedie Zahl. themetamorphosis of death. David F.218. Change. Gesammelte Werke (Leipzig. of discord. den unendlichen Grund deiner innigenSchwingung. Vol. forman theirrelationship 4Rainer Maria Rilke. geltenwir doch bei bleibenden Brauch.As in all change. pp. whereinthe Self sensesthe infinite universe of which it is a harmonious part: Sei-und wisse zugleich des NichtSeins Bedingung. Swens'on (Princeton of existence. liebt in dem Schwung der Figur nichts wie den wendenden Punkt.. 372) Texas Technological College page twenty-three This content downloaded from 194. creativeforceswhich are the very essence of the cosmos: Als die. das mit Verwandlungen prunkt.. but as part of an encomis not passing whole. 1906-1925 is one of ten(Wiesbaden. wie zummdumpfen und stummen Vorrat der vollen Natur. p.gathering fromthe changes which occur eternity within it. das Geist. In Rilke thisacute experience of change leads to an awarenessof the coming. pp. 187.0 sei fiirdie Flamme begeistert.