Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Last night we discussed Rilke's novel, Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, at the Lincoln Park Library classic book group. The discussion focused on his dreamlike prose and how his novel seems to be a precursor of existentialist thought. After my first reading of this wonderful novel, I was inspired to write the following poem which captures, in part, Rilke's impact on me.

Childhood is Past

And if I insisted on believing that my childhood was past, then at that same moment the whole future had vanished too,
- Rainer Maria Rilke, Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge

Childhood is past
And with it the dreams
Of the dream seekers.

Memories that last
Are all that can lift
Us toward the future.

Childhood is past
And with it the fears
Of hidden dread.

The life that we made
Contains all our dreams
And fears we have conquered.

Dreamers and seekers,
We live to pursue a fading
Image of all that was there.

We listen to the stars
Within us, and their light
Will guide us forever.

Dreamers and seekers,
These are the children within –
The knowers and seers.

Childhood is past
But look, deep within,
And see what is real.

(From Music Lessons, 1992)


* said...

That's a very beautiful poem. I long for my childhood - it was the best time of my life. I wish I could return. However, as you so correctly say, "Childhood is past". Do you think it's stupid and silly of me to live in the past?

James said...

My poem was an attempt to capture my response to reading Rilke's novel. Personally I tend to be a dreamer who neglects the past as I meditate on the future.

If you choose the "live in the past" at the expense of present experiences and future dreams, then perhaps you may be disappointed; but I would be reluctant to characterize anyone's choices as stupid or silly.