More on Ranier Maria Rilke

“God is man’s greatest idea.” Camille Paglia

Rilke is a favorite poet of mine and I’ve quoted Poems From The Book of Hours before (internal link). His mysterious writing lends itself to many interpretations, however, a chief translator of his, Babette Deutsch, gives key insight in her introduction to the 1941 New Directions book of the same name, Poems From The Book of Hours.

She writes:

The God Whom the The Book of Hours celebrates is not the Creator of the universe, but seems rather the creature of mankind, and above all, the artists. He is present and to be revered in all that “truly lives,” but he is not yet perfected; in a sense, he is also the future, the incomplete, the unachieved, the cathedral still in the building, the wine that has not yet ripened. Only by a more sensitive approach to life, and to things, which have a strange secret life of their own, as every artist feels, only by an effort to understand the death that every life carries within it like a seed, shall men, tutored by the artists among them, slowly realize this great unorthodox godhead.

All Will Grow Great and Powerful Again

All will grow great and powerful again:
All will grow great and powerful again:
the seas be wrinkled and the land be plain,
the trees gigantic and the walls be low;
and in the valleys, strong and multiform,
a race of herdsmen and of farmers grow.

No churches to encircle God as though
he were a fugitive, and then bewail him
as if he were a captured wounded creature, —
all houses will prove friendly, there will be
a sense of boundless sacrifice prevailing
in dealings between men, in you, in me.

No waiting the beyond, no peering toward it,
but longing to degrade not even death;
we shall learn earthliness, and serve its ends,
to feel its hands about us like a friend’s.


I think we can no more create God than than we can manufacture the heavens. But I will quietly listen to a poet constructing a universe by the power of words alone.

About thomasfarley01

Freelance writer specializing in outdoor subjects, particularly rocks, gems and minerals.
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