In a previous entry I discussed Rilke’s first paragraph in his first sonnet to Orpheus. We also discussed his mission of making the Invisible visible.
Hermes is the guide of the souls and Rilke brings Hermes and Orpheus together in his poem Orpheus.Eurydice.Hermes.
What I want to touch upon today is Rilke’s concept of the Invisible, which I believe is simply a metaphor for the collective unconscious.
The players in this imagery are souls, gods, angels, animals, and humans. In the poem Orpheus.Eurydice.Hermes, Rilke describes his vision of the world of the dead brought to life through the imagination of Orpheus. Therefore, in this poem Orpheus makes the Invisible visible for us for a moment through his love and lament for his wife Eurydice.
“Das war der Seelen wunderliches Bergwerk.” There was the wonderful mine of the Souls.
Rilke, like Celan and the Homeric Hymns, immediately pitches us into the physical, into the world of minerals. Also remember that Orpheus learned the secret of the Mysteries from the Dactyls and their sisters. The men were miners and smiths of iron and the sisters practiced magic.
There is always a connection to the mineral world in these stories of transformation. Hermes is born in the shadowy cave and the underworld is typified as a mine of souls, souls as minerals to be worked. Rilke compares them to silver ore moving through veins in darkness. Imagine it: molten silver following through veins, illuminating the darkness of the underworld with its silver glow. “Wie stille Sibererze gingen sie/als Adern durch sein Dunkel.”
The silver moves through roots as blood and flows to the humans, to the living, to the “bees” that create visible from the invisible. “Zwischen Wurzeln entsprung das Blut, das fortgeht zu den Menschen.
Through the geography of this underworld, only one road runs and on the road comes three figures, Orpheus, the singer, Eurydice, his wife, and Hermes, the guide. Rilke states later in the poem that it was Orpheus' music that created the landscape in which they now walk. From the darkness he caused a world to rise.
He created this world to find her and bring her back but she was not the same. Being dead ripened her and filled her and recreated her. She had fallen back into the unconscious, into the material, and she was no longer concerned with the life of the “bees.”
When Orpheus turns to look to see if she and Hermes are following him, Hermes, the guide, says “Er hat sich ungewendet.” With this infraction to the rules of the underworld, Hermes turns and guides Eurydice back into the darkness.