Rainer Rilke: The Power of a Childhood The story of Rainer Maria Rilke has been told through the pens of many authors. And justifiably so. With a plethora of beautifully expressive poems written by his pen in constant circulation, there will always be room for interpretations and critiques. Throughout his career as a poet there have been considerable differences in his writing styles and, as well there have been a number of themes. Some of such themes are: "the significance of the rose, the mirror, the unicorn, the puppet, the fountain, or the pathos (as for Poe) of the death of a young woman; his increasing 'belief' in animism (that all things as well as the parts of all things are filled with life); the notion that we grow our death inside us like a talent or a tumor; that we here to realize the world, to raise it, like Lazarus, from its sullen numbness into consciousness…that everything (life and death, for instance) lies on a continuum, as colors do." 1 And although each of the different themes were a result of some more immediate circumstance that was affecting Rilke's life in some way, it can be argued that the poet's childhood was the cause of all of them. Born, René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke on December 4, 1875 in Prague, confusion immediately latched itself to him. His mother, Sophie Entz, played a major role in shaping the
William H. Gass, Reading Rilke: Reflections on the Problems of Translation (Alfred A. Knopf Publishers, 1999), p. 9
would-be poet from the very beginning. Still grievously mournful of the loss of her first daughter not long before René's birth, she raised him as the daughter she craved. She would put him in dresses and comb his curls and even went so far as calling him Sophie. Dangerously malleable, as children inherently are, it was then that Rilke developed his notably austere infatuation with women. One wanders what kind of father allows this sort of...