René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke, better known as Rainer Maria Rilke, was a brilliant poet with more awesomely-named credentials than you can shake a stick at. So stop shaking that stick! It’s futile!
The Bohemian-Austrian poet (and legendary mustache man) was born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, where the process of hyphenating his cultural identity and struggling to write his full name on government applications led to a love of punctuation and the written word that spurred him to lyrical greatness later in life.
Now none of that may be true, but I think the subject of today’s post would be glad to see us using some poetic license on the Blog of Funny Names. What do you think I am? A scientist?!?! *
*Rilke would also be glad to see me playing with punctuation marks too… right?!? ?? ??!?!? ?? ???? 🙂 ??? 😀 ?!? ? 😉 ?
Rilke’s contributions to German literature are legendary, but he also published over 400 poems in French. In fact, in his 51 years, the guy managed to call a number of European countries home, including Russia, Germany, Spain, France, Italy and Switzerland. That’s not even mentioning his extensive travels through North Africa.
The guy was a globetrotter. A mustachioed globetrotter with a gift of gab.
Here at the Blog of Funny Names, we don’t portray ourselves as polymathic purveyors of poetic pedantry, nor adroit academic artisans accomplished in alliteration, but even we can appreciate the greatness of René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke, whose virtuosity spread far beyond his name.
Many accounts say Rilke was born to an unhappy marriage. He was then unwisely placed in a German military school before his uncle realized his gifts and sent him to a preparatory school instead. What role those early childhood experiences played in Rilke’s blossoming into someone “widely recognized as one of the most lyrically intense German-language poets” remains the stuff of speculation.
His work has been described as “haunting” and “mystical,” and he is widely cited as a transitional figure between traditional and modernist writers.
Though best known as a poet, Rainer Maria Rilke was also an accomplished novelist, having penned a semi-autobiographical (and brilliantly named) work entitled The Notebooks of Malte Lauridis Brigge – also known as Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge for those Germophiles (that can’t be the correct name for a German-lover) keeping score at home. He had a collection of letters published posthumously, in a collection entitled Letters to a Young Poet.
Rilke was gifted in both verse and lyrical prose. Describing him is a difficult task, so instead I’ll post one of his works – You, You Only, Exist – here, and let you draw your own conclusions.
You, you only, exist.
We pass away, till at last,
our passing is so immense
that you arise: beautiful moment,
in all your suddenness,
arising in love, or enchanted
in the contraction of work.
To you I belong, however time may
wear me away. From you to you
I go commanded. In between
the garland is hanging in chance; but if you
take it up and up and up: look:
all becomes festival!
If you’re interested in more, see if one of these selected poems fits your fancy. Certainly, it should – to this day, Rilke is one of the best-selling poets, joining Rumi and Khalil Gibran among those ranks. Not too shabby… I credit the mustache! Happy Thanksgiving week everyone!