Rilke’s Orbits

Rilke’s poem I Live My Life is different from Neruda’s So is my Life. Yet both are poetic revelations of movement toward that which is different from humanity but in whose orbit humanity lives and dies. It seems as if both poems expose the grounding of existence in a never-ending movement toward the Infinite. Rainer Maria Rilke sings “I live my life in growing orbits, which move out over the things of the world. Perhaps I can never achieve the last, But that will be my attempt.” The poet’s life is within growing orbits, spinning into a vastness so infinite that he can say “I am circling around God” and “I have been circling for a thousand years.” Time and movement encompass all that is, the vastness that has as its ancient center the Divine. The poet wanders through time seeking himself, following a vision of who he is as he circles the Divine. In the eternal cycle through which he moves he wonders if he can achieve “the last.” It appears that the poet the center of whose cycle is the Divine, wonders if he can somehow reach the Divine, “the last” that is the goal of his eternal wandering. He feels that he will not know who he is until he has been embraced by “the last.” “I still don’t know if I am a falcon, Or a storm, or a great song.” All four components of his questioning: himself, falcon, storm and song are transcendent beings that circle the same center. Rilke, too, like Neruda sings the Infinite as he transcends “the things of the world.” Whitman sings himself, Neruda sings the people, Rilke sings the center: all are pulled into an ever-widening vision of the Infinite, the lyrics of their songs bearing grace to a world gradually arising from night.

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