Sunday, June 12, 2005

Rilke's Ninth

In his ninth letter to Kappus, the still young poet Rainer Maria Rilke had the vision to say:
It is always my wish that you might find enough patience within yourself to endure, and enough innocence to have faith.
That's the Joan Burnham translation, which differs from this one by Stephen Mitchell where Rilke offers:
...the wish that you may find in yourself enough patience to endure and enough simplicity to have faith.
The translators have a different inference on Rilke's desire. Was it "innocence" he intended or "simplicity"? I vote for innocence. After all, trudging on in the face of defeat must require something like a tabula rosa memory, starting afresh without the weight of memory. How might simplicity accomplish this?

But more to the point, Mitchell's interpretation throws the light elsewhere, away from stolid endurance and toward inocuous faith. Rilke was not urging upon Kappus the child's acceptance of adult tenet (faith). No, Rilke was grappling with the clean earnestness of hope. The belief that isn't dislodged by little tricks and slips that come along, intent on turning the vapor of self doubt into a rain cloud of despair. Hope is what Rilke projected.


Patty said...

I vote for innocence as well.

"the clean earnestness of hope" is wonderfully elegant.

Ann said...

hi Patty - glad to see there's overwhelming agreement ;)

so Quatar - that's a long ways from home!