Friday, March 10, 2006

Rilke's First Sonnet to Orpheus and St. Thomas Aquinas

In my entry on March 3, I discussed Rilke’s first sonnet to Orpheus.

In the second line of the first stanza, Rilke writes: O Orpheus singt! O hoher Baum im Ohr!. O Orpheus sing! O high tree in the ear!

In the second Sonnet, Rilke writes in the first stanza,

Und fast ein Mädchen wars und ging hervor
Aus diesem einigen Gluck von Sang und Leier,
Und glänzte klar durch ihre Fruhlingsschleier
Und machte sich ein Bett in meinem Ohr.

And almost a girl she emerged
From this united joy of song and lyre
And clearly shining through her spring mist
And made herself a bed in my ear.

The images emerging from the song and lyre take shape and reside in the ear of the “Ich” or the “I” of the poem.

The images from the Invisible become visible through the interaction of sound and the receptor of the sound the ear.

The images from the unconscious become visible and real, knowable and understandable through hearing and harkening.

Where is this concept coming from? I postulate that it comes from both the religious imagery of the Greeks and medieval Christian imagery. In particular, I believe that the imagery can be traced first to the Annunciation, set forth at Luke 1:26-38, and second to the medieval Christian belief that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary through the ear via sound or words-logos.

The earliest representation of this style of verbal impregnation is a 12th century icon, housed in the Tret’yakov gallery in Moscow. In this icon the angel speaks to Mary and the Christ Child appears in her belly.

In the sonnets Orpheus sings and the images appear and impregnate the ear. Images become subtle and solid.

In the work, the Aurora Consurgens, attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas, he writes in the sixth parable: “Thou art she who will enter my ear, who will enter my body, and who will clothe me with a purple robe, and then I shall come forth like a bridegroom, for thou willt decorate me with gems and stones and clothe me with the garment of happiness.”

For Rilke, the image of the girl, his representation of his feminine self, which he aligns with the dead girl, creates the world-makes visible- through her sleep in his ear.

In the third stanza he writes: Sie schlief die Welt. She sleeps the world.

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