Rainer Maria Rilke can be considered as one of the most passionate poets who wrote in the German language. This short biography will give you a better look at the life, literary career, and famous works of this great poet who greatly contributed to the history of literature with his excellent use of imagery.
Rainer Maria Rilke was born on December 4, 1875 in Prague. He was an only child and had a sad childhood. When he was a kid, he was forced to attend a military school because his parents wanted him to become a military officer someday. Rainer Maria Rilke never wanted to be an officer, and with the help of his uncle who discovered that he was a brilliant child, he was brought out of the military school. He attended a German school as a child, but in 1895, he attended Charles University in Prague.
By the time he enrolled in the university, he had already decided that he wanted to pursue a career in literature. Rainer Maria Rilke published his first volume of poems called Leben und Lieder in 1894. Between 1985 to 196, his second work entitled Larenopfe, which means Sacrifice to the Lares, was published. In 1896, the publication of this second collection by Rainer Maria Rilke was soon followed by his third work, Traumgekrönt, which means Dream-Crowned.
During this year, he decided that he wanted to leave Charles University and go to Germany. So in the same year, he traveled to Munich, Germany and then to Italy. In the following year, Rainer Maria Rilke went on a trip to Russia. This trip can be considered as the turning point in his writing career. It was during this time when he started to produce more serious literary works.
While in Russia, he met Leo Tolstoy, who became one of the people from whom Rainer Maria Rilke got some inspiration. The influence of Leo Tolstoy is evident in Rilke’s work entitled Das Buch vom lieben Gott und Anderes, which means Stories of God. He also met Leonid Pasternak, who was the father of the poet, Boris Pasternak.
Rainer Maria Rilke resided in Worpswede, Germany in 1900 and met Clara Westhoff, who became a student of Rodin. The two fell in love , got married, and had a child named Ruth, who was born in 1901. In 1902, Rainer Maria Rilke traveled to Paris, France, became friends with Rodin, and also became Rodin’s secretary from 1905 to 1906.
During his 12-year stay in Paris, he was able to produce great works such as:
- Das Stunden Buch (The Book of Hours; published in 1905)
- Neue Gedichte (New Poems; published in 1907)
- Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge (The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge; published in 1910)
Rainer Maria Rilke traveled a lot during his later life. He traveled to countries like Spain, Italy, and Egypt. Among all of the great places that he was able to visit, it was in Paris where he first started to use imagery in his lyrical poems.
When the World War I started, Rainer Maria Rilke was left with no other choice but to leave France and move to Munich, Germany. He stayed there during the war and in 1919, he traveled and resided in Switzerland for the rest of his years. While in Switzerland, he wrote Duino Elegies (1923), which was a compilation of 10 elegies, and the Sonnets to Orpheus (1923), which was a collection of 55 sonnets. These two were the last pieces of literature written by Rainer Maria Rilke.
He died on December 29, 1926, the same year he was diagnosed with leukemia. The location of death of the great poet was in Montreux, Switzerland. By the time he died, his works were greatly appreciated even by other prominent European artists. Until now, his reputation remains untarnished and he is considered as the “master of verse.”